Monday, September 07, 2020


Objects of Longing

Xenophon, Anabasis 3.1.3 (tr. Carleton L. Brownson):
Full of these reflections and despondent as they were, but few of them tasted food at evening, few kindled a fire, and many did not come that night to their quarters, but lay down wherever they each chanced to be, unable to sleep for grief and longing for their native states and parents, their wives and children, whom they thought they should never see again. Such was the state of mind in which they all lay down to rest.

ταῦτ᾽ ἐννοούμενοι καὶ ἀθύμως ἔχοντες ὀλίγοι μὲν αὐτῶν εἰς τὴν ἑσπέραν σίτου ἐγεύσαντο, ὀλίγοι δὲ πῦρ ἀνέκαυσαν, ἐπὶ δὲ τὰ ὅπλα πολλοὶ οὐκ ἦλθον ταύτην τὴν νύκτα, ἀνεπαύοντο δὲ ὅπου ἐτύγχανον ἕκαστος, οὐ δυνάμενοι καθεύδειν ὑπὸ λύπης καὶ πόθου πατρίδων, γονέων, γυναικῶν, παίδων, οὓς οὔποτ᾽ ἐνόμιζον ἔτι ὄψεσθαι. οὕτω μὲν δὴ διακείμενοι πάντες ἀνεπαύοντο.
If you want a real crib, don't resort to the Loeb Classical Library (as above) but to Thomas Clark's interlinear version:

But Clark renders the plural πατρίδων as singular (country). Similarly in Fiorenza Bevilacqua's Italian translation ("per la nostalgia della patria, dei genitori, delle mogli, dei figli"). G.M. Edwards in his school edition explains the plural: "because the Ten Thousand came from many different Greek communities."

Xenophon's list encapsulates those things that are proper objects of a man's longing and loyalty: fatherland, parents, wife, children, or to make an even shorter list: fatherland and family. A Greek of Xenophon's type would have been shocked by certain statements of Jesus, e.g. Matthew 8.21-22:
And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.
and Matthew 12.46-50:
While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.

Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.

But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?

And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!

For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

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