Thursday, March 31, 2022



Euripides, Children of Heracles 826-827 (tr. E.P. Coleridge):
Fellow-citizens, the land, that feeds you
and that gave you birth, demands to-day the help of every man.

ὦ ξυμπολῖται, τῇ τε βοσκούσῃ χθονὶ
καὶ τῇ τεκούσῃ νῦν τιν᾽ ἀρκέσαι χρεών.



Vergil, Georgics 3.454 (tr. H. Ruston Fairclough):
The mischief thrives and lives by concealment.

alitur vitium vivitque tegendo.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022


Creature Comforts

Page Smith, John Adams, Vol. II: 1784-1826 (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1962), p. 764, with note on p. 1144:
For Abigail there was a kind of perverse comfort in thinking of John, perched at the Jays', awaiting her arrival so impatiently. She knew him so well—all his dear crotchets and creature comforts. He missed his own bed and pillows, his hot coffee with too much sugar in it, the familiar shape of his own bed warmer. "How many of these little matters," she wrote, "make up a large portion of our happiness and content." The more heavily public cares and duties weighed on one and the older one got, "the more necessary these alleviations." Perhaps the temporary absence of them would make them the sweeter when they were once again part of the pleasant routine of daily life.10

10. May 13, 1789. APm [= Adams Papers, Microfilms].


An Expert Expectorator

Ammianus Marcellinus 27.3.5 (tr. John C. Rolfe):
Symmachus was succeeded as prefect of the city by Lampadius, a former praetorian prefect, a man who took it very ill if even his manner of spitting was not praised, on the ground that he did that also with greater skill than anyone else; but yet he was sometimes strict and honest.

advenit post hunc urbis moderator Lampadius, ex praefecto praetorio, homo indignanter admodum sustinens, si (etiam cum spueret) non laudaretur, ut id quoque prudenter praeter alios faciens, sed non numquam severus et frugi.
J. den Boeft et al., Philological and Historical Commentary on Ammianus Marcellinus XXVII (Leiden: Brill, 2009), p. 51:
This has been called a bowdlerized and priggish paraphrase of Juv. 3.106–7 laudare paratus/si bene ructavit, si rectum minxit amicus (Den Hengst, 2007, 172), because Amm. substitutes the less offensive spuere for Juvenal's ructare and mingere, and somewhat pedantically explains the witticism.


The Acquisition of Wealth

Lactantius, Divine Institutes 6.1.8-9 (tr. Mary Francis McDonald):
The same ones judge wealth as the greatest good. If they are not able to acquire this by fair means, they get it by foul. They deceive, steal, plunder, entrap, lie; they consider nothing of moderation or seriousness, as long as they shine with gold and gleam with silver and jeweled clothing; they load delicacies upon a most avid stomach; and, equipped with a retinue of personal attendants, they always strut among the people who have been moved aside for them. So, as addicts and slaves of pleasure, they black out the vigor and strength of their minds, and when they think that they are enjoying life to the full, they are hastening most furiously to death.

idem maximum bonum iudicant opes, quas si bonis artibus adsequi non possunt, malis adsequuntur. fraudant rapiunt spoliant insidiantur abiurant, nihil denique moderati aut pensi habent, dummodo auro coruscent, argento gemmis vestibus fulgeant, avidissimo ventri opes ingerant, stipati familiarum gregibus per dimotum populum semper incedant. sic addicti et servientes voluptatibus vim vigoremque mentis extinguunt et cum vivere se maxime putant, ad mortem concitatissime properant.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022



Epicurus, Sententiae Vaticanae 65 (tr. George K. Strodach):
It is senseless to ask the gods for what a man is able to provide for himself.

μάταιόν ἐστι παρὰ θεῶν αἰτεῖσθαι ἅ τις ἑαυτῷ χορηγῆσαι ἱκανός ἐστι.
Cf. Euripides, fragment 432 Kannicht (435 Nauck; tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
Do something now yourself, and then invoke the gods;
for god adds his assistance to the man who strives.

αὐτός τι νῦν δρῶν εἶτα δαίμονας κάλει·
τῷ γὰρ πονοῦντι καὶ θεὸς συλλαμβάνει.


An Omission

Ammianus Marcellinus with an English Translation by John C. Rolfe, Vol. III, rev. ed. (1952; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986 = Loeb Classical Library, 331), pp. 4-5 (27.1.4):
cunctis metu compulsis in fugam, cum Severianum vidissent equo deturbatum, missilique telo perfossum.

And when they Severianus, who had been thrown from his horse and pierced through by a missile, they were all terrified and put to flight.
In the translation, insert "saw" before "Severianus". The mistake persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library.



Finding a Congenial Church

Page Smith, John Adams, Vol. II: 1784-1826 (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1962), pp. 772-773:
Finding a congenial church turned out to be a problem. The sermons in the Congregational churches of New York were not to John's or Abigail's liking. Most of them were delivered without notes (and showed the effects) by preachers who were old-fashioned predestinarians "whose noise and vehemence is to compensate for every other deficiency," illiberal, rigid men, priestly despots with "that solemn phiz and gait which looks so like mummery that instead of reverence they create disgust." Listening to sermons "that I cannot possibly believe," Abigail wrote Mary Cranch, "is really doing penance." The ministers' idea of eloquence consisted, Abigail noted caustically, "in foaming, loud speaking, working themselves up in such an enthusiasm as to cry, but which has no other effect upon me than to raise my pity." She longed to bear "liberal good sense ... true piety without enthusiasm, devotion without grimace, and religion upon a rational system."

Monday, March 28, 2022


The Dead and the Living

Archilochus, fragment 133 West (tr. Laura Swift):
No one is respected or famous among the citizens once he is dead. Rather we living chase after the living, and the dead always get the worst.

οὔ τις αἰδοῖος μετ᾽ ἀστῶν οὐδὲ περίφημος θανὼν
γίνεται· χάριν δὲ μᾶλλον τοῦ ζοοῦ διώκομεν
οἱ ζοοί, κάκιστα δ᾽ αἰεὶ τῷ θανόντι γίνεται.
The same, tr. Richmond Lattimore:
No man is respected, no man spoken of, when he is dead
by his townsmen. All of us, when still alive, will cultivate
the live man, and thus the dead will always have the worst of it.



Athlete of Ephesus (restored by Wilhelm Sturm from 234 bronze fragments), Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum (inv. VI 3168):
See Georg A. Plattner et al., "The Bronze Athlete from Ephesos," in Jens M. Daehner et al., edd., Artistry in Bronze: The Greeks and Their Legacy. XIXth International Congress on Ancient Bronzes (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Conservation Institute, 2017), no page numbers.


This Was All That Was Left

William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, Chapter XL:
Of sunshiny days this old gentleman was taken out in a chair on the terrace—the very chair which Miss Crawley had had at Brighton, and which had been transported thence with a number of Lady Southdown's effects to Queen's Crawley. Lady Jane always walked by the old man, and was an evident favourite with him. He used to nod many times to her and smile when she came in, and utter inarticulate deprecatory moans when she was going away. When the door shut upon her he would cry and sob—whereupon Hester's face and manner, which was always exceedingly bland and gentle while her lady was present, would change at once, and she would make faces at him and clench her fist and scream out "Hold your tongue, you stoopid old fool," and twirl away his chair from the fire which he loved to look at—at which he would cry more. For this was all that was left after more than seventy years of cunning, and struggling, and drinking, and scheming, and sin and selfishness—a whimpering old idiot put in and out of bed and cleaned and fed like a baby.

Sunday, March 27, 2022


A Compendious Climax

Ovid, Fasti 3.21 (tr. Anne and Peter Wiseman):
Mars sees her, desires what he's seen, and takes possession of what he's desired.

Mars videt hanc visamque cupit potiturque cupita.
Commentators (e.g. F.A. Paley, Hermann Peter, Franz Bömer, S.J. Heyworth; James George Frazer is unavailable to me) don't mention that this is an example of the rhetorical device known as ladder, climax, or gradatio. Older authorities do mention it, e.g. Martin Fogelmark, Dissertatio Academica, Quid sibi velit Climax, sive Gradatio Rhetorum (Uppsala: L.M. Höjer, 1757), p. 10.

Related posts:


Incantation Against Gas Pains

Benjamin R. Foster, Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature, 3rd ed. (Bethesda: CDL Press, 2005), p. 184 (§ II.23 g):
Natural atmospheric wind is, of course, beneficial (see line 3), but wind locked up in the human body is harmful. Thus the wind should come out and go to its natural habitat. See also IV.39.
Go out, wind! Go out, wind!
Go out, wind, offspring of the gods!
Go out, wind, abundance of the peoples!
Go out of the head, wind!        (5)
Go out of the eye, wind!
Go out of the mouth, wind!
Go out of the ear, wind!
Go out of the anus, wind!
Let the man be released.
Let him find rest [    ],        (10)
Cf. id., p. 973 (§ IV.39):
This may be one of the few apotheoses of flatulence in world literature; see also II.23 g.
Wind, O wind!
Wind, you are the fire of the gods.
You are the wind between turd and urine.
You have come out and taken your place
Among the gods, your brethren.
There are more apotheoses of flatulence than you might think. See for example:



The Apple of Your Eye

John Adams, letter to his son John Quincy Adams (January 23, 1788):
Preserve your Latin and Greek like the Apple of your Eye.

Saturday, March 26, 2022


From an Incantation Against a Demon

Benjamin R. Foster, Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature, 3rd ed. (Bethesda: CDL Press, 2005), p. 175:
You have tied your nose to your anus.
So there! Have I not slapped you in the face?

Friday, March 25, 2022


Complaint of an Independent Scholar

G.T. Dempsey, Aldhelm of Malmesbury and the Ending of Late Antiquity (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), p. xii:
Despite strenuous efforts by myself and by academic friends, I was never able to gain access to the library of either Trinity College or University College Dublin. So much for the community of scholars in this isle of saints and scholars (or, at least, its capital city).



P.H. Reaney, The Origin of English Surnames (London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967), p. 212:
The squeamishness which insists on spelling Rowbottom as Robathan and pronouncing it Roebotham and in pronouncing Bottom as Bot-tom and Sidebottom as Siddybottarm, also says Coburn for Cockburn, Cofield for Cockfield, Coeshot for Cockshott, Glasscoe for Glasscock, and Sandercoe for Sandercock, and has succeeded in concealing all connexion with -cock in Alcoe, Badcoe, Bayco, Hedgecoe, Hitchcoe and Simco, as in Coeshall for Coxall or Coggeshall, from Coggeshall (Ess).


The Fog of War

N. Whatley, "On the Possibility of Reconstructing Marathon and Other Ancient Battles," Journal of Hellenic Studies 84 (1964) 119-139 (at 120-121):
Battles of all periods are difficult things to reconstruct. In battle many and different events happen simultaneously and changes are rapid. The actors are in a state of excitement and extreme nervous tension—the worst possible condition for viewing a situation with a proper sense of proportion. It is impossible for anyone to know what is happening in every part of an engagement and there is unlikely to be the occasion, even if there is the desire, for an impartial inquiry and examination of representative witnesses while the battle is recent and its memory fresh. There is the greatest difficulty in distinguishing what was foreseen from what was unforeseen, able generalship from a stroke of good luck.

It is particularly difficult to discover what was in the mind of a general. The general himself may not find it easy. No battle follows one simple plan. There are not only constant improvisations to meet new situations, but constant flukes and, above all, constant mistakes. But it is only human to forget the mistakes if they do not lead to disaster and the flukes if they lead to success. Similarly, outside opinion inevitably tends to regard what happened as having been carefully thought out and intended, which is by no means always the case.
Id. (at 125):
Only three things seem to be universally true of all armies:
(1) That a man takes up a certain amount of room and that therefore a large army, especially on a narrow road, takes up a great deal of room. (Xerxes' army, for instance: compare what I have said above about Plataea.) Henderson seems to me to leave this out of account altogether in his reconstruction of the movements before the first battle of Bedriacum. From Herodotus downwards many writers about ancient wars have treated armies on the march as if they were flags stuck in with pins on a Daily Telegraph war map.

(2) That a man takes time to move and that with a long column when the head halts the rear takes a long time to come up with it (and yet someone is always surprised if an army on the march delays at all before delivering battle).

(3) That a man has a stomach which must periodically be supplied with food.
I am almost inclined to add, though they are not of quite such universal truth:
(4) That generals make mistakes and do idiotic and irrational things, and

(5) That large bodies of troops are awkward things to handle, and when in contact with the enemy always tend to settle a fight in their own way.


Love and Hate

Archilochus, fragment 23 West, lines 14-16 (tr. Laura Swift):
Indeed, I know how to love my friend
and hate and attack my enemy,
like an ant. There is truth, then, in my words.

ἐπ]ίσταμαί τοι τὸν φιλ[έο]ν[τα] μὲν φ[ι]λεῖν[,
τὸ]ν δ' ἐχθρὸν ἐχθαίρειν τε [κα]ὶ κακο[στομέειν
μύ]ρμηξ. λόγῳ νυν τ[ῷδ' ἀλη]θείη πάρ[α.
Cf. Archilochus, fragment 126 West:
                                 But one big thing I know;
to repay him who harms me with terrible harm.

                                                          ἓν δ' ἐπίσταμαι μέγα,
τὸν κακῶς <μ'> ἔρδοντα δεινοῖς ἀνταμείβεσθαι κακοῖς.
Pindar, Pythian Odes 2.83-85 (tr. Anthony Verity):
                                      Let me be a friend to my friend,
but my enemy—since I am his enemy—I shall hunt down
like a wolf, tracking him here and there on zigzag paths.

                                                          φίλον εἴη φιλεῖν·
ποτὶ δ᾿ ἐχθρὸν ἅτ᾿ ἐχθρὸς ἐὼν λύκοιο δίκαν ὑποθεύσομαι,
ἄλλ᾿ ἄλλοτε πατέων ὁδοῖς σκολιαῖς.
Matthew 5:44 ("Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you") is one of the hard sayings in F.F. Bruce, Hard Sayings of Jesus (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1983). Too hard for me.

Related posts:

Thursday, March 24, 2022


A Warning to Commentators

William Shakespeare, King Lear. Edited by Kenneth Muir (1972; rpt. London: Routledge, 1993), p. 120 (editor's note on III.iv.179-181):
Cf. Nashe, Have with You to Saffron-Walden, 1596 (ed. McKerrow, III.37): 'O, tis a precious apothegmaticall Pedant, who will finde matter inough to dilate a whole daye of the first inuention of Fy, fa, fum, I smell the bloud of an Englishman.' Nashe's words could serve as a warning to commentators.


Where My Sympathies Lie

Archilochus, fragment 20 West (tr. J.M. Edmonds):
I bewail the misfortunes of Thasos, not of Magnesia.

κλαίω τὰ Θασίων, οὐ τὰ Μαγνήτων κακά.
More literally Thasians ... Magnesians.

David Whitehead, "Polis-toponyms as personal entities (in Thucydides and elsewhere)," Museum Helveticum 53.1 (1996) 1-11 (at 2-3):
3. The doctrine in question dates back at least to the early 1960s, when it was enunciated by Moses Finley as follows: "An ancient Greek could only express the idea of Athens as a political unit by saying 'the Athenians'; the single word 'Athens' never meant anything but a spot on the map, a purely and narrowly geographical notion. One travelled to Athens; one made war against the Athenians"7. Two decades later came a fuller and (typographically) more emphatic declaration from him: "In ancient Greek such statements as 'Corinth decided' or 'Athens declared war against Sparta' were always formulated as 'the Corinthians decided', 'the Athenians declared war on the Spartans'. Athens, Corinth, Sparta were geographical place-names, not the names of political communities. Because the Athenians held as their territory the whole of the district of Attica, we risk ambiguity by saying 'Athens did this or that', 'Anaxagoras visited Athens', whereas the Greek practice was specific and clear on this score. More important for our purposes, it was psychologically and politically precise"8.

Mogens Herman Hansen, likewise, has several times pressed the same distinction: "Grækerne identiftcerede primært State med borgerne: stat = folk. Den græske historie handler om athenerne, lakedaimonierne og korinthierne. Det er aldrig Athen og Lakedaimon, der fører krig, altid athenerne og lakedaimonierne". Thus Hansen in 19789; and subsequent (English) versions have been essentially unchanged10.

4. Such a view, then, has been repeatedly uttered by Finley and Hansen, echoed by others11, taught to students (experto credite), and never, to my knowledge, challenged12. It is orthodoxy on the subject.

7 M.I. Finley, The Ancient Greeks (London 1963) 35.

8 M.I. Finley in M.I. Finley (ed.), The Legacy of Greece: a new appraisal (Oxford 1984) 10.

9 M.H. Hansen, Det Athenske Demokrati i 4. århundrede f.Kr I: staten, folket, forfatningen (Copenhagen 1978) 15.

10 M.H. Hansen, The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes (Oxford 1991) 58: "... the Greeks identified the State primarily with its people — a State is a people ... in all the sources, from documents and historical accounts to poetry and legend, it is the people who are stressed and not the territory ... It was never Athens and Sparta that went to war but always 'the Athenians and the Lakedaimonians'." The same verbatim in Hansen op.cit. (n. 3 above) 7-8. Thuc. 1.1.1 (evidently τὸν πόλεμον τῶν Πελοποννησίων καὶ Ἀθηναίων) was the supporting example cited in 1978, 5.25.1 (evidently τὴν ξυμμαχίαν τῶν Λακεδαιμονίων καὶ τῶν Ἀθηναίων) in 1991/1993.

11 Including the present writer — see M.H. Crawford/D. Whitehead, Archaic and Classical Greece (Cambridge 1983) 4: "the polis was at the centre of a man's life, consisting above all of the men who composed its citizen body and only secondarily involving a geographical location — the Athenians, the Spartans, and not Athens, Sparta". The words are Crawford's, in this instance, but at the time Whitehead was in full agreement. See also S. Hornblower, Thucydides (London 1987) 181, who refers to "the undoubted linguistic fact that in political contexts the Greek for Athens is, as everyone who learns to write a Greek prose is taught, not Athenai but hoi Athenaioi".

12 It fell outside the brief of W. Gawantka, Die sogenannte Polis (Stuttgart 1985).
In the rest of his brilliant article Whitehead shows that the rule is not ironclad, and that there are many counter-examples in Greek prose.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022


A Gift for Apollo

Diodorus Siculus 11.33.2 (after the Battle of Plataea in 479 B.C.; tr. C.H. Oldfather, with his note):
The Greeks, taking a tenth part of the spoils, made a gold tripod and set it up in Delphi as a thank-offering to the God, inscribing on it the following couplet:
This is the gift the saviours of far-flung Hellas upraised here,
Having delivered their states from loathsome slavery's bonds.1
1 This inscription is found only in Diodorus, and is dubiously attributed to Simonides (frag. 102 Diehl; 168 Edmonds).

οἱ δ᾽ Ἕλληνες ἐκ τῶν λαφύρων δεκάτην ἐξελόμενοι κατεσκεύασαν χρυσοῦν τρίποδα, καὶ ἀνέθηκαν εἰς Δελφοὺς χαριστήριον τῷ θεῷ, ἐπιγράψαντες ἐλεγεῖον τόδε,
Ἑλλάδος εὐρυχόρου σωτῆρες τόνδ᾽ ἀνέθηκαν,
    δουλοσύνης στυγερᾶς ῥυσάμενοι πόλιας.
See Marcus N. Tod, A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions to the End of the Fifth Century B.C., 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1946), pp. 22-24, and Peter Green, The Greco-Persian Wars (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), pp. 273-274.


The Sack of Rome

Joseph-Noël Sylvestre (1847–1926), Le sac de Rome en 410 par les barbares, in Sète, France, Musée Paul Valéry (inv. no. 891-3-1):

Monday, March 21, 2022


Invented Words

Edwin Muir (1887-1959), An Autobiography, rev. ed. (1954; rpt. London: Methuen, 1964), p. 17:
Whenever Sutherland got drunk he began to invent language. I can't remember now many of his feats in this way, but he liked words with a dashing Spanish sound, like 'yickahooka' and 'navahonta.' He was so pleased with the word 'tramcollicken,' which he invented himself, that he gave it a specific meaning which I had better not mention; but the word became so popular that it spread all over Wyre. From somewhere or other he had picked up 'graminivorous,' which struck him by its comic sound, and for a long time his usual greeting was, "Weel, boy, how's thee graminivorous tramcollicken?"
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Boast of L. Aemilius Paulus

Livy 45.39.16 (tr. Alfred C. Schlesinger):
I possess a body adorned with honourable scars, every one of them received in front.

insigne corpus honestis cicatricibus, omnibus adverso corpore exceptis, habeo.
See Matthew Leigh, "Wounding and Popular Rhetoric at Rome," Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 40 (1995) 195-215.

Related posts:


You're Cracked

Aristophanes, Clouds 1276 (Strepsiades to Second Creditor; tr. Stephen Halliwell):
I think your brain must have had a right old bashing.

τὸν ἐγκέφαλον ὥσπερ σεσεῖσθαί μοι δοκεῖς.
The same, tr. Benjamin Bickley Rogers:
I shrewdly guess your brain's received a shake.
A useful quotation. I can imagine using it half a dozen times a day.

K.J. Dover ad loc.:
ἐγκέφαλον: Although their terminology presupposes that thought and feeling are functions of organs located in the trunk, the Greeks could not fail to observe the effects of injury to the brain. Cf. Hp. Aph. vii.58, 'When the brain has been shaken, the patient necessarily loses the power of speech at once'. ὥσπερ: Not 'I think you have, as it were, had your brain shaken' but 'I think you are like a man who has ...'. Cf. Pax 234 f. ὥσπερ ᾐσθόμην ... θυείας φθέγμα 'I caught a sound like that of a mortar'.
Alan H. Sommerstein ad loc. quotes Hippocrates, Coan Prognoses 489 (vol. 5, p. 696 Littré):
Those whose brain is shaken and damaged by blows or otherwise fall down forthwith, lose the power of speech, can nei­ther see nor hear, and generally die.

Sunday, March 20, 2022


We Are a People

Edwin Muir (1887-1959), "The Difficult Land," Collected Poems (London: Faber and Faber, 1960), pp. 237-238 (line numbers added):
This is a difficult land. Here things miscarry
Whether we care, or do not care enough.
The grain may pine, the harlot weed grow haughty,
Sun, rain, and frost alike conspire against us:
You'd think there was malice in the very air.        5
And the spring floods and summer droughts: our fields
Mile after mile of soft and useless dust.
On dull delusive days presaging rain
We yoke the oxen, go out harrowing,
Walk in the middle of an ochre cloud,         10
Dust rising before us and falling again behind us,
Slowly and gently settling where it lay.
These days the earth itself looks sad and senseless.
And when next day the sun mounts hot and lusty
We shake our fists and kick the ground in anger.         15
We have strange dreams: as that, in the early morning
We stand and watch the silver drift of stars
Turn suddenly to a flock of black-birds flying.
And once in a lifetime men from over the border,
In early summer, the season of fresh campaigns,         20
Come trampling down the corn, and kill our cattle.
These things we know and by good luck or guidance
Either frustrate or, if we must, endure.
We are a people; race and speech support us,
Ancestral rite and custom, roof and tree,         25
Our songs that tell of our triumphs and disasters
(Fleeting alike), continuance of fold and hearth,
Our names and callings, work and rest and sleep,
And something that, defeated, still endures—
These things sustain us. Yet there are times        30
When name, identity, and our very hands,
Senselessly labouring, grow most hateful to us,
And we would gladly rid us of these burdens
(Which yet are knit to us as flesh to bone),
Enter our darkness through the doors of wheat        35
And the light veil of grass (leaving behind
Name, body, country, speech, vocation, faith)
And gather into the secrecy of the earth
Furrowed by broken ploughs lost deep in time.

We have such hours, but are drawn back again        40
By faces of goodness, faithful masks of sorrow,
Honesty, kindness, courage, fidelity,
The love that lasts a life's time. And the fields,
Homestead and stall and barn, springtime and autumn.
(For we can love even the wandering seasons        45
In their inhuman circuit.) And the dead
Who lodge in us so strangely, unremembered,
Yet in their place. For how can we reject
The long last look on the ever-dying face
Turned backward from the other side of time?        50
And how offend the dead and shame the living
By these despairs? And how refrain from love?
This is a difficult country, and our home.
I added line 34 (missing in Collected Poems) from Muir's One Foot in Eden.


Arrival of Spring

Ovid, Fasti 3.235-242 (tr. James George Frazer, rev. G.P. Goold):
Moreover, frosty winter then at last retires, and the snows perish, melted by the warm sun; the leaves, shorn by the cold, return to the trees, and moist within the tender shoot the bud doth swell; now too the rank grass, long hidden, discovers secret paths whereby to lift its head in air. Now is the field fruitful, now is the hour for breeding cattle, now doth the bird upon the bough construct a nest and home.

quid, quod hiems adoperta gelu tum denique cedit,        235
    et pereunt lapsae sole tepente nives;
arboribus redeunt detonsae frigore frondes,
    uvidaque in tenero palmite gemma tumet;
quaeque diu latuit, nunc se qua tollat in auras,
    fertilis occultas invenit herba vias?        240
nunc fecundus ager, pecoris nunc hora creandi,
    nunc avis in ramo tecta laremque parat.

Saturday, March 19, 2022


The Target of Envy

Livy 45.35.5 (tr. Alfred C. Schlesinger):
Moderate circumstances are unassailed by envy; that passion always aims at the heights.

intacta invidia media sunt; ad summa ferme tendit.


O Florious Dame!

Ovid, Fasti. With an English Translation by James George Frazer. Revised by G.P. Goold, 2nd edition reprinted with corrections (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996 = Loeb Classical Library, 253), pp. 382-383 (Fasti 6.810):
o decus, o sacra femina digna domo!

O florious dame! O lady worthy of that sacred house!
Read glorious instead of florious. The mistake persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library. The original 1931 edition has the correct reading (glorious).


Friday, March 18, 2022


Easy Prey

Aristotle, Rhetoric 1.12.20 (1372b; tr. J.H. Freese, with his note):
And those who have often been wronged but have not prosecuted, being, as the proverb says, "Mysian booty."b

b A proverb meaning "an easy prey." The Mysians were regarded as cowardly and unwarlike.

καὶ τοὺς ὑπὸ πολλῶν ἀδικηθέντας καὶ μὴ ἐπεξελθόντας, ὡς ὄντας κατὰ τὴν παροιμίαν τούτους Μυσῶν λείαν.
Edward Meredith Cope (rev. John Edwin Sandys) ad loc.:
'And those who have been wronged by many and yet never prosecuted, or taken vengeance on, the aggressors, these being what the proverb calls Mysians' spoil', that is, an easy prey. Μυσῶν λεία dicitur de possessione quae defensore caret et obnoxia est direptori cuivis, Dissen ad Dem. de Corona, § 72; of anything that may be plundered with impunity, Liddell and Scott, Lex.; von allem durchaus preisgegebenen, Rost u. Palm, L. Harpocration and Suidas, s. vv., both explain the origin of the proverb to be the defenceless state of Mysia during the absence of their king Telephus, the famous beggar-hero of Euripides, and Horace's type of a pauper. See also Stallbaum's note on Gorgias 521 B, who quotes Olympiodorus (on the passage of Plato), ἡ παροιμία αὕτη ἐκ τοῦ Τηλέφου ἐστὶν Εὐριπίδου, ἐκεῖ γάρ κ.τ.λ. Whatever may be the origin of this proverb, it certainly was not derived from Euripides' play: for Harpocration expressly says that it is to be found in Strattis (the Comic poet) and Simonides ἐν ἰάμβοις. This last is probably Simonides of Amorgos, a very early writer; but if it be the other Simonides, of Ceos, it is equally impossible that he could have derived it from Euripides, since he died when Euripides was a child.

The above explanations seem to be founded upon the helpless condition of the Mysian people under some special circumstances which deprived them of their ordinary means of self-defence. I should rather suppose that the proverb implies an imputation upon their national character, because another proverbial expression, at least as common as this, represents the Mysians, as sharing with the Carians, the reputation of being the vilest and most contemptible of mankind; the property of such mean and cowardly wretches would naturally be an easy prey to any one who chose to take it. This imputation of cowardice or weakness is directly conveyed by Aristotle in the passage before us. This brings the two proverbs together as the expression of the same features of national character. This will furnish a sufficient explanation of Gorg. 521 B, εἰ σοι Μυσόν γε ἥδιον καλεῖν, and we need not have recourse with Stallbaum and Heindorf (ad loc. § 162) to the Μυσῶν λείαν to interpret it. This proverbial contempt for the Mysian character appears in Rhes. 251, Pl. Theaet. 209 (Schol. in Heindorf and Stallbaum), Magnes, (Com.) Fr. Poastriae (in Meineke's Fragm. Comic. Gr. II 11), Philemon, Sicel. fr. 3 (Meineke u. s. IV 25), Menand. Androg. VII (Schol. Gorg. u. s., and Mein. IV 86), and Menand. Fr. Inc. 481 (Mein. IV 327), all in the words Μυσῶν ὁ ἔσχατος, 'the last and lowest—even of the Mysians', worthlessness can go no further. Cic. pro Flacco, 27. 65, quid in Graeco sermone tam tritum et celebratum est, quam si quis despicatui ducitur, ut 'Mysorum ultimus' esse dicatur. Ib. 2. 3; 40. 100; Orat. VIII 27, quonam igitur modo audiretur Mysus aut Phryx Athenis, quum etiam Demosthenes, &c. ad Quint. Fratr. I 1. 6 hominis ne Graeci quidem, at Mysii aut Phrygii potius. (Erasm. Adag. Mysorum postremus, p. 354.) The other form of the proverb occurs in Dem. de Cor. p. 248, § 72, τὴν Μυσῶν λείαν καλουμένην, in Strattis, Medea, (fr. Harpocr.) Mein. II 776. (Erasm. Adag. Mysorum praeda, p. 1774.)
I can think of some modern nations that refuse to defend their borders and hence could aptly be described by this proverb.

Thursday, March 17, 2022


National Characters

Livy 45.23.14 (speech of the Rhodian ambassadors; tr. Alfred C. Schlesinger):
The character of states is like that of individual men; some nations are hot-tempered, some bold, some diffident, some over-indulgent in wine, others in sex.

tam civitatium quam singulorum hominum mores sunt; gentes quoque aliae iracundae, aliae audaces, quaedam timidae, in vinum, in venerem proniores aliae sunt.
Cf. id., 45.30.7:
This part of the world is as a whole cold, difficult to cultivate, and harsh; it has inhabitants of temperament like their land.

frigida haec omnis duraque cultu et aspera plaga est; cultorum quoque ingenia terrae similia habet.



Aristophanes, Acharnians 500 (tr. Jeffery Henderson):
For even comedy knows about what's right.

τὸ γὰρ δίκαιον οἶδε καὶ τρυγῳδία.
This reminds me of Horace, Satires 1.1.24-25 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
What is to prevent one from telling truth as he laughs?

ridentem dicere verum / quid vetat?
Related post: A Wise Man Is Known by Much Laughing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022


Men Are Made of What Is Made

Edwin Muir (1887-1959), "The Island," Collected Poems (London: Faber and Faber, 1960), pp. 248-249 (line numbers added):
Your arms will clasp the gathered grain
For your good time, and wield the flail
In merry fire and summer hail.
There stand the golden hills of corn
Which all the heroic clans have borne,        5
And bear the herdsmen of the plain,
The horseman in the mountain pass,
The archaic goat with silver horn,
Man, dog and flock and fruitful hearth.
Harvests of men to men give birth.        10
These the ancestral faces bred
And show as through a golden glass
Dances and temples of the dead.
Here speak through the transmuted tongue
The full grape bursting in the press,        15
The barley seething in the vat,
Which earth and man as one confess,
Babbling of what both would be at
In garrulous story and drunken song.
Though come a different destiny,        20
Though fall a universal wrong
More stern than simple savagery,
Men are made of what is made,
The meat, the drink, the life, the corn
Laid up by them, in them reborn.        25
And self-begotten cycles close
About our way; indigenous art
And simple spells make unafraid
The haunted labyrinths of the heart,
And with our wild succession braid        30
The resurrection of the rose.



Against Leniency in the Treatment of Slaves

Plato, Laws 6.777e-778a (tr. R.G. Bury):
We ought to punish slaves justly, and not to make them conceited by merely admonishing them as we would free men. An address to a servant should be mostly a simple command: there should be no jesting with servants, either male or female, for by a course of excessively foolish indulgence in their treatment of their slaves, masters often make life harder both for themselves, as rulers, and for their slaves, as subject to rule.

κολάζειν γε μὴν ἐν δίκῃ δούλους δεῖ, καὶ μὴ νουθετοῦντας ὡς ἐλευθέρους θρύπτεσθαι ποιεῖν· τὴν δὲ οἰκέτου πρόσρησιν χρὴ σχεδὸν ἐπίταξιν πᾶσαν γίγνεσθαι, μὴ προσπαίζοντας μηδαμῇ μηδαμῶς οἰκέταις, μήτ᾽ οὖν θηλείαις μήτε ἄρρεσιν, ἃ δὴ πρὸς δούλους φιλοῦσι πολλοὶ σφόδρα ἀνοήτως θρύπτοντες χαλεπώτερον ἀπεργάζεσθαι τὸν βίον ἐκείνοις τε ἄρχεσθαι καὶ ἑαυτοῖς ἄρχειν.

From Joel Eidsath:
I thought that Bury's translation missed some of the main contrast in this passage. He has to add color like that "merely" because of it. And I don't think "conceited" is quite right. In translation, it comes across as ever so slightly a shade more patronizing than Plato is actually being towards slaves.

"Slaves really have to be *corrected* with punishments and not be made to lose discipline in verbally criticizing them like with freemen. The address to a household servant should be nearly entirely command, not ever bantering with any servant in any way, neither indeed with the females, nor with the males; really, many love this banter with slaves and are very short-sightedly breaking discipline to work out a more difficult life both for those who take orders and also for themselves who give them."

You can see that I took ἐν δίκῃ as "with punishments", because I don't see any sense that masters are being called on to act especially justly. Instead, I try to show κολάζειν ἐν δίκῃ as directly contrasting νουθετεῖν ὡς ἐλευθέρους.


A Second Fatherland

Livy 44.39.2-5 (speech of L. Aemilius Paullus; tr. Alfred C. Schlesinger):
Your ancestors regarded a fortified camp as a haven against all the mischances of an army, whence they might go out to fight, and whither they might find shelter from the storm of battle. Therefore when they had walled in their camp with fortifications, they used also to strengthen it with a powerful garrison, because one who had been stripped of his camp, even though he had won the battle, would be considered the loser. Camp is the shelter of the conqueror, the refuge of the conquered. How many armies meeting with none too favourable fortune in battle, after being driven within their rampart, have in their own good time, sometimes after only a moment, sallied forth and routed the victorious enemy? This abode is a second home for the soldier, its rampart takes the place of city walls and his own tent is the soldier's dwelling and hearthside.

maiores vestri castra munita portum ad omnis casus exercitus ducebant esse, unde ad pugnam exirent, quo iactati tempestate pugnae receptum haberent. ideo, cum munimentis ea saepsissent, praesidio quoque valido firmabant, quod, qui castris exutus erat, etiamsi pugnando acie vicisset, pro victo haberetur. castra sunt victori receptaculum, victo perfugium. quam multi exercitus, quibus minus prospera pugnae fortuna fuit, intra vallum compulsi tempore suo, interdum momento post, eruptione facta victorem hostem pepulerunt? patria altera est militaris haec sedes, vallumque pro moenibus et tentorium suum cuique militi domus ac penates sunt.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022



Most dictionaries of ancient Greek (at least all that I've consulted, including the new Cambridge Greek Lexicon, p. 1272) define σκιμαλίζω as give someone the finger, i.e. raise the middle finger with palm facing inward as an obscene sign of contempt.

But Max Nelson, "Insulting Middle-Finger Gestures among Ancient Greeks and Romans," Phoenix 71.1/2 (Spring/Summer, 2017) 66-88 (at 67-77), argues convincingly that the primary meaning of σκιμαλίζω is goose, i.e. insert a finger into someone else's anus.

Red-figure vase by the Berlin Painter, at Geneva, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, inv. no. I 529:
Note the two figures at the upper right.

Monday, March 14, 2022


Yours Not to Reason Why

Livy 44.34.2-5 (reported speech of L. Aemilius Paullus; tr. Alfred C. Schlesinger):
There should be a single general in an army who foresees and plans what should be done, sometimes by himself, sometimes with the advisers he calls into council. Those who are not called into council should not air their own views publicly or privately. A soldier should concern himself with the following: his body, to keep it as strong and as nimble as possible; the good condition of his weapons; and the readiness of his food-supply for unexpected orders. For the rest, he should realize that the immortal gods and his general are taking care of him. In an army in which the soldiers deliberate and the general is led about by the gossip of the rank and file, conditions are utterly unsound. For my part, I shall do the duty of a general — that is, see to it that you have an opportunity for successful action. You ought not to ask what is going to happen, but when the signal is given, then do your duty as soldiers.

unum imperatorem in exercitu providere et consulere quid agendum sit debere, nunc per se, nunc cum iis, quos advocarit in consilium; qui non sint advocati, eos nec palam nec secreto iactare consilia sua. militem haec tria curare debere, corpus ut quam validissimum et pernicissimum habeat, arma apta, cibum paratum ad subita imperia; cetera scire de se dis immortalibus et imperatori suo curae esse. in quo exercitu milites consultent, imperator rumoribus vulgi circumagatur, ibi nihil salutare esse. se quod sit officium imperatoris provisurum ut bene gerendae rei occasionem iis praebeat: illos nihil quid futurum sit quaerere, ubi datum signum sit, tum militarem navare <operam debere>.

operam debere add. Madvig


Enemies to Mankind

Ammianus Marcellinus 22.5.4 (him = the Emperor Julian; tr. Walter Hamilton):
Experience had taught him that no wild beasts are such dangerous enemies to man as Christians are to one another.
Latin text and apparatus from Jacques Fontaine's Budé edition:
nullas infestas hominibus bestias <ut> sunt sibi ferales plerique Christianorum expertus

ut sunt Gel. Rol.: sunt V, Cl. Sey. || ferales W2, Lin. Rol.: -libus V, Cl. Sey. || plerique V, Rol.: -isque Gel. Mom. Cl. Sey.

Sunday, March 13, 2022


Cultural Bankruptcy

Christopher Lasch (1932-1994), The Culture of Narcissism (1979; rpt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1991), p. xviii:
Far from regarding it as a useless encumbrance, I see the past as a political and psychological treasury from which we draw the reserves (not necessarily in the form of "lessons") that we need to cope with the future. Our culture's indifference to the past—which easily shades over into active hostility and rejection—furnishes the most telling proof of that culture's bankruptcy. The prevailing attitude, so cheerful and forward-looking on the surface, derives from a narcissistic impoverishment of the psyche and also from an inability to ground our needs in the experience of satisfaction and contentment. Instead of drawing on our own experience, we allow experts to define our needs for us and then wonder why those needs never seem to be satisfied.
Id., p. 5:
To live for the moment is the prevailing passion—to live for yourself, not for your predecessors or posterity. We are fast losing the sense of historical continuity, the sense of belonging to a succession of generations originating in the past and stretching into the future.
Cf. Plato, Laws 4.721c (tr. Trevor J. Saunders):
Thus mankind is by nature a companion of eternity, and is linked to it, and will be linked to it, for ever. Mankind is immortal because it always leaves later generations behind to preserve its unity and identity for all time: it gets its share of immortality by means of procreation.

γένος οὖν ἀνθρώπων ἐστίν τι συμφυὲς τοῦ παντὸς χρόνου, ὃ διὰ τέλους αὐτῷ συνέπεται καὶ συνέψεται, τούτῳ τῷ τρόπῳ ἀθάνατον ὄν, τῷ παῖδας παίδων καταλειπόμενον, ταὐτὸν καὶ ἓν ὂν ἀεί, γενέσει τῆς ἀθανασίας μετειληφέναι.


Vom Himmel Hoch

Anacreontea 56 (tr. David A. Campbell):
The god who gives the troubled man endurance, the young man courage in love, the dancer beauty in drunkenness, has come down to earth, bringing wine to mortals, a gentle love-charm, a potion to banish grief, the child of the vine. He keeps it shackled in the fruit of the vine-branches so that when men cut the grape-bunches they may all stay healthy — healthy in handsome body, healthy in pleasant mind — till the next year appears.

ὁ τὸν ἐν πόνοις ἀτειρῆ,
νέον ἐν πόθοις ἀταρβῆ,
καλὸν ἐν πότοις χορευτήν
τελέων θεὸς κατῆλθε,
ἁπαλὸν βροτοῖσι φίλτρον,        5
πόθον ἄστονον κομίζων,
γόνον ἀμπέλου, τὸν οἶνον,
πεπεδημένον ὀπώραις
ἐπὶ κλημάτων φυλάττων,
ἵν᾽ ὅταν τέμωσι βότρυν        10
ἄνοσοι μένωσι πάντες,
ἄνοσοι δέμας θεητόν,
ἄνοσοι γλυκύν τε θυμόν
ἐς ἔτους φανέντος ἄλλου.
Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, "Die griechische Literatur des Altertums," Die Griechische und Lateinische Literatur und Sprache (Berlin: B.G. Teubner, 1905), pp. 1-236 (at 25):
Heutzutage können die Anakreonteen als Schibboleth dienen: wem diese matte Limonade nicht unausstehlich ist, der soll nicht nach dem hellenischen Weine greifen.
I like a glass of lemonade now and then, even weak lemonade.

Saturday, March 12, 2022


The Professor of Profligacy

Alexis, fragment 25, from the Teacher of Profligacy = Ἀσωτοδιδάσκαλος (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
What's this nonsense you are talking, for ever babbling, this way and that,
of the Lyceum, the Academy, and the Odeum gates —
mere sophists' rubbish? There's no good in them.
Let's drink, and drink our fill, my Sicon, Sicon!
Let's have a good time while we may still keep the life in our bodies.        5
Whoop it up, Manes! There's nothing nicer than the belly.
That is your father, and again, your only mother.
Ethics, embassies, army tactics —
fine pretences that sound hollow, like dreams.
Fate will snuff you out at the appointed time.        10
You will have only what you eat and drink.
All the rest is dust — Pericles, Codrus, Cimon.

τί ταῦτα ληρεῖς, φληναφῶν ἄνω κάτω
Λύκειον, Ἀκαδήμειαν, Ὠιδείου πύλας,
λήρους σοφιστῶν; οὐδὲ ἓν τούτων καλόν.
πίνωμεν, ἐμπίνωμεν, ὦ Σίκων, Σίκων,
χαίρωμεν, ἕως ἔνεστι τὴν ψυχὴν τρέφειν.        5
τύρβαζε, Μάνη· γαστρὸς οὐδὲν ἥδιον.
αὕτη πατήρ σοι καὶ πάλιν μήτηρ μόνη.
ἀρεταὶ δὲ πρεσβεῖαί τε καὶ στρατηγίαι
κόμποι κενὰ ψοφοῦντες ἀντʼ ὀνειράτων.
ψύξει σε δαίμων τῷ πεπρωμένῳ χρόνῳ·        10
ἕξεις δʼ ὅσʼ ἂν φάγῃς τε καὶ πίῃς μόνα·
σποδὸς δὲ τἄλλα, Περικλέης, Κόδρος, Κίμων.
See W. Geoffrey Arnott, Alexis: The Fragments, A Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 819-830, who includes this fragment among the "False or Doubtful Attributions".

Friday, March 11, 2022


The Good Old Days

Teleclides, fragment 1, from his Amphictyonies, preserved chiefly in Athenaeus 6.268a-d (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
I will, then, tell of the life of old which I provided for mortals.
First, there was peace over all, like water over hands.
The earth produced no terror and no disease; on the other hand, things needful came of their own accord.
Every torrent flowed with wine, barley-cakes strove with wheat-loaves
for men's lips, beseeching that they be swallowed        5
if men loved the whitest. Fishes would come to the house
and bake themselves, then serve themselves on the tables.
A river of broth, whirling hot slices of meat, would flow by the couches;
conduits full of piquant sauces for the meat were close at hand for the asking,
so that there was plenty for moistening a mouthful and swallowing it tender.        10
On dishes there would be honey-cakes all sprinkled with spices,
and roast thrushes served up with milk-cakes were flying into the gullet.
The flat-cakes jostled each other at the jaws and set up a racket,
the slaves would shoot dice with slices of paunch and tid-bits.
Men were fat in those days and every bit mighty giants.        15

λέξω τοίνυν βίον ἐξ ἀρχῆς ὃν ἐγὼ θνητοῖσι παρεῖχον.
εἰρήνη μὲν πρῶτον ἁπάντων ἦν ὥσπερ ὕδωρ κατὰ χειρός.
ἡ γῆ δ᾿ ἔφερ᾿ οὐ δέος οὐδὲ νόσους, ἀλλ᾿ αὐτόματ᾿ ἦν τὰ δέοντα·
οἴνῳ γὰρ ἅπασ᾿ ἔρρει χαράδρα, μᾶζαι δ᾿ ἄρτοις ἐμάχοντο
περὶ τοῖς στόμασιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἱκετεύουσαι καταπίνειν,        5
εἴ τι φιλοῖεν, τὰς λευκοτάτας. οἱ δ᾿ ἰχθύες οἴκαδ᾿ ἰόντες
ἐξοπτῶντες σφᾶς αὐτοὺς ἂν παρέκειντ᾿ ἐπὶ ταῖσι τραπέζαις.
ζωμοῦ δ᾿ ἔρρει παρὰ τὰς κλίνας ποταμὸς κρέα θερμὰ κυλίνδων,
ὑποτριμματίων δ᾿ ὀχετοὶ τούτων τοῖς βουλομένοισι παρῆσαν,
ὥστ᾿ ἀφθονία τὴν ἔνθεσιν ἦν ἄρδονθ᾿ ἁπαλὴν καταπίνειν.        10
λεκανίσκαισιν δ᾿ † ἀνάπαιστα † παρῆν ἡδυσματίοις κατάπαστα.
ὀπταὶ δὲ κίχλαι μετ᾿ ἀμητίσκων εἰς τὸν φάρυγ᾿ εἰσεπέτοντο·
τῶν δὲ πλακούντων ὠστιζομένων περὶ τὴν γνάθον ἦν ἀλαλητός.
μήτρας δὲ τόμοις καὶ χναυματίοις οἱ παῖδες ἂν ἠστραγάλιζον.
οἱ δ᾿ ἄνθρωποι πίονες ἦσαν τότε καὶ μέγα χρῆμα γιγάντων.        15
Apparatus from R. Kassel and C. Austin, edd., Poetae Comici Graeci, Vol. VII: Menecrates — Xenophon (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1989), pp. 669-670:
See also S. Douglas Olson, Broken Laughter. Select Fragments of Greek Comedy. Edited with Introduction, Commentary, and Translation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 75-76, 101-103, 427-428.


The Origin of the City

Plato, Republic 2.11 (369b-d; tr. Paul Shorey):
"The origin of the city, then," said I, "in my opinion, is to be found in the fact that we do not severally suffice for our own needs, but each of us lacks many things. Do you think any other principle establishes the state?"

"No other," said he.

"As a result of this, then, one man calling in another for one service and another for another, we, being in need of many things, gather many into one place of abode as associates and helpers, and to this dwelling together we give the name city or state, do we not?"

"By all means."

"And between one man and another there is an interchange of giving, if it so happens, and taking, because each supposes this to be better for himself."


"Come, then, let us create a city from the beginning, in our theory. Its real creator, as it appears, will be our needs."


"Now the first and chief of our needs is the provision of food for existence and life."


"The second is housing and the third is raiment and that sort of thing."

"That is so."

"Tell me, then," said I, "how our city will suffice for the provision of all these things. Will there not be a farmer for one, and a builder, and then again a weaver? And shall we add thereto a cobbler and some other purveyor for the needs of body?"


"The indispensable minimum of a city, then, would consist of four or five men."

γίγνεται τοίνυν, ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ, πόλις, ὡς ἐγᾦμαι, ἐπειδὴ τυγχάνει ἡμῶν ἕκαστος οὐκ αὐτάρκης, ἀλλὰ πολλῶν ὢν ἐνδεής· ἢ τίν᾽ οἴει ἀρχὴν ἄλλην πόλιν οἰκίζειν;

οὐδεμίαν, ἦ δ᾽ ὅς.

οὕτω δὴ ἄρα παραλαμβάνων ἄλλος ἄλλον, ἐπ᾽ ἄλλου, τὸν δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἄλλου χρείᾳ, πολλῶν δεόμενοι, πολλοὺς εἰς μίαν οἴκησιν ἀγείραντες κοινωνούς τε καὶ βοηθούς, ταύτῃ τῇ συνοικίᾳ ἐθέμεθα πόλιν ὄνομα· ἦ γάρ;

πάνυ μὲν οὖν.

μεταδίδωσι δὴ ἄλλος ἄλλῳ, εἴ τι μεταδίδωσιν, ἢ μεταλαμβάνει, οἰόμενος αὑτῷ ἄμεινον εἶναι;

πάνυ γε.

ἴθι δή, ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ, τῷ λόγῳ ἐξ ἀρχῆς ποιῶμεν πόλιν: ποιήσει δὲ αὐτήν, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἡ ἡμετέρα χρεία.

πῶς δ᾽ οὔ;

ἀλλὰ μὴν πρώτη γε καὶ μεγίστη τῶν χρειῶν ἡ τῆς τροφῆς παρασκευὴ τοῦ εἶναί τε καὶ ζῆν ἕνεκα.

παντάπασί γε.

δευτέρα δὴ οἰκήσεως, τρίτη δὲ ἐσθῆτος καὶ τῶν τοιούτων.

ἔστι ταῦτα.

φέρε δή, ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ, πῶς ἡ πόλις ἀρκέσει ἐπὶ τοσαύτην παρασκευήν; ἄλλο τι γεωργὸς μὲν εἷς, ὁ δὲ οἰκοδόμος, ἄλλος δέ τις ὑφάντης; ἢ καὶ σκυτοτόμον αὐτόσε προσθήσομεν ἤ τιν᾽ ἄλλον τῶν περὶ τὸ σῶμα θεραπευτήν;

πάνυ γε.

εἴη δ᾽ ἂν ἥ γε ἀναγκαιοτάτη πόλις ἐκ τεττάρων ἢ πέντε ἀνδρῶν.
Related post: I Hear America Singing.

Thursday, March 10, 2022



Clearchus, fragment 63 Wehrli, quoted by Athenaeus 10.457e-f (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
[T]he ancients preferred such problems as these: answering the first guest who recited an epic or iambic line, each one in turn capped it with the next verse; or, if one recited the gist of a passage, another answered with one from some other poet to show that he had spoken to the same effect; further, each in turn would recite an iambic verse. In addition to this each would recite a metrical line containing as many syllables as were prescribed, or as many as kept to the correct theory of letters and syllables. Similarly to what has been described, they would tell the name of each leader against Troy, or of each leader among the Trojans, or tell the name of a city in Asia — all beginning with a given letter; then the next man and all the rest would take turns in telling the name of a city in Europe, whether Greek or barbarian, as prescribed. Thus their very play, being not unreflective, became a revelation of the friendly terms with culture on which each guest stood; and as a reward for success they set up a crown and bestowed applause, by which, more than anything else, mutual friendship is rendered sweet.

Wednesday, March 09, 2022


Modishly Crude Translations

Anne Pippin Burnett, Three Archaic Poets: Archilochus, Alcaeus, Sappho (London: Duckworth, 1983; rpt. 1988), p. 15:
In recent times, however, Archilochus has been the subject of another kind of admiration, for modishly crude translations have made him the brother of certain contemporary poets, while scholars have set him at the opening of their histories of the so-called Western mind.
This is probably an allusion to Carmina Archilochi: The Fragments of Archilochus. Translated from the Greek by Guy Davenport. Forward by Hugh Kenner (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964), reviewed unfavorably by Burnett in Classical Philology 60.1 (January, 1965) 49-51, e.g. (at 50):
...his intention being to transform the old poet into something preciously modern: the affected, apocryphal familiar of some youthful pseudo-Pound.


Current Events

John Dos Passos, 1919 (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932), p. 92 (he = Blake "Ned" Wigglesworth):
[W]henever politics or the war or anything like that came up he had a way of closing his eyes and throwing back his head and saying Blahblahblahblah.


The Vanity of Earthly Glory

Petrarch, Africa 6.885-918 ("the Punic youth" = Hannibal's brother Mago; tr. Thomas G. Bergin and Alice S. Wilson):
And as the Punic youth thus fared upon
mid-ocean, there the ever-waxing pain
of his deep wound and the clear prescience
of bitter death, as if with fiery goads,
assailed his fever-stricken breast. Aware
that his last hour drew nigh, he voiced his grief:
"Ah, sorry ending to my life of glory!
How blind the soul to its true good and weal!
What mad, tempestuous force of folly moves
a man of mark to struggle to ascend
vertiginous heights! The summit is exposed
to countless tempests, and ascent must end
in ruinous collapse. The lofty peak,
deluding hope of man, is hollow fame
daubed with the glittering tint of false delight.
Our lives are wasted in incessant toil
of no sure issue; only our last day,
to which we give no heed, is fixed and sure.
Alas for the injustice of man's lot:
the brutes in peace live out their tranquil lives;
mankind alone is harried and harrassed
and driven through laborious year on year
along the road to death. Nay, Death, thou art
the fairest thing we know; thou dost erase
our faults and dissipate our idle dreams,
quenching our lives. At last I can perceive
how long and fruitless have my labors been.
What countless toils I've faced that I might well
have put aside! Doomed though he be to die,
man still aspires to Heaven, but death reveals
the worth of his endeavor. What served it me
to ravage Latium with fire and sword,
to breach the universal peace that ruled
throughout the world and spread a panic fear
in countless cities? What did it avail
to raise up golden palaces and gird
their walls with marble if I am at last
to die, ill-starred, upon the lonely sea?
Dear brother, what are you devising now,
all unaware of Fortune's plan and of
my wretched lot?" And, as he spoke, his soul
broke from the flesh and straightway mounted high
to Heaven, whence it surveyed the earthly plain
and Rome and Carthage with its citadel;
and in its passage Mago found a sad
contentment, that in life he might not see
the final ruin, the shame of mighty arms
once glorious, and the sorrow yet to fall
upon his land, his brother, and his race.

Hic postquam medio iuvenis stetit aequore Poenus,        885
vulneris increscens dolor et vicinia durae
mortis agens stimulis ardentibus urget anhelum.
Ille videns propius supremi temporis horam,
incipit: 'Heu qualis fortunae terminus altae est!
Quam laetis mens caeca bonis! Furor ecce potentum        890
praecipiti gaudere loco. Status iste procellis
subiacet innumeris et finis ad alta levatis
est ruere. Heu tremulum magnorum culmen honorum,
spesque hominum fallax et inanis gloria fictis
illita blanditiis! Heu vita incerta labori        895
dedita perpetuo semperque heu certa nec umquam
sat mortis provisa dies! Heu sortis iniquae
natus homo in terris! Animalia cuncta quiescunt;
irrequietus homo perque omnes anxius annos
ad mortem festinat iter. Mors, optima rerum,        900
tu retegis sola errores et somnia vitae
discutis exactae. Video nunc quanta paravi,
ah miser, incassum, subii quot sponte labores,
quos licuit transire mihi. Moriturus ad astra
scandere quaerit homo, sed mors docet omnia quo sint        905
nostra loco. Latio quid profuit arma potenti,
quid tectis inferre faces, quid foedera mundi
turbare atque urbes tristi miscere tumultu?
Aurea marmoreis quidve alta palatia muris
erexisse iuvat, postquam sic sidere laevo        910
in pelago periturus eram? Carissime frater,
quanta paras animis? Heu fati ignarus acerbi
ignarusque mei!' Dixit; tum liber in auras
spiritus egreditur, spatiis unde altior aequis
despiceret Romam simul et Carthaginis urbem,        915
ante diem felix abiens, ne summa videret
excidia et claris quod restat dedecus armis
fraternosque suosque simul patriaeque dolores.
Wilfred P. Mustard, "Petrarch's Africa," American Journal of Philology 42.2 (1921) 97-121 (at 111-112, n. 14):
The thirty-four lines on the death of Mago have a special history of their own. In 1343 Petrarch gave them to a friend at Naples, under a strict pledge of secrecy. But the friend promptly forgot his pledge, and the passage was soon widely copied and distributed, and so was handed on in a good many MSS. And Petrarch records that it was severely criticized, on the ground that the sentiment and tone were not in keeping with the time, the place, or the speaker (Sen. 2, 1). In 1781 a French editor, J.B. Lefèvre, claimed the lines for Silius Italicus, and actually printed them in an edition of the Punica (after xvi, 27). (Apparently, even in 1781 a new editor liked to offer something new.) Lefèvre had found them, not in a MS of Silius at all, but in a collection of excerpta. Yet he professed to believe that Petrarch had a copy of the Punica, that he thought it the only one in existence, that he borrowed these thirty-four lines bodily, and deliberately suppressed the rest. In 1823 a verse translation of the passage was printed in Ugo Foscolo's Essays on Petrarch, and attributed to Lord Byron. In the following year the translation was claimed by Byron's friend, Thomas Medwin.
Medwin's version:
The Carthaginian rose—and when he found
The increasing anguish of his mortal wound
All hope forbid—with difficult, slow breath
He thus address'd the coming hour of death—

"Farewell to all my longings after fame!
Cursed love of power, are such thine end and aim
Oh, blind to all that might have made thy bliss,
And must ambition's frenzy come to this?
From height to height aspiring still to rise,
Man stands rejoicing on the precipice,
Nor sees the innumerable storms that wait
To level all the projects of the great.
Oh, trembling pinnacle of power on earth!
Deceitful hopes! and glory blazon'd forth
With false, fictitious blandishments! Oh, life
Of doubt and danger, and perpetual strife
With death! And, thou! worse than this night of woe
That comest to all, but ah! when none can know,
Hour singled from all years! why must man bear
A lot so sad? The tribes of earth and air
No thoughts of future ill in life molest,
And when they die, sleep on, and take their rest;
But man in restless dreams spends all his years,
And shortens life with death's encroaching fears.
Oh, thou, whose cold hand tears the veil from error,
Whose hollow eye is our delusion's mirror!
Death, life's chief blessing! At this hour of fate,
Wretch that I am! I see my faults too late.
Perils ill-sought, and crimes ill worth the price,
Pass on in dire review before my eyes;
Yet, thing of dust, and on the verge of night,
Man dares to climb the stars, and on the height
Of heaven his owlet vision dares to bend
From that low earth, where all his hopes descend.
What then avails me in this trying hour,
Or thee, my Italy, this arm of power?
Why did I bid the torch of ravage flame?
Ah! why as with a trumpet's tongue proclaim
The rights of man? confounding wrong and right,
And plunging nations in a deeper night?
Why did I raise of marble to the skies
A gorgeous palace ? Vain and empty prize!
When with it lost my air-built dreams must lie
Gulph'd in the Ocean of eternity.
My dearest brother, ah! remember me,
And let my fate avert the like from thee."

He said, and now, its mortal bondage riven,
His spirit fled, and from its higher heaven
Of space look'd down where Rome and Carthage lay,
Thrice blest in having died before the day
Whose wing of havoc swept his race away,
And had not saved by valour vainly shewn
His country's woes, his brother's, and his own.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022


Like a Grotesquely-Shaped Balloon

Martin L. West, Studies in Greek Elegy and Iambus (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1974), p. 30 (on Hipponax):
An admixture of the high-flown adds another dimension to the style. Compounds such as ὀμφαλητόμος (19), κατωμόχανος (28.1), πασπαληφάγος (103.11), μεσσηγυδορποχέστης (114c) and others, like the burglar's prayer, are amusing in the same way as a balloon that turns out to inflate into a grotesque shape.
Definitions from Franco Montanari, The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek (Leiden: Brill, 1995): I don't see κατωμόχανος in Montanari. Liddell-Scott-Jones lists it in the 1996 Supplement (p. 173), but only with the explanation "χαίνων κατ' ὤμου Sch.". Jeffrey Henderson, The Maculate Muse: Obscene Language in Attic Comedy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 22, defines it as "so debauched that his rear end gapes all the way to his shoulders".

Monday, March 07, 2022


Address to the Heart

Archilochus, fragment 128, tr. Anne Pippin Burnett, Three Archaic Poets: Archilochus, Alcaeus, Sappho (London: Duckworth, 1983; rpt. 1988), p. 49:
O heart, heart that seethes with unresisted grief,
rise, fight, thrust a hostile breast
against the ambushed enemy! Stand close,
hold fast and if you win don't boast
to every ear nor, beaten, hide at home
to wail. Welcome joy and yield to pain
without excess — learn what rhythm governs man.

θυμέ, θύμ᾿, ἀμηχάνοισι κήδεσιν κυκώμενε,
†ἀναδευ δυσμενῶν† δ᾿ ἀλέξεο προσβαλὼν ἐναντίον
στέρνον †ἐνδοκοισιν† ἐχθρῶν πλησίον κατασταθεὶς
ἀσφαλέως· καὶ μήτε νικέων ἀμφάδην ἀγάλλεο,
μηδὲ νικηθεὶς ἐν οἴκῳ καταπεσὼν ὀδύρεο,        5
ἀλλὰ χαρτοῖσίν τε χαῖρε καὶ κακοῖσιν ἀσχάλα
μὴ λίην, γίνωσκε δ᾿ οἷος ῥυσμὸς ἀνθρώπους ἔχει.
Text and apparatus from M.L. West, ed., Iambi et Elegi Graeci ante Alexandrum Cantati, 2nd ed., Vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), p. 50:
Commentary in David A. Campbell, Greek Lyric Poetry (1967; rpt. London: Macmillan, 1988), pp. 153-154, and Laura Swift, Archilochus: The Poems. Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), pp. 315-317.


A Nursery Word

J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams, edd., Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture (London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997), p. 187:
Calvert Watkins, The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1985), p. 26:
Carl Darling Buck, A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1949; rpt. 1988), cols. 275-276:


Sunday, March 06, 2022


Restaurant Review

Eupolis, fragment 365 Kassel-Austin (tr. S. Douglas Olson):
bad food expensively prepared

ὄψῳ πονηρῷ πολυτελῶς ἠρτυµένῳ


Portrait of the Blogger as an Old Man

Aristophanes, Clouds 908 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
You're senile and out of touch.
The same (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
You're an outmoded old blowhard.
The Greek:
τυφογέρων εἶ κἀνάρμοστος.
W.J.M. Starkie ad loc.:



Bruce Catton, A Stillness at Appomattox (1953; rpt. New York: Anchor Books, 1990), p. 216:
The old unities were gone: unities of blood, of race, of language, of shared ideals and common memories and experiences, the very things which had always seemed essential beneath the word "American."

Friday, March 04, 2022


Epitaph of Bacchidas

Werner Peek, Griechische Vers-Inschriften, Vol. I: Grab-Epigramme (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1955), p. 409, # 1368 (epitaph of Bacchidas, from Athenaeus 8.336 b, tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
Drink, eat, indulge in all things the heart's desire!
For lo! I stand here, a stone to represent Bacchidas.

πιέν, φαγὲν καὶ πάντα τᾷ ψυχᾷ δόμεν·
κἠγὼ γὰρ ἕστακ'ἀντὶ Βακχίδα λίθος.
The verbs in the first line are aorist infinitives for imperatives.



Bruce Catton, A Stillness at Appomattox (1953; rpt. New York: Anchor Books, 1990), p. 173 (note omitted):
A soldier in a New York heavy artillery regiment wrote that it seemed, now and then, as if an increasing number of Confederates were willing to slip over to the Union side after dark and surrender, yet he added wryly that "when it comes to fighting, one would not suppose that any of them had the faintest idea of surrendering." Between fights, he said, Northerners and Southerners talked things over, concluded that peace would be a very fine thing, and agreed that "if a few men on both sides who stayed at home were hung, matters could easily be arranged."
Id., pp. 175-176:
The soldiers had got the point perfectly, and they expressed it very simply: Hang a few troublemakers and we'll all go home. Mysteriously, the fighting seemed to be bringing them mutual understanding, and they may almost have been closer to each other, in spirit, than they were to their own civilians back home. Yet there was nothing they could do about it. They had not made the war and they would not end it. They could only fight it.

And the men who had made the war—the sharp politicians and the devoted patriots, the men who dreamed the American dream in different ways and the other men who never dreamed any dreams at all but who had a canny eye for power and influence—most of these, by now, were prisoners of their own creation.

Thursday, March 03, 2022


On Listening to a Certain Political Leader

Aristophanes, Clouds 628-629 (tr. Stephen Halliwell):
I've never in all my life met a bumpkin like this,
So helpless in every respect, so crass and forgetful!

οὐκ εἶδον οὕτως ἄνδρ᾿ ἄγροικον οὐδαμοῦ
οὐδ᾿ ἄπορον οὐδὲ σκαιὸν οὐδ᾿ ἐπιλήσμονα...
W.J.M. Starkie ad loc.:


Not Allowed

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Part 3: The Return of the King (VI.8: The Scouring of the Shire):
'You know talk o' that sort isn't allowed. The Chief will hear of it, and we'll all be in trouble.'

Wednesday, March 02, 2022


Archaism and Futurism

Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. V (1939; rpt. London: Oxford University Press, 1955), pp. 385-386 (footnotes omitted):
Archaism may be defined as a reversion from the mimesis of contemporary creative personalities to a mimesis of the ancestors of the tribe: that is to say, as a lapse from the dynamic movement of Civilization to the static condition of Primitive Mankind in its latest state. It may be defined, again, as one of those attempts at a forcible stoppage of change which result, in so far as they succeed, in the production of social enormities. In the third place, Archaism may be taken as an example of that attempt to 'peg' a broken-down and disintegrating society which, in another context, we have found to be the common aim of human Utopias and of those insect societies to which the arrested human societies approximate. In corresponding terms we may define Futurism as a repudiation of any mimesis of anybody—present or past, creative or conservative—and also as one of those attempts at a forcible accomplishment of change which result, in so far as they succeed, in the production of social revolutions that defeat their own purpose by tumbling over into reaction. In fine, Futurism only avoids the static immobility of Archaism at the price of moving like a convict on a treadmill or like a captive mouse in a revolving cage; and the futility of this revolutionary motion is summed up in the devastating aphorism Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.


Splendid Liars

Bruce Catton, A Stillness at Appomattox (1953; rpt. New York: Anchor Books, 1990), p. 53 (note omitted):
There were the age-old attempts to wangle furloughs. An Irish private one day went to his regimental commander, explaining that his wife was ill and the children were not well and that it was necessary for him to make a short visit to his home. The colonel fixed him with a beady eye and said: "Pat, I had a letter from your wife this morning saying she doesn't want you at home; that you raise the devil whenever you are there, and that she hopes I won't grant you any more furloughs. What have you to say to that?"

Quite unabashed, the soldier replied that there were "two splendid liars in this room" and that he himself was only one of them: "I nivir was married in me life."

Tuesday, March 01, 2022


A Fixed Time for Study

Beethoven, Tagebuch 48, tr. Maynard Solomon, Beethoven Essays (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988; rpt. 1990), p. 259:
Always study from half-past five until breakfast.

Immer von halb 6 bis zum Frühstück studiert!

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