Friday, February 26, 2021


What Is the Use of Homer and Oppian?

Cyril Mango (1928-2021), Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1981), p. 83, with note on p. 290:
So [Theodore] Ptochoprodromos learnt his letters, but to what avail? His cupboard contained nothing but piles of paper and he had nothing to eat. And so he compares his poverty to the plenty of his neighbours. The worker in gold thread has his larder full of bread and wine, of cooked tunny and dried mackerel. The shoemaker, when he wakes up in the morning, sends his boy to purchase tripe and Vlach cheese, and only after he has breakfasted on these delicacies does he start work. At dinner-time he lays aside his last and his tools and bids his wife serve a meal of three dainty courses. With obsessional attention to what everyone has to eat, Ptochoprodromos compares himself to the practitioners of other professions, even the lowliest—the tailor who happens to be a houseowner, the bakery assistant, the yogurt vendor, the itinerant seller of clothes and pepper-grinders, the butcher. All of them have a full stomach. What then is the use of Homer and Oppian?52

52 D.-C. Hesseling and H. Pernot (eds.), Poèmes prodromiques en grec vulgaire (Amsterdam, 1910), 72ff.
This reminds me of Recollections of the Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers, to which is added Porsoniana (New York, 1856), p. 300:
At the house of the same gentleman I introduced Cogan to Porson, saying, "This is Mr. Cogan, who is passionately fond of what you have devoted yourself to,—Greek."

Porson replied, "If Mr. Cogan is passionately fond of Greek, he must be content to dine on bread and cheese for the rest of his life."

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