Wednesday, March 31, 2021


Measured Speech and Ordered Action

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "Et Dona Ferentes," lines 33-36:
Oh, my country, bless the training that from cot to castle runs —
The pitfall of the stranger but the bulwark of thy sons —
Measured speech and ordered action, sluggish soul and unperturbed,
Till we wake our Island-Devil — nowise cool for being curbed!


A Greek Proverb

Robert Parker, Athenian Religion: A History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), pp. 72-73:
An earlier attempt by Pisistratus to honour Apollo Pythios with a temple had fallen foul of the populace—if we believe the explanation offered by lexicographers of the proverb 'it would have been better to shit in the Pythion'. Only thus, it is said, could the impotent people express their odium for the tyrant. He responded by threatening offenders with death, and indeed carrying out the penalty in one obdurate case: whence the proverb, used of those 'suffering through their own fault'. How much actual history may lie behind the story we can scarcely say. The younger Pisistratus, at all events, later dedicated an altar in the sanctuary, which still survives.20

20 The most circumstantial testimonium (for others see J.P. Lynch in Studies Presented to Sterling Dow, GRBS 10, 1984, 177-79) is Paroem. Graec. I.406-407, no. 66 (from the Bodleian codex, on the value of which see W. Bühler, Zenobii Athoi Proverbia, Göttingen 1987, 126): the victim was a metic, the people hated Pisistratus because of the 10% tax (a learned detail, cf. Arist. Ath. Pol. 16.4-5). Suda, Photius s.v. Πύθιον say merely that Pisistratus founded the sanctuary (a reflection of the more elaborate story, or its origin?); a 'temple' in the sanctuary is mentioned only by the sources for the excretion story, and has not been traced archaeologically (L.H. Jeffery's reference, Archaic Greece, London 1976, 97, to 'the traces of a little temple in the precinct' is obscure to me). Cf. Judeich, Topographie, 386, n. 5 (who suspects that the whole tradition is merely spun out of the younger Pisistratus' dedication); Travlos, Pictorial Dictionary, 100-103. The altar: Thuc. 6.54.6; IG I3.948 (M/L 11, CEG 305).
Erasmus, Adages III iv 1 to IV ii 100 translated and annotated by Denis L. Drysdall, edited by John N. Grant (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), p. 535 (IV ii 65):
65 In Pythii templo cacare
To shit in the temple of Delphi

᾿Εν Πυθίου χέσαι, To shit in the temple of Delphi. This was said of someone who committed some abominable and perilous act, for the tyrant Pisistratus, having built the temple, inscribed a notice that no one should empty his bowels in the precinct, and imprisoned a foreigner who was caught in the act.

65 Apostolius 7.17. Cf. Suda E 1428.
The Latin:
Ἐν Πυθίου χέσαι, id est In Pythii templo cacare dicebatur qui rem nefariam et periculosam faceret, quod Pisistratus tyrannus extructo templo inscripserat, ne quis inibi ventrem exoneraret; et advenam quendam deprehensum e medio sustulit.
The English translation of Erasmus is faulty—the toponym Delphi has no place here.

Suda E 1428 (tr. David Whitehead and Catharine Ross):
It would have been better to relieve oneself in the Pythion: i.e. to take a risk. For when certain people were so contemptuous of Apollo as to relieve themselves in his temple-precinct, Peisistratus enacted a law, that anyone caught doing this would die. But when his notice [to this effect] was laughed at and still more were doing this, he stationed guards. An offender was caught, and Peisistratus ordered them to bind him and flog him by the roadside, while announcing 'after his punishment this man will die, because he despised the notice'. And when [the man] had been killed, the episode had such an impact on the Athenians that even now they refer to those who are in a bad way or suffering punishment because of some sin they have committed [by saying] 'it would have been better to relieve oneself in the Pythion.'

Ἐν Πυθίῳ κρεῖττον ἦν ἀποπατῆσαι: οἷον κινδυνεῦσαι. καταφρονούντων γάρ τινων Ἀπόλλωνος καὶ ἐν τῷ τεμένει αὐτοῦ ἀποπατούντων Πεισίστρατος ἔγραψε νόμον, τὸν ἁλόντα ἐπὶ τούτῳ θνήσκειν. καταγελώντων δὲ τοῦ γράμματος καὶ πλειόνων μᾶλλον τοῦτο ποιούντων ἔστησε φύλακας. ληφθέντος δέ τινος ἐκέλευσε δήσαντας αὐτὸν παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν μαστιγοῦν, κηρύσσοντας: ὅδ' ἁνὴρ κολασθεὶς ἀποθανεῖται, ὅτι ὀλιγωρεῖ τοῦ γράμματος. κτανθέντος δέ, οὕτω ἐνέδυ τὸ γενόμενον τοῖς Ἀθηναίοις, ὥστε ἔτι νῦν τοὺς κακοπαθοῦντας ἢ τιμωρίαις ἐνεχομένους διά τινα αὐτῶν πλημμέλειαν ἐπιλέγειν: ἐν Πυθίῳ κρεῖττον ἦν αὐτὸν ἀποπατῆσαι.

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Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 263-265 (tr. David Grene):
It is an easy thing for one whose foot
is on the outside of calamity
to give advice and to rebuke the sufferer.

ἐλαφρόν, ὅστις πημάτων ἔξω πόδα
ἔχει, παραινεῖν νουθετεῖν τε τὸν κακῶς

Tuesday, March 30, 2021



Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), Faust, Part 2, Act 2, lines 8106-8109 (tr. David Luke):
Advice? When did men ever heed it? Wise
Words merely freeze to death in ears of stone.
Deeds self-discredited as soon as done
Still teach the headstrong nothing.

Was Rat! Hat Rat bei Menschen je gegolten?
Ein kluges Wort erstarrt im harten Ohr.
So oft auch Tat sich grimmig selbst gescholten,
Bleibt doch das Volk selbstwillig wie zuvor.


Their Labor Stands Till Now

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "The King's Task," lines 16-17:
...Rudely but greatly begat they the framing of State and Shire.
Rudely but deeply they laboured, and their labour stands till now...
But I fear it won't stand much longer.


Early Plea for Social Distancing

From Alan Crease:
With a comment from Henry Riley in his inestimable Dictionary of Classical Quotations:
Also, I love this translation from 1753 with its semantic shift of 'sensible' and the quaint euphemism 'inconveniencies':
The quotation is from Horace, Epistles 1.5.29, more literally in H. Rushton Fairclough's translation:
The reek of goats makes crowded feasts unpleasant.

nimis arta premunt olidae convivia caprae.
Roland Mayer, commentary ad loc.:
nimis arta ... conuiuia resumes the modest note of the opening; H.'s dining room is as small as its furniture. premunt 'oppress' (OLD 8); H. offers a tactful caution in a sententious line, so that his friend does not pack in too many extras.

olidae, first here, perhaps as metrically handier than olens or foetidus, is not uncommon in later prose so may have had colloquial tone. caprae 'rank smell', a unique metaphorical use of the fem., encouraged by the use of caper and hircus (TLL VI 3.19-23). Despite pre-dinner bathing, perfume and the alipilus, sweaty armpits remained a nuisance, esp. noticeable since Romans shared the couches on which they reclined (cf. iungatur 26).
alipilus = "A person who removes hair from the armpits" (Oxford Latin Dictionary).

Sunday, March 28, 2021


Two Views of the Middle Ages

George Caspar Homans, English Villagers of the Thirteenth Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1942), pp. 10-11:
Many of the men who have written about the Middle Ages have made one or the other of two kinds of judgment about the life of those times. Some have looked on it as a wretched state of misery and oppression. To others it has seemed a kind of Gothic idyll. These judgments of the past are likely to be linked with judgments of the present. If you look upon the present as an age of high fulfillment of the possibilities of the human race, you take the first attitude toward the Middle Ages: the men of the Middle Ages were wretched in so far as they had no experience of life as it is lived in a modern democracy. If you look upon the present age as an age of social disorganization, you take the second attitude: the men of the Middle Ages were happy in that they all were the children of a universal Church. One reason why the two judgments differ is that they are concerned with different sets of facts. Certainly the physical conditions of a husbandman's life were hard, but nothing is more commonplace or more often forgotten than the words: "Man does not live by bread alone."



Walter Savage Landor, "Samuel Johnson and John Horne (Tooke)," First Conversation, Imaginary Conversations, Vol. III (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1909), pp. 346-400 (at 353, Johnson speaking):
Coxcombs and blockheads always have been, and always will be, innovators; some in dress, some in polity, some in language.


A Method of Prophecy

Homeric Hymn to Hermes 293-298 (tr. Martin L. West, with his note):
So Phoibos Apollo spoke, and picked the child up to carry him. But just then the powerful Argus-slayer made up his mind and, as he was home aloft in Apollo’s arms, he emitted an omen, a menial servant of the belly, an unruly messenger;29 and after it he promptly sneezed. On hearing that, Apollo dropped glorious Hermes on the ground.

29 A fart.

ὣς ἄρ' ἔφη, καὶ παῖδα λαβὼν φέρε Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων.
σὺν δ' ἄρα φρασσάμενος τότε δὴ κρατὺς Ἀργειφόντης
οἰωνὸν προέηκεν ἀειρόμενος μετὰ χερσίν,
τλήμονα γαστρὸς ἔριθον, ἀτάσθαλον ἀγγελιώτην.
ἐσσυμένως δὲ μετ' αὐτὸν ἐπέπταρε· τοῖο δ' Ἀπόλλων
ἔκλυεν, ἐκ χειρῶν δὲ χαμαὶ βάλε κύδιμον Ἑρμῆν.
Oliver Thomas, ed., The Homeric Hymn to Hermes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020), p. 313, n. 370 (with οἰωνιστ κὸν corrected to οἰωνιστικὸν):
For prophetic farts see e.g. Ar. Eq. 639, Daniel (1985: 129–30) on SEG 34.1051 (sixth century CE). They are a comic fantasy; Aristotle says ὁ πταρμὸς … σημεῖον οἰωνιστικὸν καὶ ἱερὸν μόνον τῶν πνευμάτων (HA 1.11 492b7–8).
Aristophanes, Knights 638-639 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
As I was pondering this prayer, some bugger validated it by farting on my lucky side.

                           ταῦτα φροντίζοντί μοι
ἐκ δεξιᾶς ἐπέπαρδε καταπύγων ἀνήρ.
Aristotle, History of Animals 1.11 (492b7–8) refers just to sneezing, not farting (tr. A.L. Peck):
Sneezing too, which is the exit of a collected volume of breath, takes place through the nose. Sneezing is the only sort of breath which has divinatory significance and is supernatural.
See also Joshua T. Katz, "Homeric Hymn to Hermes 296: τλήμονα γαστρὸς ἔριθον," Classical Quarterly 49.1 (1999) 315-319.

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Saturday, March 27, 2021


A Religion Not of the Book

Robert Parker, Athenian Religion: A History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), pp. 54-55:
As everyone knows, Greek religion was not a 'religion of the book'. No doubt it acquired its distinctive stamp before writing was thought of. But it persisted as a religion 'not of the book' through something like a millennium of literacy. (And it had passed through an earlier literate phase in the Mycenaean period.) In this area, it seems, social factors prevented the 'technology of communication' from exercising a really decisive influence.46

The city used writing to record publicly its commitment, financial and so moral, to the cult of particular gods. What mattered about this declaration was that it could be seen to have been made, even if not all Athenians had the skill, and fewer still the interest, to read the dry and difficult inscriptions. Writing was not, by contrast, used to build up a complicated specialized corpus of ritual knowledge. We stressed earlier the crucial importance of the fact that 'sacred laws' (not a Greek term) are a subsection of the whole law-code of a community, not an independent category resting on a different authority. They are so, of course, because of the indissoluble unity of 'church and state' in Greece, powers that could never be at odds because they could never be clearly distinguished. A crucial aspect of this integration of religion in Greece is the ordinariness of the priests; they were ordinary in many ways, but above all in lacking all pretension to distinctive learning. Elaborate ritual texts are the hallmark of a more specialized priesthood and a more autonomous religious order than those of Greece.47

The amateur status of the Greek priesthood was not affected in any way by the advent of the art of writing. One does not picture the priestess of an Athenian public cult with a book in her hand. The famous sixth-century marble sculptures of 'seated scribes' from the acropolis are generally held to represent not priests but, significantly, 'treasurers' or similar officials, bound to give account of the sacred monies in their care. When the religious book begins to appear, it is rather the mark of marginal figures, the wandering initiators and purifiers and prophets, who in the phrase of the Derveni papyrus 'make a craft out of rites'.48 Lacking a position in the civic religious structure, they naturally need to display credentials of other kinds. The association between bookishness and irregularity is at its clearest in Orphism.49 Both in social and religious terms Orphism is profoundly unorthodox; and it displays several characteristics of a 'religion of the book', being indeed transmitted through a 'hubbub of books'.50 The only books of public cult, by contrast, are the calendars inscribed for all to view (though few to read) on wood or stone.51

46 On this issue contrast J. Goody, The Interface between the Written and the Oral (Cambridge 1987), 59-77, and G.E.R. Lloyd, The Revolutions of Wisdom (Berkeley 1987), 70-78.

47 Cf. Goody, Logic of Writing, 16-22.

48 Col. xvi 3-4 (ZPE 47, 1982, after p. 300). On such books see Burkert, Mystery Cults, 70-72, who cites inter alia Dem. 18.259 (street mysteries) and Ar. Av. 974-89 (an oracle-monger); add Isoc. 19.5-6, books on prophecy used by wandering seers (cf. e.g. the pseudo-Hesiodic prophetic works, R. Merkelbach and M.L. West, Fragmenta Hesiodea, Oxford 1967, p. 157); note too Plut. Arist. 27.4 on a πινάκιον ὀνειροκριτικόν.

49 Cf. M. Detienne, L'écriture d'Orphée (Paris 1989), 101-15.

50 Characteristics: e.g. a universal, non-local perspective; asceticism; ritual formulas that aspired to be standard throughout the Greek world (cf. R. Janko, CQ NS 34, 1984, 89-100). Cf. Goody, Logic of Writing, 1-44, esp. 10-16. 'Hubbub of books': Pl. Resp. 364e; cf. West, Orphic Poems, ch. 1.

51 On the sense in which books are alien to the ethos of the democracy see Loraux in Detienne ed., Les savoirs de l'écriture, 126-29.


I Say Only What Others Have Said Before

Walter Savage Landor, "Lord Bacon and Richard Hooker," Imaginary Conversations, Vol. III (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1909), pp. 341-346 (at 345, Hooker speaking):
I know my poor weak intellects, most noble Lord, and how scantily they have profited by my hard painstaking. Comprehending few things, and those imperfectly, I say only what others have said before, wise men and holy; and if, by passing through my heart into the wide world around me, it pleaseth God that this little treasure shall have lost nothing of its weight and pureness, my exultation is then the exultation of humility. Wisdom consisteth not in knowing many things, nor even in knowing them thoroughly; but in choosing and in following what conduces the most certainly to our lasting happiness and true glory. And this wisdom, my Lord of Verulam, cometh from above.


On Hearing a Foreign Language

Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel 2.9 (after a short speech in Danish; tr. J.M. Cohen):
'I believe that the Goths spoke like that,' said Eusthenes, 'and if God wished us to speak through our backsides we should speak like that too.'

Je croy (dist Eustenes) que les Gothz parloient ainsi. Et, si Dieu vouloit, ainsi parlerions nous du cul.


Friday, March 26, 2021


Is There Anything Terrible Here?

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 9.21 (tr. C.R. Haines):
A cessation of activity, a quiescence from impulse and opinion and, as it were, their death, is no evil. Turn now to consider the stages of thy life—childhood, boyhood, manhood, old age—each step in the ladder of change a death. Is there anything terrible here? Pass on now to thy life under thy grandfather, then under thy mother, then under thy father, and finding there many other alterations, changes, and cessations, ask thyself: Is there anything terrible here? No, nor any in the ending and quiescence and change of the whole of life.

ἐνεργείας ἀπόληξις, ὁρμῆς, ὑπολήψεως παῦλα καὶ οἷον θάνατος, οὐδὲν κακόν. μέτιθι νῦν ἐπὶ ἡλικίαν, οἷον τὴν παιδικήν, τὴν τοῦ μειρακίου, τὴν νεότητα, τὸ γῆρας· καὶ γὰρ τούτων πᾶσα μεταβολὴ θάνατος. μήτι δεινόν; μέτιθι νῦν ἐπὶ βίον τὸν ὑπὸ τῷ πάππῳ, εἶτα τὸν ὑπὸ τῇ μητρί, εἶτα τὸν ὑπὸ τῷ πατρί· καὶ ἄλλας δὲ πολλὰς διαφορὰς καὶ μεταβολὰς καὶ ἀπολήξεις εὑρίσκων, ἐπερώτα σεαυτόν· μήτι δεινόν; οὕτως τοίνυν οὐδὲ ἡ τοῦ ὅλου βίου λῆξις καὶ παῦλα καὶ μεταβολή.


The Death of Scamandrius

Homer, Iliad 5.49-58 (tr. Peter Green):
Skamandrios, Strophios's son, well trained in the chase,
Meneläos, son of Atreus, took down with his sharpened spear,        50
fine hunter though he was, one whom Artemis herself
taught to shoot all wild things that the mountain woodlands nourish.
Yet of no avail to him now was Artemis the archer,
nor the skilled bowmanship in which he once excelled,
but Atreus's son Meneläos, that famous spearman,        55
plunged, as he fled before him, a spear into his back
between the shoulder blades, drove it through to his chest.
He slumped down face first, and his armor rattled upon him.

υἱὸν δὲ Στροφίοιο Σκαμάνδριον αἵμονα θήρης
Ἀτρεΐδης Μενέλαος ἕλ᾽ ἔγχεϊ ὀξυόεντι        50
ἐσθλὸν θηρητῆρα· δίδαξε γὰρ Ἄρτεμις αὐτὴ
βάλλειν ἄγρια πάντα, τά τε τρέφει οὔρεσιν ὕλη·
ἀλλ᾽ οὔ οἱ τότε γε χραῖσμ᾽ Ἄρτεμις ἰοχέαιρα,
οὐδὲ ἑκηβολίαι ᾗσιν τὸ πρίν γε κέκαστο·
ἀλλά μιν Ἀτρεΐδης δουρικλειτὸς Μενέλαος        55
πρόσθεν ἕθεν φεύγοντα μετάφρενον οὔτασε δουρὶ
ὤμων μεσσηγύς, διὰ δὲ στήθεσφιν ἔλασσεν,
ἤριπε δὲ πρηνής, ἀράβησε δὲ τεύχε᾽ ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. αἵμων , ονος, ὁ:
dub. sens., perh. eager, Σκαμάνδριον αἵμονα θήρης Il. 5.49; expl. by Gramm. as = δαίμων, for δαήμων, skilful, cf. EM 251.13. II. (αἷμα) bloody, E. Hec. 90, dub. l. in A. Supp. 847 (lyr.).
Robert Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Vol. I (Leiden: Brill, 2010), p. 39:
Bechtel = Friedrich Bechtel, Die Griechischen Dialekte, Bd. I (Berlin: Weidmann, 1921), p. 203, and Weiss = Michael Weiss, "Erotica: On the Prehistory of Greek Desire," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 98 (1998) 31-61 (at 53-56).


The Unity of Life and Death

Günther Zuntz (1902-1992), Persephone: Three Essays on Religion and Thought in Magna Graecia (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 14 (footnotes omitted):
At Çatal Hüyük it is starkly, and even brutally, explicit. The divine reality which dominated the minds of these people and which they worshipped in their small shrines was—the very fact of life and death; these felt as the deeds of ruthless and unaccountable powers; death pictured in the shape of enormous vultures over headless (that is, dead) human bodies; opposing them, the goddess appears in one, ever-recurring shape, namely, in the act of giving birth. Her progeny is the bull, the essential begetter. His emblem, large actual bucrania, is everywhere, in astounding numbers, asserting his power to overcome death; in two of the shrines, moreover, his large image, cut out of the plaster, dominates one of the walls. The begetter and the parturient: these two are constantly undoing the work of the vultures—whose prey is the perishable flesh, and no more. When they have done their part, the lasting bones are gathered and buried under the floors of the houses; the males under the bed of the father, women and children underneath the mother's.

This custom bespeaks an intimate communion between the living and the dead. The dead underneath are ever present with the living; the living have risen from there, for a time; soon to rejoin them. The horror of dying remains unabated, but the power of life constantly regenerated embraces even this terror. A sentiment of the unity of life and death stands out in a crude but powerful symbolism. From many walls protrude models of the female breast moulded over the heads of beasts which signify death; such as boar's tusks, the beaks of vultures, the snouts of weasels and foxes. 'Media vita in morte sumus' or, rather: death encompassed by the nurturing vis vitalis. In one of the shrines human bones, significantly, were found scattered underneath this symbol.

Our interpretation cannot entirely divest itself of terms more or less abstract; in fact, though, the very power of these representations bespeaks the concreteness of this ancient experience. There is not really any thought of vis vitalis, but breasts and beak; no 'concept of fertility', but the act and fact of birth; no 'symbol of death', but horrid vultures feeding on bodies. The miracle of life, unending with eruption and destruction, stands out as the content and boundary of this religion.

Thursday, March 25, 2021


As Steals the Morn

Charles Jennens (1700–1773), from Part 3 (Il Moderato) of the libretto to Handel's L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato:
As steals the morn upon the night,
And melts the shades away:
So Truth does Fancy's charm dissolve,
And rising Reason puts to flight
The fumes that did the mind involve,
Restoring intellectual day.
Involve = enfold, envelop, entangle (Oxford English Dictionary, sense 1).

Listen to the performance of Handel's aria by Amanda Forsythe and Thomas Cooley with Voices of Music.


Two Very Different National Characters

Thucydides 1.70 (Corinthians addressing Spartans; tr. Jeremy Mynott):
[1] Besides, surely we if anyone have the right to level complaints against our neighbours, especially when such large differences are at stake — and ones to which you are quite insensitive in our view. You seem never once to have analysed these Athenians, to see just what sort of people you are going to be up against nor how totally different they are from yourselves.

[2] They are natural innovators, quick to have ideas and then to put their plans into action. Your instinct on the other hand is to keep things as they are, not to make any new decisions and not even to take the minimum action necessary.

[3] Then again, they are bold beyond their means, they run risks beyond reason and stay sanguine in times of trouble; your way, on the other hand, is to do less than your power allows, to distrust even your surest judgements and never to expect deliverance from dangers.

[4] In truth, they never shrink from action while you always hesitate; they are always abroad while you never leave home. They expect to gain something by being away, you expect that by venturing out you might harm even what you have.

[5] In any military success they press their advantage to the limit, in defeat they fall back as little as possible.

[6] Their bodies they disown and sacrifice to the service of the state, but their minds are very much their own in acting on her behalf.

[7] And if they fail to go and achieve something they have planned on doing they believe they have been deprived of what was already theirs, while if they succeed in getting what they went for they count that a small gain compared with future prospects; and should they actually fail in some venture they redirect their hopes to make good the loss elsewhere. For them alone to hope for something is to have it, such is their speed in executing their plans. they count that a small gain compared with future prospects; and should they actually fail in some venture they redirect their hopes to make good the loss elsewhere. For them alone to hope for something is to have it, such is their speed in executing their plans.

[8] This, then, is their life-long labour, in hardship and in danger. They scarcely enjoy what they have because they are always after getting more; the only holiday they can imagine is in doing what they feel they must, and they think of idle leisure as a greater disaster than irksome toil.

[9] In sum, you could rightly say that they are born neither to enjoy any peace themselves nor to allow it to others.

[1] καὶ ἅμα, εἴπερ τινὲς καὶ ἄλλοι, νομίζομεν ἄξιοι εἶναι τοῖς πέλας ψόγον ἐπενεγκεῖν, ἄλλως τε καὶ μεγάλων τῶν διαφερόντων καθεστώτων, περὶ ὧν οὐκ αἰσθάνεσθαι ἡμῖν γε δοκεῖτε οὐδ᾿ ἐκλογίσασθαι πώποτε πρὸς οἵους ὑμῖν Ἀθηναίους ὄντας καὶ ὅσον ὑμῶν καὶ ὡς πᾶν διαφέροντας ὁ ἀγὼν ἔσται.

[2] οἱ μέν γε νεωτεροποιοὶ καὶ ἐπινοῆσαι ὀξεῖς καὶ ἐπιτελέσαι ἔργῳ ἃ ἂν γνῶσιν, ὑμεῖς δὲ τὰ ὑπάρχοντά τε σῴζειν καὶ ἐπιγνῶναι μηδὲν καὶ ἔργῳ οὐδὲ τἀναγκαῖα ἐξικέσθαι.

[3] αὖθις δὲ οἱ μὲν καὶ παρὰ δύναμιν τολμηταὶ καὶ παρὰ γνώμην κινδυνευταὶ καὶ ἐν τοῖς δεινοῖς εὐέλπιδες· τὸ δὲ ὑμέτερον τῆς τε δυνάμεως ἐνδεᾶ πρᾶξαι τῆς τε γνώμης μηδὲ τοῖς βεβαίοις πιστεῦσαι τῶν τε δεινῶν μηδέποτε οἴεσθαι ἀπολυθήσεσθαι.

[4] καὶ μὴν καὶ ἄοκνοι πρὸς ὑμὰς μελλητὰς καὶ ἀποδημηταὶ πρὸς ἐνδημοτάτους· οἴονται γὰρ οἱ μὲν τῇ ἀπουσίᾳ ἄν τι κτᾶσθαι, ὑμεῖς δὲ τῷ ἐξελθεῖν καὶ τὰ ἑτοῖμα ἂν βλάψαι.

[5] κρατοῦντές τε τῶν ἐχθρῶν ἐπὶ πλεῖστον ἐξέρχονται καὶ νικώμενοι ἐπ᾿ ἐλάχιστον ἀναπίπτουσιν.

[6] ἔτι δὲ τοῖς μὲν σώμασιν ἀλλοτριωτάτοις ὑπὲρ τῆς πόλεως χρῶνται, τῇ δὲ γνώμῃ οἰκειοτάτῃ ἐς τὸ πράσσειν τι ὑπὲρ αὐτῆς·

[7] καὶ ἃ μὲν ἂν ἐπινοήσαντες μὴ ἐπεξέλθωσιν, οἰκείων στέρεσθαι ἡγοῦνται, ἃ δ᾿ ἂν ἐπελθόντες κτήσωνται, ὀλίγα πρὸς τὰ μέλλοντα τυχεῖν πράξαντες, ἢν δ᾿ ἄρα του καὶ πείρᾳ σφαλῶσιν, ἀντελπίσαντες ἄλλα ἐπλήρωσαν τὴν χρείαν· μόνοι γὰρ ἔχουσί τε ὁμοίως καὶ ἐλπίζουσιν ἃ ἂν ἐπινοήσωσι διὰ τὸ ταχεῖαν τὴν ἐπιχείρησιν ποιεῖσθαι ὧν ἂν γνῶσιν.

[8] καὶ ταῦτα μετὰ πόνων πάντα καὶ κινδύνων δι᾿ ὅλου τοῦ αἰῶνος μοχθοῦσι, καὶ ἀπολαύουσιν ἐλάχιστα τῶν ὑπαρχόντων διὰ τὸ αἰεὶ κτᾶσθαι καὶ μήτε ἑορτὴν ἄλλο τι ἡγεῖσθαι ἢ τὸ τὰ δέοντα πρᾶξαι ξυμφοράν τε οὐχ ἧσσον ἡσυχίαν ἀπράγμονα ἢ ἀσχολίαν ἐπίπονον·

[9] ὥστε εἴ τις αὐτοὺς ξυνελὼν φαίη πεφυκέναι ἐπὶ τῷ μήτε αὐτοὺς ἔχειν ἡσυχίαν μήτε τοὺς ἄλλους ἀνθρώπους ἐᾶν, ὀρθῶς ἂν εἴποι.


Healing Stillness

Poem by Fyodor Tyutchev (1803-1873), in his Selected Poems. Translated with an Introduction and Notes by John Dewey (Gillingham: Brimstone Press, 2014), p. 126:
Of all the life that raged so violently,
Of all the blood that flowed in rivers here,
What has survived, what traces persevere?
Two or three burial mounds are all we see...

And on them oak-trees, fully-grown meanwhile,
Sprawl confidently; there, with branches stirring,
They stand in lofty majesty, not caring
Whose bones, whose memory their roots defile.

For Nature has no knowledge of the past —
Our phantom years do not concern or touch her;
And faced with her we dimly see at last
Ourselves as a mere fantasy of Nature.

When each has played its futile part in turn,
She gathers in her children to her bosom,
Where all without distinction come to learn
The healing stillness of that all-engulfing chasm.
Edmund Wilson (1895-1972), A Window on Russia for the Use of Foreign Readers (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1972), p. 35:
Tyutchev gives final expression to his fundamental point of view in a poem written not long before his death. Do the oaks, he asks, that grow on ancient barrows, that spread their branches and grow grand and speak with their leaves—do they care into whose dust and memory they are plunging their long roots? "Nature knows nothing of the past: our lives to her are alien and phantoms; and, standing in her presence, we dimly apprehend that we ourselves are but part of her revery. Indiscriminately, one by one, when they are done with their futile exploit, she welcomes all her children into her fathomless depths that swallow and reconcile all."
Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898), Oaks. Evening

Wednesday, March 24, 2021


After the Party

Red-figure plate, ca. 520-500 BC (British Museum, no. 1867,0508.1022):
Robin Osborne, Archaic and Classical Greek Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 145-146:
A plate signed by Epiktetos, which was found at Vulci and is now in the British Museum, illustrates the art of the simple tondo image at its most impressive [77]. Two garlanded revellers make their way home after a party. The younger man pipes their way, while the older feels the strain of the partying. The circular field, re-echoed in the artist's signature, which runs clockwise from the right hand to the left foot of the older reveller, and by the curved back of that reveller himself, is skilfully employed to emphasize the rolling progress of the older man. The younger man's sobriety is brought out by his upright pose, and reinforced by the vertical lines of the case for his pipes, which hangs from his shoulder, and by the way he holds the pipes up. The profiles are clean, the balance delicate, and the physical forms suggested with great economy of line. Although in other works Epiktetos shows an interest in twisted poses and oblique views, here the bodies are made substantial by the simplest of means, the showing of one arm or one thigh behind the other, the genitals appearing behind the line of the leg, the gathering of drapery.


Johnson in the John

Montaigne, Essays 1.3 (tr. M.A. Screech):
The Emperor Maximilian, the great-grandfather of the present King Philip, was a monarch fully endowed with great advantages; among others, he was singularly handsome. One of his humours was flat contrary to that of princes who, to get through important business, make a throne of their lavatory: he never allowed a valet such intimacy as to see him on his privy. He would even hide away to pass water, being as scrupulous as a maiden about uncovering, for a doctor or anyone else, those parts which are customarily kept hidden. I myself, so shameless in speech, have nevertheless in my complexion a touch of such modesty: except when strongly moved by necessity or pleasure I rarely let anyone's eyes see those members or those actions which our customs ordain to be hidden. I find this all the more constraining in that I do not think it becoming in a man, above all in one of my calling. But Maximilian became so scrupulous that he expressly commanded in his will that linen drawers should be tied on him when he was dead. He should have added a codicil saying that the man who pulled them on ought to be blindfold!
Notorious among those princes who made "a throne of their lavatory" was Lyndon Johnson. See Robert A. Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. III: Master of the Senate (New York: Vintage Books, 2003), p. 122:
[Luther E.] Jones, a neat young man who was invariably well scrubbed, with his hair carefully slicked down, was reserved, almost prim, in physical matters. "Any kind of coarseness or crudeness just disgusted him," a friend says. Johnson began summoning Jones to take dictation from him while he was sitting on the toilet. "At first," [Gene] Latimer says, "L.E. attempted to stand away from the door, but Johnson insisted he stand right over him. L.E. would stand with his head averted, and take dictation." As both Latimer and Jones understood, the tactic was a "method of control"—employed to humiliate Jones, and make him acknowledge who was boss. Years later, Richard Goodwin, a speechwriter who had just begun working for Johnson, was summoned to the President's bathroom in the White House. Watching Johnson, "apparently in the midst of defecation," staring at him "intently, looking for any sign of embarrassment," and "lowering his tone, forcing me to approach more closely," while "calculating my reaction," Goodwin realized that he was being given a kind of "test." Goodwin passed—and so had many of the staff members to whom Johnson had given the same test during his years in the House of Representatives.



An Alluring Suggestion

Robert Parker, Athenian Religion: A History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), p. 35 (I corrected the accent of ἅμιλλα in the footnote):
We learn from the Odyssey that Menelaus' steersman Phrontis son of Onetor, 'he who was most skilful among mankind at steering a ship, when the storm-winds blew hard', died and was buried at Sunium. That is perhaps an allusion to a cult of Phrontis that already existed at Sunium; and if not, the passage itself might easily have encouraged such a cult to arise. Near the temple of Athena at Sunium, a rich votive-deposit has been discovered, including a fine Proto-Attic plaque showing a ship with a very prominent helmsman. Is this Phrontis, and do these votives derive from the hypothetical cult? The suggestion is alluring.24

24 See H. Abramson, 'A Hero Shrine for Phrontis at Sounion?', CSCA 12 (1979), 1-19, who finds a new site for the cult of Phrontis first postulated by C. Picard, RA, 6th ser., 16 (1940), 5-28. 'The deposit (from a pit south-east of the temple of Athena) may belong to Phrontis even if the small temple that Abramson quite plausibly ascribes to him (8.5 m. north of the temple of Athena) does not. The Homeric passage is Od. 3.278-83. Phrontis may have presided over the ἅμιλλα νεῶν (Lys. 21.5) celebrated at Sunium, suggests Picard, 13.
Homer, Odyssey 3.278-285 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
But when we came to holy Sounion, the cape of Athens,
there Phoibos Apollo, with a visitation of his painless
arrows, killed the steersman of Menelaos, the one who        280
held in his hands the steering oar of the running ship. This was
Phrontis, Onetor's son, who surpassed all the breed of mortals
in the steering of a ship whenever stormwinds were blowing.
So Menelaos, though straining for the journey, was detained
there, to bury his companion, and give him due rites.        285

ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε Σούνιον ἱρὸν ἀφικόμεθ᾽, ἄκρον Ἀθηνέων,
ἔνθα κυβερνήτην Μενελάου Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων
οἷς ἀγανοῖς βελέεσσιν ἐποιχόμενος κατέπεφνε,        280
πηδάλιον μετὰ χερσὶ θεούσης νηὸς ἔχοντα,
Φρόντιν Ὀνητορίδην, ὃς ἐκαίνυτο φῦλ᾽ ἀνθρώπων
νῆα κυβερνῆσαι, ὁπότε σπέρχοιεν ἄελλαι.
ὣς ὁ μὲν ἔνθα κατέσχετ᾽, ἐπειγόμενός περ ὁδοῖο,
ὄφρ᾽ ἕταρον θάπτοι καὶ ἐπὶ κτέρεα κτερίσειεν.        285
The plaque, from Abramson, Plate 1 (click to enlarge):

Tuesday, March 23, 2021


The Battlefield

Homer, Iliad 4.543-544 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
For on that day many men of the Achaians and Trojans
lay sprawled in the dust face downward beside one another.

πολλοὶ γὰρ Τρώων καὶ Ἀχαιῶν ἤματι κείνῳ
πρηνέες ἐν κονίῃσι παρ᾽ ἀλλήλοισι τέταντο.


Questions for Prospective Magistrates

Aristotle, Athenian Constitution 55.3 (tr. P.J. Rhodes):
When the archons are scrutinized, they are asked first, 'Who is your father, and from which deme? Who is your father's father? Who is your mother? Who is your mother's father, and from which deme?' Then the archons are asked whether they have a cult of Apollo of Ancestry and Zeus of the Courtyard, and where the sanctuaries of these are; whether they have family tombs, and where these are; whether they treat their parents well; whether they pay their taxes; whether they have performed their military service.

ἐπερωτῶσιν δ᾽, ὅταν δοκιμάζωσιν, πρῶτον μὲν 'τίς πατὴρ καὶ πόθεν τῶν δήμων, καὶ τίς πατρὸς πατήρ, καὶ τίς μήτηρ, καὶ τίς μητρὸς πατὴρ καὶ πόθεν τῶν δήμων;' μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα, εἰ ἔστιν αὐτῷ Ἀπόλλων Πατρῷος καὶ Ζεὺς Ἑρκεῖος, καὶ ποῦ ταῦτα τὰ ἱερά ἐστιν, εἶτα ἠρία εἰ ἔστιν καὶ ποῦ ταῦτα, ἔπειτα γονέας εἰ εὖ ποιεῖ, καὶ τὰ τέλη εἰ τελεῖ, καὶ τὰς στρατείας εἰ ἐστράτευται.


The Gods

Pindar, fragment 143 (tr. Richard Stoneman):
They know no sickness nor old age,
they are free of pains:
they have escaped
the loud-resounding crossing of Acheron.

κεῖνοι γάρ τ᾿ ἄνοσοι καὶ ἀγήραοι
πόνων τ᾿ ἄπειροι, βαρυβόαν
πορθμὸν πεφευγότες Ἀχέροντος.
Related post: Via Negativa.

Monday, March 22, 2021


Violence and Strife

Psalms 55:9 (KJV):
I have seen violence and strife in the city.
Bristol (March, 2021)


Old Age and Youth

Homer, Iliad 4.313-325 (Agamemnon and Nestor; tr. Peter Green):
"Old sir, if only, like the heart in your breast, so might
your knees still serve you, your strength remain unimpaired!
But age, ineluctable, weighs on you: how I wish some other        315
warrior had your years, and you were among the youths!"
Nestōr, Gerēnian horseman, to him made answer:
"Son of Atreus, I too most heartily wish I still had
the strength that was mine the day I slew noble Ereuthaliōn!
But no way do the gods grant mortals all things at once—        320
Then I was young, but now old age is my companion.
Even so, I shall go round the mounted fighters, instruct them
with words of counsel: that is an old man's right.
The wielding of spears belongs to a later generation,
men younger than me, men with confidence in their strength."        325

ὦ γέρον εἴθ᾽ ὡς θυμὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσι φίλοισιν
ὥς τοι γούναθ᾽ ἕποιτο, βίη δέ τοι ἔμπεδος εἴη·
ἀλλά σε γῆρας τείρει ὁμοίϊον· ὡς ὄφελέν τις        315
ἀνδρῶν ἄλλος ἔχειν, σὺ δὲ κουροτέροισι μετεῖναι.
τὸν δ᾽ ἠμείβετ᾽ ἔπειτα Γερήνιος ἱππότα Νέστωρ·
Ἀτρεΐδη μάλα μέν τοι ἐγὼν ἐθέλοιμι καὶ αὐτὸς
ὣς ἔμεν ὡς ὅτε δῖον Ἐρευθαλίωνα κατέκταν.
ἀλλ᾽ οὔ πως ἅμα πάντα θεοὶ δόσαν ἀνθρώποισιν·        320
εἰ τότε κοῦρος ἔα νῦν αὖτέ με γῆρας ὀπάζει.
ἀλλὰ καὶ ὧς ἱππεῦσι μετέσσομαι ἠδὲ κελεύσω
βουλῇ καὶ μύθοισι· τὸ γὰρ γέρας ἐστὶ γερόντων.
αἰχμὰς δ᾽ αἰχμάσσουσι νεώτεροι, οἵ περ ἐμεῖο
ὁπλότεροι γεγάασι πεποίθασίν τε βίηφιν.        325



Horace Kephart (1862-1931), Our Southern Highlanders (New York: Outing Publishing Company, 1913), pp. 33-34:
In our primitive community there were no trades, no professions. Every man was his own farmer, blacksmith, gunsmith, carpenter, cobbler, miller, tinker. Someone in his family, or a near neighbor, served him as barber and dentist, and would make him a coffin when he died. One farmer was also the wagoner of the district, as well as storekeeper, magistrate, veterinarian, and accoucheur. He also owned the only "tooth-pullers" in the settlement: a pair of universal forceps that he designed, forged, filed out, and wielded with barbaric grit. His wife kept the only boarding-house for leagues around. Truly, an accomplished couple!
Id., p. 128:
Every man in the big woods is a jack-of-all-trades. His skill in extemporizing utensils, and even crude machines, out of the trees that grow around him, is of no mean order. As good cider as ever I drank was made in a hollowed log fitted with a press-block and operated by a handspike. It took but half a day's work to make this cider press, and the only tools used in its construction were an ax, a mattock in lieu of adze, an auger, and a jackknife.

Sunday, March 21, 2021


Language Is Speaking

Günther Zuntz (1902-1992), Greek: A Course in Classical and Post-Classical Greek Grammar from Original Texts, ed. Stanley E. Porter, Vol. I (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), p. 20:
Language is speaking. It is my wish to convert as many colleagues and students as possible away from conceiving of language as a matter to be grasped with the eye fixed on letters and through abstract imagination, to assimilating it by speaking and hearing. In this way, and particularly by memorizing many impressive quotations, they will be imbued, so to speak, with the language.
I see an error (id., p. 39):
For πυθ' in the second line read ποθ'. This error doesn't occur in the German edition — Griechischer Lehrgang, Bd. I (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983), p. 27:


Saturday, March 20, 2021


The Foundation

Northrop Frye (1912-1991), "Reconsidering Levels of Meaning," in his Fiction and Miscellaneous Writings (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007 = Collected Works of Northrop Frye, 25), pp. 303-326 (at 303):
A student of English literature who doesn't know the Bible doesn't know what is going on in English literature.
Frye, The Educated Imagination (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1964), pp. 110-111:
The most complete form of this myth is given in the Christian Bible, and so the Bible forms the lowest stratum in the teaching of literature. It should be taught so early and so thoroughly that it sinks straight to the bottom of the mind, where everything that comes along later can settle on it. That, I am aware, is a highly controversial statement, and can be misunderstood in all kinds of ways, so please remember that I'm speaking as a literary critic about the teaching of literature. There are all sorts of secondary reasons for teaching the Bible as literature: the fact that it's so endlessly quoted from and alluded to, the fact that the cadences and phrases of the King James translation are built into our minds and way of thought, the fact that it’s full of the greatest and best known stories we have, and so on. There are also the moral and religious reasons for its importance, which are different reasons. But in the particular context in which I'm speaking now, it's the total shape and structure of the Bible which is most important: the fact that it's a continuous narrative beginning with the creation and ending with the Last Judgement, and surveying the whole history of mankind, under the symbolic names of Adam and Israel, in between. In other words, it's the myth of the Bible that should be the basis of literary training, its imaginative survey of the human situation which is so broad and comprehensive that everything else finds its place inside it. Remember too that to me the word myth, like the words fable and fiction, is a technical term in criticism, and the popular sense in which it means something untrue I regard as a debasing of language.


Profession of Faith

Homer, Iliad 4.157-168 (Agamemnon to Menelaus, after the breaking of the truce; tr. Richmond Lattimore):
So, the Trojans have struck you down and trampled on the oaths sworn.
Still the oaths and the blood of the lambs shall not be called vain,
the unmixed wine poured and the right hands we trusted.
If the Olympian at once has not finished this matter,        160
late will he bring it to pass, and they must pay a great penalty,
with their own heads, and with their women, and with their children.
For I know this thing well in my heart, and my mind knows it.
There will come a day when sacred Ilion shall perish,
and Priam, and the people of Priam of the strong ash spear,        165
and Zeus son of Kronos who sits on high, the sky-dwelling,
himself shall shake the gloom of his aegis over all of them
in anger for this deception. All this shall not go unaccomplished.

ὥς σ᾽ ἔβαλον Τρῶες, κατὰ δ᾽ ὅρκια πιστὰ πάτησαν.
οὐ μέν πως ἅλιον πέλει ὅρκιον αἷμά τε ἀρνῶν
σπονδαί τ᾽ ἄκρητοι καὶ δεξιαὶ ᾗς ἐπέπιθμεν.
εἴ περ γάρ τε καὶ αὐτίκ᾽ Ὀλύμπιος οὐκ ἐτέλεσσεν,        160
ἔκ τε καὶ ὀψὲ τελεῖ, σύν τε μεγάλῳ ἀπέτισαν
σὺν σφῇσιν κεφαλῇσι γυναιξί τε καὶ τεκέεσσιν.
εὖ γὰρ ἐγὼ τόδε οἶδα κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν·
ἔσσεται ἦμαρ ὅτ᾽ ἄν ποτ᾽ ὀλώλῃ Ἴλιος ἱρὴ
καὶ Πρίαμος καὶ λαὸς ἐϋμμελίω Πριάμοιο,        165
Ζεὺς δέ σφι Κρονίδης ὑψίζυγος αἰθέρι ναίων
αὐτὸς ἐπισσείῃσιν ἐρεμνὴν αἰγίδα πᾶσι
τῆσδ᾽ ἀπάτης κοτέων· τὰ μὲν ἔσσεται οὐκ ἀτέλεστα.
G.S. Kirk, commentary on lines 160-162:
A solemn and moving profession of faith, proverbial in tone and language....This is the first general statement in Greek literature of the powerful dogma that Zeus always exacts vengeance in the end, and that it may spread into the transgressor's family. Agamemnon stops just short of saying that a man might die unpunished himself, but that then his descendants will suffer, a refinement developed in Solon and Aeschylus — see also Hesiod, Erga 282-5, Parker, Miasma 201 and H. Lloyd-Jones, The Justice of Zeus2 (Berkeley 1983) 7f., 37, 44.

Friday, March 19, 2021


Refusal to Kneel

Dudo of St. Quentin, History of the Normans 2.28-29, tr. E. Christiansen, in Angus A. Somerville and R. Andrew McDonald, edd., The Viking Age: A Reader, 3rd ed. (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2020), pp. 272-273 (the king = Charles the Simple):
And so the king gave his daughter, Gisla by name, to be the wife of that same duke, and he gave the specified territory from the river Epte to the sea as an allod and property; and the whole of Brittany to live off.

Rollo was unwilling to kiss the king's foot, and the bishops said: "He who accepts a gift such as this ought to go as far as kissing the king's foot." And he replied: "I will never bow my knees at the knees of any man, and no man's foot will I kiss." And so, urged on by the prayers of the Franks, he ordered one of his warriors to kiss the king's foot. And the man immediately grasped the king's foot and raised it to his mouth and planted a kiss on it while he remained standing, and laid the king flat on his back. So there arose a great laugh, and a great outcry among the people.

Dedit itaque rex filiam suam, Gislam nomine, uxorem illi duci, terramque determinatam in alodo et in fundo, a flumine Eptae usque ad mare, totamque Britanniam de qua posset vivere.

Rolloni pedem regis nolenti osculari dixerunt episcopi: "Qui tale donum recipit, osculo debet expetere pedem regis." Et ille: "Nunquam curvabo genua mea alicujus genibus, nec osculabor cujuspiam pedem." Francorum igitur precibus compulsus, jussit cuidam militi pedem regis osculari. Qui statim pedem regis arripiens, deportavit ad os suum, standoque defixit osculum, regemque fecit resupinum. Itaque magnus excitatur risus magnusque in plebe tumultus.
Related posts:



Ecclesiastes 1.11 (KJV):
There is no remembrance of former things.
Id. (Vulgate):
Non est priorum memoria.


The Invasion Cannot Be Stopped

Orientius, Commonitorium 2.167-172, ed. Robinson Ellis in Poetae Christiani Minores (Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1888 = Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, XVI.1), p. 234 (my translation):
Neither the rough landscape of thick woods and high mountains, nor powerful rivers with their rushing whirlpools, nor fortresses protected by their sites, nor cities by their walls, nor trackless stretches at sea, nor dismal expanses in the wilderness, nor hollows, nor even caverns beneath forbidding cliffs could baffle the barbarian hordes.

non densi nemoris, celsi non aspera montis,
    flumina non rapidis fortia gurgitibus,
non castella locis, non tutae moenibus urbes,
    invia non pelago, tristia non eremo,        170
non cava, non etiam tetricis sub rupibus antra,
    ludere barbaricas praevaluere manus.

167 non densi Ellis: condensi codd.
171 tetricis Ellis: metuendis codd.: nudis Bury
I don't have access to Mildred Dolores Toobin, Orientii Commonitorium: A Commentary with an Introduction and Translation (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1945 = Patristic Studies, 74).

Thursday, March 18, 2021


A Metaphor for Memory

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 788-789 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
First, Io, I shall tell you about the wanderings on which you will be driven: inscribe them on the memory-tablets of your mind.

σοὶ πρῶτον, Ἰοῖ, πολύδονον πλάνην φράσω,
ἣν ἐγγράφου σὺ μνήμοσιν δέλτοις φρενῶν.
Mark Griffith, commentary on line 789:
The 'wax-tablets of the wits' are a conventional but vivid metaphor for the faculty of memory (so e.g. Pind. O. 10.2, Aesch. Cho. 450, Eum. 275, Soph. Ph. 1325; further Sansone 60-2, 'Aesch. has only one metaphor for memory, and he uses it at least six times.' The phrase here implies close attention, as much as memory.
The reference is to David Sansone, Aeschylean Metaphors for Intellectual Activity (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1975).



Northrop Frye (1912-1991), "The Developing Imagination," Reading the World: Selected Writings, 1935-1976, ed. Robert D. Denham (New York: Peter Lang, 1990), pp. 80-98 (at 89):
To grow up in ignorance of what is in the Bible or Homer is as crippling to the imagination as being deprived of the multiplication table.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021



John Milton, Paradise Lost 1.330:
Awake, arise, or be for ever fall'n.


Insane Folly

Procopius, Wars 5.3.6-9 (tr. H.B. Dewing):
As for the points in dispute, although I know them well, I shall by no means make mention of them; for I consider it a sort of insane folly to investigate the nature of God, enquiring of what sort it is. For man cannot, I think, apprehend even human affairs with accuracy, much less those things which pertain to the nature of God. As for me, therefore, I shall maintain a discreet silence concerning these matters, with the sole object that old and venerable beliefs may not be discredited. For I, for my part, will say nothing whatever about God save that He is altogether good and has all things in His power. But let each one say whatever he thinks he knows about these matters, both priest and layman.

τὰ δὲ ἀντιλεγόμενα ἐγὼ ἐξεπιστάμενος ὡς ἥκιστα ἐπιμνήσομαι· ἀπονοίας γὰρ μανιώδους τινὸς ἡγοῦμαι εἶναι διερευνᾶσθαι τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ φύσιν, ὁποία ποτέ ἐστιν. ἀνθρώπῳ γὰρ οὐδὲ τὰ ἀνθρώπεια ἐς τὸ ἀκριβὲς οἶμαι καταληπτά, μή τί γε δὴ τὰ εἰς θεοῦ φύσιν ἥκοντα. ἐμοὶ μὲν οὖν ταῦτα ἀκινδύνως σεσιωπήσθω μόνῳ τῷ μὴ ἀπιστεῖσθαι τὰ τετιμημένα. ἐγὼ γὰρ οὐκ ἂν οὐδὲν ἄλλο περὶ θεοῦ ὁτιοῦν εἴποιμι ἢ ὅτι ἀγαθός τε παντάπασιν εἴη καὶ ξύμπαντα ἐν τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ τῇ αὑτοῦ ἔχει. λεγέτω δὲ ὥς πη ἕκαστος γινώσκειν ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν οἴεται, καὶ ἱερεὺς καὶ ἰδιώτης.


Excuses to Follow Our Own Desires

Goethe, Iphigenia in Tauris 2.1.740-741 (tr. David Luke):
How very artfully you interweave
The counsels of the gods with your own wishes.

Mit seltner Kunst flichst du der Götter Rat
Und deine Wünsche klug in eins zusammen.
Id. 5.3.1832-1833:
We are most willing to appeal to laws
When we can make them weapons of our wishes.

Wir fassen ein Gesetz begierig an,
Das unsrer Leidenschaft zur Waffe dient.


Made-Up Stories

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 684-686 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
Do not, of thy pity, seek to cozen me with words untrue; for foulest of plagues do I account dissembling words.

                                          μηδέ μ᾿ οἰκτίσας
ξύνθαλπε μύθοις ψευδέσιν· νόσημα γὰρ
αἴσχιστον εἶναί φημι συνθέτους λόγους.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021


Read from the Beginning to the End

Cyril Mango (1928-2021), Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981), p. 239, with note on p. 301:
Here is the advice that Cecaumenus, a retired general, gives to a young man destined for a military career:
When you are free and not busy with a commander's duties, read books, both histories and Church writings. Do not say, 'What benefit is there for a soldier from ecclesiastical books?', for you will profit greatly from them. If you pay sufficient attention, you will reap from them not only doctrines and edifying stories, but also gnomic, moral and military precepts. Indeed, almost the entire Old Testament is concerned with strategy. From the New Testament, too, the assiduous reader will derive many precepts for the mind.
And again: 'Read a great deal and you will learn a great deal. Persevere, even if you do not understand, for after you have read a book several times, you will receive discernment from God and you will understand it.' And once more:
When you have taken a book, read it in private. After you have read a little, do not start counting pages or choosing passages you like best and reading only those. Nay, you should start from the cover where the text begins and read the book until not a single word is left, and in this way you will profit greatly. For it is the trait of a superficial person not to read a whole book twice or three times, but to pick some snippets out of it for the sake of chatter.14
14 Cecaumenus, Strategicon, ed. G.G. Litavrin, §§ 21, 46, 63, pp. 154, 212, 240.
Related posts:

Monday, March 15, 2021


Life Lesson

Goethe, Iphigenia in Tauris 4.1.1654-1664 (tr. David Luke):
Life teaches us, and you will learn it too,
To be less rigorous with ourselves and others.
Mankind is of such strange complexity,
So variously made up and interwoven,
That to remain pure, to avoid confusion
Within ourselves or in our dealings with
Our fellow men, is possible to no one.
Nor are we meant to judge ourselves: a man's
First duty is to walk and watch his path,
For he can seldom rightly judge what he
Has done, and still less judge what he is doing.

Das Leben lehrt uns, weniger mit uns
Und andern strenge sein; du lernst es auch.
So wunderbar ist dies Geschlecht gebildet;
So vielfach ist's verschlungen und verknüpft,
Dass keiner in sich selbst, noch mit den andern
Sich rein und unverworren halten kann.
Auch sind wir nicht bestellt uns selbst zu richten;
Zu wandeln und auf seinen Weg zu sehen
Ist eines Menschen erste, nächste Pflicht:
Denn selten schätzt er recht was er getan,
Und was er tut weiß er fast nie zu schätzen.


The Five Gates

Cyril Mango (1928-2021), Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981), pp. 224-225, with notes on p. 300:
The human soul was visualized as a citadel that had to be vigilantly guarded against external attack. Its weakest points were its gates which were five in number, corresponding to the five senses. The first gate, that of speech, needed to be fortified by the braces and cross-bars consisting in the constant recitation of Holy Scripture: in this way all undesirable entrants would be excluded. The second gate was that of hearing: it was essential not to admit through it any idle gossip or anything unseemly. The third gate, that of smell, had to be bolted in the face of all sweet scents which had the effect of slackening the 'tension' of the soul. The gate of sight was particularly exposed; hence it was important to see as few women as possible and avoid the theatre. The proper function of sight was to behold the beauties of nature. The fifth gate, that of touch, had to be guarded against soft clothing, comfortable beds and contact with other human bodies. It was not, however, sufficient to keep watch at the gates; the citizens living within the citadel of the soul had to observe 'stringent and fearsome laws' and to obey their own 'magistrates'.28 Equally negative prescriptions applied to the morality of the body. A man had to abstain from fornication, drunkenness and gluttony, a woman from the use of perfume and artificial adornment. The body required only such care as was sufficient for the preservation of health.29

Among the many vices and failings to which human beings are prone, some were viewed with a degree of reprobation that may appear to us rather bizarre. It is not perhaps surprising that in a period when foodstuffs were generally in short supply, gluttony should have been considered a grave sin, but it is not so evident to us that it leads to impure desires and licentiousness and is the gateway to all evil. Yet such was the prevalent opinion, and it was held that just as smoke drives away bees, so the glutton drives away from himself the grace of the Holy Spirit.30 Outspokenness (parrhēsia) was also regarded as a great failing as was the sin to which monks were particularly subject, namely indifference of boredom (akêdia). On the other hand, mourning (penthos) was considered a virtue, especially necessary for monks, but commendable in everyone. Strangest of all is the condemnation of laughter: 'It is generally forbidden to Christians to laugh, and particularly to monks.'31 Christ, it seems, had never laughed. At the most, one could allow oneself to smile as did the Syrian saint Julian Sabas when he heard news of the death of Julian the Apostate.32

28 John Chrysostom, De inani gloria, ed. A.-M. Malingrey, §23ff.

29 John Chrysostom, In epist. I ad Timoth. hom, iv, PG lxii, 524.

30 Antiochus, Pandectes, ch. 4, PG lxxxix, 1444.

31 Ibid., ch. 95, col. 1721. See discussion in I. Hausherr, Penthos, Orientalia Christiana Analecta, 132 (Rome, 1944), 109ff.

32 Theodoret, Historia religiosa, ed. P. Canivet and A. Leroy-Molinghen, ii.14, vol. i (Paris, 1977), 224-6.
On n. 31, see also Anselm Hufstader's translation of Irénée Hausherr, Penthos: The Doctrine of Compunction in the Christian East (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, Inc., 1982), pp. 95 ff., for much interesting information on laughter.

Related posts:

Sunday, March 14, 2021


Hillard & Botting

G. Zuntz (1902-1992), "On Greek Primers," Didaskalos 4.2 (1973) 360-374 (at 360-361):
The traditional English primers — Hillard & Botting may be named as their representative — are not an attraction but a deterrent. At this point I expect to be told by respected colleagues — in fact, I have so been told more than once: 'Are primers really so important? After all, you've got to learn your elements — a matter of cramming and drudgery, unavoidably; and it does you good. I did get my Greek from Hillard & Botting, and I learned it quite well, I dare say.' And one would, I suppose, have to admit that a gifted and devoted learner, and even a listless crammer, may acquire quantum satis from the dreariest manual. We could perhaps suggest that he would have worked more pleasantly and efficiently with a better primer; but what we cannot, within the bounds of politeness, tell him, and what he will never know, is the essential; namely, that his whole concept of Greek, and his attitude to it, has been distorted for life by that perverse first experience and its automatic sequel. But for Hillard & Botting and their like we would not be told, in this year of Grace 1973, that one learns Greek because 'it provides a valuable training of the mind' (crossword puzzles serve the same end at less expense) and that its supreme upshot is 'a really nice prose', parading Gladstone in the garb of Demosthenes, Macaulay à la Thucydides, and Spinoza πλατωνίζοντα. And 'verse', too.

Few youngsters of the present age will be attracted by goals like these, and we can no longer force them: they are free to choose. If they are to choose Greek, we must be able to offer them something better than these broken shells of a once flourishing rhetorical tradition. They expect by learning Greek — if they choose to learn Greek — to open up the way to experiences which no précis and no translation can convey. They are right in this expectation; but if it is to be fulfilled a lot of Greek will have to be mastered. A mere smattering — such as, for example, most theologians are given today — will not get them nearer the original message than (in fact, not even as near as) a competent and responsible translation; and a mere 'inkling' is not worth the time lost in securing it. They will then have to be taught effectively, and in a manner which can hold and stimulate their interest. These needs cannot be met by the Hillard & Botting type of primer.
Id. (at 368):
I have written down these criticisms with much reluctance. They tend, however, to confirm a tenet which I have urged before; namely, that nobody today is able to write what could pass for original Greek, or for its equivalent. And why should we trouble to do it? Enough original Greek has been left by the original Greeks — and this is what we want to study.


A Sort of Comfort

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), Vanity Fair, Chapter X:
Rawdon Crawley had already (apropos of play, of which he was immoderately fond) fought three bloody duels, in which he gave ample proofs of his contempt for death.

"And for what follows after death," would Mr. Crawley observe, throwing his gooseberry-coloured eyes up to the ceiling. He was always thinking of his brother's soul, or of the souls of those who differed with him in opinion: it is a sort of comfort which many of the serious give themselves.

Silly, romantic Miss Crawley, far from being horrified at the courage of her favourite, always used to pay his debts after his duels; and would not listen to a word that was whispered against his morality. "He will sow his wild oats," she would say, "and is worth far more than that puling hypocrite of a brother of his."
I'm looking out for an occasion to call someone a puling hypocrite.


Attack on Modernity

Arnaldo Momigliano (1908-1987), "Hermeneutics and Classical Political Thought in Leo Strauss," Essays on Ancient and Modern Judaism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), pp. 178-189 (at 180; I've omitted the second principle):
This attitude with respect to the past implies on the one hand a certain way of reading books from the past and also supports a certain consideration of the classics of the past. As to how we should read books from the past, two principles emerge from Strauss's books. One is that in order to understand a writer one must follow him, not guide him, trying to bear in mind all of the meander and apparent contradictions of his thought. For Strauss, the possible danger lies in the fact that a reader might superimpose his own notions of the past onto the past even before he discovers what the ancients thought of a particular issue. Hence, Strauss's lengthy discussion of the book by E.A. Havelock, The Liberal Temper in Greek Politics (1957) in the Review of Metaphysics 12 (1959): 390-439. Strauss does not like liberals in the modern sense; thus he does not like the attempt (indeed a weak one) by Havelock to single out a liberal tradition in Greek thought. Strauss's indignation is directed against the modern interpreter who replaces the thought of the author he is interpreting with his own personal thought: "Havelock takes it for granted that the modern social scientist, but not Hesiod, understood what happened in Hesiod or to Hesiod."6

6. Review of Metaphysics 12 (1959): 404.
Id. (at 187, n. 22):
It is typical of Strauss that in reaffirming his Judaism he should declare: "the most profound truth cannot be written and not even said." He also adds, "a secession from this world might again become necessary for Jews and even for Christians."
Id. (at 188):
Strauss has been able to uphold certain principles of Arab and Jewish medieval philosophy in the contemporary debate between historicism and sociology; he has developed (under the influence of traditional methods of Talmudic exegesis) an original hermeneutics of texts; finally, he has proceeded from medieval thought to classical thought, not with the intention of rediscovering the modernity of the classics but of drawing inspiration from their example in order to fight the moderns. "Modernity has progressed to the point where it has visibly become a problem."23

23. What Is Political Philosophy, 172. (See G.P. Grant in Social Research 31 [1964]: 45-72. Among the most recent writings of L. Strauss's [sic, read Strauss is?] "Notes on Maimonides Book of Knowledge," in Studies in Mysticism and Religion Presented to G.G. Scholem. Jerusalem, 1967, pp. 269-83.)

Friday, March 12, 2021



Symposium scene from the Tomb of the Diver, c. 470 BC (Museo archeologico nazionale di Paestum; click to enlarge):
R. Ross Holloway, "The Tomb of the Diver," American Journal of Archaeology 110.3 (July, 2006) 365-388 (at 367):
On the north wall, the single symposiast prepares to try his luck at the kottabos game. He is sighting over his kylix, in which there are wine lees ready to be projected toward the target (not shown), as is being done by the nearer symposiast reclining on the central couch. The older man of the pair on the central couch turns his attention to the couple on the farther kline. Here the youth grasps his lyre to his chest while discouraging the advances of the older man who caresses his head.



Martin Hengel, "Günther Zuntz 1902-1992," Proceedings of the British Academy 87 (1994) 493-522 (at 507-508):
He took the elementary teaching of Greek no less seriously, particularly for those beginning their studies in the Theological Faculty. In England (as also in Germany) Greek teaching was being more and more driven out of the schools, and he saw in this a fundamental task for the University teacher, without which all other endeavours would be built on sand. With tireless energy and pedagogical talent he introduced many generations of students to Greek language, culture and history, since his Greek courses provided more than simply basic knowledge. It is only too easy to understand that he disliked the narrow horizons of many young theologians, who were only interested in the fiction of 'New Testament Greek'. Professor Herington remembers:
how he would come into the staff Common Room after teaching one of these classes and announce to his colleagues: 'Well, I converted three of them to paganism this morning!' It was a joke; but the joke had a certain bite to it.44
44 Letter of 24 January 1994.


A Wish

Pindar, Pythian Odes 1.46 (tr. Anthony Verity):
May his whole life continue to steer happiness and the gift of wealth
towards him, bringing him forgetfulness of past hardship.

εἰ γὰρ ὁ πᾶς χρόνος ὄλβον μὲν οὕτω
καὶ κτεάνων δόσιν εὐθύ-
νοι, καμάτων δ᾽ ἐπίλασιν παράσχοι.
Basil L. Gildersleeve ad loc.:

Thursday, March 11, 2021



The Philological Crocodile, "The hideous weakness of the modern classicist" (March 8, 2021):
How many Classicists now possess any "exact knowledge" of their discipline? How many bachelors, masters, doctors are there who have never read through even Homer or Virgil but are full to the brim of whatever recently published nonsense is on their reading lists?


Boundary Markers

Proverbs 22.28 (KJV):
Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.



G. Zuntz (1902-1992), "Aeschyli Prometheus," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 95 (1993) 107-111 (at 111):
Every generation of scholars, so it seems, tends to indulge in some caprice of its own. I have seen the Yeargod come and go, and Myth and Ritual after him. Now it is the spurious Prometheus; but hardly much longer. And there is some comfort in the fact that each of these caprices has led to some improved understanding of its central subject. Thus the next generation may appreciate Prometheus better than we.



Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 275-276 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
Misery, you know, wanders everywhere,
and alights on different persons at different times.

                              πάντα τοι πλανωμένη
πρὸς ἄλλοτ᾽ ἄλλον πημονὴ προσιζάνει.

πάντα Herwerden: ταῦτα codd.


The Sound of One's Mother-Tongue

Goethe, Iphigenia in Tauris 2.2.803-807 (tr. David Luke):
Oh sweetest voice! Thrice welcome music of
My mother-tongue here in a foreign land!
Now the blue mountains of my native shore
Appear before my captive eyes again,
Bringing new gladness.

O süße Stimme! Vielwillkommner Ton
Der Muttersprach in einem fremden Lande!
Des väterlichen Hafens blaue Berge
Seh ich Gefangner neu willkommen wieder
Vor meinen Augen.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021


I Will Traverse the Field of Knowledge

Joseph von Eichendorff (1788-1857), "Der Scholar," lines 9-12 (tr. Eric Sams):
Free from Mammon I will traverse
the field of knowledge,
thinking deeply, and now and then taking
a mouthful of the juice of the grape.

Frei vom Mammon will ich schreiten
Auf dem Feld der Wissenschaft,
Sinne ernst und nehm' zu Zeiten
Einen Mund voll Rebensaft.


A Pillar of the State

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), Vanity Fair, Chapter IX:
Here was a man, who could not spell, and did not care to read — who had the habits and the cunning of a boor: whose aim in life was pettifogging: who never had a taste, or emotion, or enjoyment, but what was sordid and foul; and yet he had rank, and honours, and power, somehow: and was a dignitary of the land, and a pillar of the state.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021


Prayer to Apollo

Pindar, Pythian Odes 1.39-40 (tr. Anthony Verity):
Phoebus, lord of Lycia and ruler of Delos,
lover of Castalia's spring at Parnassus,
be willing to store my wish in your heart
and make this a land of brave men.

Λύκιε καὶ Δάλοι᾿ ἀνάσσων
      Φοῖβε Παρνασσοῦ τε κράναν Κασταλίαν φιλέων,
ἐθελήσαις ταῦτα νόῳ τιθέμεν εὔανδρόν τε χώραν.
Basil L. Gildersleeve ad loc.:
Protocorinthian aryballos from Lechaion, c. 690 BC:



Donald Kagan, The Archidamian War (1987; rpt. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996), p. 18:
A successful strategy must rest on a clear understanding of the aims for which a war is undertaken and an accurate assessment of one's own resources and weaknesses and those of the enemy. It aims at employing one's own strength against the enemies' weakness. It makes use of, but is not bound by, the experience of the past. It adjusts to changes in conditions, both material and psychological. It considers in advance that its first expectations may be disappointed and has an alternate plan ready. Rarely, however, has a state or statesman embarking upon war been well enough prepared strategically.


Transitioning to Transi

Erwin Panofsky (1892-1968), Tomb Sculpture (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1964), p. 56 (footnote omitted):
When — significantly, chiefly after the Black Death — Northern art attempted to represent the actual condition of "being dead," it solved the problem, not by replacing the effigy apparently endowed with everlasting life by that of a corpse, but by dramatically contrasting it with that of a corpse: the representacion au vif, viz., the image of the complete person (Erasmus' totus homo), arrayed as befits his state and dignity and unaffected by decay, was contrasted with the representacion de la mort (normally referred to as transi), viz., the image of the dead body covered — if at all — only with a shroud and either reduced to a skeleton or exhibiting the horrid traces of decomposition.
Id., p. 64 (footnotes omitted):
The moral significance of these grisly transis — often expressed by such inscriptions as "I was what you are; you will be what I am" or "Wretch, why are you proud? You are nothing but ashes and will, like me, be the food of worms" — is, of course, that of a memento mori (a notion eloquently expressed by the term "representation de la mort"), and some of them occur singly rather than in contrastive juxtaposition with a representation au vif. Apart from the tombstone of Jacques Germain just mentioned, this is also true of one of the earliest recorded instances, the monument of a nobleman named Francis de La Sarra (d. 1562) which can still be seen in the church of La Sarraz some ten miles north of Lausanne (figs. 257, 258). Watched over by members of his family in full dress, he is represented as he was supposed to look after several years in the grave: long worms slither in and out of the body, and the face is covered by toads in such a manner that two of their heads replace the eyes in a macabre anticipation of the effects achieved, more than two hundred years later, by Giuseppe Arcimboldo when he constructed human heads out of sea creatures or vegetables.

As a late-fifteenth-century instance of an isolated transi we may adduce another mayor of Straubing in Lower Bavaria, Johannes Gmainer (d. 1482; fig. 259), whose red marble tomb shows him as an almost skeletonized cadaver, as violently attacked by vermin as is the body of Francis of La Sarra and addressing the beholder as follows: "Sum speculum vitae, Johannes Gmainer, et rite / Tales vos eritis, fueram quandoque quod estis" ("In me behold the looking glass of life: / Such you will be, for I was what you are"). Yet — such is human nature — the mayor's armorial bearings are proudly displayed at the skeleton's feet; and a gentleman named Felix Ueblher, whose image en transi, dated 1509, can be admired in St. Nicholas at Merano (fig. 260), was even careful to inform posterity that he had been ennobled and allowed a coat of arms by Emperor Frederick III.
Id., figs. 257-260:
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Sunday, March 07, 2021


Plato on the Tragic Hero?

Edward Short, "A Definitive Dig in the Graham Greene Quarry," City Journal (March 5, 2021), a review of Richard Greene, Russian Roulette: The Life and Times of Graham Greene (London: Little, Brown, 2020):
Similarly, the storyteller in Greene could be prescient when it came to exposing what his biographer calls "brittle orthodoxies." His characterization of America's involvement in Vietnam is a good example. Reasonable people can debate America's conduct of the war, but it is hard to argue with the narrator Thomas Fowler's assessment of the character of Alden Pyle in Greene’s novel The Quiet American (1955): "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused . . . impregnably armored by his good intentions and his ignorance." Anyone inclined to doubt this should dip into Max Hasting's recent history of the Vietnam War, or read Plato on the tragic hero, who must be neither rogue nor paragon but a "character between these two extremes . . . a man . . . whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty."
Screen capture:
For Plato read Aristotle.



Six or Seven Out of Nine

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), Vanity Fair, Chapter VIII:
Fancy an old, stumpy, short, vulgar, and very dirty man, in old clothes and shabby old gaiters, who smokes a horrid pipe, and cooks his own horrid supper in a saucepan.


Be Careful Outside, and Watch Where You Dig

Cyril Mango (1928-2021), Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1981), p. 160, with note on p. 295:
The Lives of saints are full of references to demons that haunted the out-of-doors, as a few examples will show. In the sixth century St Nicholas of Sion, whom we have already mentioned, was called upon to deal with a huge cypress tree inhabited by a demon who terrified the surrounding region and killed anyone that drew near. The saint, before a large assembly, began chopping the tree down with an axe; it wavered and began falling into the crowd (naturally at the devil's instigation), but Nicholas caught it single-handed and made it fall in the opposite direction. Thereupon the demon admitted defeat and departed.21 Demons lurked in deserted places, kept watch at the crossing of rivers and torrents, and were particularly numerous underground. A man who walked abroad after dark ran the risk of becoming possessed. An injudicious excavation, especially of a spot marked by the remains of pagan antiquity, was apt to release a multitude of demons who would then take possession of human beings and farm animals.

21 Anrich, Hagios Nikolaos, i, 12ff.
Related post: St. Nick and Old Nick: A Case of Arboricide.


Words and Meaning

Goethe, Faust I.2565-2566 (tr. Walter Kaufmann):
Men usually believe, if only they hear words,
That there must also be some sort of meaning.

Gewöhnlich glaubt der Mensch, wenn er nur Worte hört,
es müsse sich dabei doch auch was denken lassen.

Saturday, March 06, 2021


No One Answer

Goethe, "Beherzigung" (tr. Eric Sams):
Ah, what should a man desire?
Is it better to live quietly,
firmly clasping and holding on,
or should he be up and doing?
Should he build a house?
Should he live in tents?
Should he trust the rocks?
Even the solid rocks can shake.
There is no universal answer.
Let each man decide for himself how to act,
where to dwell;
and let him who stands take heed lest he fall.

Ach, was soll der Mensch verlangen?
Ist es besser, ruhig bleiben?
Klammernd fest sich anzuhangen?
Ist es besser, sich zu treiben?
Soll er sich ein Häuschen bauen?
Soll er unter Zelten leben?
Soll er auf die Felsen trauen?
Selbst die festen Felsen beben.
Eines schickt sich nicht für alle;
Sehe jeder, wie er's treibe,
Sehe jeder, wo er bleibe,
Und wer steht, daß er nicht falle!


Fallax Fortuna

Seneca, Agamemnon 56-64, in John G. Fitch, ed. and tr., Seneca, Oedipus, Agammemnon, Thyestes. [Seneca,] Hercules on Oeta, Octavia (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004 = Loeb Classical Library, 78), pp. 130-131:
O regnorum
magnis fallax Fortuna bonis,
in praecipiti dubioque locas
excelsa nimis.
numquam placidam sceptra quietem        60
certumve sui tenuere diem;
alia ex aliis cura fatigat
vexatque animos nova tempestas.

O Fortune, beguiler
by means of the great blessings of thrones,
you set the exalted
in a sheer, unstable place.
Never do sceptres attain calm peace
or a day that is certain of itself.
They are wearied by care upon care,
their spirits tossed by some new storm.
I don't think bonis (line 57) is ablative of means, as Fitch's translation implies, or even ablative at all, but rather dative. See R.J. Tarrant, Seneca, Agamemnon. Edited with a Commentary (1976; rpt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 184:
Fortuna is deceitful toward the riches that accompany rule; for the dative compare Pliny, N.H. 3.80 nauigiis fallax, Tac. Hist. 1.22 potentibus infidum, sperantibus fallax...

Thanks to Eric Thomson for drawing my attention to Fitch's Annaeana Tragica: Notes on the Text of Seneca's Tragedies (Leiden: Brill, 2004), p. 156 (on Agamemnon, line 57):
Is magnis bonis dative or instrumental ablative? I incline to the latter alternative for two reasons. First, Fortune does not deceive the wealth and power of kings, but rather deceives humans who are taken in by such things, regarding them as secure or as true bona. Second, magnis bonis must be ironic here, and the irony is more evident if the idea of 'blessings' is closely linked with that of deception. (There is then no need to consider Axelson's vanis for magnis.) For fallax with an ablative cf. Pliny NQ 25.8 pictura fallax est coloribus tam numerosis, Tac. Ann. 16.32 specie . . . amicitiae fallaces (the first causal rather than instrumental, but with much the same effect).
For "Pliny NQ" read "Pliny NH".

Friday, March 05, 2021


Love of Country

Vergil, Aeneid 11.892 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
True love of country points the way.

monstrat amor verus patriae.
The Rutilian women are defending the walls of their town.

See Oxford Latin Dictionary, s.v. monstro, sense 3.c:


Three Hours

C.H. Douglas (1879-1952), Economic Democracy (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920), p. 96:
The exact figures are beside the point, but something over three hours' work per head per day is ample for the purpose of meeting consumption and depreciation of all the factors of modern life under normal conditions and proper direction.
Related post: Six Hours.


Much Nonsense

Aristophanes, fragment 468 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
For fear of death is the greatest senselessness:
we're all of us obliged to suffer it.

τὸ γὰρ φοβεῖσθαι τὸν θάνατον λῆρος πολύς·
πᾶσιν γὰρ ἡμῖν τοῦτ᾿ ὀφείλεται παθεῖν.
Related post: Sooner or Later.

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