Friday, September 30, 2022


Epitaph of an Ostler

Reinhold Merkelbach and Josef Stauber, Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten, Bd. I: Die Westküste Kleinasiens von Knidos bis Ilion (Stuttgart; B.G. Teubner, 1998), p. 252, number 02/09/32, from Aphrodisias (simplified):
Θησσεὺς κτηνείτης ὁ λαλούμενος ἐνθ[ά]δε κεῖται,
ὅς πάσης ἀρετῆς ὢν ἀκροδικαιότερος·
ὦ παροδεῖτα, μή με παρέλθῃς
πρίν σε μαθεῖν στήλης τὰ γεγραμμένα·
ὡς ζῇς εὐφραίνου ἔσθιε πεῖνε τρύφα περιλάμβανε·
τοῦτο γὰρ ἦν τὸ τέλος [...] χρησάμενος.
Translation by Joyce Reynolds et al., Inscriptions of Aphrodisias (2007):
Theseus the ostler, much-talked of, lies here,
who, being a man of every virtue, was most particularly just.
Oh passerby, do not pass me by before you have learnt what is written on the stele.
Make merry, eat, drink, get possession of luxuries;
for this (the tomb) was the end.
I don't have access to the discussion in Louis Robert, Hellenica: recueil d'épigraphie de numismatique et d'antiquités grecques, Vol. XIII, D'Aphrodisias à la Lycaonie (Paris: Librairie d'Amérique et d'Orient, Adrien-Maisonneuve, 1965), pp. 184-192. On κτηνείτης see Thomas Drew-Bear, "Some Greek Words: Part I," Glotta 50.1/2 (1972) 61-96 (at 81-82).

From Kevin Muse:
This line of the epitaph:
ὡς ζῇς εὐφραίνου ἔσθιε πεῖνε τρύφα περιλάμβανε·
is translated in Reynolds et al., which you quote, as:
Make merry, eat, drink, get possession of luxuries;
The translation suggests that τρύφα is a (non-existent) noun meaning "luxuries" and direct object of περιλάμβανε. I think rather that τρύφα is simply the imperative of τρυφάω: luxuriate! περιλαμβάνω can simply mean "embrace." I haven't found any parallels for the use without an object, but the sense is clear enough—this is an injunction to have sex, at the climax of a series of hedonistic imperatives. Besides, I don't think it is in the spirit of the οstler's injunction for readers to busy themselves with getting possession of anything, since in death no one can take possessions with them, and the business of getting also takes one away from the business of immediate enjoyment....

Here's a parallel, suggesting even a formulaic order of actions in both inscriptions:
SEG 35:1406 Pisidia

πολυκηδέα θυμόν· /
πεῖνε, τρύφα, τέρπου δώρο̣ις
χρυσῆς Ἀφροδείτης· /

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