Tuesday, December 10, 2019


Impassioned Advocacy of Irregular Plurals

E.R. Dodds (1893-1979), "The Rediscovery of the Classics," The Irish Statesman 2.42 (April 10, 1920) 346-347, rpt. as "The Classics and Classical Humbug," The Living Age, Vol. 305, No. 3961 (June 5, 1920) 607-609 (at 607):
Not by the most impassioned advocacy of irregular plurals shall the breath of the spirit be restored to the rigid if still lovely corpse of the antique world.


A Monster of Teutonic Arrogance?

Bernard Williams (1929-2003), Shame and Necessity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), pp. x-xi (on Eduard Fraenkel):
Fraenkel was presented by the malice of the common rooms as a monster of Teutonic arrogance. He could certainly be alarming when presented with a rash or pretentious error, but the quality he conveyed in his teaching and taught one to respect was humility in the face of dense and complex philological fact; and while he possessed classical learning on a scale that I suppose is not matched by anyone now living, he saw himself as poorly informed by comparison, for instance, with the master whom he called "the great Leo".

Monday, December 09, 2019


Madness, Mass Produced

Wendell Berry, "Think Little," Essays 1969-1990 (New York: Library of America, 2019), pp. 135-144 (at 138-139):
What we are up against in this country, in any attempt to invoke private responsibility, is that we have nearly destroyed private life. Our people have given up their independence in return for the cheap seductions and the shoddy merchandise of so-called "affluence." We have delegated all our vital functions and responsibilities to salesmen and agents and bureaus and experts of all sorts. We cannot feed or clothe ourselves, or entertain ourselves, or communicate with each other, or be charitable or neighborly or loving, or even respect ourselves, without recourse to a merchant or a corporation or a public-service organization or an agency of the government or a style-setter or an expert. Most of us cannot think of dissenting from the opinions or the actions of one organization without first forming a new organization. Individualism is going around these days in uniform, handing out the party line on individualism. Dissenters want to publish their personal opinions over a thousand signatures.

The Confucian Great Digest says that the "chief way for the production of wealth” (and he is talking about real goods, not money) is "that the producers be many and that the mere consumers be few...." But even in the much-publicized rebellion of the young against the materialism of the affluent society, the consumer mentality is too often still intact: the standards of behavior are still those of kind and quantity, the security sought is still the security of numbers, and the chief motive is still the consumer's anxiety that he is missing out on what is "in." In this state of total consumerism — which is to say a state of helpless dependence on things and services and ideas and motives that we have forgotten how to provide ourselves — all meaningful contact between ourselves and the earth is broken. We do not understand the earth in terms either of what it offers us or of what it requires of us, and I think it is the rule that people inevitably destroy what they do not understand. Most of us are not directly responsible for strip mining and extractive agriculture and other forms of environmental abuse. But we are guilty nevertheless, for we connive in them by our ignorance. We are ignorantly dependent on them. We do not know enough about them; we do not have a particular enough sense of their danger. Most of us, for example, not only do not know how to produce the best food in the best way — we don't know how to produce any kind in any way. Our model citizen is a sophisticate who before puberty understands how to produce a baby, but who at the age of thirty will not know how to produce a potato. And for this condition we have elaborate rationalizations, instructing us that dependence for everything on somebody else is efficient and economical and a scientific miracle. I say, instead, that it is madness, mass produced.


Enter Not, Vile Bigots

François Rabelais (1494-1553), Gargantua and Pantagruel, Book I, Chapter 54 (The Inscription set upon the Great Gate of Thélème), stanza 1 (tr. Thomas Urquhart):
Here enter not, vile bigots, hypocrites,
Externally devoted apes, base snites,
Puft-up, wry-necked beasts, worse than the Huns,
Or Ostrogots, forerunners of baboons:
Cursed snakes, dissembling varlets, seeming sancts,
Slipshop caffards, beggars pretending wants,
Fat chuffcats, smell-feast knockers, doltish gulls,
Out-strouting cluster-fists, contentious bulls,
Fomenters of divisions and debates,
Elsewhere, not here, make sale of your deceits.
    Your evil trumperies
    Stuffed with pernicious lies
        (Not worth a bubble),
        Would only trouble
    Our earthly paradise,
    Your evil trumperies.

Cy n'entrez pas, hypocrites, bigotz,
Vieulx matagotz, marmiteux, borsouflez,
Torcoulx, badaux, plus que n'estoient les Gotz
Ny Ostrogotz, precurseurs des magotz;
Haires, cagotz, caffars empantouflez,
Gueux mitouflez, frapars escorniflez,
Befflez, enflez, fagoteurs de tabus,
Tirez ailleurs pour vendre voz abus.
    Voz abus meschans
    Rempliroient mes camps
    De meschanceté
    Et par faulseté
    Troubleroit mes chants
    Vous abus meschans.
The vocabulary is difficult: Abel Lefranc, ed., Oeuvres de François Rabelais, Tome Second: Gargantua, Chapitres XXIII-LVIII (Paris: Champion, 1913), pp. 410-411, has seventeen notes on the first ten lines.

The same, tr. J.M. Cohen:
Enter not here, vile hypocrites and bigots,
Pious old apes, and puffed-up snivellers,
Wry-necked creatures sawnier than the Goths,
Or Ostrogoths, precursors of Gog and Magog,
Woe-begone scoundrels, mock-godly sandal-wearers,
Beggars in blankets, flagellating canters,
Hooted at, pot-bellied, stirrers up of troubles,
Get along elsewhere to sell your dirty swindles.
    Your hideous deceits
    Would fill my fields and streets
    With villainy
    And with their falsity
    Would untune my song's notes,
    Your hideous deceits.
The same, tr. W.F. Smith, with his notes:
Enter not here, ye Hypocrites and Bigots,
Ugly old Apes and pursy Whimperers,
With Necks awry,1 worse Boobies than the Goths,
Or Ostrogoths, precursors of Magoths;2
Woe-begone Vermin,3 Cowl4-and-Sandal Wearers,
Cadgers bemittened, flagellating Spungers,
Hooted Gorbellies, Stirrers-up of Heats;
Begone elsewhere to sell your wicked Cheats.
    Your wicked Frauds and Cheats
    Would fill my Fields and Streets
    With utter Villainy;
    So with false Harmony
    Would jangle Music's sweets
    Your wicked Frauds and Cheats.

1 Cf. "Obstipo capite et figentes lumine terram" (Pers. iii. 80).

2 Goth and Magoth, with reference to Gog and Magog. Ronsard has the lines:
Je n'aime point ces mots qui sont finis en ots,
Gots, Cagots, Austregots, Visgots et Huguenots.

3 Fr. Cagots. Du Cange derives this word from canes Gothi, the Goths having been driven into the Pyrenees, and being looked upon as the off-scouring of the world.

4 Fr. Caphards. According to Du Cange, from cappa, caphardum, a sort of hood; hence hypocrites.


A Life Devoted to Knowledge

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Rasselas, chapter VIII:
"Sir," said Imlac, "my history will not be long: the life that is devoted to knowledge passes silently away, and is very little diversified by events. To talk in public, to think in solitude, to read and to hear, to inquire and answer inquiries, is the business of a scholar. He wanders about the world without pomp or terror, and is neither known nor valued but by men like himself."

Sunday, December 08, 2019


Making Up Stories

Thucydides 6.38.1-2 (tr. Richard Crawley):
Persons here invent stories that neither are true nor ever will be. Nor is this the first time that I see these persons, when they cannot resort to deeds, trying by such stories and by others even more abominable to frighten your people and get into their hands the government: it is what I see always.

ἄνδρες οὔτε ὄντα οὔτε ἂν γενόμενα λογοποιοῦσιν, οὓς ἐγὼ οὐ νῦν πρῶτον, ἀλλ' αἰεὶ ἐπίσταμαι ἤτοι λόγοις γε τοιοῖσδε καὶ ἔτι τούτων κακουργοτέροις ἢ ἔργοις βουλομένους καταπλήξαντας τὸ ὑμέτερον πλῆθος αὐτοὺς τῆς πόλεως ἄρχειν.


The Making of a Scholar

Morris H. Morgan (1859-1910), Addresses and Essays (New York: American Book Company, 1910), pp. 6-7:
For you can be perfectly sure of one thing, which is that no teacher, however brilliant or learned, can make scholars of you (whether you want to be philologians or historians or geologists), if you sit passive. To use the terminology of Aristotle, the teacher can, if he is a good teacher, give you 'the how,' but he can never give you 'the what.' He can point to methods, he can 'show you the way wherein you must walk and the work that you must do,' but then he must leave you to do the work for yourselves. Scholarship cannot be melted up and poured into you, or chopped up fine and spooned into your mouths. You have to chew on it yourselves; you must become metaphorical Fletcherites and chew on it hard and long. But observe a difference: the Fletcherites do their chewing in public, and they are not a pleasant spectacle. He who would become a scholar has to chew in private; all by himself his work has to be done.
Fletcherites were followers of Horace Fletcher, "The Great Masticator," who advocated chewing food into a liquid pulp before swallowing it.


Out With Him

Stevie Smith (1902-1971), "Thoughts about the Christian Doctrine of Eternal Hell," Collected Poems (New York: New Directions, 1983), pp. 387-388:
Is it not interesting to see
How the Christians continually
Try to separate themselves in vain
From the doctrine of eternal pain.

They cannot do it,
They are committed to it,
Their Lord said it,
They must believe it.

So the vulnerable body is stretched without pity
On flames for ever. Is this not pretty?

The religion of Christianity
Is mixed of sweetness and cruelty
Reject this Sweetness, for she wears
A smoky dress out of hell fires.

Who makes a God? Who shows him thus?
It is the Christian religion does,
Oh, oh, have none of it,
Blow it away, have done with it.

This god the Christians show
Out with him, out with him, let him go.
James Joyce (1882-1941), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Chapter III:
And yet what I have said as to the strength and quality and boundlessness of this fire is as nothing when compared to its intensity, an intensity which it has as being the instrument chosen by divine design for the punishment of soul and body alike. It is a fire which proceeds directly from the ire of God, working not of its own activity but as an instrument of divine vengeance. As the waters of baptism cleanse the soul with the body so do the fires of punishment torture the spirit with the flesh. Every sense of the flesh is tortured and every faculty of the soul therewith: the eyes with impenetrable utter darkness, the nose with noisome odours, the ears with yells and howls and execrations, the taste with foul matter, leprous corruption, nameless suffocating filth, the touch with redhot goads and spikes, with cruel tongues of flame. And through the several torments of the senses the immortal soul is tortured eternally in its very essence amid the leagues upon leagues of glowing fires kindled in the abyss by the offended majesty of the Omnipotent God and fanned into everlasting and ever increasing fury by the breath of the anger of the Godhead.
Rev. J. Furniss, C.SS.R., The Sight of Hell (Dublin: James Duffy and Co., Ltd., 1874 = Books for Children and Young Persons, X), Chapter XVIII:
Little child, if you go to Hell, there will be a devil at your side to strike you. He will go on striking you every minute for ever and ever, without ever stopping.
Id. (Chapter XX):
Now look at that body, lying on the bed of fire. All the body is salted with fire. The fire burns through every bone and every muscle. Every nerve is trembling and quivering with the sharp fire. The fire rages inside the skull, it shoots out through the eyes, it drops out through the ears, it roars in the throat as it roars up a chimney. So will mortal sin be punished.
Id. (Chapter XXI):
St. Teresa says that she found the entrance into Hell filled with these venomous insects. If you cannot bear the sight of ugly vermin and creeping things on the earth, will you be content with the sight of the venomous things in Hell, which are a million times worse? The bite or the pricking of one insect on the earth sometimes keeps you awake, and torments you for hours. How will you feel in Hell, when millions of them make their dwelling-place in your mouth, and ears, and eyes, and creep all over you, and sting you with their deadly stings through all eternity? You will not then be able to help yourself or send them away because you cannot stir hand or foot.
For even worse, see Furniss, Chapter XXVII. The Sight of Hell was recently reprinted by "Catholic Way Publishing. Publishers of Quality Catholic Paperbacks."

Saturday, December 07, 2019


Did the Ancients Use Brylcreem?

From the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Cagliari:

Hat tip: A friend.


Great Pan

John Fletcher (1579-1625), "The God of Sheep," in Norman Ault, ed., Elizabethan Lyrics from the Original Texts (1949; rpt. New York: Capricorn Books, 1960), p. 405:
All ye woods, and trees, and bowers,
All ye virtues and ye powers
That inhabit in the lakes,
In the pleasant springs or brakes,
    Move your feet
      To our sound,
    Whilst we greet
      All this ground
With his honour and his name
That defends our flocks from blame.

He is great, and he is just,
He is ever good, and must
Thus be honoured. Daffadillies,
Roses, pinks, and lovëd lilies
      Let us fling,
      Whilst we sing,
      Ever holy,
      Ever holy,
Ever honoured, ever young!
Thus great Pan is ever sung.


The Sweetest of All Things

Thucydides 7.68.1 (tr. Martin Hammond):
We should remember that the right to satisfy feelings of anger in the punishment of an aggressor is universally accepted, and that revenge on one's enemies, soon to be in our power, is indeed, as the saying goes, the sweetest of all things.

καὶ νομίσωμεν ἅμα μὲν νομιμώτατον εἶναι πρὸς τοὺς ἐναντίους οἳ ἂν ὡς ἐπὶ τιμωρίᾳ τοῦ προσπεσόντος δικαιώσωσιν ἀποπλῆσαι τῆς γνώμης τὸ θυμούμενον, ἅμα δὲ ἐχθροὺς ἀμύνασθαι ἐκγενησόμενον ἡμῖν καὶ τὸ λεγόμενόν που ἥδιστον εἶναι.


A Capital Crime

Juvenal 13.53-56 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
At that time, wickedness provoked astonishment. They considered it a major outrage, punishable by death, if a young man didn't stand up for an older man, or a boy for anyone with a beard...

improbitas illo fuit admirabilis aevo,
credebant quo grande nefas et morte piandum
si iuvenis vetulo non adsurrexerat et si        55
barbato cuicumque puer...
John E.B. Mayor on line 55:

Friday, December 06, 2019


The Vicar

Graham Robb, The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography from the Revolution to the First World War (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007), p. 294:
At Nîmes in 1763, Tobias Smollett found 'the Temple of Cloacina' 'in a most shocking condition':
The servant-maid told me her mistress had caused it to be made on purpose for the English travellers; but now she was very sorry for what she had done, as all the French who frequented her house, instead of using the seat, left their offerings on the floor, which she was obliged to have cleaned three or four times a day.
Later tourists would be baffled by bidets and daunted by the porcelain footpads on either side of a small dark hole, but even in simpler days there were mysteries to solve. A traveller in Béarn in 1812 who slept on the third tier of a four-tier bunk bed was woken in the night by a smell and a noise of ropes and pulleys. A voice in the darkness whispered, 'Don't worry, sir, it's just the vicar going up.' 'Vicaire' turned out to be a local name for 'chamber pot'.



Hail, Holy Father

Howard M. Jackson and Charles E. Murgia, "Notes on Problems in the Text of 'Carmina Priapea'," Materiali e discussioni per l'analisi dei testi classici 37 (1996) 245-270 (at 266-267, in a note written by Jackson):
And in a similar fashion the great Tiburtine hymn to Priapus (CIL 11.3565), after an appeal to the god from wives anxious to ensure their husbands' continued virility (lines d18-9), closes (d20) with the appeal salve, sancte pater Priape, salve!
The CIL (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum) citation is incorrect — it should be 14.3565, not 11.3565. For text, translation, and commentary on the hymn, see Edward Courtney, Musa Lapidaria: A Selection of Latin Verse Inscriptions (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995), pp. 148-151, 356-358.



A Good Book for Reading Aloud

Robert Benchley (1889-1945), "The Dying Thesaurus," Chips Off the Old Benchley (1949; rpt. Leyden: Aeonian Press, 1976), pp. 150-151:
Just think what it would mean to have a complete history of every word in the Latin tongue from earliest times right plumb up to the Middle Ages. You may think perhaps that the history that you have is complete enough, but does it bring the thing up to the Middle Ages? Suppose, for instance, that a dispute were to arise some night at dinner over the history of the word agricola.

"I'll bet you two seats to the Follies," you might say to your brother-in-law, "that the word agricola used to be practically interchangeable with the masculine demonstrative pronoun hic. Agricola means 'farmer,' and so does hic, or, as it has come down to us in English, 'hick.'"

One word would lead to another, or perhaps to something worse, and the upshot of the whole thing would be a hurried reaching for your vest-pocket history of Latin words and phrases. And what would be your chagrin to find that the volume began with the First Punic War and gave absolutely nothing previous to that period that you could rely upon!

We are a thorough people and we demand that our history of the Latin tongue shall be thorough. As the popular song-hit has it: "If our thesaurus ain't a real thesaurus, we don't want no thesaurus at all." That's the way the rank and file of Americans feel about it. Home life is the basis of all our national institutions and there is nothing that contributes to its stability like a good book for reading aloud.

"What shall it be to-night, kiddies?" says the father, drawing up his chair before the fireplace in which stands a vase of hydrangeas, "the story of how mensa came to have its feminine ending?" "Oh, no, Daddy," lisps little Hazel, "read us about the root verbs which are traceable to the Etruscan influence on the early Latin language. You know, Daddy, the one about the great big prefix, the middle-sized prefix, and the little baby prefix which went 'huius, huius, huius' all the way home."

And so the father read the old, old story of how the good fairy came and told ad, ante, con, in, inter, ob, post, prae, pro, sub, and super that some day they would grow up and govern the accusative and how it all worked out just as the good fairy had said. And all the little children fell asleep with smiles and post-toasties on their faces.
Con must be a misprint for contra.

Thursday, December 05, 2019


Those People

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), The Pillars of the Community, Act I (Karsten Bernick speaking; tr. Una Ellis-Fermor):
Oh, come. One mustn't be too particular with foreigners; those people haven't got that deep-rooted sense of decency that keeps us within proper bounds. Let them go their own way. What does it matter to us? All this disorderliness — setting oneself up against tradition and good manners — fortunately for us it's quite alien to our community, if I may say so.

Å hvad; med udlændinger må man ikke tage det så strængt; de folk har jo ikke denne rodfæstede sømmelighedsfølelse, der holder os indenfor de rette skranker. Lad dem kun skeje ud. Hvad gør ​det os? Alt dette uvæsen, som sætter sig op imod skik og gode sæder, det er lykkeligvis ikke i slægt med vort samfund, om jeg så tør sige.


A Sicilian Doctor's Contribution to a Philosophical Discussion

Epicrates, fragment 10, tr. John Dillon, The Heirs of Plato: A Study of the Old Academy (347–274 BC) (2003; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005), pp. 7-8:
A: What are Plato and Speusippus and Menedemus up to? On what subjects are they discoursing (diatribousin) today? What weighty idea, what line of argument (logos) is currently being investigated by them? Tell me this accurately, in Earth's name, if you've come with any knowledge of it.

B: Why yes, I can tell you about these fellows with certainty. For at the Panathenaea I saw a troop of lads in the exercise-grounds of the Academy (en gymnasiois Akadēmias), and heard utterances indescribable, astonishing! For they were propounding definitions about nature (peri physeōs aphorizomenoi), and separating into categories the ways of life of animals, the nature of trees, and the classes of vegetables. And in this connection they were investigating to what genus one should assign the pumpkin.

A: And what definition (horos) did they arrive at, and of what genus is the plant?

B: Well now, first of all they all took up their places, and with heads bowed they reflected a long time. Then suddenly, while they were still bent low in study, one of the lads said it was a round vegetable, another that it was a grass, another that it was a tree. When a doctor from Sicily heard this, he dismissed them contemptuously, as talking rubbish.

B: No doubt they got very angry at that, and protested against such insults? For it is unseemly to behave thus in such public gatherings (en leskhais taisde).

A: No, in fact the lads didn't seem to mind at all. And Plato, who was present, very mildly, and without irritation, told them to try again to define the genus to which the pumpkin belongs. And they started once again to attempt a division (diairesis).
"He dismissed them contemptuously" is a euphemism — the Sicilian doctor farted on them (κατέπαρδ᾿ αὐτῶν).




Simone Weil (1909-1943), Gravity and Grace, tr. Arthur Wills (1952; rpt. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997), p. 202:
What is it a sacrilege to destroy? Not that which is base, for that is of no importance. Not that which is high, for, even should we want to, we cannot touch that. The metaxu. The metaxu form the region of good and evil.

No human being should be deprived of his metaxu, that is to say of those relative and mixed blessings (home, country, traditions, culture, etc.) which warm and nourish the soul and without which, short of sainthood, a human life is not possible.

Qu'est-ce qu'il est sacrilège de détruire? Non pas ce qui est bas, car cela n'a pas d'importance. Non pas ce qui est haut, car, le voudrait-on, on ne peut pas y toucher. Les metaxu. Les metaxu sont la région dubien et du mal.

Ne priver aucun être humain de ses metaxu, c'est-à-dire de ces biens relatifs et mélangés (foyer, patrie, traditions, culture, etc.) qui réchauffent et nourrissent l'âme et sans lesquels, en dehors de là sainteté, une vie humaine n'est pas possible.
μεταξύ = in the midst.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019



Gareth Schmeling, A Commentary on the Satyrica of Petronius (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. viii:
Commentaries are personal statements and seem often to be written by (1) older men with (2) nothing to do but collect cigars and malt scotches.


Poverty and Wealth

Democritus, fragment B 284 (tr. Daniel W. Graham):
If you do not desire much, little will seem to you to be much; for a small appetite makes poverty equivalent to wealth.

ἢν μὴ πολλῶν ἐπιθυμέηις, τὰ ὀλίγα τοι πολλὰ δόξει· σμικρὰ γὰρ ὄρεξις πενίην ἰσοσθενέα πλούτωι ποιέει.


A Danger to National Security

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Rasselas, chapter VI:
'But I will work only on this condition, that the art shall not be divulged, and that you shall not require me to make wings for any but ourselves.'

'Why,' said Rasselas, 'should you envy others so great an advantage? All skill ought to be exerted for universal good; every man has owed much to others, and ought to repay the kindness that he has received.'

'If men were all virtuous,' returned the artist, 'I should with great alacrity teach them all to fly. But what would be the security of the good, if the bad could at pleasure invade them from the sky? Against an army sailing through the clouds, neither walls, nor mountains, nor seas, could afford any security. A flight of northern savages might hover in the wind, and light at once with irresistible violence upon the capital of a fruitful region that was rolling under them. Even this valley, the retreat of princes, the abode of happiness, might be violated by the sudden descent of some of the naked nations that swarm on the coast of the southern sea.'

Tuesday, December 03, 2019


Ban on Throwing Snowballs

Ordinance Forbids Throwing Snowballs In Wausau, Wisconsin, WCCO (December 2, 2019):
The recent round of snow is bringing attention to a city ordinance in Wisconsin. It's illegal to throw snowballs in some parts of Wausau.

Snowballs are lumped in with missiles, rocks, arrows, none of which are you allowed to throw.

The ordinance decrees that you can't throw snowballs anywhere on public property — not on sidewalks, city streets, or at school. If you do, you could be fined.

"It's really in the interest of public safety. A lot of it is just consideration and common sense. You don't throw stuff at people, period," Wausau Mayor Robert B. Mielke said.

Mielke says the ordinance was brought forward years ago after some issues with projectiles.

The police department can't remember a time when someone was fined for throwing a snowball.
Some adults want to suck all the joy out of childhood. I remember putting rocks in snowballs, dipping snowballs in water so they'd have an icy exterior, caching snowballs in our snow forts, and throwing snowballs at kids from Eastern Avenue if they dared to set foot on our street.

Only one incident temporarily dampened my enthusiasm for throwing snowballs. I threw a snowball at a car once, and the driver got out and chased me.


Only Three Errors

Graham Robb, The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography from the Revolution to the First World War (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007), p. 282:
Since geographical information was scarce, most writers took their facts from earlier books, which had been plagiarized from even earlier works. In this way, monuments that had long since ceased to exist were described as though the writer had actually seen them. Many writers clearly never expected anyone to follow their directions and painted detailed pictures of imaginary provincial towns. François Marlin travelled with Robert de Hesseln's compact Dictionnaire universel de la France (1771) because it was 'useful to have the whole country in six volumes in the pockets of one's carriage'. Unfortunately, Hesseln's local informers sometimes let him down, as Marlin discovered when he reached the capital of the Lozère département in 1790. 'M. Robert went to the trouble of placing Mende on a mountain, giving it a triangular shape and a large population. There are only three errors in this statement.'

Monday, December 02, 2019


Tight Pants

H.S. Versnel, Ter Unus: Isis, Dionysos, Hermes. Three Studies in Henotheism (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1990 = Studies in Greek and Roman Religion, 6), pp. 9-10:
The human femur is a strongly curved bone, Galen taught in the second century AD, basing his thesis on the observation of animal thighs. In the early sixteenth century the famous Paris anatomist Sylvius refused to be convinced of the contrary. When his pupil Vesalius finally dissected a human thigh and demonstrated ad oculos that the femur was dead straight, Sylvius sought refuge in the assumption that the tight trousers which were the fashion in his day must have gradually straightened the human bones24.

24 ῥεῖα δέ τ' ἰθύνει σκολιόν! The story is only known to me through J. Boeke, Andreas Vesalius als hervormer der ontleedkunde, Ned. Tijdschr. v. Geneeskunde 59 (1915) 31-45, esp. 38. Despite all their efforts, Dr. F.G. Schlesinger and Dr. H.F.J. Horstmanshoff (to whom I owe this information) have not been able to confirm it from authentic sources.
Update from Kenneth Haynes:
The story about Galen, Sylvius, Vesalius, tight clothes, and straight bones was recorded in vol. 3 of Kurt Sprengler, Versuch einer pragmatischen Geschichte der Arzneikunde (1794), p. 526:

Auch die grosse Krümmung, welche Galen dem Oberarm und Hüftknochen gegeben hatte, verwarf Vesalius [34]; und Sylvius vertheidigte den Galen aus dem Grunde, weil durch die engen Kleidungsstücke heut zu Tage die Knochen grader geworden sein [35].

[34] Lib. I. c. 23. p. 92
[35] L. c. p. 85. — Vergl. Eustach. p. 186.

("Vesalius also rejected the strong curvature which Galen had attributed to the upper arm and the hip bone; and Sylvius defended Galen on the grounds that nowadays bones had become straighter through tight articles of clothing.")

The citations seem to correspond to unspecified editions of Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica and Eustachius’ Examen ossium.


Call to Repel the Invader

Vergil, Aeneid 12.260-264 (Tolumnius to the Rutulians; tr. H. Rushton Fairclough, rev. G.P. Goold):
With me, me, at your head, snatch up the sword, hapless people, whom, like frail birds, a shameless alien affrights with war, and violently ravages your coasts. He too will take to flight, and spread sail far across the deep.

                                           me, me duce ferrum
corripite, o miseri, quos improbus advena bello
territat invalidas ut avis, et litora vestra
vi populat. petet ille fugam penitusque profundo
vela dabit.


Asyndetic Privative Adjectives on a Curse Tablet?

D.R. Jordan, "Defixiones from a Well Near the Southwest Corner of the Athenian Agora," Hesperia 54.3 (July-September, 1985) 205-255 (at p. 216, lines 15-16):
                                                                    Ἔστω κωφός,]
ἄλαλο[ς, ἄ]νους, ἀκέραιος, µήτε παλαίω[ν µηδενί.]


                                                                  Let him be deaf,
dumb, mindless, harmless, and not fighting against anyone.
At the end of line 15, I wonder if ἀνήκοος could be supplied instead of κωφός. Also, translating speechless instead of dumb would emphasize the privative nature of ἄλαλος.

Oops, now I see that κωφός appears in similar phrases on other curse tablets from the same collection, so I withdraw my suggestion about ἀνήκοος.


Sunday, December 01, 2019


Who Was the Father of Priam's Children?

Alan Cameron, Greek Mythography in the Roman World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 118:
On the lines of schoolboy jokes such as "Who is buried in Grant's tomb?" some humorist scratched on a wall in Cyrene what, using the technical terminology, he solemnly characterized as a zetema: "Who was the father of Priam's children?"122

122. G. Pugliese Carratelli, Ann. Sc. Arch. At. 39/40 (1961/2), no. 192 = J. and L. Robert, Bull. Ep. 1964, n. 573. See R.A. Kaster, in Mnemos. 37 (1984), 457–8, who cites a similar joke from the Philogelos (197 ed. Thierfelder): "the ignorant grammarian, when stumped by the question "What was the mother of Priam called," answered "Out of respect we call her Madam" (κατὰ τιμὴν κυρίαν αὐτὴν καλοῦμεν)." Not an easy question, in fact. Ps-Apollodorus offers three different names: Strymo, Placia, and Leucippe (the first can be traced to Hellan. F 124c; the last to Pherec. F 136c).


The Scholarly Life

Gilbert Highet (1906-1978), "The Scholarly Life," The American Scholar 41.4 (Autumn, 1972) 522-524, 526-529 (at 522):
It is a curious life we lead, the life of scholarship. Difficult and demanding, most certainly; frustrating, far too often for comfort; poorly rewarded in material terms; and calling for a great deal of spiritual stamina. Sometimes I ask myself how many of my colleagues, given an opportunity to change their careers and take up some quite different vocation, would accept, and abandon the world of scholarship.
Id. (at 523):
Consider first the life of learning. It is based on certain principles which people outside the academic field seldom fully understand or appreciate.

The first of these is devotion: devotion and diligence. The Germans pithily call it Sitzfleisch, "flesh to sit on," because they admire the willpower that keeps a man at his desk or laboratory table hour after hour, while he penetrates inch by inch to the heart of a problem. But many of us now find that Sitzfleisch is not so important as what newspapermen call "legwork" — the patient, unremitting pursuit of a set of facts from book to book, from one library to another, sometimes even from one country to another, until they are caught and nailed down.
Id. (at 528-529):
Love of one's subject is best shown through constant intellectual renewal. The young are narrow-minded. The young are shortsighted. They cannot, without an exceptional effort, conceive how large and complex an important intellectual discipline is, what a wealth of material and multiplicity of problems it embodies; the teaching they get in high school tends to make them superficial, and to suggest to them that arduous long-term thinking and research are not necessary for higher mental achievement; they are bombarded by the outer world with trivial novelties in news, fashions, and entertainment; their inner life is distorted by the temptations of sex and drugs; and they tend to believe that we, their teachers, are "sot in our ways" and go on placidly doing the same sort of nothing year after year.

It is our duty therefore, indeed it is one of our chief functions as teachers, to show them that the world of the intellect is in constant flux, that our own minds are always meeting and grappling with new challenges, and that the most important part of our work is discovery and reinterpretation.


The Solemn Noon of Night

Thomas Warton (1726-1790), "The Pleasures of Melancholy," lines 50-58:
Nor undelightful is the solemn noon
Of night, when haply wakeful from my couch
I start: lo, all is motionless around!
Roars not the rushing wind; the sons of men
And every beast in mute oblivion lie;
All nature's hush'd in silence and in sleep.
O then how fearful is it to reflect
That through the still globe's awful solitude,
No being wakes but me!
Id., lines 79-83:
Then let my thought contemplative explore
This fleeting state of things, the vain delights,
The fruitless toils, that still our search elude,
As through the wilderness of life we rove.
Id., lines 279-285:
O come then, Melancholy, queen of thought!
O come with saintly look, and steadfast step,
From forth thy cave embower'd with mournful yew,
Where ever to the curfew's solemn sound
Listening thou sitt'st, and with thy cypress bind
Thy votary's hair, and seal him for thy son.

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