Wednesday, May 25, 2022


Woe Is Me

Claudian, The War Against Gildo 1.44-45 (tr. Maurice Platnauer):
Woe is me, whither are fled the power of Latium and the might of Rome? To what a shadow of our former glory are we by gradual decline arrived!

ei mihi, quo Latiae vires urbisque potestas
decidit! in qualem paulatim fluximus umbram!


Ancient Lore

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Part I: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987), p. 390 (Book II, Chapter 8; Celeborn speaking):
But do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022


Obesus Etruscus

Ugo Bardi, "The impending global collapse: will it end the obesity epidemic?" The Seneca Effect (May 22, 2022):
Livy spoke of the obesus etruscus ('fat Etruscan') as an insult to a people he considered lazy and decadent.
I don't think that Livy said it, but Catullus (39.11) certainly did. I don't have access to David W. Packard, A Concordance to Livy, 4 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968). Also, obesus in Latin is an auto-antonym, a word that can mean the opposite of itself. It can mean both lean and fat, according to Lewis and Short.

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Joshua T. Katz, "What Linguists Are Good For," Classical World 100.2 (Winter, 2007) 99-112 (at 102, footnote omitted):
To most administrators and to all too many of our own colleagues, linguists are covered in nineteenth-century dust, which is, as we all know, a far dustier dust, being tainted with old methodology, than what classical archaeologists encounter in the Roman Forum. Or, alternatively, we are interested in so-called modern linguistic techniques, but these have the stench of social science, which some of our colleagues think smells less good than the Roman sewers' humanities. Either way, we linguists are narrowly focused misfits with a humorless eye for grammar and no interest in, much less imagination for, wider cultural questions. Such is our stereotype, but I have never met a good linguist who fit the bill (certainly none of my teachers did), and all of us must do what we can to combat it, in our scholarship and, even more important, in our teaching. Linguistics is a broad, vibrant, and result-driven discipline, not the recherché domain of fuddy-duddies, and it really shouldn't be very difficult to persuade our students and colleagues that this is so.


Social Media

Excerpt from Li Zhi, "Disciplining the Sangha" (tr. Jennifer Eichman), in A Book to Burn and a Book to Keep (Hidden): Selected Writings of Li Zhi, edd. Rivi Handler-Spitz et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), p. 184:
Not one finger or ten fingers but millions of fingers will point out your transgression.


A Century of Peace, Security and Wealth

G.M. Trevelyan, "Introducing the Ideas and Beliefs of the Victorians," in Ideas and Beliefs of the Victorians: An Historic Revaluation of the Victorian Age (1949; rpt. London: Sylvan Press, 1950), pp. 15-19 (at 17-18):
And it was the England and Scotland of the nineteenth century that supplied the population of those new lands. The birthrate in all classes was so high that our industrial expansion at home was rendered possible. The population of Great Britain rose from under twelve millions in 1811 to thirty-seven millions in 1901. And during those same years the tide of emigration founded these new Britains overseas. As we should not now be capable of peopling vast empty territories, it is as well that we did it just in time, while we were still a very prolific race.

A century of peace, security and wealth was in many respects favourable to the higher aspects of civilisation. In the nineteenth century our fortunate ancestors were not precluded by national poverty from obtaining the books they wanted to study, from making or buying beautiful things or from travelling to see them. The shores and mountains of their own island were opened to them by the new railways, and they had free access to the Alps, to Italy and all the ancient lands of Europe, made significant to them by their study of history and the Classics, by the writings of Shelley and Byron, Ruskin and Browning. It was an age of cheap and rapid book production, patronised by a very large leisured and semi-leisured class, and by prosperous professional and artisan classes. There was a very large public for the many good writers whom England then produced out of these same leisured and professional classes—poets, novelists, historians, scholars, essayists, humorists; many of their names are still household words today, even if too few now read their books. It was a time of active political, philosophical and religious speculations, carried on in an atmosphere of freedom, with the impact of Darwin and Huxley to stimulate it with new conceptions of the universe. It was good, serious stuff that was read. The competition of cheap journalism and literature, aimed at the lowest level of intelligence, only became dangerous at the latter end of the century.


Two Epithets of Poseidon

Homer, Iliad 13.43 (my translation):
earth-bearing, shaking-earth

γαιήοχος ἐννοσίγαιος
Both epithets are used exclusively of the god Poseidon. Juxtaposed like this, they make a convenient hexameter ending (also Iliad 9.183, 13.59, 13.677, 14.355, 15.222, 23.584; Odyssey 11.241; sometimes in oblique cases). The presence of γαῖα (gaia = earth) in both compounds, at the beginning in γαιήοχος and at the end in ἐννοσίγαιος, creates a sort of chiastic arrangement.

Stephanie West on Odyssey 1.68:
γαιήοχος: in Homer this title is Poseidon's alone. Its origin and meaning are controversial, mainly because of uncertainty about -οχος. The poet and his audience, like the tragedians (cf. A. Supp. 816, S. OT 160), probably connected it with ἔχω and understood the compound as 'earth-holding, the Earth Sustainer', but Laconian Γαιάϝοχος (IG V i 213, 9, etc.) rules out this etymology. The usual assumption that the second element is related to ὀχέω, Lat. veho etc., leaves the interpretation of the compound debatable: 'he who rides (as a river) beneath the earth (and thereby shakes it)' Nilsson, 'husband of Gaia' Borgeaud. Meillet's suggestion that the root is *wegh- 'shake', cf. Lat. vexare, is attractive. Cf. Hainsworth on viii 322 and see further Frisk GEW s.v. γαιάοχος, Chantraine, Dictionnaire, s.v. γῆ, LfgrE.
J.B. Hainsworth on Odyssey 8.322:
Ποσειδάων γαιήοχος: the form and etymology of the divine name are discussed by C.J. Ruijgh, 'Sur le nom de Poseidon et sur les noms en -α-ϝων, -ι-ϝων,' REG lxxx (1967), 6-16. It is probable that the name consists of Ποσει- (an ossified vocative, cf. Iuppiter) +δα- 'earth', a calque of various oriental divine titles derived ultimately from the Sumerian EN.KI, 'Lord of the Earth': see Palmer, Interpretation, 255-6. The epithet γαιήοχος (< *wegh-, not *segh-, cf. Γαιάϝοχō IG V i 213), 'earth-bearing', is perhaps another version of the same title, with the nuance that the god is 'Lord of the Earth' because he is, or personifies, the 'water under the earth' on which the terrestrial disc, in Near Eastern cosmology, was conceived to float. Further literature in Burkert, Greek Religion, 402.
Martha Krieter-Spiro on Iliad 14.135:
Ἐννοσίγαιος 'Earth-shaker' (from γαῖα and ἔνοσις 'tremor') for Poseidon is probably a more recent metrical variant (20× Il., 6× Od., 10× Hes., 1× h.Hom.) of the synonym Ἐνοσίχθων (at 150, 384, etc.; with one exception always in the nom., in total 23× Il., 18× Od., 4× Hes.), since in contrast to Ἐνοσίχθων it is used as a noun and is better adapted to oblique cases. Ἐννοσίγαιος has been linked to both Mycenaean e-ne-si-da-o-ne, attested on tablets from Knossos (M 719, Gg 704), which likely denotes a deity, and Ἐννοσίδας attested at Pind. Pyth. 4.33 and 173 (etc.) (Simon 1980, 70; LfgrE s.v. Ποσειδάων 1470.52 f., 1474.1 ff.).

Monday, May 23, 2022



Claudian, Against Rufinus 1.360 (tr. Maurice Platnauer):
See how many cities the barbarians' fires have laid low.

adspice barbaricis iaceant quot moenia flammis.



Pherecrates, fragment 78 (tr. Ian C. Storey):
You're out of your mind, an old man at your age.

ὑοσκυαμᾷς ἀνὴρ γέρων.
ὑοσκυαμάω = to be mad from taking henbane: to be raving mad (Liddell-Scott-Jones), from ὑοσκύαμος = henbane, from ὗς = pig and κύαμος = bean.

Sunday, May 22, 2022


At a Loss in This Generation

Qu Yuan, Li Sao, lines 57-64 (tr. David Hawkes):
All others press forward in greed and gluttony,
No surfeit satiating their demands:
Forgiving themselves, but harshly judging others;
Each fretting his heart away in envy and malice.
Madly they rush in the covetous chase,
But not after that which my heart sets store by.
For old age comes creeping and soon will be upon me,
And I fear I shall not leave behind an enduring name.
Id., lines 73-74:
I take my fashion from the good men of old:
A garb unlike that which the rude world cares for.
Id., lines 89-96:
Truly this generation are cunning artificers,
From square and compass turn their eyes and change the true measurement,
Disregard the ruled line to follow their crooked fancies;
To emulate in flattery is their only rule.
But I am sick and sad at heart and stand irresolute:
I alone am at a loss in this generation.
Yet I would rather quickly die and meet dissolution
Before I ever would consent to ape their behaviour.
Id., lines 97-100:
Eagles do not flock like birds of lesser species;
So it has ever been since the olden time.
How can the round and square ever fit together?
How can different ways of life ever be reconciled?


The Best Things

Plato, Gorgias 451e (tr. Walter Hamilton):
You have heard, I suppose, people at parties singing the well-known song where they count up the best things: asserting that the greatest good is health, the next beauty, and the third, according to the author of the song, wealth honestly come by?

οἴομαι γάρ σε ἀκηκοέναι ἐν τοῖς συμποσίοις ᾀδόντων ἀνθρώπων τοῦτο τὸ σκολιόν, ἐν ᾧ καταριθμοῦνται ᾁδοντες ὅτι "ὑγιαίνειν μὲν ἄριστόν" ἐστιν, τὸ δὲ "δεύτερον καλὸν γενέσθαι, τρίτον δέ", ὥς φησιν ὁ ποιητὴς τοῦ σκολιοῦ, "τὸ πλουτεῖν ἀδόλως".
The song, from D.L. Page, Lyrica Graeca Selecta, no. 447 (tr. C.M. Bowra):
For a man health is the first and best possession,
Second best to be born with shapely beauty,
And the third is wealth honestly won,
Fourth are the days of youth spent in delight with friends.

ὑγιαίνειν μὲν ἄριστον ἀνδρὶ θνητῷ,
δεύτερον δὲ φυὴν ἀγαθὸν γενέσθαι,
τὸ τρίτον δὲ πλουτεῖν ἀδόλως,
καὶ τὸ τέταρτον ἡβᾶν μετὰ τῶν φίλων.
E.R. Dodds on Plato, Gorgias 451e:
The fourth item is omitted by Plato, since it does not depend on any τέχνη. The verses probably reflect aristocratic Greek opinion pretty accurately (cf. Euthyd. 279 ab, Meno 87 e, Hipp. ma. 291 d), though a speaker in a comedy by Anaxandrides (fr. 17) derides them for putting beauty above wealth. Aristotle (Rhet. 1394b11) and Sextus Empiricus (adv. math. 11.49) declare that the ordinary man everywhere puts health first, and the latter quotes a variety of writers from Simonides onward to the same effect. As to personal beauty, we learn from Aeschines (Timarch. 145 [sic, should be 134]) that Athenian parents prayed that their children might be καλοὺς κἀγαθοὺς τὰς ἰδέας καὶ τῆς πόλεως ἀξίους, and from Aristotle (E.N. 1099b3) that ὁ τὴν ἰδέαν παναίσχης cannot be really happy. (Wilamowitz, Glaube der Hellenen, ii.254 f., asserted that the author of the quatrain had more than physical beauty in mind, but Plato does not take it so, and the addition of φυὰν makes it unlikely.) The list is confined to what Aristotle called τὴν ἐκτὸς χορηγίαν: the intellectual goods are conspicuously absent, and only ἀδόλως pays an implicit tribute to virtue. At the end of his life (Laws 661 a) Plato referred to this σκολιόν again, and reaffirmed against it his own belief that all natural good is relative to spiritual good (661 b, 631 bc): the "three best things" are best only for the man who is spiritually healthy; otherwise they can but add to his secret misery.


Sacred Groves

Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America, chapter 3 ("A Crisis of Agriculture"):
If we are to be properly humble in our use of the world, we need places that we do not use at all. We need the experience of leaving something alone. We need places that we forbear to change, or influence by our presence, or impose on even by our understanding; places that we accept as influences upon us, not the other way around, that we enter with the sense, the pleasure, of having nothing to do there; places that we must enter in a kind of cultural nakedness, without comforts or tools, to submit rather than to conquer. We need what other ages would have called sacred groves. We need groves, anyhow, that we would treat as if they were sacred—in order, perhaps, to perceive their sanctity.

Saturday, May 21, 2022


A Foul Smell

Aristophanes, Wealth 703 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
My farts aren't frankincense!

οὐ λιβανωτὸν γὰρ βδέω.
A bit more literally:
Not frankincense do I fart.
M.T. Quinn's school edition of Aristophanes' Plutus (London: George Bell and Sons, 1896) omits lines 697-706 altogether. In the preface Quinn admits that his edition is "expurgated".

Erasmus, Adages III vii 34 (tr. Denis L. Drysdall, with his notes):
34 Pedere thus
To fart frankincense

Βδέειν λιβανωτόν, To fart frankincense, has the appearance of a proverb. It will be apt for those who enjoy their own vices or those who are deeply in love. The cause of the former is φιλαυτία 'love of self,' because everyone enjoys his own vices and finds them pleasant, even if they are of the most nauseous sort.1 The cause of the latter is extravagant love: 'Even Agnes' polyp delights Balbinus' as Horace writes.2 And Aristophanes in the Plutus: 'I am not accustomed to farting frankincense.'3 The expression will also suit flatterers who praise the vilest things instead of the most noble.

34 Aristophanes (see n3 below); in Aristophanes the expression is not used proverbially — Erasmus probably associated it with Adagia III iv 2 Everyone thinks his own fart smells sweet (4 above).

1 Cf Adagia I ii 15 What is one's own is beautiful, where the passage from Horace (n2 below) is also quoted.

2 Horace Satires 1.3.40

3 Aristophanes Plutus 703

Βδέειν λιβανωτόν, id est Pedere thus, proverbii speciem habet. Accommodabitur in hos, quorum et vitia placent aut ipsis aut aliis impendio amantibus. Facit enim hoc φιλαυτία, ut unicuique sua placeant arrideantque, etiam si sint putidissima. Facit item hoc amor immoderatus, ut Polypus etiam Agnae delectet Balbinum, veluti scripsit Horatius. Aristophanes in Pluto: Οὐ λιβανωτὸν γὰρ βδέω, id est Non soleo thura pedere. Quadrabit et in assentatores turpissima pro honestissimis laudantes.
Aristophanes' "not frankincense" reminds me of Cervantes' "not ambergris" in Don Quixote 1.21 (tr. John Ormsby):
Just then, whether it was the cold of the morning that was now approaching, or that he had eaten something laxative at supper, or that it was only natural (as is most likely), Sancho felt a desire to do what no one could do for him; but so great was the fear that had penetrated his heart, he dared not separate himself from his master by as much as the black of his nail; to escape doing what he wanted was, however, also impossible; so what he did for peace's sake was to remove his right hand, which held the back of the saddle, and with it to untie gently and silently the running string which alone held up his breeches, so that on loosening it they at once fell down round his feet like fetters; he then raised his shirt as well as he could and bared his hind quarters, no slim ones. But, this accomplished, which he fancied was all he had to do to get out of this terrible strait and embarrassment, another still greater difficulty presented itself, for it seemed to him impossible to relieve himself without making some noise, and he ground his teeth and squeezed his shoulders together, holding his breath as much as he could; but in spite of his precautions he was unlucky enough after all to make a little noise, very different from that which was causing him so much fear.

Don Quixote, hearing it, said, "What noise is that, Sancho?"

"I don't know, senor," said he; "it must be something new, for adventures and misadventures never begin with a trifle." Once more he tried his luck, and succeeded so well, that without any further noise or disturbance he found himself relieved of the burden that had given him so much discomfort. But as Don Quixote's sense of smell was as acute as his hearing, and as Sancho was so closely linked with him that the fumes rose almost in a straight line, it could not be but that some should reach his nose, and as soon as they did he came to its relief by compressing it between his fingers, saying in a rather snuffing tone, "Sancho, it strikes me thou art in great fear."

"I am," answered Sancho; "but how does your worship perceive it now more than ever?"

"Because just now thou smellest stronger than ever, and not of ambergris," answered Don Quixote.

"Very likely," said Sancho, "but that's not my fault, but your worship's, for leading me about at unseasonable hours and at such unwonted paces."

"Then go back three or four, my friend," said Don Quixote, all the time with his fingers to his nose; "and for the future pay more attention to thy person and to what thou owest to mine; for it is my great familiarity with thee that has bred this contempt."

"I'll bet," replied Sancho, "that your worship thinks I have done something I ought not with my person."

"It makes it worse to stir it, friend Sancho," returned Don Quixote.
Related post: An Icelandic Proverb?.




Excerpt from Li Zhi, "Self-Appraisal" (tr. Rivi Handler-Spitz), in A Book to Burn and a Book to Keep (Hidden): Selected Writings of Li Zhi, edd. Rivi Handler-Spitz et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), p. 138:
He was by nature narrow-minded and he appeared arrogant. His words were vulgar, and his mind was wild. His behavior was impulsive, his friends few, and his countenance ingratiating. When interacting with people, he took pleasure in seeking out their faults; he did not delight in their strengths. When he disliked people, he cut them off and sought to harm them for the rest of his life.
Cf. another translation of the same passage in Rivi Handler-Spitz, Symptoms of an Unruly Age: Li Zhi and Cultures of Early Modernity (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017), p. 52:
He was by nature narrow-minded and he appeared arrogant. His words were vulgar, and his mind wild. His behavior was impulsive, and his friends few, but when he got together with them he treated them affectionately. When interacting with people, he took pleasure in seeking out their faults; he did not delight in their strong suits. When he hated people, he cut them off and sought to harm them all his life.


A Censorious Nature

Goethe, Faust, Part II, line 6467 (tr. David Luke):
Why must you men find fault perpetually?

Ihr Herren wißt an allem was zu mäkeln.
Id. 8992-8993:
Is a censorious nature so ingrained in you
That your mouth opens only to upbraid and scold?

Ist dir denn so das Schelten gänzlich einverleibt,
daß ohne Tadeln du keine Lippe regen kannst?



Victor Klemperer (1881-1960), The Language of the Third Reich. LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii: A Philologist's Notebook, tr. Martin Brady (2000; rpt. London: Bloomsbury, 2013), p. 229:
But there is no vox populi, only voci populi, and it can only be ascertained in retrospect which of these various voices is the true one — I mean the one which determines the course of events.
For voci read voces. Compare the German original:
Aber es gibt keine vox populi, sondern nur voces populi, und welche von diesen verschiedenartigen Stimmen nun die wahre, ich meine die den Gang der Ereignisse bestimmende ist, das läßt sich immer nur hinterher feststellen.


Friday, May 20, 2022



Stefan George, "Der Krieg," line 118 (tr. Olga Marx and Ernst Morwitz):
When its gods have died a people dies.

Ein volk ist tot wenn seine götter tot sind.



Hermippus, fragment 3 Kassel and Austin (tr. Ian C. Storey):
You seem to have the speech and face of a lamb, but inside you are no different from a serpent.

τὴν μὲν διάλεκτον καὶ τὸ πρόσωπον ἀμνίου
ἔχειν δοκεῖς, τὰ δ᾿ ἔνδον οὐδὲν διαφέρεις
Matthew 7:15 (King James Version):
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

προσέχετε ἀπὸ τῶν ψευδοπροφητῶν, οἵτινες ἔρχονται πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐν ἐνδύμασιν προβάτων, ἔσωθεν δέ εἰσιν λύκοι ἅρπαγες.

Thursday, May 19, 2022


The View from Here

Goethe, Faust, Part II, lines 4782-4786 (tr. David Luke):
Look down from this high place, look far and wide
Over the empire: it must seem
A nightmare of deformity, a dream
Of monsters, law to lawless power unfurled,
And rooting error spread about the world.

Wer schaut hinab von diesem hohen Raum
Ins weite Reich, ihm scheint's ein schwerer Traum,
Wo Mißgestalt in Mißgestalten schaltet,
Das Ungesetz gesetzlich überwaltet
Und eine Welt des Irrtums sich entfaltet.
The same (tr. Bayard Taylor):
Who looks abroad from off this height supreme
Throughout the realm, 'tis like a weary dream,
Where one deformity another mouldeth,
Where lawlessness itself by law upholdeth,
And 'tis an age of Error that unfoldeth.
The same (tr. Stuart Atkins):
If from this lofty vantage point one views below
your far-flung realm, it seems an ugly dream
in which Deformity holds sway among deformities
and Lawlessness prevails by legal means
as Error spreads and fills the world with error.


Scholarship and Stamp-Collecting

Leslie Mitchell, Maurice Bowra: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 80, with notes on p. 329:
As Maurice, self-mockingly, described his working methods, it was all a matter of perspiration and akin to stamp collecting: 'My long and boring book goes on and on. There is a lot of nonsense about learning. It is really a substitute for stamp-collecting, but instead of coloured bits of paper one collects comic little facts in the faint, far hope that one day they will fall into a pattern. But of course they don't.'57 He used nearly the same words to a goddaughter:
I have begun work on a subject so obscure that I can't tell anyone about it. It is quite mad, and I have no qualifications for it. Not that that has ever hindered me. I collect bits of useless information and put them together. It is just as if, after fifty years, I had gone back to stamp-collecting. It provides what Tennyson calls 'the sad mechanic exercise', words most appropriate to what we dignify by the name of learning.58
57. C.M. Bowra to A. James, 3 Dec. [1950]; Harvard, Houghton Lib., BMS AM 1938 (152).

58. Idem to C. Clark, 28 Dec. [1960], C. Clark MSS.
Arthur Stanley Pease, quoted in J.P. Elder et al., "Arthur Stanley Pease 1881-1964," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 69 (1965) ix:
I will confess that I am by nature a collector, that I began with marbles and horse-chestnuts, advanced to postage stamps, continued with botany and books, and at all times have gathered facts and occasionally ideas.

These two latter items, in lack of sufficient cranial space for dead storage, I enter methodically on 3 x 5 slips of paper. When enough of a kind are amassed, they are outspread, classified, digested, written down, dehydrated, and lo! an article, or more rarely a book, to be perused by some lone watcher in Czechoslovakia or beside the Bay of Biscay.


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