Tuesday, August 02, 2016


Your One Safe and Secure Possession

Antiphanes, fragment 202, preserved in Athenaeus 3.103e–104a (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
                                             Any mortal man who
counts on having anything he owns secure for life
is very much mistaken. For either a war-tax snatches away
all he has saved, or he becomes involved in a lawsuit and loses all,
or he is fined after serving in the War Office, or is chosen to finance a play,        5
and after supplying golden costumes for the chorus he has to wear rags himself;
or called to serve as trierarch, he hangs himself, or sailing in his ship he is captured somewhere,
or as he takes a walk or a nap he is murdered by his slaves.
No, nothing is certain, except what one may chance
to spend happily upon himself day by day.        10
And even that is not so very certain. Somebody might come and carry off the very table
spread with food. Rather, it's only when you've got your mouthful
past your teeth and have swallowed it down
that you can count it the one thing safe among your possessions.

ὅστις ἄνθρωπος δὲ φὺς
ἀσφαλές τι κτῆμ᾿ ὑπάρχειν τῷ βίῳ λογίζεται,
πλεῖστον ἡμάρτηκεν. ἢ γὰρ εἰσφορά τις ἥρπακεν
τἄνδοθεν πάντ᾿ ἤ δίκῃ τις περιπεσὼν ἀπώλετο
ἢ στρατηγήσας προσῶφλεν ἤ χορηγὸς αἱρεθεὶς        5
ἱμάτια χρυσᾶ παρασχὼν τῷ χορῷ ῥάκος φορεῖ
ἥ τριηραρχῶν ἀπήγξατ᾿ ἢ πλέων ἥλωκέ ποι
ἤ βαδίζων ἢ καθεύδων κατακέκοφθ᾿ ὑπ᾿ οἰκετῶν.
οὐ βέβαιον οὐθέν ἐστι, πλὴν ὅσ᾿ ἂν καθ᾿ ἡμέραν
εἰς ἑαυτὸν ἡδέως τις εἰσαναλίσκων τύχῃ,        10
οὐδὲ ταῦτα σφόδρα τι· καὶ γὰρ τὴν τράπεζαν ἁρπάσαι
κειμένην ἄν τις προσελθών· ἀλλ᾿ ὅταν τὴν ἔνθεσιν
ἐντὸς ἤδη τῶν ὀδόντων τυγχάνῃς κατεσπακώς,
τοῦτ᾿ ἐν ἀσφαλεῖ νόμιζε τῶν ὑπαρχόντων μόνον.
This is also E3 in S. Douglas Olson, Broken Laughter. Select Fragments of Greek Comedy. Edited with Introduction, Commentary, and Translation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 187 (text), 196-198 (commentary), and 440 (translation).

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