Saturday, April 30, 2016


Is Latin Sudus an Auto-Antonym?

An auto-antonym is a word that can mean the opposite of itself. According to Lewis and Short, sudus can mean both dry and damp:
sūdus, a, um, adj. [se-udus; cf.: sudum siccum quasi seudum id est sine udo, Fest. pp. 294 and 295 Müll.], without moisture, dry....

II. Somewhat moist = subudus; "ardentia viscera adhuc suda de sanguine", ARN. 7, 3.
But Reifferscheid in his edition of Arnobius' Adversus Nationes (Vienna, 1875 = Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, IV), p. 239, adopts Sigismund Gelenius' conjecture uda for the manuscript's suda at 7.3. On the manuscript variants udis and sudis at Apuleius, Metamorphoses 11.2, see Apuleius of Madauros, The Isis-Book (Metamorphoses, Book XI). Edited with an Introduction, Translation and Commentary by J. Gwyn Griffiths (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1975), pp. 70 (text and apparatus) and 119 (commentary).

On the other hand, Arnobius isn't the only evidence for the meaning "somewhat moist." See the data collected by Henry Nettleship, "Nonius Marcellinus," Lectures and Essays (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1885), pp. 277-321 (at 305):



College Students

Mark Pattison (1813-1884), Memoirs (London: Macmillan and Co., 1885), pp. 52-54:
Another contrast which staggered me between myself and others was their attitude to the studies of the place. I had come up all eagerness to learn. Having had next to no teaching at home, I exaggerated in imagination what a teacher could do for me. I thought that now at last I should be in the company of an ardent band of fellow-students, only desirous of rivalling each other in the initiation which the tutors were to lead into the mysteries of scholarship, of composition, of rhetoric, logic, and all the arts of literature. Philosophy did not come within my purview. I did not know there was such a thing.

I was soon disillusioned. I found lectures regarded as a joke or a bore, contemned by the more advanced, shirked by the backward; Latin and Greek regarded as useless, except for the purpose of getting a degree; and as for modern literature, the very idea of its existence had never dawned upon these youths, none of whom knew any language but English. Such was my simplicity that I had believed that no one went to college but those who were qualified, and anxious, to study. Nor was the difference between the passman and the honourman a sufficient clearing up of the paradox, for such it seemed to me, that men should flock to a university not to study. It fairly puzzled me to find that even William Froude, whom his elder brother was compelling to read for classical honours, "hated Sophocles"—so he once told me—and regarded the whole job as a disgusting grind.


Time Travel

A.N. Wilson, The Victorians (2002; rpt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003), pp. 307-308:
Returning to the nineteenth century in a time-machine, the twenty-first-century traveller would notice immediately dozens of differences between our world and theirs: the smells of horse-dung and straw in the streets, and, even in the grander houses, the sweaty smell of the servants who had no baths – just the kitchen tap, very often; the darkness at night without electricity; the gas-flares against the sooty skies; the fatty food and 'smell of steaks in passageways'; the beautifully made hats, worn by all social classes, and the properly tailored clothes, even on window-cleaners or factory-hands; the continued acceptance of social hierarchy and, with the obvious perky exception, the underlying deference; the racial coherence – Dante Gabriel Rossetti, we recall, found the sight of a slave boy in London exotic – no one in today's London would find anything odd about seeing a little black boy in the street; the superiority to ours of the postal service – four or five swift deliveries per day – and the splendour – red coats and gold or blue piping – of the postman's uniform; the excellence of the rail services; the truly terrifying inadequacy of dentistry and medicine – and with these, the toothache, the halitosis; the generalized acceptance of infant mortality, the familiarity of children's coffins being trundled in glass-sided hearses down cobbled streets; the poverty of the children who survived, the ragamuffins who swept crossings and still, in spite of Lord Shaftesbury's reforms, continued to work, and run about at large, in the alarming, overcrowded cities – all these things and more would assail the eye, heart and nostril and make us know that the Victorian world was utterly different from our own.
Id., p. 383:
[R]ich and poor were kept apart in Victorian England to an unimaginable extent. The poor simply were not allowed into Piccadilly. Even quite bourgeois streets and squares were gated and barred against proletarian ingress. The moneyed classes were well-policed and well-armed.

Friday, April 29, 2016


The Land of the Cyclopes

Homer, Odyssey 106-115 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
We came to the land of the Cyclopes, an insolent and lawless folk,
who, trusting in the immortal gods,
plant nothing with their hands, nor plow;
but all these things spring up for them without sowing or plowing,
wheat, and barley, and vines, which bear        110
the rich clusters of wine, and Zeus's rain makes these grow for them.
Neither assemblies for council have they, nor appointed laws,
but they dwell on the peaks of mountains
in hollow caves, and each one is lawgiver
to his children and his wives, and they have no regard for one another.        115

Κυκλώπων δ᾿ ἐς γαῖαν ὑπερφιάλων ἀθεμίστων
ἱκόμεθ᾿, οἵ ῥα θεοῖσι πεποιθότες ἀθανάτοισιν
οὔτε φυτεύουσιν χερσὶν φυτὸν οὔτ᾿ ἀρόωσιν,
ἀλλὰ τά γ᾿ ἄσπαρτα καὶ ἀνήροτα πάντα φύονται,
πυροὶ καὶ κριθαὶ ἠδ᾿ ἄμπελοι, αἵ τε φέρουσιν        110
οἶνον ἐριστάφυλον, καί σφιν Διὸς ὄμβρος ἀέξει.
τοῖσιν δ᾿ οὔτ᾿ ἀγοραὶ βουληφόροι οὔτε θέμιστες,
ἀλλ᾿ οἵ γ᾿ ὑψηλῶν ὀρέων ναίουσι κάρηνα
ἐν σπέσσι γλαφυροῖσι, θεμιστεύει δὲ ἕκαστος
παίδων ἠδ᾿ ἀλόχων, οὐδ᾿ ἀλλήλων ἀλέγουσιν.        115
In line 113, ὑψηλῶν (high, lofty, modifying mountains) doesn't appear in the translation.

Alfred Heubeck ad loc.:
The sociological implications are clear: the poet has painted a picture of a people on the lowest cultural level, devoid of all that gives human life its distinctive quality. The Cyclopes know nothing of life in a community ordered by laws and decrees, of piety and morality, or of nature made to serve man by 'ratio' and τέχνη (agriculture, building, and seafaring). They are a negation of human values, and a negative counterpart to the Phaeacians who enjoy all the benefits of civilization; they are the embodiment of the non-human.


In the Muck

G.G. Coulton (1858-1947), Father Rhine (London: Dent, 1899), p. 53:
He could not believe that so sensible a man as Schultz evidently was would ever venture into a foreign land without having first learnt the language. "Sehen sie 'mal:—wenn Einer die Sprache nicht kann, da sitzt er wie im Dreck,"1—a form of locution which amused me immensely, though it appealed less to my friend.

1 "Look here—if a man can't talk the language, he has to sit in the muck, so to speak."
Id., pp. 202-203 (quoting an Englishman resident in Argentina):
"Father don't talk Spanish; I don't neither, except you must know a word or two for the cowboys and that sort of thing. Mother, she talks a little; but when they come to us, they talk English fast enough; they always can if they like, so why the Dickens should we go and take the trouble to learn theirs? That's what I always say to the Spanish chaps, and they can't find anything to say agen it. . . . Look at that fellow in the office here; what did you get out of him with your German? No, they understand English, they do; they know that means business. I've been about a good deal these three months, and I never cared a blow about any foreign language except once, and that was in Paris. . . ."


The Rule of Equivalence

Frederic W. Farrar (1831-1903), History of Interpretation: Eight Lectures Preached Before the University of Oxford (London: Macmillan and Co., 1886), p. 19 (discussing Hillel's seven rules):
The second, the rule of "equivalence," infers a relation between two subjects from the occurrence of identical expressions.
Id., pp. 21-22:
This rule of "equivalence" has always been prevalent in scholastic systems. It means the isolation of phrases, the misapplication of parallel passages, the false emphasising of accidental words, the total neglect of the context, "the ever-widening spiral ergo from the narrow aperture of single texts." It is just as prominent, and quite as mischievous, in Hilary and Augustine, in Albert and Aquinas, in Gerhard and Calovius, as in Hillel or Ishmael.
For the quotation, see Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), Aids to Reflection in the Formation of a Manly Character (London: Taylor and Hessey, 1825), p. 357:
I have, I confess, no eye for these smoke-like Wreaths of Inference, this ever-widening spiral Ergo from the narrow aperture of perhaps a single Text: or rather an interpretation forced into it by construing an idiomatic phrase in an artless Narrative with the same absoluteness, as if it had formed part of a mathematical problem!



Richard Jenkyns, Virgil's Experience. Nature and History: Times, Names, and Places (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 60:
In the Aeneid the landscape is more deeply embedded in the poem than it has ever been in narrative verse before. Among the poem's themes is man's need to fix himself; to be rooted, to be based solidly on some particular portion of the earth.
Id., p. 62 (footnotes omitted):
For several reasons, therefore, the first landfall in the poem is an essential moment. We expect Aeneas' men to be full of gladness, and sure enough they possess the beach 'magna telluris amore'. That is one of those simple Virgilian phrases that seem pregnant with a deeper significance. Its immediate sense is that the Trojans are overjoyed to be on dry land again, but behind this we hear once more that larger theme: a man's 'great love of the earth' is a fundamental part of his humanity, and goes beyond simple relief at escaping from a watery grave.



J.L. Austin (1911–1960), "A Plea for Excuses," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 57 (1956-1957) 1-30 (at 7-8):
First, words are our tools, and, as a minimum, we should use clean tools: we should know what we mean and what we do not, and we must forearm ourselves against the traps that language sets us. Secondly, words are not (except in their own little corner) facts or things: we need therefore to prise them off the world, to hold them apart from and against it, so that we can realise their inadequacies and arbitrarinesses, and can re-look at the world without blinkers. Thirdly, and more hopefully, our common stock of words embodies all the distinctions men have found worth drawing, and the connexions they have found worth marking, in the lifetimes of many generations: these surely are likely to be more numerous, more sound, since they have stood up to the long test of the survival of the fittest, and more subtle, at least in all ordinary and reasonably practical matters, than any that you or I are likely to think up in our armchairs of an afternoon—the most favoured alternative method.
Id., pp. 27-28:
[A] word never—well, hardly ever—shakes off its etymology and its formation. In spite of all changes in and extensions of and additions to its meanings, and indeed rather pervading and governing these, there will still persist the old idea. In an accident something befalls: by mistake you take the wrong one: in error you stray: when you act deliberately you act after weighing it up (not after thinking out ways and means). It is worth asking ourselves whether we know the etymology of "result" or of "spontaneously", and worth remembering that "unwillingly" and "involuntarily" come from very different sources.

Thursday, April 28, 2016



Walt Whitman (1819-1892), "By Blue Ontario's Shore," lines 36-38:
I am he who walks the States with a barb'd tongue, questioning every one I meet,
Who are you that wanted only to be told what you knew before?
Who are you that wanted only a book to join you in your nonsense?


More Examples of Asyndetic, Privative Adjectives

Aeschylus, Suppliant Women 149-153 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
Let her, the Untamed One,
become the rescuer of us the untamed ones,
so that the offspring of a most august mother
may escape the beds of men—ah, ah!—
unwedded and unsubdued.

ἀδμῆτος ἀδμήτα
ῥύσιος γενέσθω·        150
σπέρμα σεμνᾶς μέγα ματρὸς εὐνὰς
ἀνδρῶν, ἒ ἔ,
ἄγαμον ἀδάματον ἐκφυγεῖν.
Note the pair of asyndetic, privative adjectives ἄγαμον ἀδάματον (unwedded, unsubdued) in line 153. The asyndeton is obscured by Sommerstein's addition of the conjunction "and."

Demosthenes, 3rd Philippic 40 = Orations 8.40 (tr. J.H. Vince):
But all our resources are rendered useless, powerless, worthless by these traffickers.

ἀλλὰ ταῦτ᾿ ἄχρηστα, ἄπρακτα, ἀνόνητα ὑπὸ τῶν πωλούντων γίγνεται.



You Might Have Seen the Gods There

John Ruskin (1819-1900), Fors Clavigera: Letters to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain, Letter V (May 1, 1871):
There was a rocky valley between Buxton and Bakewell, once upon a time, divine as the vale of Tempe; you might have seen the Gods there morning and evening,—Apollo and all the sweet Muses of the light,—walking in fair procession on the lawns of it, and to and fro among the pinnacles of its crags. You cared neither for Gods nor grass, but for cash (which you did not know the way to get). You thought you could get it by what the Times calls "Railroad Enterprise." You Enterprised a railroad through the valley—you blasted its rocks away, heaped thousands of tons of shale into its lovely stream. The valley is gone, and the Gods with it; and now, every fool in Buxton can be at Bakewell in half an hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton; which you think a lucrative process of exchange—you Fools everywhere!


Hellenistic Curiosity

Richard Jenkyns, Virgil's Experience. Nature and History: Times, Names, and Places (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 57:
It is a mistake to separate too far the 'bookishness' which some people complain of finding in the Hellenistic world from their energy and invention in such fields as medicine, astronomy, hydraulics, and mathematics. The desire to list the origins of cults, unearth obscure myths, or describe the oddities of distant lands and peoples is part of a great impulse of curiosity to learn all that can be known, an impulse which finds another outlet in attempts to measure the diameter of the earth or explain the movements of the heavens.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Prayer to Isis

Apuleius, Metamorphoses 11.2 (tr. J. Arthur Hanson):
O queen of heaven—whether you are bountiful Ceres, the primal mother of crops, who in joy at the recovery of your daughter took away from men their primeval animal fodder of acorns and showed them gentler nourishment, and now dwell in the land of Eleusis; or heavenly Venus, who at the first foundation of the universe united the diversity of the sexes by creating Love and propagated the human race through ever-recurring progeny, and now are worshipped in the island sanctuary of Paphos; or Phoebus' sister, who brought forth populous multitudes by relieving the delivery of offspring with your soothing remedies, and now are venerated at the illustrious shrine of Ephesus; or dreaded Proserpina of the nocturnal howls, who in triple form repress the attacks of ghosts and keep the gates to earth closed fast, roam through widely scattered groves and are propitiated by diverse rites—you who illumine every city with your womanly light, nourish the joyous seeds with your moist fires, and dispense beams of fluctuating radiance according to the convolutions of the Sun—by whatever name, with whatever rite, in whatever image it is meet to invoke you: defend me now in the uttermost extremes of tribulation, strengthen my fallen fortune, grant me rest and peace from the cruel mischances I have endured. Let this be enough toil, enough danger. Rid me of this dreadful four-footed form, restore me to the sight of my own people, restore me to the Lucius I was. But if some divine power that I have offended is harassing me with inexorable savagery, at least let me die, if I may not live.

Regina caeli—sive tu Ceres alma frugum parens originalis, quae, repertu laetata filiae, vetustae glandis ferino remoto pabulo, miti commonstrato cibo, nunc Eleusiniam glebam percolis; seu tu caelestis Venus, quae primis rerum exordiis sexuum diversitatem generato Amore sociasti et aeterna subole humano genere propagato nunc circumfluo Paphi sacrario coleris; seu Phoebi soror, quae partu fetarum medelis lenientibus recreato populos tantos educasti praeclarisque nunc veneraris delubris Ephesi; seu nocturnis ululatibus horrenda Proserpina, triformi facie larvales impetus comprimens, terraeque claustra cohibens, lucos diversos inerrans vario cultu propitiaris—ista luce feminea collustrans cuncta moenia, et udis ignibus nutriens laeta semina, et Solis ambagibus dispensans incerta lumina; quoquo nomine, quoquo ritu, quaqua facie te fas est invocare: tu meis iam nunc extremis aerumnis subsiste, tu fortunam collapsam affirma, tu saevis exanclatis casibus pausam pacemque tribue. Sit satis laborum, sit satis periculorum. Depelle quadripedis diram faciem, redde me conspectui meorum, redde me meo Lucio. Ac si quod offensum numen inexorabili me saevitia premit, mori saltem liceat, si non licet vivere.
Apuleius of Madauros, The Isis-Book (Metamorphoses, Book XI). Edited with an Introduction, Translation and Commentary by J. Gwyn Griffiths (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1975), pp. 120-121:

The reference is to Joseph Berreth, Studien zum Isisbuch in Apuleius' Metamorphosen (Ellwangen, 1931), which I haven't seen. Should there be more numbers than 1 under K?

Update from Ian Jackson:
I checked Berreth today at the library. K1 is correct: there is no K2. But as you may have noted, Gwyn Griffiths lists a second series of Ds, which should be Fs...
Related posts:


Venus Rings

I wasn't aware of the term until I read this definition of "Venus rings" in Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway, Fifth Century Styles in Greek Sculpture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), p. xix (Glossary):
The lines incised on the necks of figures, especially young females, to suggest the softness of the flesh, or plumpness. Thought to occur only on voluptuous women (like a necklace of beauty—hence the name), it has now been noted also on children and young men.
Examples in her book are the female figures on the Didyma column drums and the head of Athena from the west pediment of the Parthenon (p. 53), the "Stumbling Niobid" in the Terme, from the Gardens of Sallust (p. 56), and the Erechtheion Karyatids (p. 108).

Related post: Ventral Wrinkles.


It is All Plato's Fault

Friedrich Nietzsche, letter to Franz Overbeck (January 9, 1887; tr. Christopher Middleton):
It is a hard winter here too; instead of snow, we have had whole days of rain — the foothills have for some time been white (which looks like coquetry on nature's part, in a landscape so drenched in a variety of colors). This variety includes my blue fingers, as usual, likewise my black thoughts. I have just been reading, with thoughts of that kind, Simplicius's commentary on Epictetus; here one can see clearly before one the whole philosophical scheme in which Christianity became imbedded, so that this "pagan" philosopher's book makes the most Christian impression imaginable (except that the whole world of Christian emotion and pathology is missing — "love," as Paul speaks of it, "fear of God," and so on). The falsifying of everything actual by morality stands there in fullest array: wretched psychology, the "philosopher" reduced to the stature of "country parson." And it is all Plato's fault! He is still Europe's greatest misfortune!

Der Winter ist hart, auch hier; statt Schnee haben wir tagelangen Regen, die näheren Berge sind seit längerer Zeit weiß (was in der bunten und farbensatten Landschaft wie eine Koketterie der Natur aussieht –). Zu dieser "Buntheit" gehören auch meine blauen Finger, nach wie vor, insgleichen meine schwarzen Gedanken. Eben lese ich, mit solcherlei Gedanken, den Kommentar des Simplicius zu Epiktet: man hat in ihm das ganze philosophische Schema klar vor sich, auf welches sich das Christentum eingezeichnet hat: so daß dies Buch eines "heidnischen" Philosophen den denkbar christlichsten Eindruck macht (abgerechnet, daß die ganze christliche Affekten-Welt und Pathologie fehlt, "Liebe," wie Paulus von ihr redet, "Furcht vor Gott" usw.). Die Fälschung alles Tatsächlichen durch Moral steht da in vollster Pracht; erbärmliche Psychologie; der Philosoph auf den "Landpfarrer" reduziert. — Und an alledem ist Plato schuld! er bleibt das größte Malheur Europas!


A Board for Wasting Public Money

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), quoted in John William Kaye, The Administration of the East India Company; A History of Indian Progress, 2nd ed. (London: Richard Bentley, 1853), p. 597, footnote:
I believe that the present system tends not to accelerate the progress of truth but to delay the natural death of expiring errors. I conceive that we have at present no right to the respectable name of a Board of Public Instruction. We are a board for wasting public money, for printing books which are of less value than the paper on which they are printed was while it was blank; for giving artificial encouragement to absurd history, absurd metaphysics, absurd physics, absurd theology; for raising up a breed of scholars who find their scholarship an encumbrance and a blemish, who live on the public while they are receiving their education, and whose education is so utterly useless to them that, when they have received it, they must either starve or live on the public all the rest of their lives.
No, he's not talking about the Texas State Board of Education.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016



Jean Rudhardt, "Considérations sur le polythéisme," Revue de théologie et de philosophie 16 (1966) 353–364, rpt. in his Du mythe, de la religion grecque et de la compréhension d'autrui (Genève: Librairie Droz, 1981 = Revue européenne des sciences sociales, Tome XIX [1981], No. 58), pp. 71-82 (at 73; my translation):
Let's say at the outset that the concept of polytheism is ambiguous and a source of deep misunderstandings. A trite observation should already put us on guard: the Greeks didn't define themselves as polytheists; they didn't know this word, they didn't have this concept. The word "polytheism" was coined by monotheists.

Disons d'emblée que la notion de polythéisme est ambiguë et source de profonds malentendus. Une remarque banale devrait déjà nous mettre en garde: les Grecs ne se sont pas définis eux-mêmes comme des polythéistes; ils ont ignoré ce mot, ils n'ont pas eu ce concept. Le mot «polythéisme» a été inventé par des monothéistes.
Rudhardt is of course correct, although it's well known that the word πολύθεος (polytheos) occurs with the meaning "of or belonging to many gods" (Liddell-Scott-Jones) as early as Aeschylus, Suppliant Women 423-425 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
And do not look on while I am seized as plunder
from this abode of so many gods,
you who hold all power in this land!

μηδ᾿ ἴδῃς μ᾿ ἐξ ἑδρᾶν πολυθεῶν
ῥυσιασθεῖσαν, ὦ
πᾶν κράτος ἔχων χθονός.
By "seats belonging to many gods" (ἑδρᾶν πολυθεῶν) Aeschylus means the altar on stage. Cf. lines 188-190:
It is best from every point of view, girls, to sit at this rock sacred to the Assembled Gods; an altar is an unbreakable shield, stronger than a city wall.

ἄμεινόν ἐστι παντὸς οὕνεκ᾿, ὦ κόραι,
πάγον προσίζειν τόνδ᾿ ἀγωνίων θεῶν·
κρεῖσσον δὲ πύργου βωμός, ἄρρηκτον σάκος.
Some or all of the "many gods" are named in lines 209-221 of the play. They are Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon, and Hermes. Cf. also 222-223:
Now honour this common altar of all the Lords.

πάντων δ᾿ ἀνάκτων τῶνδε κοινοβωμίαν
Statues of the many gods stand near their common altar, and the suppliant women threaten to hang themselves from the statues if their plea for asylum isn't granted (lines 461-465).

In Greek tragedy, the altar on stage is usually an altar belonging to only one god or one closely knit group of gods (such as the Eumenides). On the anomaly of an altar to many gods, only loosely connected, in Aeschylus' Suppliant Women, see Jon D. Mikalson, Honor Thy Gods: Popular Religion in Greek Tragedy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), pp. 74-75, with notes on p. 259.

The superlative of the adjective πολύθεος occurs in Lucian, Zeus Rants 14 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
For the meeting is packed with gods, as you see.

πολυθεωτάτη γάρ, ὡς ὁρᾷς, ἡ ἐκκλησία.

The first monotheist to use the word polytheism seems to have been Philo. The following translations all come from F.H. Colson's Loeb Classical Library edition of the works of Philo (passages preserved only in an Armenian version are omitted).

On the Confusion of Tongues 11.42:
Those whose system includes many origins for the family of the soul, who affiliate themselves to that evil thing called polytheism, who take in hand to render homage some to this deity, some to that, are the authors of tumult and strife at home and abroad, and fill the whole of life from birth to death with internecine wars.

οἱ μὲν γὰρ πολλὰς ἀρχὰς τοῦ κατὰ ψυχὴν γένους συστησάμενοι, τῷ πολυθέῳ λεγομένῳ κακῷ προσνείμαντες ἑαυτούς, ἄλλοι πρὸς ἄλλων τιμὰς τραπόμενοι ταραχὰς καὶ στάσεις ἐμφυλίους τε καὶ ξενικὰς ἐδημιούργησαν1 τὸν ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς γενέσεως ἄχρι τελευτῆς βίον πολέμων ἀκηρύκτων καταπλήσαντες.
On Flight and Finding 21.114:
But the promiscuous, polyandrous cause of polytheism, or rather atheism, the harlot, he deigns not even to look at...

τὸ δὲ πολυμιγὲς καὶ πολύανδρον καὶ πολύθεον, ἄθεον μὲν οὖν κακόν, πόρνην, οὐδὲ προσιδεῖν ἀξιοῖ...
On Rewards and Punishments 28.162:
I have now described without any reservation the curses and penalties which they will deservedly suffer who disregard the holy laws of justice and piety, who have been seduced by the polytheistic creeds which finally lead to atheism...

τὰς μὲν οὖν ἀρὰς καὶ τιμωρίας, ἃς ὑπομένειν ἄξιον τοὺς τῶν ἱερῶν νόμων δικαιοσύνης καὶ εὐσεβείας ὑπερορῶντας καὶ ταῖς πολυθέοις δόξαις ὑπαχθέντας, ὧν ἀθεότης τὸ τέλος...
On Drunkenness 28.110:
For polytheism creates atheism in the souls of the foolish.

τὸ γὰρ πολύθεον ἐν ταῖς τῶν ἀφρόνων ψυχαῖς ἀθεότητα <κατασκευάζει>.
On the Account of the World's Creation Given by Moses 61.171:
Secondly, that God is one. This with a view to the propounders of polytheism, who do not blush to transfer from earth to heaven mob-rule, that worst of evil polities.

δεύτερον δ᾿ ὅτι θεὸς εἷς ἐστι, διὰ τοὺς εἰσηγητὰς τῆς πολυθέου δόξης, οἳ οὐκ ἐρυθριῶσι τὴν φαυλοτάτην τῶν κακοπολιτειῶν ὀχλοκρατίαν ἀπὸ γῆς εἰς οὐρανὸν μετοικίζοντες.
On the Migration of Abraham 12.69:
Now just as the creature with many feet and that without feet, opposite species in the genus of creeping things, are proclaimed unclean, so also atheism and polytheism, mutually antagonistic doctrines in the soul, are alike profane.

ὥσπερ δὲ τὸ πολύπουν καὶ ἄπουν, ἐναντία ὄντα ἐν τῷ γένει τῶν ἑρπετῶν, ἀκάθαρτα ἀναγράφεται, οὕτως καὶ ἡ ἄθεος καὶ πολύθεος ἀντίπαλοι ἐν ψυχῇ δόξαι βέβηλοι.
Who is the Heir of Divine Things 35.169:
The first commandment among the duties to God, is that which opposes the creed of polytheism, and its lesson is that the world has one sole ruler.

τῶν μὲν οὖν πρὸς θεὸν δικαίων πρῶτός ἐστι θεσμὸς ὁ ἐναντιούμενος τῇ πολυθέῳ δόξῃ, διδάσκων ὅτι μοναρχεῖται ὁ κόσμος.
On the Virtues 39.214:
Perception of these truths and divine inspiration induced him to leave his native country, his race and paternal home, knowing that if he stayed the delusions of the polytheistic creed would stay within him...

ὧν ἔννοιαν λαβὼν καὶ ἐπιθειάσας καταλείπει μὲν πατρίδα καὶ γενεὰν καὶ πατρῷον οἶκον, εἰδὼς ὅτι μένοντος μὲν αἱ τῆς πολυθέου δόξης ἐγκαταμενοῦσιν...
On the Decalogue 14.65:
Let the idea that gods are many never even reach the ears of the man whose rule of life is to seek for truth in purity and guilelessness.

δόξα δ᾿ ἡ πολύθεος μηδ᾿ ὤτων ψαυέτω καθαρῶς καὶ ἀδόλως ἀνδρὸς εἰωθότος ζητεῖν ἀλήθειαν.
On the Change of Names 37.205:
Such as in their pride extol their own mind and senses as the sole causes of all that happens amongst men—these are they who have spiritually lost the organs of generation by crushing or complete mutilation; such again as love the creed which holds that gods are many and pays all honour to that fellowship of deities—these are the children of the harlot who knows not the one husband and father of the virtue-loving soul,—are not all such with good reason expelled and banished? (Deut. xxiii. 1, 2).

τεθλασμένοι γὰρ τὰ γεννητικὰ τῆς διανοίας ἢ καὶ τελείως ἀποκοπέντες οἱ τὸν ἴδιον νοῦν καὶ τὴν αἴσθησιν ἀποσεμνύνοντες ὡς μόνα τῶν κατ᾿ ἀνθρώπους αἴτια πραγμάτων ἢ οἱ πολυθεΐας ἐρασταὶ καὶ τὸν πολύθεον ἐκτετιμηκότες θίασον, οἱ ἐκ πόρνης γεγονότες, τὸν ἕνα ἄνδρα καὶ πατέρα φιλαρέτου ψυχῆς θεὸν οὐκ εἰδότες, ἆρ᾿ οὐκ εἰκότως ἐλαύνονταί τε καὶ φυγαδεύονται;

Patristic examples of πολύθεος and related words can be found in G.W.H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), p. 1116, col. 1 (click on image to enlarge):

H.S. Versnel, Coping with the Gods: Wayward Readings in Greek Theology (Leiden: Brill, 2011 = Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, 173), p. 24, n. 3, says that the word polytheism "was rediscovered for European tradition by Jean Bodin in 1580," but see some earlier occurrences in René Hoven, Lexique de la prose latine de la Renaissance, 2nd ed. (Leiden: Brill, 2006), p. 418, who cites polytheia from Guillaume Budé, Opera Omnia, 4 vols., (Basel, 1557; rpt. Farnborough, 1966), I, 18, 33; 137, 25; 143, 20; etc. and polytheus from id., I, 18, 53 (non vidi).

Jean Bodin, On the Demon-Mania of Witches, tr. Randy A. Scott, with an introduction by Jonathan L. Pearl (Toronto: Center for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 1995), pp. 71-72 (from Book 1, Chapter 5, ellipsis in original, with translator's footnote):
For as Proclus the Academician stated, polytheism is really atheism, and he who establishes more than one or a countless number of gods is trying to remove the true God....117

117 On Proclus, see above, Book 1, note 52.
Id., p. 53, n. 52 (translator's footnote):
In his Elements of Theology, the Neoplatonist philosopher Proclus (A.D. 410-85) emphasizes the finiteness of the world as part of the "manifold," and its separation from the unity of the One, the single first cause.
The French (and quoted Greek), from Bodin's De la Démonomanie des Sorciers (Paris: Iacques du Puys, 1580), f. 28 v., with marginal note:
Car comme disoit Procle3 Academicien, le Polytheisme est vn droict Atheisme, & qui met nombre pluriel, ou infini de Dieux s'efforce d'oster le vray Dieu, c'est à dire, ἀπειρία τὸν θεὸν ἀναιρεῖ.

3. ἀπειρίαν τὸν θεὸν ἀναιρεῖν καὶ πολυθεότητα ἀθεότητα εἶναι.
Image of the passage from Bodin's book:

Using the index of Greek words in E.R. Dodds' edition of Proclus' Elements of Theology (1963; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004), I can't locate the quotation. Dodds doesn't list the words ἀθεότης and πολυθεότης.

Thanks to Jim O'Donnell for some stimulating emails and help with this post.

Monday, April 25, 2016



Goethe, Faust, Part 1, lines 3272-3279 (tr. C.F. MacIntyre):
Why do you sit in these caves and fissures like an owl,
sucking your food from dripping stones
and wet moss like a toad?
A fine and pleasant pastime!
The Doctor still sticks in your bones.
Cannot you understand the new life-energy
this roaming in the wasteland has given me?
The same, tr. Walter Kaufman:
And now, why must you sit like an old owl
In caves and rocky clefts, and scowl?
From soggy moss and dripping stones you lap your food
Just like a toad, and sit and brood.
A fair, sweet way to pass the time!
Still steeped in your doctoral slime!
How this sojourn in the wilderness
Renews my vital force, you cannot guess.
The German:
Was hast du da in Höhlen, Felsenritzen
Dich wie ein Schuhu zu versitzen?
Was schlurfst aus dumpfem Moos und triefendem Gestein
Wie eine Kröte Nahrung ein?        3275
Ein schöner, süßer Zeitvertreib!
Dir steckt der Doktor noch im Leib.
Verstehst du, was für neue Lebenskraft
Mir dieser Wandel in der Öde schafft?


The Growth of the Mind

Philemon, fragment 103 (my translation):
I myself have heard these (philosophers), and mind, my good fellow, doesn't grow spontaneously for men, like thyme in a field; wits grow, they say, always a little at a time, from speaking a bit and listening to others and contemplating.

ἤκουσα τούτων αὐτός, οὐδὲ φύεται
αὐτόματον ἀνθρώποισιν, ὦ βέλτιστε, νοῦς
ὥσπερ ἐν ἀγρῷ θύμος· ἐκ δὲ τοῦ λέγειν τι καὶ
ἑτέρων ἀκούειν καὶ θεωρῆσαι ˘¯
κατὰ μικρὸν ἀεί, φασί, φύονται φρένες.
Text and apparatus from R. Kassel and C. Austin, edd., Poetae Comici Graeci, Vol. VII: Menecrates-Xenophon (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1989), p. 283:



John Donne (1572-1631), Meditation XVII:
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
Richard Jenkyns, Virgil's Experience. Nature and History: Times, Names, and Places (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 3:
Every man is an island, entire of himself; an island, however, which is part of an immense archipelago encompassing innumerable specks of land, each with its own shape and pattern, its distinct configuration of rock and inlet, yet all ruffled by the same breezes, fretted by the same unceasing seas. The historian is a species of surveyor or cartographer; his task is to map these territories.


A Strange Collection

Robert Parker, Polytheism and Society at Athens (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 19:
[N]one of the gods commonly found in or near Greek houses is straightforwardly represented in human form. Hestia is the hearth, Zeus Ktesios a pot, Apollo Aguieus a pillar, Hermes a block with head and phallus; Zeus Herkeios had an altar, but was perhaps not further represented. A strange collection they would make, lined up in a row!

Sunday, April 24, 2016



Homer, Odyssey 8.248-249 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
And always the feast is dear to us, and the lyre and dances
and changes of clothing and our hot baths and beds.

αἰεὶ δ' ἡμῖν δαίς τε φίλη κίθαρις τε χοροί τε
εἵματά τ' ἐξημοιβὰ λοετρά τε θερμὰ καὶ εὐναί.
J.B. Hainsworth ad loc.:
These lines naturally attracted the animadversions of the censorious, e.g. Heracleides Ponticus (ap. schol. Od. xiii 119) συνειδότας γὰρ ἑαυτοῖς φιληδονίαν καὶ ἀπολαυστικὸν τρόπον ..., Hor. Epp. i 2 28-9 'sponsi Penelopae, nebulones, Alcinoique | in cute curanda plus aequo operata iuventus'. But the lines merely summarize the delights of a society at peace...


Wisdom as a Collection of Platitudes

Norman Douglas (1868-1952), South Wind, chapter 13 (ellipsis in original):
"What did he say?" asked Denis.

"The old teacher? Let me see....He said: do not be discomposed by the opinions of inept persons. Do not swim with the crowd. They who are all things to their neighbours, cease to be anything to themselves. Even a diamond can have too many facets. Avoid the attrition of vulgar minds; keep your edges intact. He also said: A man can protect himself with fists or sword. But his best weapon is his intellect. A weapon must be forged in the fire. The fire, in our case, is tribulation. It must also be kept untarnished. If the mind is clean, the body can take care of itself. He said: delve deeply; not too deeply into the past, for it may make you derivative; nor yet into yourself—it will make you introspective. Delve into the living world and strive to bind yourself to its movement by a chain of your own welding. Once that contact is established, you are unassailable. Externalize yourself! He told me many things of this kind. You think I was consoled by his words? Not in the slightest degree. I was annoyed. It struck me, at the moment, as quite ordinary advice. In fact, I thought him rather a hypocrite; anybody could have spoken as he did! I was so disappointed that I went to him next day and told him frankly what I thought of his counsel. He said—do you know what he said?"

"I cannot even guess."

"He said: 'What is all wisdom save a collection of platitudes? Take fifty of our current proverbial sayings—they are so trite, so threadbare, that we can hardly bring our lips to utter them. None the less they embody the concentrated experience of the race, and the man who orders his life according to their teaching cannot go far wrong. How easy that seems! Has any one ever done so? Never. Has any man ever attained to inner harmony by pondering the experience of others? Not since the world began! He must pass through the fire.'"

"I had no teacher like that," observed Denis. "He must have been a man of the right kind."

"Oh, he meant well, the old rascal," replied the Count with a curious little smile.


The Lucky Reader and the Ideal Library

Italo Calvino (1923-1985), Why Read the Classics? tr. Martin McLaughlin (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), pp. 7-8:
Of course, hypothetically the lucky reader may exist who can dedicate the 'reading time' of his or her days solely to Lucretius, Lucian, Montaigne, Erasmus, Quevedo, Marlowe, the Discourse on Method, Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, Coleridge, Ruskin, Proust and Valéry, with the occasional sortie into Murasaki or the Icelandic Sagas. And presumably that person can do all this without having to write reviews of the latest reprint, submit articles in the pursuit of a university chair, or send in work for a publisher with an imminent deadline. For this regime to continue without any contamination, the lucky person would have to avoid reading the newspapers, and never be tempted by the latest novel or the most recent sociological survey. But it remains to be seen to what extent such rigour could be justified or even found useful. The contemporary world may be banal and stultifying, but it is always the context in which we have to place ourselves to look either backwards or forwards. In order to read the classics, you have to establish where exactly you are reading them 'from', otherwise both the reader and the text tend to drift in a timeless haze. So what we can say is that the person who derives maximum benefit from a reading of the classics is the one who skilfully alternates classic readings with calibrated doses of contemporary material.
Id., p. 9:
All that can be done is for each one of us to invent our own ideal library of our classics; and I would say that one half of it should consist of books we have read and that have meant something for us, and the other half of books which we intend to read and which we suppose might mean something to us. We should also leave a section of empty spaces for surprises and chance discoveries.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


No Weak-Kneed Compromises to Modernity

Daniel M. Hooley, review of Richard Jenkyns, Virgil's Experience. Nature and History: Times, Names, and Places (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1999.10.16 (ellipsis in original):
There is something simply odd about a book published in 1998 whose prose, especially in its early chapters, is largely indistinguishable from that of a book published in 1930; formal and traditional in manner, it offers no weak-kneed compromises to modernity: pronouns, for instance, are uniformly masculine; "man" and "a man" stand in, in various expressions, for all of us. A man will see no concessions to gender neutrality in this book's King's English. There is, further, something almost peculiar in a discourse so hermetically English in its references and character as this one is. English landscapes, writers, and characters, even English archaisms, a bit precious, litter the pages. The culture, when comparanda are sought, is high and European: Mozart, Brahms, Milton, Keats, Wagner, Mahler, Austen, Van Eyck, Goethe....
Those aspects of Jenkyns' book which Hooley finds troubling are recommendations to me.


Sappho, Fragment 2, Line 9

Sappho, fragment 2, tr. C.M. Bowra, in his Greek Lyric Poetry from Alcman to Simonides, 2nd rev. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), p. 197 (emphasis added):
Come hither from Crete to this holy temple, where is your graceful grove of apple-trees, and altars smoking with frankincense. In it cool water sounds through apple-boughs; all the place is shadowed with roses, and from the quivering leaves sleep comes down. In it a meadow blossoms with spring flowers, where horses pasture, and there the breezes breathe sweetly....There, Cyprian, take chaplets and pour softly in gold cups nectar mingled with our feasting.
The Greek:
δεῦρύ μ᾿ ἐκ Κρήτας ἐπ[ὶ τόνδ]ε ναῦον
ἄγνον, ὄππ[ᾳ τοι] χάριεν μὲν ἄλσος
μαλί[αν], βῶμοι δὲ τεθυμιάμε-
νοι [λι]βανώτῳ·
ἐν δ᾿ ὔδωρ ψῦχρον κελάδει δι᾿ ὔσδων        5
μαλίνων, βρόδοισι δὲ παῖς ὀ χῶρος
ἐσκίαστ᾿, αἰθυσσομένων δὲ φύλλων
κῶμα κατέρρει·
ἐν δὲ λείμων ἰππόβοτος τέθαλεν
ἠρίνοισιν ἄνθεσιν, αἰ δ᾿ ἄηται        10
μέλλιχα πνέοισιν [
[ ]
ἔνθα δὴ σὺ . . . . έλοισα Κύπρι
χρυσίαισιν ἐν κυλίκεσσιν ἄβρως
ὀμμεμείχμενον θαλίαισι νέκταρ        15
The only commentary on this fragment in my personal library is David A. Campbell, Greek Lyric Poetry: A Selection of Early Greek Lyric, Elegiac and Iambic Poetry (1982; rpt. Bristol: Bristol Classical Press, 1998), pp. 267-268, whose note on ἰππόβοτος (grazed by horses, line 9) simply discusses the word's Homeric antecedents.

The meadow (λείμων, line 9) is apparently within Aphrodite's sanctuary. It's a bit surprising, therefore, to see it described as a place "where horses pasture." See F. Sokolowski, "On the Episode of Onchestus in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo," Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 91 (1960) 376-380 (at 378):
It was a constant concern of the religious and state authorities to preserve trees, bushes and lawns around temples. The destruction of greenery, the grazing, stationing and quartering animals on sacred ground were rigorously prohibited.
See also Matthew P.J. Dillon, "The Ecology of the Greek Sanctuary," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 118 (1997) 113-127 (at 118, 120-122).

One piece of evidence adduced by Sokolowski (p. 379) and Dillon (p. 118) is somewhat problematic, however. They both cite a fragmentary set of rules for the sanctuary of Apollo Lycaeus at Argos—Inscriptiones Graecae IV 557 = F. Sokolowski, Lois sacrées des cités grecques (Paris: Éditions E. de Boccard, 1969), no. 57, p. 110 (the stone is now lost). At line 3 of that inscription there is a prohibition against ἱππεύεσθαι (horse-riding). But Adolf Wilhelm, "Zu griechischen Inschriften," Archäologisch-Epigraphische Mittheilungen aus Oesterreich-Ungarn 20 (1897) 50-96 (at 88-89) conjectured ἰπ<ν>εύεσθαι (baking), comparing Inscriptiones Graecae I³ 4, line B.15 = Lois sacrées des cités grecques, no. 3, pp. 4-6 (Athens, 485/4 B.C., regulations protecting temples on the Acropolis). Wilhelm's conjecture is adopted in the version of Inscriptiones Graecae IV 557 found in the Packard Humanities Institute's Searchable Greek Inscriptions. The same rare verb ἰπνεύω (bake) is also restored in Inscriptiones Graecae XII,5 126, line 5 = Lois sacrées des cités grecques, no. 112, p. 206 (Paros, 2nd century B.C., from the sanctuary of Asclepius). The purpose of the prohibition against baking in these "sacred laws" was to protect temples against fire.


Tribute to Jane Austen

Richard Jenkyns, A Fine Brush on Ivory: An Appreciation of Jane Austen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004; rpt. 2007), p. vii:
She has possibly given pleasure to more men in bed than any other woman in history, except perhaps Agatha Christie.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Treatment of Foreigners

Aeneas the Tactician, On the Defence of Fortified Positions 10.9-10 (tr. Illinois Greek Club):
Strangers arriving shall carry their weapons unconcealed and ready at hand, and immediately upon arrival shall be disarmed, while no one, not even the innkeepers, shall receive them without permission from the authorities, who shall record also in whose house any persons are, when they take lodging; and at night inns must be locked from the outside by the authorities. From time to time vagrants among these strangers shall be publicly expelled. Citizens of neighbouring states, however, residing in the city for the sake of education or for some other special purpose, shall be registered.
Id. 10.13-15:
Frequent calls to arms shall be given and all strangers in the town shall at this time assemble in a specified place or remain indoors; if, however, one of them shall appear elsewhere, a penalty shall be prescribed for him as a malefactor. At a given signal their stores and shops shall be closed and their lights extinguished, and no one else shall come in. Whenever it is necessary for anyone, he may go out with a lantern, until orders are issued to the contrary. For whoever points out anyone conspiring against the city, or reports anyone as doing any of the things above-mentioned, a reward in money shall be announced, and the reward shall be displayed openly in the market-place or on an altar or in a temple, in order that men may the more readily venture to report any violation of the provisions mentioned.


Deliberate Avoidance of the Term Polytheism

Albert Henrichs, "'Full of Gods': Nietzsche on Greek Polytheism and Culture," in Paul Bishop, ed., Nietzsche and Antiquity: His Reaction and Response to the Classical Tradition (Rochester: Camden House, 2004), pp. 114-137 (at 124; footnotes omitted):
Nietzsche uses the term polytheism sparingly in his work, and always as a conscious antonym of monotheism. Ironically, the word polytheism is a product of the monotheistic tradition, both ancient and modern. Its application to Greek religion by Nietzsche is all the more remarkable. To this day it remains the exception rather than the rule among historians of Greek religion to call the Greek polytheistic belief system by its true name. No book on the Greek gods or Greek religion exists that incorporates the term polytheism in its title. This is not an accident but a case of deliberate avoidance. One can only speculate on the reasons for the continuing antipathy to the term, which is after all a perfectly good Greek word. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the word polytheism was applied predominantly to non-western religions, which were considered unconscionably primitive and heathen from a Christian point of view. Because of its negative connotations, the term came to be regarded as tainted and therefore inappropriate for the classical Greeks and their equally classical gods. Seen in this context, actual book titles such as "The Faith of the Hellenes" (Der Glaube der Hellenen), "The Greeks and their Gods," and "Greek Religion" turn out to be conventional euphemisms designed to mitigate a truth that Nietzsche confronted with relentless missionary zeal.



Herbert C. Youtie (1904-1980), "The Papyrologist: Artificer of Fact," Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 4 (1963) 19-32 (at 31-32):
When we hear a man say, as we often do, "This argument of yours doesn't jibe with the facts," or "Let's look at the facts," or "These are the facts," we can be sure that for him the facts are like nothing that man has ever known—eternal, unchanging, unchangeable. His approach to mental entities so complex as facts is oversimplified and unsophisticated. By endowing them with a solidity and permanence foreign to their history and nature as constructions made by minds so fallible as our own, he prolongs their life for countless years after they have lost the truth that was once in them. He thus faces a world in constant process of reformation with logical instruments long since abandoned by those who work with facts rather than worship them.

The scholar does not recognize solidity and permanence as characteristic of the facts with which he earns his daily bread. These are of a different order. He has seen them made and remade. He has himself made them and remade them. He has seen worn-out and dilapidated facts discarded and replaced by new, freshly turned facts. He has seen them changing their shapes, their sizes, their complexions as scholars grow in knowledge, skill, and subtlety. He knows them, to be sure, as the pivotal points round which sweeps the whole intellectual life of man, but nevertheless shifting position and changing contour under its impact.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


This Sweet Life of Ours

Erwin Rohde (1845-1898), Psyche, tr. W.B. Hillis (1925; rpt. Chicago: Ares Publishers, Inc., 1987), pp. 3-4 (citations in brackets added by me):
It was to a Greek poet [Euripides, fragment 638] that the question suggested itself: "Who knows then whether Life be not Death, and what we here call Death be called Life there below?"

From such jaded wisdom and its doubts Greek civilization is still far removed when, though already at an advanced stage in its development, it first speaks to us in the Homeric poems. The poet and his heroes speak with lively feeling of the pains and troubles of life, both in its individual phases and as a whole. The gods have allotted a life of pain and misery to men, while they themselves remain free from care. On the other hand, to turn aside from life altogether never enters the head of anyone in Homer. Nothing may be said expressly of the joy and happiness of life, but that is because such things go without saying among a vigorous folk engrossed in a movement of progress, whose circumstances were never complicated and where all the conditions of happiness easily fell to the lot of the strong in activity and enjoyment. And, indeed, it is only for the strong, the prudent, and the powerful that this Homeric world is intended. Life and existence upon this earth obviously belongs to them—is it not an indispensable condition of the attainment of all particular good things? As for death—the state which is to follow our life here—there is no danger of anyone mistaking that for life. "Do not try and explain away death to me," says Achilles to Odysseus in Hades [Homer, Odyssey 11.488]; and this would be the answer any Homeric man would have given to the sophisticated poet, if he had tried to persuade him that the state of things after life on this earth is the real life. Nothing is so hateful to man as death and the gates of Hades: for when death comes it is certain that life—this sweet life of ours in the sunlight—is done with, whatever else there may be to follow.



Cicero, Pro Murena 35-36 (tr. C. MacDonald):
Can you think of any strait, any Channel, that has the currents and variety of rough patches and changes of tide strong enough to match the upsets and the ebb and flow that accompany the working of elections? The whole situation is often changed by having to break off for a day or by night intervening and the merest breath of a rumour sometimes changes everyone's views. Often, too, for no apparent reason the turn of events takes you by surprise and at times even the people is amazed at a result as if it were not itself responsible. Nothing is more fickle than people in a crowd, nothing harder to discover than how men intend to vote, nothing trickier than the whole way in which elections work.

quod enim fretum, quem Euripum tot motus, tantas, tam varias habere putatis agitationes commutationesque fluctuum, quantas perturbationes et quantos aestus habet ratio comitiorum? dies intermissus aut nox interposita saepe perturbat omnia, et totam opinionem parva non numquam commutat aura rumoris. saepe etiam sine ulla aperta causa fit aliud atque existimaris, ut non numquam ita factum esse etiam populus admiretur, quasi vero non ipse fecerit. nihil est incertius volgo, nihil obscurius voluntate hominum, nihil fallacius ratione tota comitiorum.


Where to Read

Jest and Earnest: A Series of Essays (London: Hugh Cunningham, 1840), pp. 20-23:
To commune with WORDSWORTH: cast yourself at full length on the soft sward, by the margin of a rippling stream, with green boughs hanging over your head and the merry chirping of birds heard all around. In the distance are the blue mountains, and there rises up against them the smoke from an encampment of gypsies.

SCOTT should be read in an apartment hung with relics of the feudal ages and lighted by windows painted with heraldic ornaments. A richly-carved, high-backed old chair is occupied by the student, and in a few minutes he is in the days of chivalry and romance.

To sympathize with the spirit of BYRON seat yourself on a rock by the sea-shore when the sky looks wild and stormy. A few distant white sails are all that tell of the existence of man, and no sound breaks the feeling of utter loneliness save the faint murmur of the tide on the beach below.

Choose POPE for your companion in a bijou of an apartment fitted up with the most fastidious elegance. Pictures, busts, and vases are disposed around, and the light falls gently from windows half-veiled by curtains of rose-colored silk. There feast on the exquisitely refined wit and philosophy of Pope, whilst coffee is served at intervals in cups of the richest china.

Read MILTON in some sequestered nook of a cathedral, where the "dim, religious light" of the gorgeous painted window and the distant swell of the choir illustrate the page of the great Christian poet.

Seat yourself on a stile in the country and read GOLDSMITH. The corn-field is full of reapers: Some are at work, and others are lying in the shade of a hedge, laughing and drinking. Over the trees peeps the spire of the picturesque old village church, and the red-brick house of the 'squire looks down from the hill. All around breathes of English rural life and of Goldsmith.

Study the philosophic FIELDING in the travellers' room of a country inn, which is a little world in itself. Guests are arriving—others are departing—bells are ringing—the landlady is calling; but let not this disturb you, for probably the very same thing is occurring on the page before you.

Enjoy the mirth-moving SMOLLETT at an open window which looks down into a crowded street. Fine gentlemen, adventurers, sailors, ladies of easy virtue, catchpoles, pass along and form a living portrait-gallery to illustrate the volume.

MOORE must give forth his fascinations in a a cup of wine be at your side, and read and quaff until you feel that this world is full of sunshine and happiness, and that he who grieves is but a fool.

The ruins of some old abbey shall be your study for the pure and ardent SHELLEY. There read; and, in the pauses of your reading, look around on the memorials of a past state of man and meditate on his future destiny.

And where shall be our study for the mastermind, SHAKSPERE? The lonely sea-shore—the green shades of the forest—the busy resorts of the town—all those spots which we have singly claimed for others, may be successively claimed for Shakspere; for all have inspired his universal genius. Each play shall have a different study, and this devotion, I solemnly declare, I will require only of the student of Shakspere.
Related posts:


In Defense of Grammatical Nit-Picking

Robert South (1634-1716), Animadversions Upon Dr. Sherlock's Book (London: Randal Taylor, 1693), pp. 347-348:
And now, if either he, or any one else for him, shall pretend to slight and despise this charge, and tell me that the Faults and Mistakes here alledged by me, are small Things; so, say I, is the point of a Dagger too; but for all that, it may stab a Man to the Heart; and, I think, it matters not how small the Thing is, which wounds a Man's Credit, if it chance to bleed to Death of the Wound. But there are some Things in the World, the Knowledge of which seems but small, but the Ignorance of them is not so. And certainly of all Men living, such as will be Writers, especially provoking, Insulting Writers, are concerned to tread tenderly, and to take every step with the utmost Caution, where they do not find a Grammatical Bottom firm under them. For my own part, I dare account nothing small, or despicable, which may either do a Man a great mischief, or is necessary to prevent one. The first step in any Ascent may be reckoned but a low and a mean thing, nevertheless there is no getting to the top without it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


The Reading Animal

Paul Shorey (1857-1934), "Philology and Classical Philology," Classical Journal 1.6 (May, 1906) 169-196 (at 182):
Man is, in short, a reading animal. If he has few books, he will interpret them fanatically and fantastically; and the result is the civilization of the Koran or the Latin Vulgate. If he has many, he will collect them like postage-stamps, list them in British Museum catalogues and Callimachan πίνακες τῶν ἐν πάσῃ παιδείᾳ διαλαμψάντων, gossip about them with the Deipnosophists and Mr. Andrew Lang, make extracts with the elder Pliny, or commentaries with Didymus and Simplicius, imitate them with Virgil, Shakespeare, and Tennyson, quote them with Bacon, Burton, and Montaigne—write doctoral dissertations on them as we do. And finally, by nature's wasteful method, from all this pedantic travail of bookishness is born the scholarship of Alexandria and Pergamon, the humanism of Florence and Rome, the philology of Göttingen and Berlin, whereby he comes to understand his books and the human spirit and himself as he can in no other way.


Without a Dictionary

Max O'Rell (pseudonym of Léon-Paul Blouët), Drat the Boys! or Recollections of an Ex-Frenchmaster in England (London: Field & Tuer, 1886), p. 76:
I never heard of great generals being particularly good at Latin, except Julius Caesar, who wrote his Commentaries on the Gallic Wars in that language, and without a dictionary, they say.


Summary of Stoicism

Cicero, Pro Murena 61 (tr. C. MacDonald):
For there was a man of genius, Zeno, and the disciples of his teaching are called Stoics. Here are examples of his maxims and precepts: the wise man is never moved by favour, never forgives anyone's misdeed; only the fool or the trifler feels pity; a real man does not yield to entreaty or appeasement; only the wise man is handsome however misshapen, rich however needy, a king however much a slave. We who are not wise are by their account runaways, exiles, enemies or even madmen. All misdeeds are equal; every misdemeanour is a heinous crime. The casual killing of a cock is no less a crime than strangling one's father. The wise man never "supposes" anything, never regrets anything, is never wrong, never changes his mind.

fuit enim quidam summo ingenio vir, Zeno, cuius inventorum aemuli Stoici nominantur. huius sententiae sunt et praecepta eius modi. sapientem gratia numquam moveri, numquam cuiusquam delicto ignoscere; neminem misericordem esse nisi stultum et levem; viri non esse neque exorari neque placari; solos sapientes esse, si distortissimi sint, formosos, si mendicissimi, divites, si servitutem serviant, reges; nos autem qui sapientes non sumus fugitivos, exsules, hostis, insanos denique esse dicunt; omnia peccata esse paria; omne delictum scelus esse nefarium, nec minus delinquere eum qui gallum gallinaceum, cum opus non fuerit, quam eum qui patrem suffocaverit; sapientem nihil opinari, nullius rei paenitere, nulla in re falli, sententiam mutare numquam.



Cicero, Pro Murena 25 (tr. C. MacDonald):
Firstly, no prestige can be gained from a knowledge of such trivialities. The subject matter is insignificant, almost entirely composed of questions of a single letter or a division between words.

primum dignitas in tam tenui scientia non potest esse; res enim sunt parvae, prope in singulis litteris atque interpunctionibus verborum occupatae.
Id. 28:
You cannot be an expert on a subject which everyone knows and about which, therefore, there can be no disagreement. You cannot say that the subject is difficult because it is contained in a very few extremely simple documents. If you provoke me, desperately busy as I am, I shall set myself up as a qualified lawyer within three days.

peritus ideo haberi nemo potest quod in eo quod sciunt omnes nullo modo possunt inter se discrepare. difficilis autem res ideo non putatur quod et perpaucis et minime obscuris litteris continetur. itaque si mihi, homini vehementer occupato, stomachum moveritis, triduo me iuris consultum esse profitebor.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Human Nature

Jean de la Bruyère (1645-1696), "De l'homme," § 1, Les caractères (tr. Henri van Laun):
Let us not be angry with men when we see them cruel, ungrateful, unjust, proud, egotists, and forgetful of others; they are made so; it is their nature; we might just as well quarrel with a stone for falling to the ground, or with a fire when the flames ascend.

Ne nous emportons point contre les hommes en voyant leur dureté, leur ingratitude, leur injustice, leur fierté, l'amour d'eux-mêmes, et l'oubli des autres: ils sont ainsi faits, c'est leur nature, c'est ne pouvoir supporter que la pierre tombe ou que le feu s'élève.


You Can't Go Home Again

Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), "Odysseus" (tr. Edgar A. Bowring):
Seeking to find his home, Odysseus crosses each water;
    Through Charybdis so dread; ay, and through Scylla's wild yells,
Through the alarms of the raging sea, the alarms of the land too,—
    E'en to the kingdom of Hell leads him his wandering course.
And at length, as he sleeps, to Ithaca's coast Fate conducts him;
    There he awakes, and, with grief, knows not his fatherland now.

Alle Gewässer durchkreuzt, die Heimat zu finden, Odysseus;
    Durch der Scylla Gebell, durch der Charybde Gefahr,
Durch die Schrecken des feindlichen Meers, durch die Schrecken des Landes,
    Selbst in des Aides' Reich führt ihn die irrende Fahrt.
Endlich trägt das Geschick ihn schlafend an Ithakas Küste;
    Er erwacht, und erkennt jammernd das Vaterland nicht!


A Confession

Plato, Sophist 249e (tr. Harold N. Fowler):
My dear fellow, don't you see that we are now densely ignorant about it, but think that we are saying something worth while?

ὦ μακάριε, οὐκ ἐννοεῖς ὅτι νῦν ἐσμεν ἐν ἀγνοίᾳ τῇ πλείστῃ περὶ αὐτοῦ, φαινόμεθα δέ τι λέγειν ἡμῖν αὐτοῖς;


Dissertation Topics

Paul Shorey (1857-1934), "Philology and Classical Philology," Classical Journal 1.6 (May, 1906) 169-196 (at 175-176):
The titles of essays cited in Athenaeus, Plutarch, and Diogenes Laertius could be paralleled only in the list of the books which Pantagruel found in the library of St. Victor, or in the complaint by Democritus junior—"more books every day, pamphlets, currantoes, stories, whole catalogues of volumes of all sorts." On this mass of material the brazen-entrailed polymaths and pronoun-splitting grammarians battened and fed, creating the scholarship and criticism of Alexandria, Pergamon, and Rome. The names of their lucubrations read like a catalogue of German doctoral dissertations. You will not easily distinguish ancient from modern titles in the following authentic list: "A Letter to a Friend on the Lengthening of Syllables in the (Lost) Epic Poets;" "Concerning an Obscure Quality of Hash Mentioned in the New Comedy;" "On the Wicker Wagon Used by Agesilaus in Xenophon's Biography of Him;" "On Aristophanes' Fit of Hiccoughs in the Platonic Symposium;" "The Literature of Cookies;" "On Zeus Shoofly at Olympia;" "Concerning Rhodian Mice;" "On a Peculiar Shell-Fish Mentioned by Alcaeus;" "A Logarithmic Table of the Quantities of the Last Five Syllables of Every Sentence in Plato's Dialogues."

Monday, April 18, 2016


Reading Character in Faces

Aristotle, History of Animals 1.8 (491 b; tr. A.L. Peck):
Persons who have a large forehead are sluggish, those who have a small one are fickle; those who have a broad one are excitable, those who have a bulging one, quick-tempered.
Id. 1.9 (491 b):
Below the forehead are the eyebrows. Straight ones are a sign of a soft disposition, those which bend in towards the nose, a sign of harshness; those which bend out towards the temples, of a mocking and dissimulating disposition....Eyebrows which are drawn down <are a sign> of enviousness.
Common to the upper and lower eyelid we have a part known as the nick—there are two of these to each eye, one towards the nose, one towards the temples. If these are long, they are a sign of a malicious disposition; if they have the part towards the nose fleshy, as the kites do, it is a sign of dishonesty.
Id. 1.10 (492 a):
Eyes may be large, or small, or medium-sized (these are the best). They may protrude, or be deep-set, or intermediate: those which are deep-set are in all animals the keenest: the intermediate are a sign of the finest disposition. Again, eyes may tend to blink, or to remain unblinking, or exhibit no extreme in either direction: the last-named show the finest disposition, the first indicates instability, the second impudence.
Id. 1.10 (492 a-b):
Ears may be smooth, or hairy, or intermediate: the last are the best for hearing, but are no sign of disposition. They may be large, or small, or of medium size. They may stand well out, or not stand out at all, or intermediately. The last are a sign of the finest disposition; large, projecting ears are a sign of senseless talk and chatter.


The Sneering Habit

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve (1831-1924), "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 37.4 (1916), pp. 494-505 (at 496):
Now nothing is more contagious than the sneering habit and in no set of men does that cheap assertion of superiority exhibit itself in more repulsive form than in your fledgling Ph.D's. 'Fledgling' is the English word, but 'gelbschnabel' and 'béjaune' are much better because they express the aggressiveness of the callow youngster's beak.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Menoetius, a Taciturn Man

Posidippus 102 Austin and Bastianini (tr. Frank Nisetich):
What brings you people here? Why not let me sleep?
Why ask who I am, who's my father, where I'm from?
Pass by my tomb! I'm Menoetius, son of Philarchus,
from Crete (a foreigner here, I don't talk much).

τί πρὸϲ ἔμ' ὧδ' ἔϲτητε; τί μ' οὐκ ἠάϲατ' ἰαύειν,
    εἰρόμενοι τίϲ ἐγὼ καὶ πόθεν ἢ ποδαπόϲ;
ϲτείχε<τέ> μου παρὰ ϲῆμα· Μενοίτιόϲ εἰμι Φιλάρχω
    Κρήϲ, ὀλιγορρήμων ὡϲ ἂν ἐπὶ ξενίηϲ.
In line 4, ὀλιγορρήμων (speaking little, reticent) seems to be a hapax legomenon. At least it's not in Liddell-Scott-Jones, which does, however, have a similar compound, μεγαλορρήμων = talking big (whence also μεγαλορρημονία and μεγαλορρημοσύνη). In E.A. Sophocles, Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1914), p. 577, I see θεορρήμων and θεορρημοσύνη. Maybe there are other compounds of -ρήμων, but I'm unaware of them. I don't have access to Carl Darling Buck and Walter Petersen, A Reverse Index of Greek Nouns and Adjectives (1945; rpt. Hildesheim: George Olms, 1984).

Update, from Joel Eidsath:
αἰϲχεορήμων αἰϲχρήμων αἰϲχρορρήμων ἀρρήμων ἀχρήμων κακορρήμων καλλιρρήμων κομποφακελορρήμων μεγαλορρήμων μυχορήμων πολυρρήμων πολυχρήμων βαθυχρήμων βαρυρρήμων βραχυρρήμων ὑθλορρήμων φιλοχρήμων χρυϲορρήμων ψευδορρήμων εὐθυρρήμων εὐρήμων θεωρήμων

To generate the above, I ran 'git clone' to download the Perseus lexica project from github (git clone Then, after cd'ing into the directory, I ran

git grep rh/mwn | grep key | awk '{print $2}' | cut -d'"' -f2

After that, I used a custom python library to convert it to unicode.
The list needs weeding (eliminate αἰϲχρήμων ἀχρήμων πολυχρήμων βαθυχρήμων φιλοχρήμων θεωρήμων), but this is extremely useful. Thanks very much to Joel.

For uncompounded ῥήμων see Plutarch, Table Talk 2.675a (tr. Paul A. Clement, with his note):
But I scorned all this hackneyed lore of the schoolroom, dismissing also the "speakers" (rhemones) in Homer, as read by some for "throwers" (hemones)b at the funeral of Patroclus, as if Achilles had awarded a prize in speaking in addition to the other prizes.

b Iliad, xxiii.886

καταβαλὼν δὲ ταῦτα τῷ διατεθρυλῆσθαι πάνθ᾿ ὑπὸ τῶν γραμματικῶν, καὶ τοὺς ἐπὶ ταῖς Πατρόκλου ταφαῖς ἀναγιγνωσκομένους ὑπό τινων οὐχ "ἥμονας" ἀλλὰ "ῥήμονας," ὡς δὲ καὶ λόγων ἆθλα τοῦ Ἀχιλλέως προθέντος, ἀφείς.
The answer to τίϲ (line 2 of Posidippus' epigram) is of course Μενοίτιόϲ (line 3), but both the interrogatives πόθεν and ποδαπόϲ have twofold meanings. πόθεν can mean whence either of place or of parentage, and ποδαπόϲ can mean either from what place or of what sort. In our epigram, is the answer to πόθεν only Φιλάρχω (parentage), or both Φιλάρχω and Κρήϲ (parentage and place)? Is the answer to ποδαπόϲ either Κρήϲ (from what country) or ὀλιγορρήμων (of what sort) or both?

I don't think the Cretans in general were known for their taciturnity in ancient times. The Spartans were, of course, and so were the Boeotians. See a fragment from Mnesimachus' Busiris (tr. J.M. Edmonds):
I'm a Boeotian and I act as such, / Speaking but little.

εἰμι γὰρ Βοιώτιος / ὀλίγα μὲν λαλῶν.

λαλῶν: ἄλλων
There is independent evidence to corroborate the taciturnity of the Boeotians. Plato, Symposium 182 b, says that the Boeotians are unskilled in speaking (μὴ σοφοὶ λέγειν), and Alcibiades (see Plutarch, Life of Alcibiades 2.5) says that the sons of the Thebans don't know how to converse (διαλέγεσθαι γὰρ οὐκ ἴσασιν).

Some people think that σύντομος in Callimachus, Epigrams 111 Pfeiffer, describing the Cretan Theris, means concise of speech, but others interpret it as meaning short of stature. Besides, Theris there is an individual, not a representative of his island. In Posidippus' epigram, the reason for Menoetius' taciturnity is ὡϲ ἂν ἐπὶ ξενίηϲ (as might be expected in a foreign country). While metics in Athens may have had free speech (Old Oligarch, Constitution of the Athenians 12), probably foreigners in other Greek states were wise to watch their words. See e.g. Aeschylus, Suppliant Women 194-203 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
Answer the natives in words that display respect, sorrow and need, as it is proper for aliens to do, explaining clearly this flight of yours which is not due to bloodshed. Let your speech, in the first place, not be accompanied by arrogance, and let it emerge from your disciplined faces and your calm eyes that you are free of wantonness. And be neither forward nor sluggish in speech: the people here are very ready to take offence. Remember to be yielding—you are a needy foreign refugee: bold speech does not suit those in a weak position.
See also Euripides, Phoenician Women 388-392 (tr. David Kovacs):
What is it like to be deprived of your country? Is it a great calamity?
The greatest: the reality far surpasses the description.
What is its nature? What is hard for exiles?
One thing is most important: no free speech.
A slave's lot this, not saying what you think.

Saturday, April 16, 2016



Robert South (1634-1716), Discourses on Various Subjects and Occasions (Boston: Bowles and Dearborn, 1827), pp. 325-326 (from a sermon on Ecclesiastes 1.18: "For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow"):
But study, it is a weariness without exercise, a laborious sitting still, that wracks the inward, and destroys the outward man; that sacrifices health to conceit, and clothes the soul with the spoils of the body; and, like a stronger blast of lightning, not only meets the sword, but also consumes the scabbard.

Nature allows men a great freedom, and never gave an appetite but to be an instrument of enjoyment; nor made a desire, but in order to the pleasure of its satisfaction. But he that will increase knowledge, must be content not to enjoy; and not only to cut off the extravagancies of luxury, but also to deny the lawful demands of convenience, to forswear delight, and look upon pleasure as his mortal enemy.

He must call that study, that is indeed confinement; he must converse with solitude, walk, eat, and sleep thinking, read volumes, devour the choicest authors, and (like Pharaoh's kine) after he has devoured all, look lean and meagre. He must be willing to be weak, sickly, and consumptive; even to forget when he is an hungry, and to digest nothing but what he reads.

He must read much, and perhaps meet with little; turn over much trash for one grain of truth; study antiquity till he feels the effects of it; and, like the cock in the fable, seek pearls in a dunghill, and perhaps rise to it as early. This is,
Esse quod Arcesilas aerumnosique Solones:
To be always wearing a meditating countenance, to ruminate, mutter, and talk to a man's self, for want of better company; in short, to do all those things, which in other men are counted madness, but in a scholar pass for his profession.
Id., p. 327:
The first effect of the increase of knowledge, is an increase of the desire of knowledge. It is the covetousness of the understanding, the dropsy of the soul, that drinks itself a-thirst, and grows hungry with surfeit and satisfaction; it is the only thing in which reason itself is irrational.

Now, an endless desire does of necessity vex and torment the person that has it. For misery and vexation is properly nothing else but an eager appetite not satisfied.

He that is always a getting, is always looking upon himself as in want. And he that is perpetually desiring to know, is perpetually thinking of himself as ignorant; namely, in respect of those things that he desires to know.

In fine, happiness is fruition; but there is no fruition where there is a constant desire. For enjoyment swallows up desire, and that which fulfils the expectation also ends it.

But while desire is active, and the mind is still a craving and reaching at somewhat, it supposes our happiness to be at a distance; for no man reaches after what he has already.

The bottomless appetite of knowledge will not be satisfied, and then we know that sorrow is the certain result, and inseparable companion of dissatisfaction.
Id., p. 328:
The second unhappy effect of knowledge is, that it rewards its followers with the miseries of poverty, and clothes them with rags. Reading of books consumes the body, and buying of them, the estate.
Id., p. 329:
The third fatal effect of knowledge is, that it makes the person who has it the butt of envy, the mark of obloquy and contention. Whoever sees another more knowing than himself, he presently thinks him a reproach to his understanding: and although he himself will not undergo the labour of knowledge, yet he will not allow another the fame.

Hence come all the jars between learned men, the invectives and bitter books, the wars of critics, and the controversies of the schools, all managed with such keenness and virulence, throwing dirt, and disgorging daggers at one another's reputation; for no other injury in the world, but because the adverse party is thought to know more.


To trample, and to be trampled upon; to write, and to be writ against, is the lot and effect of learning, as it lies under the malign aspect of a constant emulation.


The First Faculty Position of a Newly-Minted Ph.D.

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve (1831-1924), "University Work in America and Classical Philology," Princeton Review 55 (1879) 511-536 (at 516-517), rpt. in his Essays and Studies, Educational and Literary (Baltimore: N. Murray, 1890), pp. 87-123 (at 94-95):
In the meagrely furnished library he misses his favorite books, or rather books which by frequent citation he seems to know; in the reading-room he cannot find the journals so familiar to eye and ear. He has no one who will suffer him to talk about the themes of his personal research or even the absorbing topic of his doctor-dissertation, because there is no one who has a like attention to exact of him in turn. His duties are eminently distasteful. Instead of following the history of a construction, chasing an etymon through a score of languages, getting at the sources of an historian, analyzing the style of an orator, he has to listen to translations of Xenophon's Anabasis, to correct exercises in which Darius and Parysatis continue to have two sons in all the moods and tenses, and, what is worst of all, he is often waked up out of his learned dreams to find that the irregular Greek verbs, which he once fancied he knew well enough, are to be an object of steady contemplation for the rest of his natural life, and that with all his gettings he has still no end of work to do in the mechanical mastery, so to speak, of the language to which he has devoted himself. The situation is grim, and there is little help from without. Sometimes he is utterly alone. Sometimes the traditions of the college or university do not favor easy intercourse between the principal and the subordinate teachers. But even when the older colleague is accessible and has gone through the same experience, even when counsel and sympathy are not far to seek, still the younger generation is naturally prone to consider their case one of especial hardship, and so they prefer to nurse their own bitterness...

Friday, April 15, 2016


Rules of Grammar

Roger Ascham (1515-1568), The Scholemaster, ed. Edward Arber (Birmingham, 1870), pp. 27-28:
And therefore, we do not contemne Rewles, but we gladlie teach Rewles: and teach them, more plainlie, sensiblie, and orderlie, than they be commonlie taught in common Scholes. For whan the Master shall compare Tullies booke with his Scholers translation, let the Master, at the first, lead and teach his Scholer to joyne the Rewles of his Grammer booke, with the examples of his present lesson, vntill the Scholer, by him selfe, be hable to fetch out of his Grammer euerie Rewle for euerie Example: So, as the Grammer booke be euer in the Scholers hand, and also vsed of him, as a Dictionarie, for euerie present vse. This is a liuely and perfite waie of teaching of Rewles: where the common waie, used in common Scholes, to read the Grammer alone by it selfe, is tedious for the Master, hard for the Scholer, colde and vncumfortable for them bothe.


The Professor in the Sewer

Dear Mike,

Cecil Torr's professor in the sewer is the Assyriologist Archibald Henry Sayce (1845-1933). The actual location is Siloam, but oral tradition would easily have transmuted Siloam to Syria, especially if the story happened to have been retailed at second or third hand in bibulous post-prandial carousing at High Table, and only dimly recalled the morning after. Sayce gives a more exact account of his feat of transcription in his Reminiscences (London, Macmillan, 1923), p.192. I attach the text. The Schick to whom he refers is Conrad Schick (1822-1901), the German architect and archaeologist, long established in Jerusalem.

It seems to have been the fashion to mock Sayce as a dry-as-dust scholar, perhaps because of his specialty. I recall Giles St. Aubyn, in his A Victorian Eminence: the Life and Works of Henry Thomas Buckle (1958), referring to Sayce as having called something "boring". St. Aubyn added, "Coming from a Professor of Assyriology, the remark carries conviction". (I don't own the book — too trashy and derivative — so rely on memory, but I think I am quoting more or less verbatim).

As ever,

Ian [Jackson]

The excerpt from Sayce's Reminiscences:
Schick had recently discovered the famous inscription in the Siloam tunnel—the oldest example of Hebrew writing yet found. He was not a Semitic scholar, and the characters incised upon the rocky wall of the channel were filled with a deposit of lime, making it difficult to distinguish between artificial incisions and accidental cracks in the stone, but he saw clearly that it must be an early inscription of some kind. The next morning, accordingly, I made my way up the tunnel to the spot on the right-hand side about sixteen feet from its mouth where Schick had told me the inscription existed, and sitting in the mud and water by the light of a candle made a preliminry copy of the text which I revised a day or two later. My copy and translation were thus the first published of a text which for many reasons is of unique value. The inscription records the construction of the tunnel which brought the water of the Virgin's Spring, outside the walls, into Zion, that is to say Jerusalem, and further informs us that the rock was pierced simultaneously at the two ends, the workmen finally meeting in the middle of the semicircular passage. The work, which reflects great credit on the engineering science of the day, was, we now know, accomplished in the reign of Hezekiah, and is mentioned in the Books of Chronicles (2 Chr. xxxii. 30). As I pointed out in the Quarterly Statement of the Palestine Exploration Fund, the discovery settled the topography of pre-exilic Jerusalem, proving that Zion, "the City of David," was confined to the hill immediately south of the Mosque of Omar, which is usually known as Ophel, and that the tombs of David and his successors must have been on the western slope of the latter. My conclusions, to which the French scholar Clermont - Ganneau had also come independently, were strenuously controverted; but excavation has now shown them to be correct, and the French excavations in 1914 have brought to light the remains of the royal tombs in the precise place in which Clermont-Ganneau and myself stated they would be found.

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