Tuesday, January 31, 2023


Stormy Weather Predicted

Cicero, Letters to His Friends 2.18.3 (tr. W. Glynn Williams):
But, as to the Republic, who knows what sort of weather is in store for it? My forecast is "squally."

tempora autem reipublicae qualia futura sint, quis scit? mihi quidem turbulenta videntur fore.


People No Longer Want to Get Together

Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (New York: Pantheon, 1969), p. 129 (Jubal Merton speaking):
What I notice most about the village now is the way people no longer want to get together. All through my boyhood it was a regular thing for twenty or more folk to sit on that bank outside the shop and talk of an evening. They sat on the verge if it was fine and on the benches inside the shop if it was wet. The boys would be there too, rollicking and laughing but listening all the same. It was the good time of the day and we all looked forward to it. We told each other about the things that happened to us, only a long time ago. People didn't usually tell each other things that were happening to them at that moment! But if it had happened years ago—no matter how awful it was—you could tell it. We sang songs. We sang the army songs from the war. 'Nellie Dean' and 'Pack up your Troubles'. Also 'The Fakenham Ghost' and 'The Farmer's Boy'. And sometimes we step- danced, although mostly the step-dancing was done at Cretingham Bell. All that is finished now. People are locked in their houses with the television and haven't any more time for talk and the like.


Internecine Strife

Aristophanes, Lysistrata 1128-1134 (tr. Stephen Halliwell):
So now I wish to take both parties here
And reprimand you justly — you who share
A common ritual, just like men of kin,
At Olympia, Thermopylai, and Delphi
(The list could be extended, if required),
Yet while barbarian armies lie nearby,
You send Greek men and cities to destruction.

λαβοῦσα δ' ὑμᾶς λοιδορῆσαι βούλομαι
κοινῇ δικαίως, οἳ μιᾶς γ' ἐκ χέρνιβος
βωμοὺς περιρραίνοντες ὥσπερ ξυγγενεῖς 1130
Ὀλυμπίασιν, ἐν Πύλαις, Πυθοῖ — πόσους
εἴποιμ' ἂν ἄλλους, εἴ με μηκύνειν δέοι; —
ἐχθρῶν παρόντων βαρβάρῳ στρατεύματι
Ἕλληνας ἄνδρας καὶ πόλεις ἀπόλλυτε.

1129 γ' ἐκ Holford-Strevens (γε Boethe, ἐκ Bentley): τε R
1133 βαρβάρῳ Blaydes: βαρβάρων R
1129-1130 literally = you who with a single ablution besprinkle altars like kinsmen (Jeffrey Henderson in his commentary).

Monday, January 30, 2023


A Prosperous Land

Diodorus Siculus 20.8.2-4 (tr. Robin Waterfield):
[2] Wanting to raise his men's spirits, Agathocles led them against a Carthaginian town called Megalopolis. [3] The intervening countryside, through which they had to march, was divided into plots and fields growing every conceivable kind of plant, since the whole region was irrigated by water channelled through numerous sluices. Estate followed estate, with richly appointed, meticulously whitewashed houses which indicated the wealth of the owners. [4] The farm buildings were filled with things that were good to eat, since the locals had had many years of peace in which to lay in abundant stores of their products. The land was partly given over to vines and partly to a profusion of olives and other fruit-bearing trees. To left and right, herds of cattle and flocks of goats were being pastured on the plain, and the nearby fens teemed with horses out at grass. In short, the region was prosperous in every imaginable way, because the several owners of the estates were the most eminent Carthaginians and they had used their wealth to beautify them and make them pleasing.

[2] ὁ δ' Ἀγαθοκλῆς σπεύδων ἀπαλλάξαι τῆς ἀθυμίας τοὺς στρατιώτας ἦγε τὴν δύναμιν ἐπὶ τὴν ὀνομαζομένην Μεγάλην πόλιν, οὖσαν Καρχηδονίων. [3] ἡ δ' ἀνὰ μέσον χώρα, δι' ἧς ἦν ἀναγκαῖον πορευθῆναι, διείληπτο κηπείαις καὶ παντοίαις φυτουργίαις, πολλῶν ὑδάτων διωχετευμένων καὶ πάντα τόπον ἀρδευόντων. ἀγροικίαι τε συνεχεῖς ὑπῆρχον, οἰκοδομαῖς πολυτελέσι καὶ κονιάμασι διαπεπονημέναι καὶ τὸν τῶν κεκτημένων αὐτὰς διασημαίνουσαι πλοῦτον. [4] ἔγεμον δ' αἱ μὲν ἐπαύλεις πάντων τῶν πρὸς ἀπόλαυσιν, ὡς ἂν τῶν ἐγχωρίων ἐν εἰρήνῃ πολυχρονίῳ τεθησαυρικότων γεννημάτων ἀφθονίαν· ἡ δὲ χώρα ἡ μὲν ἦν ἀμπελόφυτος, ἡ δὲ ἐλαιοφόρος καὶ τῶν ἄλλων τῶν καρπίμων δένδρων ἀνάπλεως. ἐπὶ θάτερα δὲ μέρη τὸ πεδίον ἐνέμοντο βοῶν ἀγέλαι καὶ ποῖμναι καὶ τὰ πλησίον ἕλη φορβάδων ἵππων ἔγεμε. καθόλου δὲ παντοία τις ἦν ἐν τοῖς τόποις εὐδαιμονία, τῶν ἐπιφανεστάτων Καρχηδονίων διειληφότων τὰς κτήσεις καὶ τοῖς πλούτοις πεφιλοκαληκότων πρὸς ἀπόλαυσιν.


You Must Learn Greek

Robert Fitzgerald, tr., Homer, The Odyssey (Garden City: Anchor Books, 1963), pp. 505-506 (Postscript, VI):
The Odyssey, considered strictly as an aesthetic object, is to be appreciated only in Greek. It can no more be translated into English than rhododendron can be translated into dogwood. You must learn Greek if you want to experience Homer, just as you must go to the Acropolis and look at it if you want to experience the Parthenon.


The Little Reptile

Theodore Dalrymple, "Sympathy for the Underdog," New English Review (January 2023):
Hazlitt begins his essay on the pleasures of hating, published in 1826, with an account of his near-arachnophobia. He sees a spider coming towards him in his study but forbears to crush it as his forebears might have done, shooing it rather to safety under matting, which he gallantly lifts for it so that it may make good its escape. (He calls it 'the little reptile,' suggesting a somewhat shaky grasp of animal taxonomy.)
Probably by reptile Hazlitt simply meant creeping thing (Latin repto = creep, crawl).


Ares Bound

Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 41.1411 (oracle of Apollo of Claros to the people of Syedra, with modified apparatus), tr. Philip de Souza, "Romans and Pirates in a Late Hellenistic Oracle from Pamphylia," Classical Quarterly 47.2 (1997) 477-481 (at 477):
The Pamphylians of Syedra, who share common lands, living on the fertile land of mixed peoples, offer a sacrifice, setting up on the summit of the city an image of Ares the bloodstained slayer of men, held in the iron chains of Hermes. On his other side may Justice, laying down the law, give judgement upon him. And may he become like one who begs. For, in this way, he will be at peace with you, driving the hostile horde far away from the fatherland, and he will call forth the prosperity you have greatly implored. And, in addition, you should take up the fierce battle, either driving away, or binding in unbreakable chains, and do not, through fear, pay a terrible penalty because of the pirates, in this way you will certainly escape all punishment.

Πάμφυλοι Συεδρῆες ἐπιξύν[ῳ ἐν ἀρούρῃ]
ναίοντες χθόνα παμμιγέων ἐ[ριβώλ]ακα φωτῶν,
Ἄρηος δείκηλον ἐναιμέος ἀνδροφόνοιο
στήσαντες μεσάτῳ πόλιος [π]α[ρ]ὰ ἔρδετε θύσθλα,
δεσμοῖς Ἑρμείαο σιδηρείοις μιν ἔχοντ&ltlο>ς·        5
ἐγ δ' ἑτέροιο Δίκη σφε θεμιστεύουσα δικάζ[οι]·
αὐτὰρ ὁ λισσομένῳ ἴκελος πέλοι· ὧδε γ[ὰρ ὑ]μεῖν
ἔσσεται εἰρηναῖος, ἀνάρσιον ὄχλον ἐ[λά]σσας
τῆλε πάτρης, ὄρσει δὲ πολύλλιτον εὐοχθείαν·
σὺν δὲ καὶ ὑμέες ἅπτεσθαι κρατεροῖο [π]όν[οι]ο,        10
ἢ σεύοντες ἢ ἐν δεσμοῖς ἀλύτοις πε[δ]όω[ντες],
μηδ' ὄκνῳ δόμεναι ληιστήρων τίσ[ι]ν αἰν[ήν]·
οὕτω γὰρ μάλα πᾶσαν ὑπεγδύσε[σθε κ]όλο[υσιν].

1 ἐπιξύν[ῳ ἐν ἀρούρῃ] Louis Robert: ἐπίξυν[ον πάτριόν τε] George Ewart Bean et Terence Bruce Mitford
2 ἐ[ριβώλ]ακα Egon Maróti: ἐ[πιδείγμ]ατα Franciszek Sokolowski
3 [κ]α[λ]ά, Sokolowski
5 ἔχοντος Robert: ἔχοντες lapis
Christopher A. Faraone, The Transformation of Greek Amulets in Roman Imperial Times (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), pp. 112-113, with notes on p. 343:
In a hexametrical oracle issued in the imperial era, for example, Apollo advises the people of Syedra to stop the incessant attacks of pirates or brigands by setting up "an image of Ares, the blood-stained slayer of men, in the midst of your town and perform sacrifices beside it, while holding him in the iron bonds of Hermes.29 On the other side let Dike ("Justice") giving sentence judge him, while he himself is like to one pleading." This image, the oracle predicts, will force Ares to march his "unholy mob" far from the city and to be peacefully disposed to the city.30 We are to imagine, in short, a statue group of Ares bound before the triumphant figure of Dike, who stands over him in a threatening pose.31 It is clear, in short, that scene itself is expected to restrain and humble the hostile force of the pirates in some "persuasively" magical way. This image is not an apotropaic device placed at an entranceway to frighten away disease or danger. It is set up "in the midst" of their town and works at a more abstract level by the process of persuasive analogy: the image of Ares bound is understood to bind the brigands themselves and make them subservient to Dike, who is here probably understood as the forces of law and order.32

29. It is unclear why these bonds are said to be "of Hermes." Sokolowski (1966) imagines a three-person scene, but it is unclear what role Hermes would play in such a scene or where he would stand. For the binding of images of Ares in Boeotia and Thrace with the goal of preventing armed invasion; see Faraone (1992b) 74-78.

30. Sokolowski (1966); for the date, see Maroti (1968).

31. Faraone (1992b) 77-78.

32. Images of Ares bound or incarcerated were also deployed by themselves in this period as amulets to avert military invasion, but because they do not depict the agent of the binding, they do not constitute a two-figured scene. See Faraone (1992b) 74-78 for a full discussion.
In n. 29 Faraone wonders "what role Hermes would play in such a scene or where he would stand." The answer appears on some coins representing Ares bound, between Justice and Hermes, as described in the inscription:
Fritz Graf, "The Oracle and the Image. Returning to Some Oracles from Clarus," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 160 (2007) 113-119 (at 116, after quoting lines 2-6 of the inscription):
This is a group of three statues — a bound Ares, with Hermes on one side and Dike on the other. The group is know from Syedrian coins, from Lucius Verus (ruled A.D. 161-169) to Gallienus (ruled A.D. 260-268): its erection thus precedes Lucius Verus, and the Syedrians were proud of it: in the second and third centuries A.D., many cities put images of famous statues on their coins, as part of the Hellenic self-definition from a glorious cultural past18.

18 Léon Lacroix, Les reproductions de statues sur les monnaies grecques (Liège, 1949).

Sunday, January 29, 2023


An Infinite Business

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 23.4 (1902) 467-472 (at 468):
The criticism of translations is an infinite business, like the measuring of asymptotes.


If Not Now, When?

Diogenes Laertius 4.8.60 (on Lacydes; tr. R.D. Hicks):
He studied geometry late, and some one said to him, "Is this a proper time?" To which he replied, "Nay, is it not even yet the proper time?"

ὀψὲ δὲ αὐτῷ γεωμετροῦντι λέγει τις, εἶτα νῦν καιρός; καὶ ὅς· εἶτα μηδὲ νῦν;



It Is Not True

E.A. Howe (1853-1937), Country Town Sayings (Topeka: Crane & Company, 1911), p. 211:
You often hear that this is a free country, and that a man is at liberty to express his opinion. It is not true.

Friday, January 27, 2023


Me Too

Cicero, Letters to His Friends 2.15.3 (tr. W. Glynn Williams):
The political outlook causes me great anxiety.

respublica me valde sollicitat.


Conjectural Criticism

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 23.3 (1902) 345-350 (at 348):
For conjectural criticism demands the highest faculties. One must not only be master of all the possibilities and all the probabilities, every shade of vocabulary, every propriety of syntax, the period of the language, the sphere of the author, his thought, his habits. There must be added to all this the gift of insight that no apparatus however elaborate can replace. Otherwise conjectures are random guesses, which are so many impertinences to the busy mortals who are trying to understand their texts. Of course, a fair knowledge of the language and a certain palaeographic vision will suffice for a modest line of emendation; and every hour of the twenty-four some obscure proof-reader in some back room of a newspaper office is making corrections which would be classed among the palmares emendationes, if they were published in the critical apparatus of a Greek or Latin text.


Back to the Savages

Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (New York: Pantheon, 1969), pp. 111-112 (Gregory Gladwell speaking):
But I think it was an extremely good thing that religion should be accepted as the saviour of civilization. So I think it right that it should be carried on. If you forsake religion, it's back to the savages. This is what is happening now. Whatever you think, this is what makes you. You don't have to tell folk everything you think. I have a lot of personal views about religion, for instance, which I never tell a soul. But I've often been tempted, particularly when I was young. I saw cases of men—grown men—in this village, packing their bait to spend the whole Sunday at chapel. People used to go to chapel at nine in the morning and not come home until eight at night. It is the truth. Most of them behaved shocking during the week. It's a fact. They were nothing but a lot of bloody hypocrites. Suffolk used to worship Sunday, not God. I don’t know why they all went to this trouble. Anybody with a mite of common sense could see how useless it was, chapel, chapel, chapel, Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. Best suits. They were Baptists. What were they trying to do? There were so many of them they could have set the whole village on its ear had they followed Jesus. But all you heard them say was Sunday. Bugger Sunday, I say, and praise God when you can. People never think why they go to church or chapel, they just go. It is very strange.
Id. (at 114):
I wasn't born soon enough, that is the trouble. By rights, I should be dead and gone. I think like the old people.... I feel I should have lived during the 1700s. That would have done me.
Id. (at 116):
I don't have a catalogue. I don't like making two of anything. I find out what people can either afford or mean to pay and do a design in keeping with the price. We like to think that when a customer gets something from the forge it is their individual thing. But how much longer we can stick it, I don't know. Not long, I fancy. The time must come when we shall have to settle down to a standard line. It will be a terrible pity if this should happen. So many smiths are just copying the old designs. And making a poor job of it. It is abusing the old tradesmen. I believe that we should work as they worked; this isn't copying, it is getting back into their ways, into their skins.


Do Not Disturb

Isocrates, fragment 38, in Isocrate, edd. Georges Mathieu and Émile Brémond, Tome IV (Paris, 1962), p. 239 (my translation):
One shouldn't stir up muddy water and an uneducated mind.

ὕδωρ θολερὸν καὶ ἀπαίδευτον ψυχὴν οὐ δεῖ ταράττειν.
I don't see the fragment in B.G. Mandilaras' Teubner edition of Isocrates. The source for Mathieu and Brémond is Johannes Georgides, Gnomologium, in J. Fr. Boissonade, Anecdota Graeca e Codicibus Regiis, Vol. I (Paris, In Regio Typographeo, 1829), pp. 1-108 (at 93). I don't have access to Paolo Odorico, ed., Il prato e l'ape. Il sapere sentenzioso del monaco Giovanni (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenchaften, 1986 = Wiener byzantinische Studien, 17). The sentence also occurs in Heinrich Schenkl, "Das Florilegium Ἄριστον καὶ πρῶτον μάθημα," Wiener Studien 11.1 (1889) 1-42 (at 35, number 132).

Thursday, January 26, 2023


Of One Blood?

Acts of the Apostles 17:26 (KJV):
And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation...

ποίησέν τε ἐξ ἑνὸς πᾶν ἔθνος ἀνθρώπων κατοικεῖν ἐπὶ παντὸς προσώπου τῆς γῆς, ὁρίσας προστεταγμένους καιροὺς καὶ τὰς ὁροθεσίας τῆς κατοικίας αὐτῶν...
The same (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
And out of one he made every nation of men to live on every face of the earth, decreeing the seasons in their order and the boundaries of their habitations...
Text and apparatus from Barbara and Kurt Aland, edd., Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), p. 374:
Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1975), p. 456:
The Western text, with the support of a wide range of early versions and patristic witnesses, adds αἵματος after ἑνός. This reading passed into the Textus Receptus and lies behind the AV. In support of the longer text is the palaeographical consideration that αἵματος may have been accidentally omitted because it ends in the same syllable as the preceding ἑνός. It is also possible, though perhaps not probable, that someone deliberately deleted the word, since it appears to contradict the statement in Genesis that God made man from dust—not blood (Gn 2.7). Likewise, there is some force in the consideration that αἵματος is not a very natural gloss on ἑνός—for that one would have expected ἀνθρώπου or something similar.

On the other hand, a majority of the Committee was impressed by the external evidence supporting the shorter text, and judged that αἵματος was a typical expansion so characteristic of the Western reviser.

With some amount of hesitation, therefore, and after renewed consideration of the claims of each reading, it was voted to adopt the Alexandrian text.
The verse has been used to justify racial equality on the one hand (ἐξ ἑνός αἵματος), ethnic separation on the other hand (ὁρίσας...τὰς ὁροθεσίας τῆς κατοικίας αὐτῶν).


The World Is Strange to Me

Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (New York: Pantheon, 1969), p. 108 (Christopher Falconer speaking):
Real gardening is dying, dying . . . dying. There aren't many gardeners of my calibre left. I am a young man who has got caught in the old ways. I am thirty-nine and I am a Victorian gardener, and this is why the world is strange to me.


A Memorization Technique

Dan Hitchens, "Learning By Heart," First Things (May 2021):
As for memory techniques, the most effective one I know is to write out the poem shortly before going to sleep. Cover up the text and try to remember the first line. Check your memory against the poem and correct it; or if you can't remember the line at all, copy it out. Then do the same with the second line. And so on. When you wake up, repeat the exercise. Over the course of a few nights, the poem settles into your mind with surprisingly little effort.
I should try this, as my memory is poor and getting worse. Mrs. Laudator, on the other hand, knows reams of poetry by heart. A couple of weeks ago, over dinner, we were reciting bits of poetry, and I said, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." Our dinner guest, a lass three years old, responded, "One, two, three, four, five."

Wednesday, January 25, 2023


The Beauty of the Queen

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 23.2 (1902) 231-235 (at 231):
He who wishes to see the beauty of the Queen we call Language must stand where Gyges stood and gaze as Gyges gazed.
See here for the shocking story of Gyges and the Queen (wife of Candaules).


Homage to Teleutias

Xenophon, Hellenica 5.1.3-4 (389 BC; tr. Carleton L. Brownson):
[3] After this Hierax arrived from Lacedaemon as admiral. And he took over the fleet, while Teleutias, under the very happiest circumstances, set sail for home. For when he was going down to the sea as he set out for home, there was no one among the soldiers who did not grasp his hand, and one decked him with a garland, another with a fillet, and others who came too late, nevertheless, even though he was now under way, threw garlands into the sea and prayed for many blessings upon him.

[4] Now I am aware that I am not describing in these incidents any enterprise involving money expended or danger incurred or any memorable stratagem; and yet, by Zeus, it seems to me that it is well worth a man's while to consider what sort of conduct it was that enabled Teleutias to inspire the men he commanded with such a feeling toward himself. For to attain to this is indeed the achievement of a true man, more noteworthy than the expenditure of much money and the encountering of many dangers.

[3] ἐκ δὲ τούτου ἀπὸ Λακεδαιμονίων Ἱέραξ ναύαρχος ἀφικνεῖται. κἀκεῖνος μὲν παραλαμβάνει τὸ ναυτικόν, ὁ δὲ Τελευτίας μακαριώτατα δὴ ἀπέπλευσεν οἴκαδε. ἡνίκα γὰρ ἐπὶ θάλατταν κατέβαινεν ἐπ᾽ οἴκου ὁρμώμενος, οὐδεὶς ἐκεῖνον τῶν στρατιωτῶν ὃς οὐκ ἐδεξιώσατο, καὶ ὁ μὲν ἐστεφάνωσεν, ὁ δὲ ἐταινίωσεν, οἱ δ᾽ ὑστερήσαντες ὅμως καὶ ἀναγομένου ἔρριπτον εἰς τὴν θάλατταν στεφάνους καὶ ηὔχοντο αὐτῷ πολλὰ καὶ ἀγαθά.

[4] γιγνώσκω μὲν οὖν ὅτι ἐν τούτοις οὔτε δαπάνημα οὔτε κίνδυνον οὔτε μηχάνημα ἀξιόλογον οὐδὲν διηγοῦμαι· ἀλλὰ ναὶ μὰ Δία τόδε ἄξιόν μοι δοκεῖ εἶναι ἀνδρὶ ἐννοεῖν, τί ποτε ποιῶν ὁ Τελευτίας οὕτω διέθηκε τοὺς ἀρχομένους. τοῦτο γὰρ ἤδη πολλῶν καὶ χρημάτων καὶ κινδύνων ἀξιολογώτατον ἀνδρὸς ἔργον ἐστίν.


Old Silence

Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (New York: Pantheon, 1969), p. 84 (George Kirkland speaking):
In those days, son followed father. That was the usual thing. So all of us boys followed father. Nearly all the village boys did this. We just had to watch and carry on. One or two broke away but it didn't seem a natural thing to do. People didn't need to ask a lad what he wanted to do when he grew up if they knew what his father did. You hear that farming was unpopular then, but it wasn't deep down. We began watching at an early age; that was our training. I watched the shepherd and did what he did. He didn't have to speak very often, which was just as well as he was a man who liked to keep words to himself. They used to call him Old Silence.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023


A Latin Word for Paunch

Persius 1.56-57 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
You're a fool, baldy, your fat paunch sticking out with an overhang of a foot and a half.

                                   nugaris, cum tibi, calve,
pinguis aqualiculus propenso sesquipede extet.
Oleg Nitikinski on line 57 cites Galen, On the Preservation of Health 37 (παχεῖα γαστὴρ λεπτὸν οὐ τίκτει νόον) and Jerome, Letters 52.11 (pinguis venter non gignit sensum tenuem).

Entries for aqualiculus and related words in the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae (2:365-366):
In other words, aqualiculus is derived from the word for a water pot. Cf. our pot-belly. Eugene S. McCartney, "Augustus Compares Horace to a Sextariolus," Classical Journal 44.1 (October, 1948) 55-56, gives "modern examples of names of containers of liquids used to describe persons, generally stout ones."

J.N. Adams, "Anatomical Terms Transferred from Animals to Humans in Latin," Indogermanische Forschungen 87.1 (1982) 90-109 (at 100):
Aqualiculus (lit. 'small vessel for water') was strictly used of the belly of a pig (Isid., Etym. 11.1.136 'aqualiculus . . . proprie porci est; hinc ad uentrem translatio'; cf. Marc. Emp. 12.56 'porcelli lactentis uentriculo, id est aqualiculo, exempto') and perhaps other quadrupeds (note Mul. Chir. 208 'primo de ipso uentre, quod est aqualiculo', 210 'facit extensionem uentris, id est aqualiculi dolorem ingentem', Veg., Mul. 1.40. l 'uenter ipse, qui aqualiculus nominatur'). For the metaphor, one might compare Paul. Fest. p. 279 'pertusum dolium cum dicitur, uentrem significat'. Aqualiculus is used pejoratively of a man's pot belly at Pers. 1.57 (cum tibi, calue, / pinguis aqualiculus propenso sesquipede extet'), but by the time of Marcellus Empiricus it could be applied inoffensively to the human belly (7.16, 20.86). Aqualiculus did not survive in the Romance languages.
Thanks very much to Juan Manuel Acquaroni Vidal for the following relevant entries in his Diccionario histórico de la lengua latina:



Alcaeus, fragment 140 Voigt, tr. Basil L. Gildersleeve, "My Sixty Days in Greece, II: A Spartan School," Atlantic Monthly 79 (March, 1897) 301-312 (at 303):
All a-glitter with brass my hall;
All my house is adorned for Ares.
        Helmets bright

Glint and glister, and from their crests
Nod defiance the waving horsetails
        White as snow,

Fit adornment for warriors brave.
All the pins are concealed by shining
        Greaves of brass;

Guards are they from the crushing bolt,
Linen corselets and hollow bucklers
        All prepared.

By them lying Chalcidian blades,
By them doublets in store, and doughty
        Coats of mail.

These are never to be forgot
Now we've taken this deed of daring
        Well in hand.

μαρμαίρει δὲ μέγας δόμος
   χάλκωι, παῖσα δ᾿ Ἄρηι κεκόσμηται στέγα
λάμπραισιν κυνίαισι, κὰτ
   τᾶν λεῦκοι κατέπερθεν ἴππιοι λόφοι        5
νεύοισιν, κεφάλαισιν ἄν-
   δρων ἀγάλματα· χάλκιαι δὲ πασσάλοις
κρύπτοισιν περικείμεναι
   λάμπραι κνάμιδες, ἔρκος ἰσχύρω βέλεος,
θόρρακές τε νέω λίνω        10
   κόϊλαί τε κὰτ ἄσπιδες βεβλήμεναι·
πὰρ δὲ Χαλκίδικαι σπάθαι,
   πὰρ δὲ ζώματα πόλλα καὶ κυπάσσιδες.
τῶν οὐκ ἔστι λάθεσθ᾿ ἐπεὶ
   δὴ πρώτιστ᾿ ὐπὰ τὦργον ἔσταμεν τόδε.        15

3 Ἄρηι codd.: ἄρ' εὖ Page
15 πρώτιστ᾿ ὐπὰ τὦργον Lobel: πρώτισθ᾿ ὑπὸ ἔργον codd.
Related post: Preparedness.


Equal to Our Fathers

Thucydides 2.11.2 (speech of the Spartan king Archidamus; tr. Martin Hammond):
We must not, then, show ourselves inferior to our fathers or fall short of our own reputation.

δίκαιον οὖν ἡμᾶς μήτε τῶν πατέρων χείρους φαίνεσθαι μήτε ἡμῶν αὐτῶν τῆς δόξης ἐνδεεστέρους.
The same (tr. Jeremy Mynott):
We have a duty, therefore, both to show ourselves the equals of our fathers and to live up to our own reputations.



Dr. Seuss, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (New York: Beginner Books, c1960), p. 51:
These things are fun
and fun is good.

Monday, January 23, 2023


A Crime

Francis G. Allinson, "Gildersleeve as a Teacher," The Johns Hopkins Alumni Magazine 13.2 (January, 1925) 132-136 (at 133):
If a personal reminiscence is not out of place I may refer to an outburst of his that I never forgot. In my first tête-à-tête with him he diagnosed my knowledge of Greek Composition as only imperceptibly above zero and forthwith accorded to me the amazing privilege of a weekly private lesson by him in writing Greek! At one of these terrifying clinics he pointed out some blunder such as placing an acute accent on the compact expanse of γῆ! When I fatuously remarked: "That is a mistake!" he shot forth: "A mistake! There is no such thing as a mistake. It is a Crime!"


Success and Disaster

Diodorus Siculus 19.95.6-7 (tr. Robin Waterfield):
[6] In fact, success is invariably followed by carelessness and negligence, [7] and that is why some people rightly hold that it is easier to endure disaster wisely than it is to keep one's wits about one at a time of great success. Disaster leaves one no choice but to be cautious, out of fear of what might happen next, but success encourages men to be totally careless, because they have already met with good fortune.

[6] ταῖς γὰρ εὐτυχίαις εἴωθεν ὡς ἐπίπαν ἀκολουθεῖν ῥᾳθυμία καὶ καταφρόνησις. [7] διόπερ ἔνιοι προσηκόντως ὑπολαμβάνουσιν εὐχερέστερον ὑπάρχειν συμφορὰς ἐνεγκεῖν ἐπιδεξίως ἢ τὰς εὐμεγέθεις εὐημερίας ἐμφρόνως· αἱ μὲν γὰρ διὰ τὸν περὶ τοῦ μέλλοντος φόβον ἐπαναγκάζουσιν ἐπιμελεῖσθαι, αἱ δὲ διὰ τὸ προγεγονὸς εὐτύχημα προτρέπονται καταφρονεῖν πάντων.



Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (New York: Pantheon, 1969), p. 68 (the Rev. Gethyn Owen speaking):
I have sometimes dared to question the incredible perfection attached to certain tasks—this is heresy, if you like! Take ploughing or ricking, why should these jobs have had such a tremendous finesse attached to them? The harvest would not have been the less if the furrows wavered a little. But, of course, a straight furrow was all that a man was left with. It was his signature, not only on the field but on life. Yet it seems wrong to me that a man's achievement should be reduced to this. It was a form of bondage if he did but know it. Their wives had their part to play in this; a woman was admired if she scrubbed and polished until she dropped. In my father's Welsh parish it was the doorsteps.


A Pity

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 23.1 (1902) 106-112 (at 107):
It is a pity that classical scholars do not take an occasional run outside of their own palings. It would strengthen their muscles indefinitely.
Id. (at 108):
The noun is a verb at rest. The verb is a noun in motion. Quicken the noun, you have a verb. Freeze a verb, you have a noun.

Sunday, January 22, 2023


Brother Against Brother

Democritus, fragment 90 (tr. Kathleen Freeman):
The enmity of relatives is much worse than that of strangers.

ἡ τῶν συγγενῶν ἔχθρη τῆς τῶν ὀθνείων χαλεπωτέρη μάλα.


Greek Play Bishops

Geoge Crabbe (1754-1832), The Borough, Letter IV, lines 349-356:
So much to duties: now to learning look,
And see their priesthood piling book on book;
Yea, books of infidels, we're told, and plays,
Put out by heathens in the wink'd-on days;
The very letters are of crooked kind,
And show the strange perverseness of their mind.
Have I this learning? When the Lord would speak,
Think ye he needs the Latin or the Greek?


System of Lookouts

Diodorus Siculus 19.17.6-7 (tr. Robin Waterfield):
[6] Some Persians lived thirty days' journey away, but even they received their orders on the very day they were sent out, because of their ingenious system of lookouts, which deserves a mention. [7] Persis is corrugated with many valleys, and there are a great many lofty observation points, one after another, on which the men with the loudest voices are posted. Since the places are separated by the distance a human voice can carry, those who received the order passed it on in the same way to others, who did the same again, until the message reached the limits of the satrapy.

[6] ἀπέχοντες δ' ἔνιοι τῶν Περσῶν ὁδὸν ἡμερῶν τριάκοντα τὸ παραγγελθὲν αὐθημερὸν ἤκουον διὰ τὸ φιλοτεχνηθὲν περὶ τὰς φυλακάς· ὅπερ οὐ καλῶς ἔχει παραδραμεῖν. [7] τῆς γὰρ Περσίδος οὔσης αὐλωνοειδοῦς καὶ σκοπὰς ἐχούσης ὑψηλὰς καὶ πυκνὰς ἐπὶ τούτων ἐφειστήκεισαν οἱ μέγιστον φθεγγόμενοι τῶν ἐγχωρίων· διῃρημένων γὰρ τῶν τόπων εἰς φωνῆς ἀκοὴν οἱ παραλαμβάνοντες τὸ παραγγελθὲν ὁμοίως ἑτέροις παρεδίδοσαν, εἶτ' ἐκεῖνοι πάλιν ἄλλοις, ἕως εἰς τὸ τέρμα τῆς σατραπείας τὸ δοθὲν παραδοθῇ.


The Real Thing

Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (New York: Pantheon, 1969), p. 63 (the village doctor speaking):
I've thought of following Christ—many, many times. But it would have to be the real thing—not this business going on in the church. St. Paul altered it, spoilt it all at the very start, didn't he? Yes, I'd certainly have a go at the original idea if I had the nerve, but I wouldn't waste my time on the rest of it.

Saturday, January 21, 2023


A Man Without Machinery

Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (New York: Pantheon, 1969), p. 53 (John Grout speaking):
I have farmed in Akenfield since 1926. I had 135 acres and didn't use a tractor until 1952, and then I never got on with the thing. I have been a man without machinery, as you might say.
Related post: Lord Man on His Mechanical Juggernaughts.


Newly Discovered Work by James Ussher?

Evan S. Connell, The Aztec Treasure House: Selected Essays (New York: Counterpoint, 2001), p. 1:
He wrote as fluently in Latin as in English, and among his most celebrated works is Annales Veteris et Novi Tentamenti, a tremendous article of faith which proves that God created the universe in 4004 B.C.



Fanatics and Fools

Theodore Roosevelt, letter to Helen Kendrick Johnson (January 10, 1899):
The extreme advocates of any cause always include fanatics, and often fools, and they generally number a considerable proportion of those people whose mind is so warped as to make them combine in a very curious degree a queer kind of disinterested zeal with a queer kind of immorality.


Body Double

Diodorus Siculus 19.5.1-3 (tr. Robin Waterfield):
[1] Some time later, when Acestoridas of Corinth had been elected General in Syracuse, Agathocles was suspected of aspiring to tyranny, and he had to use his wits to escape with his life. Acestoridas was reluctant to do away with Agathocles openly, because he did not want to provoke civil unrest, so he ordered him to leave the city and sent men out at night to kill him on the road. [2] But Agathocles had guessed what Acestoridas was planning, and he selected from among his slaves the one who most closely resembled himself in height and general appearance. By giving this slave his own suit of armour, horse, and clothing, he tricked the men who had been sent to kill him. [3] As for himself, he dressed in rags and travelled across country. So the assassins, judging from the armour and other tokens that the slave was Agathocles, and prevented by the darkness from seeing clearly, did indeed commit murder—but they failed to carry out their mission.


Life and Death

Inscriptiones Graecae Urbis Romae IV 1703 (non vidi) = Inscriptiones Graecae XIV 2188 (on a sarcophagus in Rome, now worn away; my translation):
Pleasant (is) life, to live (is) sweet, to die (is) a terrible thing.

ἡδὺς βίος, τὸ ζῆν γλυκύ, τὸ θανεῖν ὑποψία.

ἡδὺ ὁ βίος August Nauck, "Epigraphisches," Philologus 9 (1854) 167-179 (at 177-178).
Both Georg Kaibel (IG) and Luigi Moretti (IGUR) doubt the genuineness of the inscription.

ὑποψία usually = suspicion (literally, a looking up from below), but see Henricus van Herwerden, Lexicon Graecum Suppletorium et Dialecticum, Pars II (Leiden: A.W. Sijthoff, 1910), p. 1581 (citing this inscription) "ὑποψία mire dictum pro δεινόν τι."

Friday, January 20, 2023


I Don't Call That Dinner

Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (New York: Pantheon, 1969), p. 49 (Fred Mitchell speaking):
But we ate well. My wife made her own bread and there was something cooked every day, no matter how broke we were. She was a great hand at long puddings with plenty of suet and lemon peel in them, which she made in a boiler. Today, they make a dinner out of nothing. You can hear the paper packs being torn open and in five minutes it's dinner. I don't call that dinner.


Translating Horace

Horace, Odes 1.1.25-29 (tr. David Ferry):
If his faithful dogs have startled up a deer
Or if a wild boar has broken through the snare
The hunter waits, forgetful of his bride;
All night at home the bride waits for the hunter.

                   manet sub Iove frigido
venator tenerae coniugis inmemor,
seu visa est catulis cerva fidelibus,
seu rupit teretes Marsus aper plagas.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson, responding to The Despair of Translators, who notes:
sub Iove frigido, tenerae and teretes are left untranslated, Marsus rendered 'wild' and then 'All night at home the bride waits for the hunter' is tacked on at the end; implicit perhaps in the situation but not a single word of it corresponds to the text.


More Uses for Books, Other Than Reading

Grant Richards, Housman 1897-1936 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1942), p. 155, quoting from a letter dated December 16, 1916:
'I do not make any particular complaint about your doubling the price of my book, but of course it diminishes the sale and therefore diminishes my chances of the advertisement to which I am always looking forward: a soldier is to receive a bullet in the breast, and it is to be turned aside from his heart by a copy of A Shropshire Lad which he is carrying there. Hitherto it is only the Bible that has performed this trick.'1

1 Mrs. Symons tells me that A.E.H. did hear of a copy of A Shropshire Lad stained by a soldier's blood. Among his papers he had kept the letter of an American who had looked after a wounded British soldier in France after the War and wrote to tell him about it. One day the American took A Shropshire Lad to the wounded man. The man smiled and took from under his pillow a copy of his own, all tattered, tom and blood-stained. It had been in his pocket through the War from 1914, and he had written in it three other Housman poems. Which poems, I wonder, could those have been. 'Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries’ must almost certainly have been one of them.
Hat tip: Jim O'Donnell.

Related posts:


Civil War

Diodorus Siculus 19.7.4 (tr. Robin Waterfield):
At a time of peace and within the borders of their own country, Greeks dared to use violence on Greeks, kin on kin. Nothing made them hesitate—no natural feeling of kinship, no sworn truce, no fear of the gods.

καὶ ταῦτ' ἐτόλμων ἐν εἰρήνῃ καὶ πατρίδι παρανομεῖν Ἕλληνες καθ᾽ Ἑλλήνων, οἰκεῖοι κατὰ συγγενῶν, οὐ φύσιν, οὐ σπονδάς, οὐ θεοὺς ἐντρεπόμενοι.
Related post: Terrible Scenes.

Thursday, January 19, 2023


An Unhealthy Diet

Persius 2.41-43 (tr. G.G. Ramsay):
You pray for strength of limb, and for a body that shall not fail you in old age.
Good; but your grand dishes and rich ragouts
forbid the gods to listen to you, and stay the hand of Jupiter.

poscis opem nervis corpusque fidele senectae.
esto age. sed grandes patinae tuccetaque crassa
adnuere his superos vetuere Iovemque morantur.
Oleg Nitikinski on line 42:
tuccetaque: tuccetum est, ut videtur, ius quoddam concretum (gelatinosum) frustulis carnis inditis1, genus cibi valde pingue2 ideoque valetudini adversum.

1 cf. 'tuceta apud Gallos Cisalpinos bubula dicitur caro condimentis quibusdam crassis oblita ac macerata, et ideo toto anno durat' Schol.; tuccetum: ζωµὸς παχύς Gloss. 2, 202, 53; tucca: κατάχυµα ζωµοῦ Gloss. 2, 202, 52; 'glaciali conditione tucceta' Arnob. nat. 2, 42 (CSEL 4, 82). cave Iacobo André, L'alimentation, p. 143, auctori alioqui probatissimo, hac de re credas.

2 cf. ῾adipatum: tuccetosum vel crassum' Gloss. Sal. non erit absurdum Martialis lusum huc afferre: 'non est, Tucca, satis quod es gulosus: / et dici cupis et cupis videri.' Mart. 12, 41.
Commentum Cornuti (Clausen and Zetzel p. 58):



Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (New York: Pantheon, 1969), p. 48 (Fred Mitchell speaking):
I never did any playing in all my life. There was nothing in my childhood, only work. I never had pleasure. One day a year I went to Felixstowe along with the chapel women and children, and that was my pleasure. But I have forgotten one thing—the singing. There was such a lot of singing in the villages then, and this was my pleasure, too. Boys sang in the fields, and at night we all met at the Forge and sang. The chapels were full of singing. When the first war came, it was singing, singing all the time. So I lie; I have had pleasure. I have had singing.


Capricious Commentators

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 21.1 (1900) 107-112 (at 111-112):
With all charity for divergent ideals of the editor's work, there are certain essentials that go to make up any decent performance in the editorial line. The editor may prefer to limit the range of illustrative quotation to the author himself or to congeneric literature, and yet not fall short of his duty. He may despatch matters grammatical with a word or two and escape reproach. He may decline to wander off into historical excursions and may content himself with a curt explanation of allusions and the barest summaries of situations. The use of plastic and keramic art by way of illustration is to a large extent a matter of sphere and judgment. But every side of an author is to be illuminated, and no real difficulty is to be shirked. How capricious many commentators are, is a fact that needs no emphasis. Some write to meet the demands of commerce, some to air their own notions, and, as a natural consequence, there has been gathering for some years a rebellion against commentaries, the signs of which have been noted in this Journal. We are becoming familiar with the aspect of texts devoid of apparatus beyond a general introduction and an historical and geographical register. Then there are other editions intended to smooth the way of the reader as much as possible. They do not go so far as to furnish interlinear translations, but there is ever a prompter at the reader's side, and not even the most gentle exercise of the intellect is permitted. The stores of more ambitious predecessors are laid under contribution and their notes appropriated so far as they are useful to the mild meddlers with classical literature. To these are added renderings of the most familiar idioms and turns of expression. There is an analysis, often borrowed, a few cheap illustrations, a metrical scheme, if the text is poetical, an appendix of variants to show that the editor is a critical scholar as well as a friend in need.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023


The Best Thing

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain, chapter 6 (Joachim Ziemssen speaking to his cousin Hans Castorp; tr. James E. Woods):
That's how it always is. When people talk and spout opinions, the result is always confusion. I'm telling you, it doesn't matter what sort of opinions a man has, but whether he's a decent fellow. The best thing is to have no opinions at all and just do your duty.

Das ist immer so. Das wirst du immer so finden, daß bloß Konfusion herauskommt beim Reden und Meinungen haben. Ich sage dir ja, es kommt überhaupt nicht drauf an, was für Meinungen einer hat, sondern darauf, ob einer ein rechter Kerl ist. Am besten ist, man hat gleich gar keine Meinung, sondern tut seinen Dienst.
Woods omits "Das wirst du immer so finden".


A Time to Keep Silence, and a Time to Speak

Aeschylus, Eumenides 276-278 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
Schooled by misery, I have knowledge of
many ordinances of purification and I know where speech is proper
and silence likewise.

ἐγὼ διδαχθεὶς ἐν κακοῖς ἐπίσταμαι
πολλοὺς καθαρμούς, καὶ λέγειν ὅπου δίκη
σιγᾶν θ' ὁμοίως.

277 πολλοὺς καθαρμούς codd.: πολλῶν τε καιροὺς Blass


The Despair of Translators

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 21.1 (1900) 107-112 (at 108):
It is nearly thirty years since I undertook to show, at unnecessary length, Lord Lytton's eminent unfitness for the task. 'Horace,' I said in the New Eclectic Magazine, April, 1870, 'is the despair of translators. His Muse, like his own Lyde, has her hair gathered into a tidy knot after the Laconic fashion. His English copies are either bald or buried under a horse-hair wig'—and Lord Lytton's copy seemed to me exceptionally bad. 'The tightly twisted toils, through which only a Marsian boar could burst, are ravelled out into a thin gauze which irritates without detaining.' The verse is 'rugged and inharmonious,' 'an Indian jungle of cretics, antispasts, molossi and proceleusmatics.' 'The rendering is needlessly verbose and abounds in Bulwerian capitals.' Adjectives are multiplied in defiance of Horace's well-known parsimony. The false picturesque is coupled with the tamest commonplace, and so on through the whole register of leaden coins which the critic of that day nailed remorselessly to the counter.
See B.L. Gildersleeve, "Lord Lytton's Horace," New Eclectic Magazine 6.4 (April, 1870) 471-481.



Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (New York: Pantheon, 1969), p. 34 (Leonard Thompson speaking):
I looked forward to leaving school so that I could get educated. I knew that education was in books, not in school: there were no books there. I was a child when I left but I already knew that our 'learning' was rubbish, that our food was rubbish and that I should end as rubbish if I didn't look out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023


Would This Be Happening?

Persius 1.103-104 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
Would such things happen if any pulse at all of our fathers' balls still lived in us?

haec fierent si testiculi vena ulla paterni
viveret in nobis?
The same (tr. Niall Rudd):
Could such things happen if we cherished a spark of our fathers' spunk?
Related post: Progress or Regress?


Washed in the Blood

Aeschylus, Eumenides 281-283 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein, with his note):
And the pollution of matricide has been washed out: at the hearth of the god Phoebus, when it was still fresh, it was expelled by means of the purification-sacrifice of a young pig.71

71 The priest held a young pig over the head of the person to be purified, and cut its throat so that the blood dripped on the man's head and hands. See R. Parker, Miasma (Oxford, 1983) 370-4.

μητροκτόνον μίασμα δ᾽ ἔκπλυτον πέλει·
ποταίνιον γὰρ ὂν πρὸς ἑστίᾳ θεοῦ
Φοίβου καθαρμοῖς ἠλάθη χοιροκτόνοις.


The Greek Participle

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 20.3 (1899) 350-354 (at 352):
To translate the Greek participle by a subordinate sentence, temporal, causal, conditional, is a makeshift. To translate it by an abstract noun is a makeshift. Neither of these devices reproduces the true effect of the participle, which belongs to its substantive like a skin—not a human skin, but, let us say, a dog's skin.


Uses for Books, Other Than Reading

Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (New York: Pantheon, 1969), p. 20:
He has been to the war, one of the strange host of 30,000 farm labourers called up in 1917, when the victims were running out. He was thirty and had already been hard at work in the Akenfield farms for twenty-one years. Then this sudden and amazing journey to the battlefield, equipped with a gun which he understood, because of rabbiting, and a New Testament, which he alternately smoked or used for lavatory paper.
Related posts:

Monday, January 16, 2023


Rejoice Much and Make Merry

Inscription on a glass beaker from Craveggia (1st-2nd century AD, my translation):
Rejoice much and make merry.

κατάχαιρε καὶ εὐφραίνου.
Illustrations from Enrica Culasso Gastaldi and Gabriella Pantò, I Greci a Torino. Storie di collezionismo epigrafico. Museo di Antichità di Torino 21 giugno 2014 - 26 ottobre 2014 ([Torino]: Soprintendenza per i beni archeologici del Piemonte e del Museo antichità egizie, [2014]), pp. 69-70 ("Bicchiere cilindrico con scritta augurale, Inv. 55010"):
Other examples from Searchable Greek Inscriptions:


There Is No Rising Again

Aeschylus, Eumenides 648-649 (tr. Walter Headlam):
But when a man is once dead and the dust hath swallowed up his blood, there is no more rising again then.

ἀνδρὸς δ' ἐπειδὰν αἷμ' ἀνασπάσῃ κόνις
ἅπαξ θανόντος, οὔτις ἔστ' ἀνάστασις.
On dust's thirst for blood see Douglas Cairns, "The bloody dust of the nether gods: Sophocles, Antigone 599–603," in Eyjólfur K. Emilsson et al., edd., Paradeigmata: Studies in Honour of Øivind Andersen (Athens: Norwegian Institute at Athens, 2014), pp. 39-51 (esp. pp. 39-45).


Nothing New Under the Sun

Thomas Browne (1605-1682), Christian Morals § XXIX:
However, to palliate the shortness of our lives, and somewhat to compensate our brief term in this world, it's good to know as much as we can of it; and also, so far as possibly in us lieth, to hold such a theory of times past, as though we had seen the same. He who hath thus considered the world, as also how therein things long past have been answered by things present; how matters in one age have been acted over in another; and how there is nothing new under the sun; may conceive himself in some manner to have lived from the beginning, and to be as old as the world; and if he should still live on, 'twould be but the same thing.
Theory = view (θεωρία).


The Internationalism of the Planted Earth

Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (New York: Pantheon, 1969), p. 15:
Deep in the nature of such men and elemental to their entire being there is the internationalism of the planted earth which makes them, in common with the rice-harvesters of Vietnam or the wine-makers of Burgundy, people who are committed to certain basic ideas and actions which progress and politics can elaborate or confuse, but can never alter.


Not Just a Modern Phenomenon

Diodorus Siculus 18.66.5-6 (tr. Robin Waterfield):
[5] When the time came for the defendants to make their pleas and Phocion began to address his own case, the assembled people made enough noise with their heckling to derail the speech, which left the defendants with no recourse. [6] After the disturbance had died down, Phocion made another attempt to deliver his speech, but the crowd shouted him down and made it impossible for the accused man's voice to be heard.

[5] ὡς δὲ τοῖς ἀπολογουμένοις ὁ καιρὸς παρεδόθη τῆς ἀπολογίας, ὁ μὲν Φωκίων ἤρξατο ποιεῖσθαι τὸν ὑπὲρ ἑαυτοῦ λόγον, τὸ δὲ πλῆθος τοῖς θορύβοις ἐξέσεισε τὴν ἀπολογίαν, ὥστ' εἰς πολλὴν ἀπορίαν παραγενέσθαι τοὺς ἀπολογουμένους. [6] λήξαντος δὲ τοῦ θορύβου πάλιν ὁ μὲν Φωκίων ἀπελογεῖτο, ὁ δὲ ὄχλος κατεβόα καὶ τὴν φωνὴν τοῦ κινδυνεύοντος ἐκώλυεν ἐξακούεσθαι.
Id. 18.67.2:
But the mob's violent fury was implacable, and when some of Phocion's friends stepped up beside him to speak on his behalf, the people listened to their opening sentences, but it soon became clear that the speech they were trying to get through was a defence speech, and then they were driven off the podium by hostile jeers and howls.

ἀμεταθέτου δὲ τῆς τοῦ πλήθους ὁρμῆς καὶ βίας οὔσης παρεπορεύοντό τινες τῶν φίλων συνηγορήσοντες τῷ Φωκίωνι, ὧν τὰς μὲν ἀρχὰς τῶν λόγων ἤκουον, ὁπότε δὲ προβαίνοντες φανεροὶ καθίσταντο τὴν ἀπολογίαν διεξιόντες, ἐξεβάλλοντο τοῖς θορύβοις καὶ ταῖς ἐναντιουμέναις κραυγαῖς.
Related post: The "No Platform" Movement.

Sunday, January 15, 2023


Ignorance of Grammatical Terminology

Theodore Roosevelt, letter to Francis Parkman (July 13, 1889):
I am not quite sure how the Kentuckians and Tenneseeans will take my book; they have the dreadful habit of always writing of themselves in the superlative tense.
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2000), p. 93:
You should avoid the passive tense.


I won't say there's no place for the passive tense.
The superlative is a degree, not a tense. The passive is a voice, not a tense.

Despite their ignorance of grammatical terminology, both Roosevelt and King are better writers by far than I am.



The Power of an Oath

Homer, Iliad 4.158-162 (tr. A.T. Murray):
Yet in no wise is an oath of none effect and the blood of lambs
and drink-offerings of unmixed wine and the hand-clasps, wherein we put our trust.
For even if for the moment the Olympian vouchsafeth not fulfilment,
yet late and at length doth he fulfil them, and with a heavy price do men make atonement,
even with their own heads and their wives and their children.

οὐ μέν πως ἅλιον πέλει ὅρκιον αἷμά τε ἀρνῶν
σπονδαί τ᾽ ἄκρητοι καὶ δεξιαί, 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.
G.S. Kirk ad loc.:
158-9 The oath itself, the blood of the sacrificial lambs and the libations were not in vain: these are the main ritual acts which sealed the compact. The libations were described at 3.295f; on their being 'unmixed' see on 3.269-70 init. As for δεξιαί, they are usually taken as 'trustworthy right hands', metaphorical perhaps since no handshakes were mentioned in book 3 (or indeed at Aulis — for 159 = 2.341). bT took δεξιαί as an epithet of the libations, but 'unmixed and favourable' would be an odd connexion, and there are other difficulties too.

160-2 A solemn and moving profession of faith, proverbial in tone and language (with the gnomic or generalizing τε in protasis and apodosis (εἴ περ γάρ τε . . . ἔκ τε) as well as the gnomic aorist ἀπέτισαν, which by themselves disqualify Zenodotus' attempt, Arn/A, to make the text apply to the Trojans specifically). The solemnity is increased by the accurate accretion of particles and conjunctions: εἴ περ γάρ τε καὶ αὐτίκ' ... ('for even if, indeed, he has not immediately...') and ἔκ τε καὶ ὀψὲ τελεῖ ('he will fulfil them completely, even if late...'). τελεῖ is future rather than present, a relatively recent (i.e. Homeric or shortly before) contraction in either case.

They will pay, when they do, σύν ... μεγάλῳ, 'together with a great (price)' — or great evil according to bT: their own heads (i.e. lives) and their wives and children. What this might entail was described in the curse on breakers of the oath at 3.300f., 'may their brains flow on the ground like this wine, theirs and their children's, and may their wives be subjected to other men', on which see on 3.297-301. 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.



Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 20.1 (1899) 108-113 (at 108):
With all our advance in scientific astronomy, the average modern man is not so familiar with the sky as was his antique brother, and some of the blunders in modern works of fiction that are scored from time to time in scientific journals would hardly have been possible for a ploughman of antiquity, not to say a sailor. The world needs every now and then a reminder that the modern head holds different things from the ancient brain-pan, not necessarily more.


Diseases of the Soul

Polybius 1.81.5-7 (tr. W.R. Paton):
[5] No one looking at this would have any hesitation in saying that not only do men's bodies and certain of the ulcers and tumours afflicting them become so to speak savage and brutalized and quite incurable, but that this is true in a much higher degree of their souls. [6] In the case of ulcers, if we treat them, they are sometimes inflamed by the treatment itself and spread more rapidly, while again if we neglect them they continue, in virtue of their own nature, to eat into the flesh and never rest until they have utterly destroyed the tissues beneath. [7] Similarly such malignant lividities and putrid ulcers often grow in the human soul, that no beast becomes at the end more wicked or cruel than man.

[5] διόπερ εἰς ταῦτα βλέπων οὐκ ἄν τις εἰπεῖν ὀκνήσειεν ὡς οὐ μόνον τὰ σώματα τῶν ἀνθρώπων καί τινα τῶν ἐν αὐτοῖς γεννωμένων ἑλκῶν καὶ φυμάτων ἀποθηριοῦσθαι συμβαίνει καὶ τελέως ἀβοήθητα γίνεσθαι, πολὺ δὲ μάλιστα τὰς ψυχάς. [6] ἐπί τε γὰρ τῶν ἑλκῶν, ἐὰν μὲν θεραπείαν τοῖς τοιούτοις προσάγῃ τις, ὑπ' αὐτῆς ἐνίοτε ταύτης ἐρεθιζόμενα θᾶττον ποιεῖται τὴν νομήν· ἐὰν δὲ πάλιν ἀφῇ, κατὰ τὴν ἐξ αὑτῶν φύσιν φθείροντα τὸ συνεχὲς οὐκ ἴσχει παῦλαν, ἕως ἂν ἀφανίσῃ τὸ ὑποκείμενον· [7] ταῖς τε ψυχαῖς παραπλησίως τοιαῦται πολλάκις ἐπιφύονται μελανίαι καὶ σηπεδόνες ὥστε μηδὲν ἀσεβέστερον ἀνθρώπου μηδ' ὠμότερον ἀποτελεῖσθαι τῶν ζῴων.
F.W. Walbank ad loc.:

Saturday, January 14, 2023


Frightening Away Demons

Christopher A. Faraone, The Transformation of Greek Amulets in Roman Imperial Times (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), p. 92:
Thus, just as bronze bells might be called "sonic amulets" because they frighten demons away with their sound, we might label amber, jet, asphalt, and sulfur as "fumigant amulets," because they do the same with acrid odors.
Perhaps we can see a combination of these two ways of driving away demons in Martin Luther, Table Talk, number 469 (Spring, 1533; tr. Theodore G. Tappert):
Almost every night when I wake up the devil is there and wants to dispute with me. I have come to this conclusion: When the argument that the Christian is without the law and above the law doesn't help, I instantly chase him away with a fart.

Singulis noctibus fere, wenn ich erwach, so ist der Teuffel da und will an mich mit dem disputirn; da habe ich das erfarn: Wenn das argumentum nit hilfft, quod christianus est sine lege et supra legem, so weyse man yhn flugs mit eim furtz ab.

Friday, January 13, 2023


A Gloomy Misanthropist

John Quincy Adams, Diary (June 4, 1819):
I am a man of reserved, cold, austere, and forbidding manners; my political adversaries say a gloomy misanthropist, and my personal enemies, an unsocial savage. With a knowledge of the actual defect in my character, I have not the pliability to reform it.



Brent Nongbri, Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), p. 156:
I have had the good fortune of presenting portions of this work to audiences who have pondered this difficult question with me. On one of those occasions, the historian Edwin Judge suggested a three-step procedure to follow when one encounters the word "religion" in a translation of an ancient text. First, cross out the word whenever it occurs. Next, find a copy of the text in question in its original language and see what word (if any) is being translated as "religion." Third, come up with a different translation: "It almost doesn't matter what. Anything besides 'religion'!"



Euripides, Iphigenia among the Taurians 1096-1105 (tr. William D. Furley and Jan Maarten Bremer):
I long for the market-places of Greece,
I long for Artemis, goddess of childbed,
whose home is the Delian shore
and the soft-leaved palm,
the flourishing laurel
and the sacred trunk of grey-green
olive, friend to Leto in travail,
and the lake with its circular,
eddying water where the swan
cultivates the Muses with its song

ποθοῦσ' Ἑλλάνων ἀγόρους,
ποθοῦσ' Ἄρτεμιν λοχίαν,
ἃ παρὰ Κύνθιον ὄχθον οἰ-
κεῖ φοίνικά θ᾽ ἁβροκόμαν
δάφναν τ' εὐερνέα καὶ         1100
γλαυκᾶς θαλλὸν ἱερὸν ἐλαί-
ας, Λατοῦς ὠδῖνι φίλον,
λίμναν θ' εἱλίσσουσαν ὕδωρ
κύκλιον, ἔνθα κύκνος μελῳ-
δὸς Μούσας θεραπεύει.         1105
The same (tr. Edith Hall):
I yearn for the festivals of Greece,
I yearn for Artemis of childbirth,
who resides by the Cynthian hill,
and the soft-leaved palm-tree
and the maturing laurel
and the sacred shoot of the silvery olive,
a friend to Leto in labour,
and the lake where the water ripples in a circle,
and the tuneful swan serves the Muses.


Our Own People

Theodore Roosevelt, letter to Osborne Howes (May 5, 1892):
[W]e suffer altogether too much from the ill-regulated milk and water philanthropy which makes us degrade or neglect our own people by paying too much attention to the absolutely futile task of trying to raise humanity at large. Our business is with our own nation, with our own people.

Thursday, January 12, 2023


New Testament Greek

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 16.1 (1895) 122-127 (at 127):
The student of Attic, if he does not sympathize with the Emperor Julian in his sneer at the language of the Gospels, is prone to consider the Greek of the New Testament as a means of grace. It brings him down to the level of the common people who heard the Word with all readiness, and bids him associate with freedmen and other lightly esteemed persons, one Philologus among them, whose very names show their humble origin.
Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 22.1 (1901) 105-111 (at 107):
How much fewer fastidious souls would have been saved, if the Greek of the New Testament had not been transposed into the organ notes of the Authorized Version. Only the robuster sort can forgive ἐάν with the indicative and associate with the riff-raff of worse than plebeian names that figure in the last chapter of the Epistle to the Romans.


Is Diversity Always a Strength?

Polybius 1.67.3-6 (tr. W.R. Paton):
[3] As they were neither all of the same nationality nor spoke the same language, the camp was full of confusion and tumult and what is known as τύρβη or turbulence. [4] For the Carthaginian practice of employing hired troops of various nationalities is indeed well calculated to prevent them from combining rapidly in acts of insubordination or disrespect to their officers, [5] but in cases of an outburst of anger or of slanderous rumours or disaffection it is most prejudicial to all efforts to convey the truth to them, to calm their passions, or to show the ignorant their error. [6] Indeed, such forces, when once their anger is aroused against anyone, or slander spreads among them, are not content with mere human wickedness, but end by becoming like wild beasts or men deranged, as happened in the present case.

[3] ὡς δ' ἂν μήθ' ὁμοεθνῶν μήθ' ὁμογλώττων ὑπαρχόντων, ἦν ἀμιξίας καὶ θορύβου καὶ τῆς λεγομένης τύρβης πλῆρες τὸ στρατόπεδον. [4] Καρχηδόνιοι γὰρ ἀεὶ χρώμενοι ποικίλαις καὶ μισθοφορικαῖς δυνάμεσιν, πρὸς μὲν τὸ μὴ ταχέως συμφρονήσαντας ἀπειθεῖν μηδὲ δυσκαταπλήκτους εἶναι τοῖς ἡγουμένοις ὀρθῶς στοχάζονται, ποιοῦντες ἐκ πολλῶν γενῶν τὴν δύναμιν, [5] πρὸς δὲ τὸ γενομένης ὀργῆς ἢ διαβολῆς ἢ στάσεως διδάξαι καὶ πραῧναι καὶ μεταθεῖναι τοὺς ἠγνοηκότας ὁλοσχερῶς ἀστοχοῦσιν. [6] οὐ γὰρ οἷον ἀνθρωπίνῃ χρῆσθαι κακίᾳ συμβαίνει τὰς τοιαύτας δυνάμεις, ὅταν ἅπαξ εἰς ὀργὴν καὶ διαβολὴν ἐμπέσωσι πρός τινας, ἀλλ' ἀποθηριοῦσθαι τὸ τελευταῖον καὶ παραστατικὴν λαμβάνειν διάθεσιν.


A Lowering of Moral Standards

E.A. Judge, The Conversion of Rome: Ancient Sources of Modern Social Tensions (North Ryde: Macquarie Ancient History Association, 1980), p. 10:
When I once told A.H.M. Jones that I wanted to find out what difference it made to Rome to have been converted, he said he already knew the answer: None. Indeed, as his great work on the Later Roman Empire subsequently made clear, he thought that Christian belief, if anything, led to a lowering of moral standards in the community.
I don't have access to Judge's book, but I verified the quotation through Google Books' snippet view.

A.H.M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire, 284-602: A Social Economic and Administrative Survey, Vol. II (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1964), pp. 978-979:
It is difficult to assess whether in these matters the general level of morals was lower than it had been under the pagan empire, but it seems to have been no higher. Pliny the younger reveals himself in his letters as a more considerate landlord than were the rectors of the patrimony of St. Peter under Gregory the Great.

In some aspects of morals it is possible to trace a decline. The Codes give a very strong impression that brutality increased. In dealing with slaves, and from the middle of the second century onward the lower orders generally, the Roman administration had always been brutal. Torture was freely used to obtain evidence and extract confessions, flogging was arbitrarily inflicted, and the penalties for crime were often savage. Under the Christian emperors flogging and torture seem to have been used more and more as a matter of course, and were extended to classes hitherto exempt from them. Savage penalties, such as burning alive, were applied to a wider range of offences by successive emperors.

Official extortion and oppression and judicial corruption seem also to have increased. The Roman administration had never been free of these evils, but there was certainly a marked decline, which appears to be progressive, from the relatively high standards attained in the second and early third centuries. A definite decline in public morality can be traced in the sale of offices, which from being an exceptional abuse became a standard practice. It lay at the root of extortion and corruption, which concurrently became accepted as normal.

It is strange that during a period when Christianity, from being the religion of a small minority, came to embrace practically all the citizens of the empire, the general standards of conduct should have remained in general static and in some respects have sunk.

Thanks to Jim O'Donnell for drawing my attention to Ramsay MacMullen, "What Difference Did Christianity Make?" Historia 35.3 (1986) 322-343, rpt. in his Changes in the Roman Empire: Essays in the Ordinary (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), pp. 142-155, who examined the extent of Christianity's impact on sexual norms, slavery, gladitorial shows, judicial penalties, and corruption.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023



Polybius 1.65.4 (tr. W.R. Paton):
In this war they encountered many great perils and finally were in danger of losing not only their territory, but their own liberty and the soil of their native town.

ἐν ᾧ πολλοὺς καὶ μεγάλους ὑπομείναντες φόβους τέλος οὐ μόνον ὑπὲρ τῆς χώρας ἐκινδύνευσαν, ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ σφῶν αὐτῶν καὶ τοῦ τῆς πατρίδος ἐδάφους.
Cf. 3.2.2 (εἰς μέγαν μὲν φόβον ἐκείνους ἤγαγον περὶ σφῶν καὶ τοῦ τῆς πατρίδος ἐδάφους) and 3.118.5 (ἐν μεγάλοις δὲ φόβοις καὶ κινδύνοις ἦσαν περί τε σφῶν αὐτῶν καὶ περὶ τοῦ τῆς πατρίδος ἐδάφους).

Liberty doesn't occur in the Greek, although it's a reasonable translation; I might translate σφῶν αὐτῶν as their own lives or selves or existence.



Democritus, fragment 49 (from Stobaeus 4.4.27; tr. C.C.W. Taylor):
It is hard to be ruled by an inferior.

χαλεπὸν ἄρχεσθαι ὑπὸ χερείονος.


Reactions to Trouble

Antiphanes, fragment 103 Kassel-Austin, 104 Kock (from Charioteer; tr. S. Douglas Olson):
One man differs from another in this regard: when one has
trouble, he lets his grief infuriate him,
whereas the other accepts the situation rationally and bears it well.

ἀνδρὸς διαφέρει τοῦτ' ἀνήρ· ὁ μὲν κακῶς
πράττων τὸ λυποῦν ἤγαγ' εἰς παράστασιν,
ὁ δ' ἐμφρόνως δεξάμενος ἤνεγκεν καλῶς.
The same, tr. J.M. Edmonds:
Failure makes some men desperate—you can't tell,
Some take it sensibly and bear it well.
R. Kassel and C. Austin, edd., Poetae Comici Graeci, Vol. II: Agathenor - Aristonymus (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1991), p. 365:


Typographical Exactness

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 15.4 (1894) 520-523 (at 523):
In Brief Mention I often find myself adverting to the importance of typographical exactness. A man who makes remarks of that kind ought to abstain from article-writing and proof-reading. 'Un jour,' records that frivolous person, Jules Janin, Histoire de la littérature dramatique, III I72, 'on demandait à Geoffroy, pourquoi il ne faisait pas de comédies, lui qui les jugeait si bien? "Quand on donne le fouet aux autres, disait-il, il ne faut pas montrer son derrière."'
Translation hardly seems necessary, but just in case:
One day someone asked Geoffroy why he didn't write comedies himself, since he was such a good critic of them. "When you wield the whip against others," he said, "you shouldn't expose your own backside."
Id., "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 16.2 (1895) 259-263 (at 261):
[T]his Journal is almost always in mourning for typographical sins.
Photograph of Gildersleeve:

Tuesday, January 10, 2023


What Makes You So Bitter?

Erwin Chargaff (1905-2002), Voices in the Labyrinth: Nature, Man, and Science (New York: The Seabury Press, 1977), p. 117:
M: Tell me, Senile, what makes you so bitter? Is it sour grapes, or what?

S: No, Middle-aged, I do not think so, though some grapes are indeed sour. I have often been asked this question, and my standard answer has been to refer the questioner to Shakespeare's sixty-sixth sonnet. It is just my form of protest against this bestial century. Call it, if you want, a "protective reaction strike."

M: Here you go using this disgusting slogan.

S: All slogans are disgusting. In this country we are born and we die with a slogan on our lips. The advertising industry—the true curse of our times—has polluted our brains with these little jingles; it has saturated them, and we carry their infernal aroma into our dreams.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 66:
Tir'd with all these, for restful death I cry,
As, to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplac'd,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgrac'd,
And strength by limping sway disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill.
Tir'd with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.
A.L. Rowse's prose paraphrase of the sonnet:
Weary with thinking of these things, I am ready to give up: to see merit born poor, for example, and the unworthy flourishing in jollity; to see faith betrayed and bright honour put down, innocent virtue abused, perfection wrongfully demeaned; to see strength crippled by limping power, art tongue-tied by authority, and pretentious stupidity in control of intelligence; to see simple truth regarded as simpleness of mind, and good dancing attendance upon evil in command. Weary with all this, I would willingly be gone, except that in dying I should leave my love alone.
Chargaff, pp. 121-122:
M: You have an encyclopedic knowledge of things that are of no use.

S: Thank you.


Epitaph of Apollophanes

Inscriptiones Graecae Urbis Romae III 1159 (2nd-3rd century AD; non vidi) = Werner Peek, Griechische Vers-Inschriften, Bd. I: Grab-Epigramme (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1955), p. 398, number 1333 (my translation):
Standing here, you wonder who lies beneath this tomb;
a man who lived well for thrice ten years,
Apollophanes by name, great in trustworthiness and in reputation besides,
who proclaims to mortals: partake of good cheer.
One whom he raised as a son set up the little sepulchral tribute for him:
by name and skill this one was Diodoros (gift of Zeus).

ἑστὼς διστάζεις, [τίς] ὕπεστιν τῷδ' ὑπὸ τύμβῳ·
    ἀνὴρ εὖ ζήσας τρῖς ἐτέων δεκάδας,
τοὔνομ' Ἀπολλοφάνης, πίστει μέγας ἠδ' ἔτι δόξῃ,
    ὃς προλέγει θνατοῖς εὐφροσύνης μετέχειν.
τὴν δ' ἐπιτυμβίδιον τούτῳ θῆκεν χάριν ὃν τρέφε παῖδα·
    τοὔνομα καὶ τέχνην ἦν Διόδωρος ὅδε.
Georg Kaibel, Epigrammata Graeca ex Lapidibus Conlecta (Berlin: Reimer, 1878), pp. 254-255, number 621, on the last line:
nomine et arte dei erat donum, nam tam perfecta in eo ars erat ut ab ipso deo donata videretur.


A Study of Terrain

W. Kendrick Pritchett (1909-2007), Studies in Ancient Greek Topography, Part I (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965), pp. 1-2:
Topography offers probably our best means of checking the accuracy of ancient authors. Fortunately for our purpose, records of battles played a major part in ancient histories. Checkpoints are numerous, and by diligent exploration it may be possible to determine whether or not they existed in antiquity. In turn, with further study we should be able to throw light on the historical accuracy of an ancient writer. Bias and lack of objectivity are two charges which are now commonly brought against the ancient historians, particularly Thucydides. There is a reason for this. Every successive generation judges previous civilization through its own eyes. The History of the Peloponnesian War would seem to condemn a regime which affords many parallels to modern democracies, or, at least, to the direction in which these seem to be moving. Within the past few years, both H.D. Westlake and A.G. Woodhead have charged Thucydides with a biased presentation of the fall of Amphipolis. Westlake has questioned "how far his [Thucydides'] own account of the episode [the fall of Amphipolis] is objective," and concludes, "it is not so objective as it appears to be."1 Woodhead has written: "It [Thucydidean time-reckoning] cannot be founded, at any rate, on an appeal to Thucydidean 'objectivity', for whatever that may imply it is to be doubted whether Thucydides can be credited with it (see Mnemosyne 13 [1960] 289-317)."2 When we turn to the Mnemosyne article, we find that Woodhead's case against Thucydidean objectivity rests in no small part on his interpretation of what he calls "Kleon's grasp of grand strategy" at Amphipolis. Woodhead in effect impugns Thucydidean objectivity by impugning the topography. Which is correct—Thucydides' or Woodhead's account of the battle? Can we apply a tangible test?

The least we can do is to determine whether the points of reference mentioned in Thucydides actually exist, and whether armies could have moved between them as he describes. A study of terrain thus comes to be a basic way of testing historical objectivity. The method used to discredit the ancient historians is invariably the same and may also be exemplified in this study by Woodhead. He asks the question (page 308) "What was Thucydides' source of information here?" His answer takes the form of two rhetorical questions. "A few prisoners, eager to blame their misfortunes on their dead general? Disgruntled hoplites, casting back in their memories nineteen or more years later?" Since in the classical period most sources were oral, and Herodotos himself, for example, tells us that he relied on ὄψις, γνώμη, and ἱστορία—research which rested not on written but on oral tradition—it is easy to imagine how an informant might mislead an historian, even assuming that the latter began his researches with a desire for objectivity. But if we open the door to such doubts, we can challenge any statement, invalidate any single sentence in an ancient historian or, indeed, reject all ancient history en masse.

My approach has been an attempt to find out whether the record of the historian, so far as we can judge from a study of topography, is accurate. The principle I have adopted is that the account in the ancient historian should be adjudged correct unless there is proof of error. A priori, it seems likely that a man of the capacity of Thucydides, for example, may have interrogated many carefully chosen persons representing different aides, and may have arrived at the truth. On the other hand, if he is writing history in a nonobjective way, as Woodhead charges, then this nonobjectivity should appear in the account of the battles as much as in other parts.

1 Hermes 90 (1962), 276.

2 Gnomon 35 (1963), 82.
Id., p. 3:
A study of the terrain is a sine qua non for an understanding of ancient military tactics. This is a fertile field for flights of imagination. Too much of this work has been done from the chimney-corner, and in general, the farther removed the investigator is from the site itself, the more dogmatic are apt to be his pronouncements.
Id., p. 4:
Another factor that enters into the picture is the actual present-day change in terrain. Explorations must be undertaken before the configuration of the land is drastically altered by the hand of modern man. A striking example is Marathon. Between my successive visits in 1960 and 1963, sections of the plain probably changed more than they had in 2,000 years. The banks of the riverbed known as the Charadra have been cut away. The area termed Brexisa has in part been filled in, and enclosed within the picket fence of a military reservation. Indeed, in July, 1963, about a third of the Marathon plain was out of bounds to the topographical investigator. The study I undertook here in 1955 and 1959 would now be impossible. To take another example: the Greek press has announced that the government is considering a project for the establishment of shipyards in the Bay of Navarino, to compete with the Skaramauga shipyards. Similarly with other parts of Greece, the expansion in population, the introduction of new industries, and the cultivation of broader areas, bring an immediacy to our investigations.

Travel in Greece has never been exactly safe or dull. In earlier days, travellers had to confront such hazards as brigands, bedbugs, and impassable roads. These have now disappeared from the land, but the uninhibited Greek driver has replaced the brigand; the shepherd dog poses a real threat to foot travelers. One shepherd told me that if the dogs do not attack strangers, they are not fed. Twice at Amphipolis, and once on Mount Kallidromos, I was turned back by savage beasts. One recalls the story, told in several ancient sources, that only a few miles from Amphipolis Euripides met his end, when he was attacked and killed by dogs in 406 B.C.


Now You Have Touched Greatness

Ward W. Briggs, "B.L. Gildersleeve and 'The American Journal of Philology'," Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, Supplement, No. 128: Classics "In Practice": Studies in the History of Scholarship (2015) 3-15 (at 4, on William Watson Goodwin):
At the age of twenty-eight Goodwin produced the first book-length work of American classical scholarship, The syntax of the moods and tenses of the Greek verb (1859). This was a thoroughly American production, free of the conflicting linguistic theories that divided the European classical community. Such was the European reputation of Goodwin's book that the great scholar of the Attic orators Friedrich Blass (1843-1907) would call his students into his office, hand them his copy of Goodwin's Syntax, and when they handed it back, Blass would say, 'Now you have touched greatness'.10

10 William M. Calder III, 'Die Geschichte der klassischen Philologie in den Vereinigten Staaten', Jahrbuch für Amerikastudien 11 (1966) 221 = Studies in the modern history of classical scholarship (Napoli 1985) 23.

Monday, January 09, 2023


By Their Fruits

Diogenianus, Proverbs 5.15, tr. Marinos Yeroulanos, A Dictionary of Classical Greek Quotations (London: I.B. Tauris, 2016), p. 533:
Know the tree by its seed.

ἐκ τοῦ καρποῦ τὸ δένδρον.
καρπός can mean seed (Liddell-Scott-Jones, sense I.2), but usually it's fruit, and I would translate "Know the tree by its fruit," or, more literally, "The tree from the fruit."

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