Friday, July 19, 2024

 

My Lips Are Sealed

Homer, Odyssey 19.493-494 (tr. Peter Green):
You know how firm my strength is, how unyielding—
I shall keep your secret as close as hard stone or iron!

οἶσθα μὲν οἷον ἐμὸν μένος ἔμπεδον, οὐδʼ ἐπιεικτόν·
ἕξω δʼ ὡς ὅτε τις στερεὴ λίθος ἠὲ σίδηρος.

Thursday, July 18, 2024

 

Insignificant

Antiphon the Sophist, fragment 51 (tr. Gerard J. Pendrick):
The whole of life, my friend, is amazingly easy to blame, since it has nothing outstanding or great and impressive, but everything small, weak, short-lived, and mixed up with great pains.

εὐκατηγόρητος πᾶς ὁ βίος θαυμαστῶς, ὦ μακάριε, καὶ οὐδὲν ἔχων περιττὸν οὐδὲ μέγα καὶ σεμνόν, ἀλλὰ πάντα σμικρὰ καὶ ἀσθενῆ καὶ ὀλιγοχρόνια καὶ ἀναμεμειγμένα λύπαις μεγάλαις.

 

Ancient History

John Scheid, Religion, Institutions and Society in Ancient Rome. Inaugural lecture delivered on Thursday 7 February 2002, tr. Liz Libbrecht (Paris: Collège de France, 2013), § 25:
Seen from the outside, ancient history can thus give the impression of stretching unduly the scope of the few available ancient sources. That is not inexact. But it is precisely this ceaseless return to the same sources that constitutes the interest of ancient history. For this rumination makes one think. Whether they have a classical education or not, all Westerners have the impression that they know the Greek and Roman world. In fact, that is not so at all. The volume of documents is infinitely smaller than that of other periods of history, and often even the evidence on a particular issue is limited to a few pages of exploitable sources. But how do our colleagues who have an endless mass of sources work? Are they not also forced to make choices? Does the only difference not lie in the fact that scholars of the Classics cannot make choices? Their corpus of sources is largely pre-established, but fortunately not entirely. Despite the limits that restrict their freedom of movement, every time researchers take a closer look they discover something new that no one before them had seen in its entirety. All in all, their situation is fairly similar to that in which ethnologists find themselves when they return to visit a tribe that has already been studied by a predecessor, and find it very different to their colleague’s descriptions of it. This is how ancient history constitutes a science in the making and not a museum of received ideas. By its way of proceeding, it puts out a warning that can be beneficial to all. It highlights the dangers stemming from the impression of familiarity that a culture close to us gives, and denounces the facileness of superficial syntheses. In their daily lives, teachers, researchers and citizens alike operate with general ideas which are often, let’s admit, exaggerated or at least approximate, because these are inspired by emotion, ideological choices or even intellectual laziness. From this point of view, ancient history has the virtue of encouraging mistrust, and erudition is assigned a mission that is not limited to filling in footnotes.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

 

A Repugnance Towards Fat Men

Plutarch, Sayings of Kings and Commanders (Epaminondas 3 = Moralia 192 C-D; tr. Frank Cole Babbitt):
He used to declare that the heavy-armed soldier ought to have his body trained not only by athletic exercises but by military drill as well. For this reason he always showed a repugnance towards fat men, and one such man he expelled from the army, saying that three or four shields would scarce serve to protect his belly, because of which he could not see a thing below it.

τῶν δὲ ὁπλιτῶν δεῖν ἀπέφαινεν εἶναι τὸ σῶμα γεγυμνασμένον οὐκ ἀθλητικῶς μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ στρατιωτικῶς· διὸ καὶ τοῖς πολυσάρκοις ἐπολέμει, καί τινα τοιοῦτον ἀπήλασε τῆς στρατιᾶς εἰπὼν ὅτι μόλις αὐτοῦ σκέπουσι τὴν γαστέρα ἀσπίδες τρεῖς ἢ τέσσαρες, δι᾽ ἣν οὐχ ἑώρακεν αὑτοῦ τὸ αἰδοῖον.
Note the euphemism of "a thing below it" for τὸ αἰδοῖον.

 

I Will

Friedrich Nietzsche, Morgenröte, Book II, § 124 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale, Daybreak):
What is willing!— We laugh at him who steps out of his room at the moment when the sun steps out of its room, and then says: 'I will that the sun shall rise'; and at him who cannot stop a wheel, and says: 'I will that it shall roll'; and at him who is thrown down in wrestling, and says: 'here I lie, but I will lie here!' But, all laughter aside, are we ourselves ever acting any differently whenever we employ the expression: 'I will'?

Was ist Wollen!— Wir lachen über Den, welcher aus seiner Kammer tritt, in der Minute, da die Sonne aus der ihren tritt, und sagt: „ich will, daß die Sonne aufgehe“; und über Den, welcher ein Rad nicht aufhalten kann und sagt: „ich will, daß es rolle“; und über Den, welcher im Ringkampf niedergeworfen wird und sagt: „hier liege ich, aber ich will hier liegen!“ Aber, trok allem Gelächter! Machen wir es denn jemals anders als einer von diesen Dreien, wenn wir das Wort gebrauchen: „ich will“?

 

Life

Antiphon the Sophist, fragment 50 (tr. Kathleen Freeman):
Life is like a day-long watch, and the length of life is like one day, as it were, on which having seen the light we pass on our trust to the next generation.

τὸ ζῆν ἔοικε φρουρᾷ ἐφημέρῳ τό τε μῆκος τοῦ βίου ἡμέρᾳ μιᾷ, ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, ᾗ ἀναβλέψαντες πρὸς τὸ φῶς παρεγγυῶμεν τοῖς ἐπιγιγνομένοις ἑτέροις.
The same, tr. Daniel W. Graham:
Living is like a day's watch, and the length of life as a single day, so to speak, in which, as we look up at the light, we hand over our duties to others who come after.
The same, tr. André Laks and Glenn W. Most:
Living is like a day-long sentry duty, and the whole length of life is like a single day, as it were, during which no sooner have we raised our eyes toward the light than we pass on the baton to other people who come after us.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

 

Dealing with an Enemy

Thucydides 3.48.2 (tr. Jeremy Mynott):
Wise counsel is more effective in dealing with an enemy than mindless aggression based on brute force.

ὅστις γὰρ εὖ βουλεύεται πρὸς τοὺς ἐναντίους κρείσσων ἐστὶν ἢ μετʼ ἔργων ἰσχύος ἀνοίᾳ ἐπιών.

Saturday, July 13, 2024

 

Ideals

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, Book II, § 335 (tr. Walter Kaufmann):
“Innocence”: that is their name for the ideal state of stupefaction; “blessedness”: the ideal state of sloth; “love”: the ideal state of the herd animal that no longer wants to have enemies. Therewith one has raised everything that debases and lowers man to an ideal.

„Unschuld“: so heissen sie den Idealzustand der Verdummung; „Seligkeit“: den Idealzustand der Faulheit; „Liebe“: den Idealzustand des Heerdenthiers, das keinen Feind mehr haben will. Damit hat man Alles, was den Menschen erniedrigt und herunterbringt, in's Ideal erhoben.

 

Two Types of Men

Homer, Odyssey 19.328-334 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
              Human beings live for only a short time,
and when a man is harsh himself, and his mind knows harsh thoughts,
all men pray that sufferings will befall him hereafter
while he lives; and when he is dead all men make fun of him.
But when a man is blameless himself, and his thoughts are blameless,
the friends he has entertained carry his fame widely
to all mankind, and many are they who call him excellent.

       ἄνθρωποι δὲ μινυνθάδιοι τελέθουσιν.
ὃς μὲν ἀπηνὴς αὐτὸς ἔῃ καὶ ἀπηνέα εἰδῇ,
τῷ δὲ καταρῶνται πάντες βροτοὶ ἄλγε᾽ ὀπίσσω        330
ζωῷ, ἀτὰρ τεθνεῶτί γ᾽ ἐφεψιόωνται ἅπαντες·
ὃς δ᾽ ἂν ἀμύμων αὐτὸς ἔῃ καὶ ἀμύμονα εἰδῇ,
τοῦ μέν τε κλέος εὐρὺ δὶα ξεῖνοι φορέουσι
πάντας ἐπ᾽ ἀνθρώπους, πολλοί τέ μιν ἐσθλὸν ἔειπον.

Friday, July 12, 2024

 

Loyalty

Karl Kraus (1874-1936), Sprüche und Widersprüche (München: Albert Langen, Verlag für Litteratur und Kunst, 1909), p. 70 (my translation):
No doubt, the dog is loyal. But should we therefore follow its example? It is loyal to man, not to dog.

Kein Zweifel, der Hund ist treu. Aber sollen wir uns deshalb ein Beispiel an ihm nehmen? Er ist doch dem Menschen treu und nicht dem Hund.
Hat tip: Kevin Muse.

 

O Father Zeus, Would That I Might Become Rich!

Attic black-figure pelike, 6th century BC, found at Cerveteri, now in Vatican City, Museo Gregoriano Etrusco Vaticano, cat. 16518, image from Athina Chatzidimitriou, "Représentations de vente et d'achat d'huile sur les vases attiques à l'époque archaïque et classique," in Lydie Bodiou et al., edd., Parfums et odeurs dans l'Antiquité (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2008), pp. 237-244 (at 237):
Side B, from the museum's web site:
Drawings showing more clearly the Greek lettering, from Matthias Steinert, Griechische Inschriften als Zeugnisse der Kulturgeschichte (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017), pp. 62-63:
H.A. Shapiro, "Literacy and social status of archaic attic vase-painters," Revista do Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia, São Paulo 5 (1995) 211-222 (at 216-217, footnote and figures omitted, Greek slightly modified):
On a pelike in the Vatican, an oil seller fills a small jug from a large pelike that sits on the floor beside him (Fig. 6). A custo­mer or co-worker sits opposite him and seems to be playing with the dog. Such scenes of banausoi, though not very numerous, do several times occur on pelikai, in part to illustrate the uses to which the shape was put (Shapiro forthcoming). Stretching from one figure to the other is the opening line of an impromptu hymn:
ὦ Ζεῦ πάτερ, αἴθε πλούσιος γεν<οίμαν>

“O Zeus, would that I might become rich!”
The metre is again Aeolic and the invocation to Zeus reminiscent of skolia like the one on Euphronios’ krater, only the sentiment somewhat less lofty. In fact the diction recalls even more closely another type of skolion of which Athenaeus records two examples. One reads:
εἴθε λύρα καλὴ γενοίμην ἐλεφαντίνα
καί με καλοὶ παῖδες φέροιεν Διονύσιον
ἐς χορόν


“Would that I might become a lovely ivory lyre, and that beautiful boys might take me to the chorus of Dionysos.”
In the context of the oil merchant’s shop on the Vatican pelike, the verse turns the scene into a gentle parody of the symposium, in which two working stiffs daydream of being leisured aristocrats. The painter’s sense of humor perhaps reflects a feeling of kinship or empathy with his fellows in the oil business, who must have had close ties to the pottery industry. The humor in fact extends to the reverse of the pot (Fig. 7). In a different vignette, which may be only loosely related to the first (the setting has moved outdoors), the oil merchant, who has perhaps been accused of shortchanging a customer, exclaims:
ἤδη μὲν ἤδη πλέο<ν>, παραβέβακεν

“It’s already full. It’s spilling over!”
Although the wording probably captures a typical speech pattern of colloquial Attic Greek, at the same time it appears to be metrical, based on a succession of cretics, usually considered a Doric metre (West, 1982: 54-55). The use of a Doric form with long alpha in the final word would be consistent with this. Possibly the doricisms reflect the non-aristocratic status of the speakers.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

 

Little Men

Mary Renault, The Bull from the Sea (New York: Pantheon Books, 1962), p. 153:
It is the mark of little men to like only what they know; one step beyond, and they feel the black cold of chaos.

 

Booty

R. Sealey, "The Origin of the Delian League", in Ancient Society and Institutions: Studies Presented to Victor Ehrenberg on his 75th Birthday (1966; rpt. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1967), pp. 233-255 (at 253):
The League of Delos was founded because of a dispute about booty and its purpose was to get more booty.
If there is any word whose change of meaning I deplore more than "gay", it is "booty".



Eric Thomson draws my attention to James Lewis May's translation of Ovid, Ars Amatoria 1.117-126:
Even as the weak and timid doves flee before an eagle, even as a young lamb quails at the sight of a wolf, so shuddered the Sabine women when they beheld these fierce warriors making towards them. Every one turned pale, terror spread throughout the throng, but it showed itself in different ways. Some tore their hair; some swooned away; some wept in silence; some called vainly for their mothers; some sobbed aloud; others seemed stupefied with fear; some stood transfixed; others tried to flee. Nevertheless, the Romans carry off the women, sweet booty for their beds, and to many of them, terror lends an added charm.

Ut fugiunt aquilas, timidissima turba, columbae,
    Ut fugit invisos agna novella lupos:
Sic illae timuere viros sine more ruentes;
    Constitit in nulla qui fuit ante color.
Nam timor unus erat, facies non una timoris:
    Pars laniat crines, pars sine mente sedet;
Altera maesta silet, frustra vocat altera matrem:
    Haec queritur, stupet haec; haec manet, illa fugit;
Ducuntur raptae, genialis praeda, puellae,
    Et potuit multas ipse decere timor.

 

The Greatest Generation

Aristophanes, Wasps 1060-1070 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
O the prowess we showed of old in choruses
and the prowess we showed in battle
and the superb manly prowess we showed just in
precisely this respect [indicating their phalli]!
That was of the past, of the past; now it
is gone, and truly this bloom of hair on us
is whiter than a swan.
But even from these remnants
we must summon up youthful strength;
for I think that my old age
is superior to a whole lot of youngsters
with their ringlets,
their styles and their buggery.

ὦ πάλαι ποτ᾽ ὄντες ἡμεῖς ἄλκιμοι μὲν ἐν χοροῖς,        1060
ἄλκιμοι δ᾽ ἐν μάχαις,
καὶ κατ᾽ αὐτὸ δὴ τοῦτο μόνον
ἄνδρες ἀλκιμώτατοι·
πρίν ποτ᾽ ἦν πρὶν ταῦτα, νῦν δ᾽
οἴχεται, κύκνου τ᾽ πολι-
ώτεραι δὴ αἵδ᾽ ἐπανθοῦσιν τρίχες.        1065
ἀλλὰ κἀκ τῶν λειψάνων δεῖ τῶνδε ῥώμην
νεανικὴν σχεῖν· ὡς ἐγὼ τοὐμὸν νομίζω
γῆρας εἶναι κρεῖττον ἢ πολλῶν κικίννους
νεανιῶν καὶ σχῆμα κεὐρυπρωκτίαν.        1070


1063 ἀλκιμώτατοι Bentley: μαχιμώτατοι codd.
1067 σχεῖν Reisig: ἔχειν codd.
1070 κεὐρυπρωκτίαν Kuster: κηὐρυπρωκτίαν codd.

 

Truth

Bacchylides, fragment 57 (tr. David A. Campbell):
Truth is from the same city as the gods,
she alone lives with the gods.

Ἀλάθεια θεῶν ὁμόπολις
μόνα θεοῖς συνδιαιτωμένα.

θεῶν
codd: βροτῶν Bergk

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