Sunday, April 30, 2023



Plautus, Trinummus 199-211 (tr. Paul Nixon):
There's certainly nothing more silly and stupid, more subdolous and voluble, more brassymouthed and perjured than these city busybodies called men about town. Yes, and I put myself in the very same category with 'em, swallowing as I did the falsehoods of fellows that affect to know everything and don't know anything. Why, what each man has in mind, or will have, they know; know what the king whispers to the queen; know what Juno chats about with Jove. Things that don't exist and never will—still they know 'em all. Not a straw do they care whether their praise or blame, scattered where they please, is fair or unfair, so long as they know what they like to know.

nihil est profecto stultius neque stolidius
neque mendaciloquius neque argutum magis,        200
neque confidentiloquius neque peiurius,
quam urbani assidui cives, quos scurras vocant.
atque egomet me adeo cum illis una ibidem traho,
qui illorum verbis falsis acceptor fui,
qui omnia se simulant scire neque quicquam sciunt.        205
quod quisque in animo habet aut habiturust sciunt,
sciunt id quod in aurem rex reginae dixerit,
sciunt quod Iuno fabulatast cum Iove;
quae neque futura neque sunt, tamen illi sciunt.
falson an vero laudent, culpent quem velint,        210
non flocci faciunt, dum illud quod lubeat sciant.
Id. 217-222:
Ah, if we only went to the root of everything they hear and tell about, and demanded their authority, and then fined and punished our tittletattlers if they didn't produce it—if we did this, we'd be doing a public service, and I warrant there'd be few people knowing what they don't know, and quite a lull in their blitherblather.

quod si exquiratur usque ab stirpe auctoritas,
unde quidquid auditum dicant, nisi id appareat,
famigeratori res sit cum damno et malo,
hoc ita si fiat, publico fiat bono,        220
pauci sint faxim qui sciant quod nesciunt,
occlusioremque habeant stultiloquentiam.
Eduard Fraenkel, Plautine Elements in Plautus, tr. Tomas Drevikovsky and Francis Muecke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 126-128 (notes omitted):
I would like to believe that the farcical torrent of words with its heaping up of similar concepts is a Plautine addition, especially as it occurs in similar form in the openings already discussed, such as Bacch. 1087: quicumque ubi ubi sunt, qui fuerunt quique futuri sunt posthac stulti, stolidi, fatui, fungi, bardi, blenni buccones ('whoever, wherever they are, who have been and will be hereafter foolish, doltish, silly, soft-headed, slow, simple, babblers'); however, we must take account of the possibility that Philemon, too, had fun with lists of such attributes, as did Aristophanes, in whose Clouds 627 we find: μὰ τὴν Ἀναπνοὴν μὰ τὸ Χάος μὰ τὸν Ἀέρα οὐκ εἶδον οὕτως ἄνδρ᾽ ἄγροικον οὐδένα οὐδ᾽ ἄπορον οὐδὲ σκαιὸν οὐδ᾽ ἐπιλήσμονα ('By Respiration, by Chaos, by Air I have never seen a country bumpkin so helpless, absurd, and forgetful')—significantly it occurs at the beginning of a genuine monologue, though it is rather less extravagant. In the characterization of the famigeratores ('scandalmongers') which follows Megaronides' opening words, we can attribute one phrase to Plautus with certainty. Those people claim to know everything, 205: omnia se simulant scire neque quicquam sciunt, quod quisque in animo habet aut habiturust sciunt, sciunt id quod in aurem rex reginae dixerit, sciunt quod Iuno fabulatast cum Iove ('they pretend they know everything but know nothing, they know what each person has in mind or will have in mind, they know what the king said in the queen's ear, they know what Juno spoke of with Jupiter'). This last part could be Roman just as easily as Greek; the commentators quote as a comparison Theocritus 15.64: πάντα γυναῖκες ἴσαντι, καὶ ὡς Ζεὺς ἠγάγεθ᾽ ῞Ηρην ('women know everything, even how Zeus married Hera'). On the other hand, what Philemon might have been referring to in the pair rex-regina ('king-queen') is a question that has defeated scholars. The idea of the Attic βασιλεύς ('king') and the βασίλιννα ('queen') has no connection with it, and the attempt to see in it an allusion to Demetrios Poliorketes is unfortunate—this completely misses the connections of the ideas. The scurrae know what each person's inner intentions are, even what they will be in the future; they know what Juno and Jupiter said to each other. Anything mentioned in conjunction with these things must be absolutely marvellous (these people 'hear the grass growing', after all), and a conversation of the lord of Athens of the time, no matter how private, would not be sufficient to put it in this category. What is almost worse, however, is that any explanation referring to historic persons ignores the tone of this passage where the plain reality of a political allusion would not be tolerable in conjunction with the expression from the world of popular fairy tale. In actual fact we are dealing here with a kind of fairy-tale motif: the king and queen are as remote from human understanding as the divine couple are. Rex-regina is actually a doublet of Iuppiter-Iuno, and this fact alone is evidence for an addition by Plautus who loves heaping-up, particularly in material from fable. It can also be shown objectively that we are dealing here with a Plautine, indeed a generally Roman concept. Even in a state that has become a republic, the king remains for the people the image of might and magnificence; in this way he lives on in proverbs and children's games: pueri ludentes 'rex eris' aiunt 'si recte facies' ('children say in their game "You will be king, if you do the right thing"') (Hor. Epist. 1.1.59; Porphyrio quotes at greater length the rhyme which is a trochaic septenarius like other lines with related content). The boys in Athens knew this same ball game, where the winner was called βασιλεύς; Plato (Tht. 146a) alludes to it. Another game, actually involving a king, existed in Athens: βασιλίνδα μὲν οὖν ἐστὶν ὅταν διακληρωθέντες ὁ μὲν βασιλεὺς τις ὢν τάττῃ τὸ (τί?) πρακτέον, ὁ δ' ὑπηρέτης εἶναι λαχὼν πᾶν τὸ ταχθὲν ὑπεκπονῇ ("Therefore it is "king of the castle" whenever after lots have been drawn the king lays down what is to be done, but he who gets to be servant performs all that he is ordered') (Pollux 9.110). But in the Athenian adults' game, comedy, we can hardly imagine a paradigmatic use for a king who resides outside time and space (quod in aurem rex regime dixerit, 'what the king said in the queen's ear').


The Ne Plus Ultra of Human Art

Thomas Babington Macaulay, letter to Thomas Flower Ellis (August 25, 1835):
I do assure you that there is no prose composition in the world, not even the "De Coronâ," which I place so high as the seventh book of Thucydides. It is the ne plus ultra of human art. I was delighted to find in Gray's letters the other day this query to Wharton: "The retreat from Syracuse — it, or is it not, the finest thing you ever read in your life?"


An Emendation by Nietzsche

W.A. Oldfather, review of Friedrich Nietzsche, Philologica, Bd. III, edd. O. Crusius and W. Nestle (Leipzig: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 1913), in Journal of English and Germanic Philology 12 (1913) 652-666 (at 655):
Almost certainly correct is the restoration of a passage in the commentary of Probus on Vergil's Aen. VI, 31, which is so corrupt that it has been uniformly athetized by the Editors (p. 3092).
This is a rare slip on Oldfather's part. The commentary is on Vergil, Ecl. 6.31, not Vergil, Aen. 6.31.

First, here is Nietzsche's footnote (from "Die διάδοχοι der Philosophen," pp. 305-323):
Hiernach ist eine sehr verdorbene Stelle der Scholien des Probus zum Virgil VI, 31 zu corrigiren. Anaxagoras Abderites fuit, Democrito popularis et discipulus, quamquam alii Dionysium Cyzicenum (cod. Par. N. 8209 Dionysium Smyrneum) magistrum eius affirment. Hergestellt: Anaxarchus Abderites fuit quamquam alii Diogenem Cyrenaeum vel Smyrnaeum magistrum eius affirment. Rhein. Mus. IV. 144.
Second, here is the passage from "Probus," in Hermann Hagen, ed., Appendix Serviana = Servii Grammatici Qui Feruntur in Vergilii Carmina Commentarii, III.2 (Leipig: B.G. Teubner, 1902), p. 335, lines 9-11 (from Probi Qui Dicitur Commentarius in Vergilii Bucolica et Georgica, pp. 321-390; click once or twice to enlarge):


Saturday, April 29, 2023


Conjectural Emendation and Proofreading

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 36.3 (1915) 358-369 (at 364-365):
I will dismiss the subject, fascinating as it is, with a few remarks on the general subject of conjectural emendation. The tenor will not be unfamiliar to the readers of the Journal, ἀλλ' ὅμως. As an American of the Americans, I can well understand why so few of my countrymen have ventured on speculation that promises so little result, but apart from this consideration, I have long held it to be little short of a crime to advance mere guesses—in the vague hope that some one will adopt them and stand up for them. In the list of WILAMOWITZ'S various readings it has happened a couple of times that emendations abandoned by their authors have found a benevolent patron in him, but that is not to be counted on. Now if one examines Amatus's twenty odd corrections, it will appear that most of them are inevitable, most of them have been taken up into the text. They are all simple, and it is these simple changes that hold their own, simple changes that fall within the range that Kenyon prescribes. The 'splendor' of which WILAMOWITZ writes would not shine in a printer's office to-day. They belong to the realm with which some of us are sadly familiar, the realm of proofreading in which every editor performs feats that would be loudly acclaimed, if the language were Greek or Latin and not the native tongue. Haplography and dittography are no mysteries in practice to some of the confraternity who do not even know these convenient technical terms and who lay no claim to the divinum ingenium ascribed, for instance, to Reiske, for whom indeed every classical scholar entertains the highest esteem. What is the glory of discovering a turned type? What of discovering a caret, the very symbol of which ^ stands for the Greek word λείπει? Who has not found occasion to put asunder what the printer has joined together, and join together what the printer has put asunder. It is a matter of context whether one reads 'this creed' or 'this screed'. But, as I write, the ghosts of dead and buried typographical errors, ghosts, which a flirt of the pen might have laid forever, begin to squeak and gibber in the halls of my memory, 'indefensible' for 'indefeasible,' 'row' for 'vow,' 'fornication' for 'formication,' 'Pythagoras' for 'Protagoras,' 'coöperation' for 'coöptation,' 'chronicle' for 'coracle' and hosts of others, some of them signalized in the various Errata of the Journal, the correction of which would make the reputation of any Greek or Latin scholar. At the same time it must be remembered that there are such things as happy mistakes, and a number of these' felices errores' are recorded by WILAMOWITZ in his commentary. But neither do these lack parallels. In Malherbe's famous 'Rose, elle a vécu ce que vivent les roses.' 'Rose, elle' was originally a printer's error for the author's 'Rosette,' and to my mind one of the best things in all Herbert Spencer is the story that in the sentimental outgiving 'Pour connaître l'amour, il faut sortir de soi' the idealistic 'de soi' became in type the realistic 'le soir.'


If You Want to Be a Scholar

Charles Forster Smith (1852-1931), Reminiscences and Sketches (Nashville: Publishing House of the M.E. Church, South, 1908), p. 384:
My first definite impulse to go to Germany was due to a remark made to me by Professor Frederic D. Allen. Meeting me one morning on the Harvard campus, he said: "Mr. Smith, you must go to Germany; if you want to be a scholar, you must go to Germany." That was all, but the idea lodged in my soul. The thought had been the dream of my life; now it rankled, and I had no rest till it was settled that I was to go to Germany. The possibility of it began to take form when my friend Patton, one Sunday evening when we were going to take supper with Professor and Mrs. Gurney, said to me: "You can go to Germany just as well as you can stay here; it will not cost any more." He had spent the period of his junior year in Europe, earning his way as he went, and I was so much impressed by what he said that I wrote to my father about it. His assurance soon came that he would help me financially, and of course I determined to go.


Who Could Blame You?

Plautus, Epidicus 107-108 (tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
Are you ashamed because you bought a captive girl born in a good family in the booty? Who will there be who'd find fault with you for that?

idne pudet te, quia captivam genere prognatam bono
in praeda es mercatus? quis erit vitio qui id vortat tibi?
George E. Duckworth on in praeda (line 108):
Studemund (JbPh 113, 1876, p. 67) proposed de praeda which is frequently found in Plautus; cf. Epid. 44, 64, 621 (ex praeda, BEJ; de praeda, A, which reading avoids hiatus), Capt. 34 (cf. Lindsay, Captiui, ad loc.), 111, 453, Pseud. 1164, Truc. 567. Abraham (JbPh, Suppl. 14, 1884, p. 201) agrees with Studemund and accepts no preposition with praeda except de and cum (for cum praeda, cf. Epid. 381, 394, Merc. 498, Poen. 647); see also Sicker, Ph, Suppl. 11 (1908), p. 243. Ex praeda is found in Epid. 608, for which Abraham likewise substitutes de praeda; cf. however Varro, De Re Rust. 2,10,4: e praeda sub corona emit. Goetz (1st ed.), Goetz-Schoell, Leo, Ammendola, and Ernout read de praeda here; Ussing, Goetz (2nd ed.), and Lindsay, in praeda; in 608 all read ex praeda with the exception of Goetz-Schoell, Ammendola, and Ernout, who mark a lacuna. It seems advisable to follow the MSS. in both passages. For in praeda in a somewhat different sense, cf. Men. 135: ecqua in istac pars inest praeda mihi?
Studemund = Wilhelm Studemund, review of Fritz Schmidt, Quaestiones de Pronominum Demonstrativorum Formis Plautinis (Berlin: Weidmann, 1875), in Neue Jahrbücher für Philologie und Paedogogik 113 (1876) 57-76

Abraham = Gulielmus Abraham, "Studia Plautina," Jahrbücher für classische Philologie, Supplementband 14 (1885) 179-244

Sicker = Eugenius Sicker, "Novae Quaestiones Plautinae Praecipue ad Originem Duarum Recensionum Pertinentes," Philologus, Supplementband 11.2 (1908) 177-252

See Gonzalez Lodge, Lexicon Plautinum, Vol. II (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1926-1933), p. 264, for ablative praeda after various prepositions:
These lines provide a striking example of the difference between ancient and modern views on slave trading.

Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), "Marché romain aux esclaves" (i.e. Roman Slave Market), Baltimore, Walters Art Museum (accession number 37.885):


Names of Wars

Arnold J. Toynbee, Hannibal's Legacy: The Hannibalic War's Effects on Roman Life, Vol. I: Rome and Her Neighbours Before Hannibal's Entry (London: Oxford University Press, 1965), p. 1:
Since it takes at least two belligerents to make a war, most wars, other than civil wars and world wars, need a double name like ‘Franco-Prussian’ or ‘Russo-Japanese’. Belligerents, taking their own participation for granted, are apt to label a war with the single name of their adversary in it. The Romans called their wars with Carthage ‘the Phoenician Wars’ (Bella Punica), to distinguish them from their innumerable wars with other victims of theirs; and, if we possessed an account of these same wars written by a Carthaginian historian—or by a Greek one writing, like Philinus, from the Carthaginian point of view—we should probably find Rome’s ‘Phoenician Wars’ being called Carthage’s ‘Roman Wars’, to distinguish them from her previous wars with Syracuse. A double name for a war is the only kind that is fully descriptive and duly neutral. In a case, like that of the Romano-Carthaginian Wars, in which the victor has succeeded in monopolising the telling of the tale to posterity, it is particularly important for an historian, and for his readers, not to adopt the victor’s one-sided nomenclature, however successful the victor may have been in putting this into cur­rency. If the historian falls into the victor-narrator’s semantic trap, he may find himself unintentionally seeing things with the victor’s eyes, instead of looking at them from the historian’s own proper independent standpoint.

Friday, April 28, 2023



Friedrich Ritschl, "Zur Methode des philologischen Studiums," Opuscula Philologica, Vol. V (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1879), pp. 19–32 (at 28; tr. Charles Forster Smith):
Read, read much, read very much, read as much as possible.

Lesen, viel lesen, sehr viel lesen, möglichst viel lesen.
Charles Forster Smith, "Preparing for College in the Old South," Christian Advocate 86.26 (July 26, 1925) 907-908 (at 908):
Once fairly started in reading Latin and Greek, our rapid, intensive procedure was the very best. I soon got so familiar with Xenophon's constructions and vocabulary that I could read my next day's lesson in the "Anabasis" while riding homeward in the buggy with my feet hanging over the side as my father drove. All that I read in that long ago period is still fairly vivid to me, except the Livy. I did not get as much out of it at the time, and it has not stayed with me like the Sallust, Vergil, Cicero, and Xenophon.

I have often said to students in later years: "I have a simple, easy rule for learning to read Greek: 'Read plenty of it.'" A great German scholar had said the same thing in better form long before: "Read, read much, read very much, read as much as possible." But I had not heard of his saying then. A Rhodes scholar once wrote me: "I have had occasion to test your rule for reading Greek over here. We have to read quantities of Greek. When Herodotus is assigned, it means all Herodotus; when Plato's 'Republic,' it means all the ten books. So I have had to apply your rule, and it works."


Lingering Echoes

George Horton, In Argolis (London: Duckworth and Company, 1903), p. 95:
After the ceremony in the little church on the top of the hill, we all went to the groom's house together. A pomegranate was lying on the threshold, upon which the bride dutifully stepped, crushing the seeds out of it as an indication of desired fruitfulness. What a thrill of delight that one little act, so appropriate to this land, gave me! The great gods have turned pale and faded away before the fierce sun of Christianity, like the stars at the coming of day; yet many of the old, sweet echoes linger to woo the heart that cannot quite forget its pagan yearnings. There was a pomegranate in the hand of the gold-and-ivory statue of Hera, the goddess of fertility, by Polycleitus, at Argos.



Ezra Pound, Polite Essays (1937; rpt. Freeport: Books for Libraries Press, Inc., 1966), p. 113:
The utter bunk offered by men in power, by 'experts and authorities', could only be offered to a grossly ignorant public, and a grossly timorous intelligentsia.
Id., p. 115:
Human nature? Yes, very human for any man to be irritated by the presentation of ANY fact whatsoever that upsets his preconceived notions. But until education welcomes any and every fact, it will remain what it now is, a farce.
Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), "La Vérité est au fond du puits," Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon:


The Stereotype of the Classical Scholar

K.J. Dover, "On Writing for the General Reader," The Greeks and their Legacy: Collected Papers, Vol. II: Prose Literature, History, Society, Transmission, Influence (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988), pp. 304-313 (at 307):
Friedrich Leo once told the young Eduard Fraenkel that he should choose between variant readings, or between acceptance and rejection of a proposed emendation, ‘as if the fate of his immortal soul depended on the rightness of his choice’. Individuals’ reactions to this anecdote depend on whether they have really noticed the words ‘as if’ and have attached importance to them. Leo did not say, and I have no reason to suppose he believed, that the salvation of his soul actually depended on his decisions as a textual critic. He was simply integrating ‘life’ and ‘work’ in a way which, if we encountered it in a scientist, would occasion little surprise. From a Classicist it will seem to some only to confirm an existing stereotype.

Misrepresentation of the character of Classics as an activity, quite a different matter from misrepresentation of the world which the Classicist studies, is conspicuous enough on the fringe of Classical writing, and its spores, carried this way and that, generate patches and streaks of corruption even in the professional core. The stereotype of the Classical scholar may not be as stark and as enduring as the frock-coated doctor and the cane-waving schoolmaster still occasionally to be found in comics, but it is definable. This scholar is vain and factious, delighting in victory over trifles, yet capable of an instant solidarity with his fellow-practitioners if the insight of an amateur threatens to solve a problem which collectively they have failed to take seriously or even to comprehend. Conflicting specialists are always a consoling spectacle, for ignor­ance likes to be reassured that there is no advantage in knowledge. When specialists agree, they are inevitably cast in the unsympathetic role of Goliath.

Thursday, April 27, 2023


The Value of Bad Editions

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 36.3 (1915) 358-369 (at 359):
To come back to my Tauchnitz Aischylos. Like all men of my time, I own a number of these old Tauchnitz editions; and some of them are a joy to me, notably the Aristophanes, by reason of their faulty texts, showing as they do the advance of textual criticism just as the old Variorum editions give evidence of the progress achieved in exegesis. Both may be made to serve as adminicles to the work of the Greek Seminary. The veriest novice can be taught by these old Tauchnitz editions to restore the readings of the best MSS., to correct the false spellings, the bad forms, the abnormal syntax—an encouraging exercise in the art of handling texts.



Theocritus 25.67 (tr. A.S.F. Gow, with his note):
Hard it is to know another's mood.

χαλεπὸν δ’ ἑτέρου νόον ἴδμεναι ἀνδρός.

Alcm. fr. 42 τίς ἂν τίς πόκα ῥᾷ ἀλλὰ [ἄλλω Bekker] νόον ἀνδρὸς ἐπίσποι [ἐνίσποι Bergk], Hom. Epigr. 5 θνητοῖσιν ἀνωίστων πολέων περ | οὐδέν άφραστότερον πέλεται νόου άνθρώποισιν.


What to Say When Someone Breaks Wind

William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor 3.5.74-75, in David Crane's edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 121:
There was the rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril.
Related posts:




Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Jefferson Randolph (November 24, 1808):
I never yet saw an instance of one of two disputants convincing the other by argument. I have seen many of their getting warm, becoming rude, & shooting one another.


Comparatively Rare

T. Selby Henrey, Good Stories from Oxford and Cambridge and the Dioceses (London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co. Ltd., 1922), p. 86:
In the Homeric Grammar by D.B. Monro, late Provost of Oriel, the following words are to be found on page 7: "Meaning of the Middle ... (2) The use in which the agent is the direct object of the action, as λούο-μαιI wash myself. This is comparatively rare." It is current in Oxford that an undergrad first detected the humorous side of this sentence.


Loving Life

K.J. Dover, "On Writing for the General Reader," The Greeks and their Legacy: Collected Papers, Vol. II: Prose Literature, History, Society, Transmission, Influence (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988), pp. 304-313 (at 311):
First acquaintance with the aspects of the Russian verb made Jane Harrison, in her own words, ‘weep for joy’. A Classicist is unlikely to be surprised at that; he is more likely to exclaim τοῦτ᾽ ἐκεῖνο; but how can Jane Harrison’s tears of joy be made intelligible to the general reader? To value linguistic phenomena not for their utility as means to a non-linguistic end, but precisely for their self-sufficient particularity, as one might value a tropical beetle or the movements of a bear, is one way of loving life (and a way taken for granted, incidentally, by Jane Harrison, to whom I am indebted, in a different context, for the bear), but it is not most people’s way, and there is no good reason why it should be; a collector, no matter how great his joy over rare and colourful specimens, is not in a position to say more to other people than, ‘This is what I like. Take it or leave it.’ Jane Harrison in fact believed that understanding a grammatical system affords a unique and direct insight into the characteristic thought-processes of the nation which speaks that language. I confess that I have never experienced the slightest temptation to share her belief, for it does not seem to me at all consonant with the evidence, but I have a great deal of sympathy with the predilections which induced her to hold it. If I ask myself whence, in forty-three years of studying Greek (years in which I have not undergone so much as thirty seconds of boredom), I have derived the most powerful excitement, stimulus and — well, let us make good use of the word ‘joy’ before it starts to travel the same road as ‘gay’ — the answer which comes into my head is: syntax, textual criticism, palaeography, dialectology and lyric metre.
Related post: People Who Find Homer Boring.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023


Lions of Venice

James Morris, Venice (London: Faber and Faber, 1974), pp. 180-182:
I cannot help thinking that the old Venetians went a little queer about lions, for the profusion of stone specimens in Venice is almost unbelievable. The city crawls with lions, winged lions and ordinary lions, great lions and petty lions, lions on doorways, lions supporting windows, lions on corbels, self-satisfied lions in gardens, lions rampant, lions soporific, amiable lions, ferocious lions, rickety lions, vivacious lions, dead lions, rotting lions, lions on chimneys, on flower-pots, on garden gates, on crests, on medallions, lurking among foliage, blatant on pillars, lions on flags, lions on tombs, lions in pictures, lions at the feet of statues, lions realistic, lions symbolic, lions heraldic, lions archaic, mutilated lions, chimerical lions, semi-lions, super-lions, lions with elongated tails, feathered lions, lions with jewelled eyes, marble lions, porphyry lions, and one real lion, drawn from the life, as the artist proudly says, by the indefatigable Longhi, and hung among the rest of his genre pictures in the Querini-Stampalia gallery. There are Greek lions, Gothic lions, Byzantine lions, even Hittite lions. There are seventy-five lions on the Porta della Carta, the main entrance to the Doge's Palace. There is a winged lion on every iron insurance plate. There is even a sorrowing lion at the foot of the Cross itself, in a picture in the Scuola di San Marco.

The most imperial lion in Venice is the winged beast painted by Carpaccio in the Doge's Palace, with a moon-lily beside his front paw, and a tail four or five feet long. The ugliest pair of lions lie at the feet of a French Ambassador's tomb in the church of San Giobbe, and were carved, with crowns on their heads and tongues slightly protruding, by the French sculptor Perreau. The silliest lion stands in the Public Gardens, removed there from the façade of the Accademia: Minerva is riding this footling beast side-saddle, and on her helmet is perched another anatomical curiosity — an owl with knees. The eeriest lion is the so-called crab-lion, which you may find in a dark archway near the church of Sant' Aponal, and which looks less like a crab than a kind of feathered ghoul. The most unassuming stands on a pillar outside San Nicolo dei Mendicoli; he holds the book of St. Mark in his paws, but has never presumed to apply for the wings. The most froward stands on a bridge near Santa Chiara, behind the car park, where a flight of steps runs fustily down to the canal like a Dickensian staircase in the shadows of London Bridge, and this unlikeable beast glowers at you like Mrs. Grundy.

The most pathetic lion is an elderly animal that stands on the palisade of the Palazzo Franchetti, beside the Accademia bridge, bearing listlessly in his mouth a label inscribed Labore. The most undernourished is a long lion on the south façade of the Basilica, three or four of whose ribs protrude cruelly through his hide. The most glamorous is the winged lion on his column in the Piazzetta, whose eyes are made of agate, whose legs were damaged when Napoleon removed him to Paris, and whose Holy Book was inserted neatly under his paws when he was first brought to Venice from the pagan East, converted from a savage basilisk to a saint's companion.

The most indecisive lion is the creature at the foot of the Manin statue, in the Campo Manin, whose creator was evidently uncertain whether such carnivores had hair under their wings, or feathers (as Ruskin said of another pug-like example, which has fur wings, 'in several other points the manner of his sculpture is not uninteresting'). The most senile lions are the ones on the Dogana, which are losing their teeth pitifully, and look badly in need of a pension. The most long-suffering are the porphyry lions in the Piazzetta dei Leoncini, north of the Basilica, which have been used by generations of little Venetians as substitutes for rocking horses. The frankest lions, the ones most likely to succeed, are the pair that crouch, one dauntless but in chains, the other free and awfully noble, beneath the fine equestrian statue of Victor Emmanuel on the Riva degli Schiavoni.

The most enigmatical is the floridly maned lion, outside the gates of the Arsenal, whose rump is carved with nordic runes. The most confident is the new lion that stands outside the naval school at Sant' Elena, forbidding entry to all without special permission from the commandant. The most athletic looks sinuously past the Doge Foscari on the Porta della Carta. The most threatening crouches on the façade of the Scuola di San Marco, his paws protruding, ready to leap through the surrounding marble. The most reproachful looks down from the Clock Tower in the Piazza, more in sorrow than in anger, as though he has just seen you do something not altogether creditable beneath the arcade. The jolliest — but there, none of the lions of Venice are really very unpleasant, and comparisons are invidious.

They provide an essential element in the Venetian atmosphere, an element of cracked but affectionate obsession. It is no accident that in the very centre of Tintoretto's vast Paradise, in the Doge's Palace, the lion of St. Mark sits in unobtrusive comfort, nestling beside his master amid the surrounding frenzy, and disputing with that saintly scribe, so Mark Twain thought, the correct spelling of an adjective.
Entrance to the Arsenal, Venice
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Talk to a Tree

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 10.22.7 (tr. Earnest Cary):
Now if you claim that any interest of your own is suffering injustice or injury at our hands, we will afford you proper indemnity in accordance with the treaty; but if you have come to exact satisfaction on behalf of the Tusculans, you have no reckoning with me on that subject, but go talk to yonder oak" — pointing to one that grew near by.

"εἰ μὲν οὖν τῶν ὑμετέρων ἰδίων ἀδικεῖσθαί τι ἢ βλάπτεσθαι λέγετε ὑφ᾽ ἡμῶν, τὰ δίκαια ὑφέξομεν ὑμῖν κατὰ τὰς ὁμολογίας· εἰ δὲ περὶ Τυσκλάνων ἀναπραξόμενοι δίκας ἥκετε, οὐθείς ἐστιν ὑμῖν πρὸς ἐμὲ περὶ τούτων λόγος, ἀλλὰ πρὸς ταύτην λαλεῖτε τὴν φηγόν"— δείξας αὐτοῖς τινα πλησίον πεφυκυῖαν.
C.G. Cobet, Observationes Criticae et Palaeographicae ad Dionysii Halicarnassensis Antiquitates Romanas (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1877), p. 192:
Veram orationis formam reperit Reiske: „ἀλλὰ πρὸς ταύτην λαλεῖτε.” Φηγὸν δείξας αὐτοῖς τινα πλησίον πεφυκυῖαν, nisi quod una literula addita πρὸς ταυτηνὶ λαλεῖτε scriptum oportuit.


Better the Devil You Know Than the Devil You Don't Know

Plautus, Trinummus 63 (tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
The evil that's known is the evil that's best.

nota mala res optuma est.


This Age of Mud

Giacomo Leopardi, "Ad Angelo Mai," lines 177-180 (tr. Jonathan Galassi):
                                     Raise the fallen,
since the living sleep. Rearm the dead tongues
of our pristine heroes, so at last
this age of mud will either want to live
and rise to noble action, or be shamed.

                                 Risveglia i morti,
Poi che dormono i vivi; arma le spente
Lingue de' prischi eroi; tanto che in fine
Questo secol di fango o vita agogni
E sorga ad atti illustri, o si vergogni.        180

Tuesday, April 25, 2023


A Cry of the Blood

Gilbert Murray (1866-1957), Hamlet and Orestes: A Study in Traditional Types (New York: Oxford University Press, 1914 = British Museum, Annual Shakespeare Lecture), p. 26:
[I]t seems only natural that those subjects, or some of those subjects, which particularly stirred the interest of primitive men, should still have an appeal to certain very deep-rooted human instincts. I do not say that they will always move us now; but, when they do, they will tend to do so in ways which we recognize as particularly profound and poetical. This comes in part from their original quality; in part, I suspect, it depends on mere repetition. We all know the emotional charm possessed by famous and familiar words and names, even to hearers who do not understand the words and know little of the bearers of the names. I suspect that a charm of that sort lies in these stories and situations, which are—I cannot quite keep clear of metaphor—deeply implanted in the memory of the race, stamped, as it were, upon our physical organism. We have forgotten their faces and their voices; we say that they are strange to us. Yet there is something in us which leaps at the sight of them, a cry of the blood which tells us we have known them always.


Cicero's Reputation

Harold C. Gotoff, Cicero's Elegant Style: An Analysis of the Pro Archia (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979), p. 3:
It would be difficult to think of any other figure of Western cultural history who has suffered the eclipse of reputation that Cicero has undergone. To the humanists, he was the quintessential model for and of the Renaissance man. In our time he is generally considered to be a vain and long-winded, essentially ineffectual politician, derivative as a thinker and pretentious as a man of letters. Half a millennium ago educated men rejoiced when the manuscript of a new work of Cicero was discovered; today, it sometimes takes all the piety for the Classical discipline a student can muster even to read him.


Greek Does Not Blush

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 36.2 (1915) 230-242 (at 236-237):
In the latest Jahresbericht on Aristophanes (1911) KÖRTE empties the vials of his wrath, or rather the κάκοσμος οὐράνη of Aischylos, upon the head of Graves for undertaking to expurgate, or, as KÖRTE would call it, emasculate the Acharnians of Aristophanes. Those who are too dainty to read Aristophanes entire, he says, ought to let him alone, and the German scholar proceeds to specify some of the fatal omissions—as, for instance, that part of the Megarian scene which has given rise to two English sayings, 'buying a pig in a poke', and 'taking one's pigs to a bad market', both used regularly of women. To be sure, there are those who translate Χοιρίλη 'Piggie' without any mental reserve, and the joke in Sokrates' fictive wife Μύρτω is also hidden from Philistine eyes. And yet, as KÖRTE points out and as I have pointed out more than once (e.g. A.J.P. XXI 230), through carelessness or ignorance superfine editors have allowed several things to stand in the Aristophanic text that are as improper as anything they have excised. Now, as the study of Aristophanes is absolutely necessary for the appreciation of Attic idiom, what Musurus calls the savour of Attic thyme must be inhaled in spite of the whiff that comes now and then from the rolling-mill of the beetle. And as Greek does not blush, the awkwardness of expounding Aristophanes to mixed classes of men and women may be obviated and has been obviated by referring the sex of which La Fontaine says, 'ses oreilles sont chastes', to the scholiast, though Rutherford insists that one great fault of the scholiast lies in smelling mice—the rat is not antique— where there are no mice to smell. 'Nonsense and nastiness', quoth Rutherford, 'generated from silly and undisciplined minds' (A.J.P. XXVII 486). The scholiast has, for instance, as Mazon laments, utterly spoiled for the serious student the passage in the Peace (557 ff.) that is so often cited by those who extol Aristophanes' love of nature, forgetful of his mocking spirit (A.J.P. XXVII 354). No vegetable is safe from the εὔρινος βάσις of the scholiast.
There's not a bonie flower that springs
   By fountain, shaw or green;
There's not a bonie bird that sings
   But minds him <of the obscene.>
One recalls the folksong: ποῦ μοι τὰ ῥόδα; ποῦ μοι τὰ ἴα; ποῦ μοι τὰ καλὰ σέλινα; (A.J.P. XXII 471). It is sad to reflect that the scholiast must have turned Browning's head, as he turned Rutherford's stomach, for unfortunately Browning prided himself on being a man of the world as well as a poet, and nothing is more distasteful to those who are not bond slaves to his genius than his 'knowingness'. He poses over and over again as one who is up to snuff, as one who knows what's what. But the pedant spoils the poet, and while Browning tries to shew that he knows what's what he ruins a beautiful poem by shewing that he does not know what's t—t (A.J.P. XXXII 241). The blunder was duly set forth in the public press years ago, but Pippa passes it on to boys and girls, together with 'owls and bats'. ψωλοὶ πεδίονδε is one of Browning's Aristophanic favorites, but despite my polite concession, he did not understand it.
Gildersleeve sometimes requires as much annotation as Aristophanes, or more. Here are a few notes.

KÖRTE = Alfred Körte, "Bericht über die Literatur zur griechischen Komödie aus den Jahren 1902-1909," Jahresbericht über die Fortschritte der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft 152 (1911) 218-312 (at 262-263):
[N]och viel schlimmer ist die Dreistigkeit, mit der er sich erlaubt, Aristophanes zu kastrieren. Man sollte es kaum für möglich halten, daß die Cambridger University Press im Jahre 1905 eine offenbar für Studenten bestimmte Aristophanesausgabe zu drucken gewagt hat, in der stillschweigend alles ausgemerzt ist, was für eine höhere Tochter anstößig sein könnte.
the κάκοσμος οὐράνη of Aischylos = the foul-smelling piss-pot of Aeschylus (fragment 180 Radt, line 2: κάκοσμον οὐράνην)

Graves = C.E. Graves, ed., Aristophanes, The Acharnians (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1905)

Χοιρίλη: The name comes from χοίρα, feminine of χοῖρος (piggie), which can also mean the female genitalia. See Jeffrey Henderson, The Maculate Muse: Obscene Language in Attic Comedy, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 131.

Μύρτω: The name comes from μύρτον (myrtle-berry), which can also mean the female genitalia. See Henderson, op. cit., pp. 134-135.

εὔρινος βάσις = keen-sniffing course, from Sophocles, Ajax 8 (said of a hound dog)

There's not a bonie flower that springs, etc. = lines 13-16 of Robert Burns, "Of A' The Airts The Wind Can Blaw"

ποῦ μοι τὰ ῥόδα; ποῦ μοι τὰ ἴα; ποῦ μοι τὰ καλὰ σέλινα; = Where are my roses? Where are my violets? Where are my beautiful celery-flowers? (Poetae Melici Graeci, fragment 852)

Browning = Robert Browning, who mistakenly thought that twat was an article of nun's clothing. See his Pippa Passes IV.317-319:
Then owls and bats, cowls and twats,
Monks and nuns, in a cloister's moods,
Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry!
ψωλοὶ πεδίονδε = cocks with foreskin retracted, to the battlefield, from Aristophanes, Birds 507



Plautus, Trinummus 53 (tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
I do believe that you're happy if I have some misfortune.

credo hercle te gaudere si quid mi mali est.

Monday, April 24, 2023


Mixing Up Virtues and Vices

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 9.53.6 (tr. Earnest Cary):
No longer in the character of all even of your own number does the ancient proud spirit dwell, but, on the contrary, some call gravity haughtiness, justice folly, courage madness, and modesty stupidity. On the other hand, those qualities that were held in detestation by the men of former times are now extolled and appear to the corrupt as wonderful virtues, such as cowardice, buffoonery, malignity, crafty wisdom, rashness in undertaking everything and unwillingness to listen to any of one's betters—vices which ere now have laid hold on and utterly overthrown many strong states.

οὐδ᾽ ἐν τοῖς ὑμετέροις ἤθεσι πᾶσιν ἔτι τὸ ἀρχαῖον οἰκεῖ φρόνημα, ἀλλ᾽ αὐθάδεια μὲν ἡ σεμνότης καλεῖται πρὸς ἐνίων, μωρία δ᾽ ἡ δικαιοσύνη, μανικὸν δὲ τὸ ἀνδρεῖον, καὶ ἠλίθιον τὸ σῶφρον. ἃ δὲ μισητὰ παρὰ τοῖς προτέροις ἦν, ταῦτα πυργοῦταί τε νῦν καὶ θαυμάσια ἡλίκα φαίνεται τοῖς διεφθαρμένοις ἀγαθά, ἀνανδρία καὶ βωμολοχία καὶ κακοήθεια καὶ τὸ πανούργως σοφὸν καὶ τὸ πρὸς ἅπαντα ἰταμὸν καὶ τὸ μηδενὶ τῶν κρειττόνων εὐπειθές· ἃ πολλὰς ἤδη πόλεις ἰσχυρὰς λαβόντα ἐκ βάθρων ἀνέτρεψε.
Related posts:


Not Really So Obscure

Alan Rush, "Obituary: Professor Sir Harold Bailey," Independent (January 12, 1996):
A task now facing Bailey's colleagues is the elucidation of his rhyming diaries. When told at our last meeting that the course of a lifetime had transformed these into an epic of over 3,000 verses in a private language concocted from classical Sarmatian inscriptions, I asked Bailey why he was so fond of obscurity. "Well, the diaries are not really so obscure," he said. "Indeed I'd say there's hardly a line that could not have been understood by any Persian of the fourth century."


Born at Just the Right Time

Alfred J. Toynbee (1889-1975), A Study of History, Vol. X (London: Oxford Univerity Press, 1954), p. 5 (footnote omitted):
[T]he longer the writer of this Study lived, the more glad he was that he had been born early enough in the Western Civilization's day to have been taken to church as a child every Sunday as a matter of course and to have received his formal education at a school and a university in which the study of the Greek and Latin classics, by which the Medieval Western study of Scripture and Theology had been replaced as a result of a fifteenth-century Italian renaissance, had not yet been ousted in its turn by a study of Western vernacular languages and literatures, Medieval and Modern Western history, and a latter-day Western physical science.

Sunday, April 23, 2023


Repetition of Antecedent Within Relative Clause

Andrew R. Dyck, ed., Cicero, Catilinarians (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 74 (on 1.4):
senatus consultum . . . quo ex senatus consulto: the antecedent is repeated within the relative clause, a feature of the fussy Latinity of official reports that becomes less common in C.'s mature style; cf. Parzinger (1910) 83-6; Landgraf on Sex. Rosc. 8; K-S II 283-84; H-S 563-64; G-L §615; many examples are cited by Ellendt on De orat. 1.174.
I just noticed another example at Plautus, Epidicus 41:
est causa qua causa simul mecum ire veritust.
George E. Duckworth ad loc.:
causa qua causa — This repetition of the noun with the relative pronoun is frequent in comedy; cf. Merc. 1015 f.: immo dicamus senibus legem censeo ... qua se lege teneant contentique sint; Capt. 277 f., Mil. Gl. 140 ff. (but cf. Bach, De attractione, p. 5 n.), Rud. 997, Ter. Adelph. 854, Heaut. 20 f., Hec. 10 f., Phorm. 32 f. Cf. Leo, Analecta Plaut., II, p. 23 n.; Deecke, De usu pronominis, pp. 68 ff.
See also Harm Pinkster, The Oxford Latin Syntax, Vol. II: The Complex Sentence and Discourse (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021), pp. 528-532 (§ 18.18: "The presence of the same noun (phrase) in the relative and superordinate clause").


An Autodidact

Alfred J. Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. X (London: Oxford University Press, 1954), pp. 16-17 (footnotes omitted):
Professor H.W. Bailey (natus A.D. 1899), a philologist of world-wide renown who in A.D. 1952 was the Professor of Sanskrit in the University of Cambridge, had awoken to consciousness as a child on a farm in Western Australia; and it would be hard to think of a more unpromising environment than this for producing a savant in the field of Oriental languages. The virgin soil of a recently colonized terra nullius exhaled no folk-lore to play the part of those local legends that had put Heinrich Schliemann, in his Varangian village, on the track of buried treasure; but the local human environment in Western Australia in the first decade of the twentieth century of the Christian Era did provide Harold Walter Bailey with the equivalent of the Universal History that had given the decisive turn to Heinrich Schliemann's life when it had come into Schliemann's hands on Christmas Day, 1829. The books that descended from Heaven upon the boy on the West Australian farm were 'a set of seven volumes of an encyclopaedia (eagerly devoured) and four other volumes with lessons in French, Latin, German, Greek, Italian, and Spanish. Later came Arabic and Persian, out of which Persian took the lead (joined later to Sanskrit)'.

This was the trove that set Bailey's curiosity on fire; and in A.D. 1943 the present writer induced the modest scholar to describe to him how his family used to watch him, with a benign but whimsical gaze, while, during the noonday rest from their common labours in the field, he would be conning his Avestan grammar in the shade of an Antipodean haystack. By the time when he was approaching the age to matriculate at a university, the young student of Oriental languages had become aware that he had reached the limit of what he could teach himself, unaided, out of the books on which he could lay hands. What was the next step? At the University of Western Australia at this date there was no provision for Oriental studies; for help in these, the would-be student would have to go on to Western Europe or to North America. So Bailey taught himself Latin and Greek; took these as his subjects at his own university; won a scholarship at the University of Western Australia to take him to the University of Oxford; and found at Oxford the help that he needed in order to complete his mastery of Oriental languages.

Yet even Cambridge, England, could not provide this Australian philologist with a chair specifically allocated to the Khotanese language, akin to Persian and to Sanskrit, which had been introduced into the Tarim Basin by the Sakas and which, while H.W. Bailey was studying Avestan under his haystack in Western Australia, had been recovered from oblivion by the labours of a series of Western pioneers in the Tarim Basin, culminating in the Hungarian-British archaeologist-explorer Sir Aurel Stein's trove of religious and secular literature in known and still all but unknown languages, on which this path-finder had lighted in May 1907 in a Taoist shrine at Ch'ien Fo-tung ('the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas'), near Tun-huang in the Su-lo-ho Basin, 'a natural corridor' leading from North-Western China into Central Asia, at the Western terminus of the former limes of a Sinic universal state; and Khotanese and Tokharian were the fields in which Bailey, in the next stage of his intellectual career, was to give the most impressive demonstrations of his prowess in advancing the frontiers of philological knowledge.


Do I Need to Read Lycophron?

Giorgio Pasquali (1885-1952), Filologia e Storia, new ed. (Firenze: Felice Le Monnier, 1971), p. 34 (my translation):
I would call classics in the strict sense those texts that, because of artistic value or importance of thought, deserve to be read by all educated people. It's useless to establish a canon, for it would suffer the fate of all canons, to be enlarged, narrowed, modified according to times and tastes. But clearly, if on the one hand a person who calls himself educated should be ashamed not to know Homer even in translation, on the other hand anyone who isn't a professional philologist needn't worry if he's never seen Quintus Smyrnaeus, and it's not even said that every philologist must have read him in full. He who hasn't read or understood Aeschylus has deprived himself of a most noble enjoyment; the most highly educated person can freely do without reading Lycophron.

Classici in senso stretto io chia­merei quei testi che per valore artistico o per importanza di pensiero meritano di esser letti da tutte le persone colte. È inutile stabilire un canone, perch'esso subirebbe la sorte di tutti i canoni, di essere allargato, ristretto, variato secondo i tempi e i gusti; ma è evidente che, se per una persona che si dice colta, è vergogna non conoscere Omero neppure in traduzione, chiunque non sia filologo di professione può infischiarsi di non aver mai veduto Quinto Smirneo, e non è neppure detto che ogni filologo debba averlo letto per intero. Chi non ha letto o non ha inteso Eschilo, ha privato sé stesso di un godimento nobilissimo; di legger Licofrone la persona più colta può fare liberamente a meno.


An Authoritarian State

Primo Levi, The Voice of Memory: Interviews, 1961-1987, tr. Robert Gordon (New York: The New Press, 2001), p. 187:
In an authoritarian state it is considered permissible to alter the truth; to rewrite history retrospectively; to distort the news, suppress the true, add the false. Propaganda is substituted for information.


It is clear that under these conditions it becomes possible (though not always easy; it is never easy to deeply violate human nature) to erase great chunks of reality.

Saturday, April 22, 2023



Vergil, Georgics 1.199-200 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
                                    Thus by law of fate all things
speed towards the worse and slipping away fall back...

                                     sic omnia fatis
in peius ruere ac retro sublapsa referri...
T.E. Page ad loc.:
199. sic omnia...] 'So by fate do all things ever hasten to the worse and slipping backwards retrograde.' A characteristic instance of Virgil's 'pessimism,' and also of the art by which he embellishes his subject with philosophical reflections.

200. ruere and referri are historic infinitives. Observe the alliteration in ruere, retro, referri, expressing the uninterrupted retrogression, cf. 203 praeceps prono rapit alveus amni.
On the so-called historic infinitive see Raphael Kühner and Carl Stegmann, Ausführliche Grammatik der lateinischen Sprache, Band II: Satzlehre, Teil I (Hannover: Hahn, 1912), pp. 135-138 (§ 34: "Infinitivus adumbrativus"), and Harm Pinkster, The Oxford Latin Syntax, Vol. I: The Simple Clause (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), pp. 527-530 (§ 7.71: "The use of the present infinitive as main verb").


Two Methods of Translating

Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), "On the Different Methods of Translating," tr. André Lefevere, Translating Literature: The German Tradition from Luther to Rosenzweig (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1977), pp. 67-90 (at 74):
But what of the genuine translator, who wants to bring those two completely separated persons, his author and his reader, truly together, and who would like to bring the latter to an understanding and enjoyment of the former as correct and complete as possible without inviting him to leave the sphere of his mother tongue — what roads are open to him? In my opinion there are only two. Either the translator leaves the author in peace, as much as possible, and moves the reader towards him: or he leaves the reader in peace, as much as possible, and moves the author towards him. The two roads are so completely separate from each other that one or the other must be followed as closely as possible, and that a highly unreliable result would proceed from any mixture, so that it is to be feared that author and reader would not meet at all. The difference between the two methods, and the fact that they stand in this relationship, must be immediately obvious. For in the first case the translator tries, by means of his work, to replace for the reader the understanding of the original language that the reader does not have. He tries to communicate to the readers the same image, the same impression he himself has gained — through his knowledge of the original language — of the work as it stands, and in doing so he tries to move the readers towards his point of view, which is essentially foreign to them. But if the translation wants to let its Roman author, for instance, speak the way he would have spoken to Germans if he had been German, it does not merely move the author to where the translator stands, because to him he does not speak German, but Latin: rather it drags him directly into the world of the German readers and transforms him into their equal — and that, precisely, is the other case. The first translation will be perfect in its kind when one can say that if the author had learnt German as well as the translator has learnt Latin he would not have translated the work he originally wrote in Latin any differently than the translator has done. But the second, which does not show the author as he himself would have translated but as he, as a German, would have originally written in German, can have no other measure of perfection than if it could be certified that, could all German readers be changed into experts and contemporaries of the author, the original would have meant exactly the same to them as what the translation means to them now — that the author has changed himself into a German. This method is obviously meant by all those who use the formula that one should translate an author in such a way as he himself would have written in German. From this opposition it is immediately obvious how different the procedure must be in every detail, and how, if one tried to switch methods in the course of one and the same project, everything would become unintelligible as well as unpalatable. I merely would like to add that there cannot be a third method, with a precisely delimited goal, over and above these two.

Friday, April 21, 2023


What is Philology?

Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, "Philologie und Schulreform," in his Reden und Vorträge (Berlin: Weidmann, 1901), pp. 97-119 (at 104-105), tr. in Diego Lanza and Gherardo Ugolini, edd., History of Classical Philology: From Bentley to the 20th Century, tr. Antonella Lettieri (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2022), pp. 192-193:
Philology, what is it? Although it is not nice to repeat F.A. Wolf's words, it is necessary. I forgo the taxidermy of a definition expressed in logical terms to instead carry on using the old label, no matter how misleading or even empty it may be. We want to define the science by its object. Homer marks the beginning of the ongoing development of a civilization that was always aware of its continuity and that embraced ever wider extents. Firstly, Greece; then, with Alexander the Great, the East; then, with Rome, the whole of the Mediterranean. The fall of the Roman Empire marks the end of the unity and continuity of this civilization. The barbarians become emancipated. Christianity, although having sprung from this civilization, yet repudiates it. Since this civilization represents a unity despite the many transformations of its life and spirit, each of its phenomena can be perfectly understood in its individual meaning only if considered as a part of the whole. Even the most minute phenomenon carries in itself its contribution to the understanding of the whole from which it derived and in which it developed. Since the object is one, philology is a unity: the particle ἄν and Aristotle's entelechy, the sacred caves of Apollo and the idol Besas, Sappho's song and Saint Thecla's sermons, Pindar's metrics and the measuring tables of Pompeii, the caricatural masks on the Dipylon vases and the baths of Caracalla, the official documents of the magistrates of Abdera and the feats of Divus Augustus, Apollonius' conic section and Petosiris' astrology: everything, everything belongs to philology since it belongs to the object that philology sets out to understand and philology cannot do without a single one of them.

Die Philologie, was ist sie? Es ist nicht schön, daß man's nach F.A. Wolf noch sagen muß; aber es ist nötig. Ich verzichte darauf, eine Definition logisch zu präparieren, wie ich mich auch des alten Namens bediene, so verkehrt oder vielmehr leer er ist: wir wollen die Wissenschaft durch ihr Objekt bestimmen. Mit Homer beginnt eine kontinuierliche und ihrer Kontinuität sich stets bewußte Kulturentwicklung, die immer weitere Gebiete umspannt, erst ganz Hellas, dann durch Alexander den Orient, dann durch Rom das gesamte Mittelmeergebiet. Mit dem Zerfall des römischen Reiches hört die Einheitlichkeit und die Kontinuität dieser Kultur auf. Die Barbaren emancipieren sich; das Christentum, obwohl aus jener Kultur erwachsen, verleugnet sie. Weil diese Kultur eine Einheit ist, trotz all den Wandlungen des Lebens und des Geistes, kann eine jede ihrer Erscheinungen in ihrem individuellen Leben vollkommen nur vom Ganzen her verstanden werden, und trägt jede kleinste Erscheinung ihren Zug bei zu dem Verständnisse des Ganzen, aus dem sie ward, in dem sie fortwirkt. Weil das Objekt eines ist, ist die Philologie eine Einheit. Die Partikel ἄν und die Entelechie des Aristoteles, die heiligen Grotten Apollons und der Götze Besas, das Lied der Sappho und die Predigt der heiligen Thekla, die Metrik Pindars und der Meßtisch von Pompeji, die Fratzen der Dipylonvasen und die Thermen Caracallas, die Amtsbefugnisse der Schultheißen von Abdera und die Taten des göttlichen Augustus, die Kegelschnitte des Apollonios und die Astrologie des Petosiris: alles, alles gehört zur Philologie, denn es gehört zu dem Objekte, das sie verstehen will, auch nicht eines kann sie missen.


Wars, Foreign and Domestic

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 8.83.2 (tr. Earnest Cary):
Now in all nations and places, both Greek and barbarian, respites from evils from abroad are wont to provoke civil and domestic wars; and this happens especially among those peoples who choose a life of warfare and its hardships from a passion for liberty and dominion. For natures which have learned to covet more than they have find it difficult, when restrained from their usual employments, to remain patient, and for this reason the wisest leaders are always stirring up the embers of some foreign quarrels in the belief that wars waged abroad are better than those fought at home.

ἐν ἅπασι μὲν οὖν ἔθνεσι καὶ τόποις Ἑλλήνων τε καὶ βαρβάρων φιλοῦσιν αἱ τῶν ἔξωθεν κακῶν ἀνάπαυλαι ἐμφυλίους τε καὶ ἐνδήμους ἐγείρειν πολέμους, μάλιστα δὲ τοῦτο πάσχουσιν ὅσοι πολεμιστὴν καὶ κακόπαθον αἱροῦνται βίον ἐλευθερίας τε καὶ ἡγεμονίας πόθῳ. χαλεπαὶ γὰρ αἱ μαθοῦσαι τοῦ πλείονος ἐφίεσθαι φύσεις ἐξειργόμεναι τῶν συνήθων ἔργων καρτερεῖν· καὶ διὰ τοῦτο οἱ φρονιμώτατοι τῶν ἡγεμόνων ἀεί τινας ἐκ τῶν ἀλλοεθνῶν ἀναζωπυροῦσιν ἔχθρας, κρείττονας ἡγούμενοι τῶν ἐντοπίων πολέμων τοὺς ἀλλοδαπούς.


The Work of a Lifetime

Voltaire, Le Siècle de Louis XIV (entry for Louis Du Four de Longuerue under Écrivains français; my translation):
To learn several languages poorly is the result of a few years' work. To speak one's own language correctly and eloquently is the work of a lifetime.

Apprendre plusieurs langues médiocrement, c'est le fruit du travail de quelques années. Parler purement et éloquemment la sienne est le travail de toute la vie.

Thursday, April 20, 2023



Demosthenes 3.15-16 (3rd Olynthiac; tr. J.H. Vince):
For in order of time action is subsequent to speaking and voting, but in importance it comes first and ranks higher. It is action, then, that must be added: of all else we have enough. You have among you, Athenians, men competent to say the right thing, no nation is quicker-witted to grasp the meaning of speech, and you will at once be able to translate it into action, if only you do your duty. Why, what better time or occasion could you find than the present, men of Athens? When will you do your duty, if not now?

τὸ γὰρ πράττειν τοῦ λέγειν καὶ χειροτονεῖν ὕστερον ὂν τῇ τάξει, πρότερον τῇ δυνάμει καὶ κρεῖττόν ἐστιν. τοῦτ᾽ οὖν δεῖ προσεῖναι, τὰ δ᾽ ἄλλ᾽ ὑπάρχει· καὶ γὰρ εἰπεῖν τὰ δέοντα παρ᾽ ὑμῖν εἰσιν, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, δυνάμενοι, καὶ γνῶναι πάντων ὑμεῖς ὀξύτατοι τὰ ῥηθέντα, καὶ πρᾶξαι δὲ δυνήσεσθε νῦν, ἐὰν ὀρθῶς ποιῆτε. τίνα γὰρ χρόνον ἢ τίνα καιρόν, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, τοῦ παρόντος βελτίω ζητεῖτε; ἢ πόθ᾽ ἃ δεῖ πράξετ᾽, εἰ μὴ νῦν;


Hatred of Philology

Friedrich Nietzsche, "Homer and Classical Philology," tr. J.M. Kennedy in Oscar Levy, ed., The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Vol. VI: On the Future of Our Educational Institutions. Homer and Classical Philology (Edinburgh: T.M. Foulis, 1909), p. 147:
But, on the other hand, there is a boundless and infuriated hatred of philology wherever an ideal, as such, is feared, where the modern man falls down to worship himself, and where Hellenism is looked upon as a superseded and hence very insignificant point of view.

Dagegen lebt ein ganz ingrimmiger und unbändiger Hass gegen die Philologie überall dort, wo das Ideal als solches gefürchtet wird, wo der moderne Mensch in glücklicher Bewunderung vor sich selbst niederfällt, wo das Hellenenthum als ein überwundener, daher sehr gleichgültiger Standpunkt betrachtet wird.


Beneath the Soil

Vergil, Georgics 1.493-497 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Yea, and a time shall come when in those lands,
as the farmer toils at the soil with crooked plough,
he shall find javelins eaten up with rusty mould,
or with his heavy hoes shall strike on empty helms,
and marvel at the giant bones in the upturned graves.

scilicet et tempus veniet, cum finibus illis
agricola incurvo terram molitus aratro
exesa inveniet scabra robigine pila,        495
aut gravibus rastris galeas pulsabit inanis,
grandiaque effossis mirabitur ossa sepulcris.


Closer Than We Realize

Oswyn Murray, Introduction to Paul Veyne, Bread and Circuses: Historical Sociology and Political Pluralism, tr. Brian Pearce (London: Penguin Books, 1992), p. ix:
So history is dangerous for your health, both too much of it and too little. But ancient history is a long way away (more than 2,000 years ago), and surely safer. Not so; as my scientist son once remarked to me, it is only a hundred generations since Homer: the origins of our civilization are closer to us than we realize.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023


Ancient and Modern Poets

Gilbert Murray, Euripides and His Age (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1913), pp. 99-102:
It is strange to reflect on the gulf that lies between the life of an ancient poet and his modern descendants. Our poets and men of letters mostly live either by writing or by investments eked out by writing. They are professional writers and readers and, as a rule, nothing else. It is comparatively rare for any one of them to face daily dangers, to stand against men who mean to kill him and beside men for whom he is ready to die, to be kept a couple of days fasting, or even to work in the sweat of his body for the food he eats. If such things happen by accident to one of us we cherish them as priceless "copy," or we even go out of our way to compass the experience artificially.

But an ancient poet was living hard, working, thinking, fighting, suffering, through most of the years that we are writing about life. He took part in the political assembly, in the Council, in the jury-courts; he worked at his own farm or business; and every year he was liable to be sent on long military expeditions abroad or to be summoned at a day's notice to defend the frontier at home. It is out of a life like this, a life of crowded reality and work, that Aeschylus and Sophocles and Euripides found leisure to write their tragedies; one writing 90, one 127, and the third 92! Euripides was considered in antiquity a bookish poet. He had a library—in numbers probably not one book for every hundred that Tennyson or George Meredith had: he was a philosopher, he read to himself. But on what a background of personal experience his philosophy was builded! It is probably this immersion in the hard realities of life that gives ancient Greek literature some of its special characteristics. Its firm hold on sanity and common sense, for instance; its avoidance of sentimentality and paradox and various seductive kinds of folly; perhaps also its steady devotion to ideal forms and high conventions, and its aversion from anything that we should call "realism." A man everlastingly wrapped round in good books and safe living cries out for something harsh and real—for blood and swear-words and crude jagged sentences. A man who escapes with eagerness from a life of war and dirt and brutality and hardship to dwell just a short time among the Muses, naturally likes the Muses to be their very selves and not remind him of the mud he has just washed off. Euripides has two long descriptions of a battle, one in the Children of Heracles and one in the Suppliant Women; both are rhetorical Messenger's Speeches, conventionally well-written and without one touch that suggests personal experience. It is curious to compare these, the writings of the poet who had fought in scores of hand-to-hand battles, with the far more vivid rhapsodies of modern writers who have never so much as seen a man pointing a gun at them.


Dearest Foe

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 36.2 (1915) 230-242 (at 230):
No one can understand Aristophanes without studying Euripides. A man's enmities are as important for the appreciation of his work in life as his friendships, if not more important. 'Dearest foe', we say, and 'pet aversion'.



Theocritus 16.20 (tr. A.S.F. Gow):
And who would listen to another? Homer is enough for all.

τίς δέ κεν ἄλλου ἀκούσαι; ἅλις πάντεσσιν Ὅμηρος.


Abuse and Mutual Recrimination

Demosthenes 4.44 (1st Philippic; tr. J.H. Vince):
If we sit here at home listening to the abuse and mutual recriminations of the orators, there is not the slightest chance of our getting anything done that ought to be done.

ἂν μέντοι καθώμεθ᾽ οἴκοι, λοιδορουμένων ἀκούοντες καὶ αἰτιωμένων ἀλλήλους τῶν λεγόντων, οὐδέποτ᾽ οὐδὲν ἡμῖν μὴ γένηται τῶν δεόντων.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023


Long Ago

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "The Old Issue," lines 17-18:
All we have of freedom, all we use or know—
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.


Deepest Quiet

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), "La Vita Solitaria," lines 23-38 (tr. Jonathan Galassi):
Sometimes I sit alone, apart,
on a hillside, by a lake
ringed by silent reeds and bushes.
There, when high noon fills the sky,
the Sun paints his undisturbed reflection,
and no blade of grass or leaf
stirs in the wind, you neither see nor hear
wave break nor cicada shriek; no bird
moves a feather on a branch, no butterfly
flitters—there's no sound or movement, far or near.
Deepest quiet fills those shores,
and, sitting still, I seem to forget
myself and the world; my limbs relax,
no longer ruled by mind or spirit,
their immemorial calm
dissolving in the silence of the place.

Talor m'assido in solitaria parte,
Sovra un rialto, al margine d'un lago
Di taciturne piante incoronato.        25
Ivi, quando il meriggio in ciel si volve,
La sua tranquilla imago il Sol dipinge,
Ed erba o foglia non si crolla al vento,
E non onda incresparsi, e non cicala
Strider, nè batter penna augello in ramo,        30
Nè farfalla ronzar, nè voce o moto
Da presso nè da lunge odi nè vedi.
Tien quelle rive altissima quiete;
Ond'io quasi me stesso e il mondo obblio
Sedendo immoto; e già mi par che sciolte        35
Giaccian le membra mie, nè spirto o senso
Più le commova, e lor quiete antica
Co' silenzi del loco si confonda.
Iris Origo, Leopardi: A Study in Solitude (Chappaqua: Helen Marx Books, 1999), pp. 129-130 (after quoting lines 26, 28-32):
In this deliberate return to country myths and scenes, Leopardi—like his great contemporary Manzoni—was following the current of his time; he was sharing in the revolution which was bringing back literature from the palace to the farm, from the heroic to the quotidian. His lady is not a goddess, but a country girl on a summer's evening, bringing home an armful of fresh grass; his subjects, not kings or heroes, but an old woman gossiping on the church steps, and children shouting, and a tired labourer, bearing home his hoe. His scene is the village square, the hedgerow beneath the hill. But the square holds the whole pageant of human life, and beyond the hedgerow lies infinity.
The same lines in Geoffrey L. Bickersteth's translation:
At times I seat me in a lonely spot,
Upon a gentle knoll, beside a lake
Ringed with a silent coronal of trees.
There, in the full noon of a summer's day,
The Sun his tranquil image loves to paint,
Nor grass, nor leaf stirs in the windless air,
No ripple of water, no cicala's shrill
Chirping, no flutter of wings upon the bough,
No buzz of insect, voice or movement none,
Far off or near, can ear or eye perceive.
Those shores a deep, unbroken stillness holds;
Whence, sitting motionless, I half forget
Myself, forget the world, my limbs appear
Already loosened, neither soul nor sense
Informs them more, and their age-old repose
Is mingled with the silences around.


War and Peace

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 8.48.4 (Corolianus' mother speaking; tr. Earnest Cary):
Any peace is preferable to any war.

πᾶσα μὲν εἰρήνη παντός ἐστι πολέμου κρείττων.
This reminds me of the fatuous bumper sticker "War is never the answer."


War Memorials

Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War (London: Allen Lane/The Penguin Press, 1998), p. xlii (notes omitted):
Most (though not all) of the war memorials which stand in squares, schools and churchyards all over Europe, whether they portray idealized warriors, mourning women or (as at Thiepval) merely list names on stone or bronze, insist that those who died in the war did not die in vain. 'Morts pour la Patrie' is the most frequently encountered inscription on French monuments aux morts, whether heroic, civic or funerary. 'Deutschland muss leben, auch wenn wir sterben müssen,' reads the legend of the Dammtor memorial I used to pass every day as a student in Hamburg: 'Germany must live, even if we must die.' Only a few memorials venture to suggest that the 'sacrifice' of those they bring to mind was in vain.
Thiepval, Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, designed by Edwin Lutyens (erected in 1928-1932; photograph by Chris Hartford):
Hamburg, Dammtor-Bahnhof, Kriegerdenkmal für die im Ersten Weltkrieg gefallenen Soldaten des Hamburgischen Infanterie-Regiments Nr. 76, aka 76er Denkmal, designed by Richard Kuöhl (erected in 1936):
James E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), pp. 337-338:
This seemingly indestructible military monument by Richard Kuohl [sic] was erected by the Nazis in 1936 near the entrance to Hamburg's wondrous Botanical Garden at the Dammtor. A massive cube of granite blocks, it is encircled by a frieze of marching German soldiers, four abreast in profile relief. In Gothic script typical of the Third Reich, the monument is dedicated to the memory of soldiers from Hamburg's Second Hanseatic Infantry Regiment number 76 who fell in the 1870-71 war and in the First World War.

Despite its militaristic tenor and Nazi origin, the monument might have remained undisturbed had it not been for a line of poetry by Heinrich Lersch inscribed on one side: "Deutschland muss leben, auch wenn wir sterben müssen" (Germany must live, even if we have to die). In the midst of the surrounding devastation after the war (this monument was practically the only edifice left standing in the Dammtor after the bombing), this verse had taken on a mock hollow ring in 1945, a perceived affront to the dead of all wars.

As antiwar sentiment rose over the years, Kuohl's monument came under siege by demonstrators, who smeared it with paint and took hammer and chisel to its stone reliefs. It has incited full-fledged rock-and-bottle riots between skinheads and police, as other police and antiwar marchers battled in the streets nearby. At the same time, veterans of the Second Hanseatic Infantry Regiment number 76 continued to honor their fallen comrades at the monument's base, and the city continued to clean the monument and repair its vandalized facade. At one point, Radio Bremen invited listeners to turn out en masse and swaddle the monument in rags, blankets, and linen—à la Christo. All the networks covered this live "TV happening," to the great concern of local Christian Democratic Union politicians and veterans groups still attempting to protect the monument from its pubic. Eventually, the city gave up cleaning the monument, caught between its popular rejection as a glorification of war and the veterans' need for a place to honor their comrades. Having withstood the Allies' bombs, the monument also defeated the townspeople's own attempts to demolish it.

This memorial stone had become, in the punning vernacular, a "Stein des Anstosses"—an annoyance, a stone of contention—that just wouldn't go away.
The line from Heinrich Lersch (1889-1936) comes from his poem "Soldatenabschied," Herz! Aufglühe dein Blut: Gedichte im Kriege (Jena: Eugen Diederich, 1916), pp. 14-15. It was parodied by the Hamburg punk rock group Slime in their song "Deutschland muss sterben, damit wir leben können."

When my son was a small boy, he thought Gutzon Borglum's statue The Aviator (1918) at the University of Virginia was a statue of Spiderman:

Monday, April 17, 2023


Fools We Shall Always Have with Us

Simonides, fragment 37, lines 37-38, quoted by Plato, Protagoras 346c (tr. David A. Campbell):
For the generation of fools is numberless.

τῶν γὰρ ἠλιθίων / ἀπείρων γενέθλα.
Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), Zibaldone, tr. Kathleen Baldwin et al. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), pp. 1730-1731 (Z 4058-4059):
If we take a good look at life, at the actions and decisions of men, we will see that for ten things done well, which are advantageous and useful to those who do them, there are thousands of things done badly, which are disadvantageous, completely useless, self-damaging, more or less, contrary to wisdom, to what a wise and perfectly prudent man would have decided or done, finding himself in that situation. We will see that most of the time men do not deliberate as mature adults when there is need of maturity, they do not recognize the importance of the things that they have to decide or do, do not have the least suspicion that it is useful or necessary that they consult other people on the matter, and do not enter into any consultation at all. I speak of great men and ordinary ones alike, [4059] of public and private matters, of things of relatively little or great importance. It is certain that the affairs of any men, which go badly, do not go that way (except rarely) without some fault or insufficiency on their own part. Now how then can looking for what is useful or advantageous to them be the rule for guessing at their actions and decisions? The number of absolutely stupid people, or of those inept for tasks or for matters that they have to manage, although they might be determined in other ways, or of those who are well suited to the task in hand, but not perfect, or of decisions and actions badly taken and badly done, useless and damaging to those who have done them or taken them, inappropriate to the matter in hand, or that in the end prove in the given circumstances not to have been the best; the number, I repeat, of such actions, decisions, and such men surpasses and has always surpassed by a long way that of the actions, decisions, and men who are their opposites, as appears from all ancient and modern stories of civil and military and private life, and from the observation of life as well as private and public events daily.
Thanks to Kevin Muse for drawing my attention to an Italian proverb:
La mamma dei cretini è sempre incinta.


Quotations in Grammars

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 36.1 (1915) 102-114 (at 112):
Apropos of grammars and syntaxes Krueger's Greek Grammar is a mirror of his life. The quarrel with his wife, his wrangle with the world, made themselves felt in the examples which he gathered from his Greek authors, and when the examples did not fit, he altered them to suit his mood—and fooled the men who copied him blindly. This was made known to me when I was a student in Berlin sixty odd years ago and it lent a new interest to a book, which gave me my first interest in syntax, and I sometimes wonder how many suspect that there is a human document in a schoolbook that came into the world shortly after the great conflict of the Civil War, out of which the author, who was not a mere compiler, emerged, crippled in body, shattered in fortune, with teeth set hard to meet the stress of fate, his eyes wet with tears for his fallen comrades; and yet with the gleam of a new love reflected in their depths. In the examples of my Latin Grammar of 1867 lies perdu the history of that period of my life. The first page of the Syntax shows my attitude towards the Civil War by a quotation from Ovid, <Non> tam | turpe fuit vinci quam contendisse decorum est (A.J.P. XXXV 234), and the poet of love is accountable for many examples of a different kind. The book is a breviary of love. My friend, Professor March, used to say that Hamlet belonged to Shakespeare's earlier period by reason of the large part that love plays in the drama, and anyone interested in the story of my life might recognize my state of mind in the many quotations from Ovid and Propertius. If the period of disillusionment should ever come, I said to myself, Krueger is at hand.


Honor Thy Mother

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 8.45 (Marcius = Corolianus; tr. Earnest Cary):
[1] When they came near to one another, his mother was the first to advance toward him to greet him, clad in rent garments of mourning and with her eyes melting with tears, an object of great compassion. Upon seeing her, Marcius, who till then had been hard-hearted and stern enough to cope with any distressing situation, could no longer keep any of his resolutions, but was carried away by his emotions into human kindness, and embracing her and kissing her, he called her by the most endearing terms, and supported her for a long time, weeping and caressing her as her strength failed and she sank to the ground. After he had had enough of caressing his mother, he greeted his wife when with their children she approached him, and said: [2] "You have acted the part of a good wife, Volumnia, in living with my mother and not abandoning her in her solitude, and to me you have done the dearest of all favours." After this, drawing each of his children to him, he gave them a father's caresses, and then, turning again to his mother, begged her to state what she had come to ask of him. She answered that she would speak out in the presence of all, since she had no impious request to make of him, and bade him be seated where he was wont to sit when administering justice to his troops. [3] Marcius willingly agreed to her proposal, thinking, naturally, that he should have a great abundance of just arguments to use in combating his mother's intercession and that he should be giving his answer where it was convenient for the troops to hear. When he came to the general's tribunal, he first ordered the lictors to remove the seat that stood there and to place it on the ground, since he thought he ought not to occupy a higher position than his mother or use against her any official authority. Then, causing the most prominent of the commanders and captains to sit by him and permitting any others to be present who wished, he bade his mother speak.

Sunday, April 16, 2023


Who Betrayed You?

Giacomo Leopardi, "All'Italia," lines 25-35 (tr. Jonathan Galassi):
Whoever speaks or writes about you,
who, remembering you in your pride,
wouldn't say: She was great once; but no longer?
Why? What happened to our ancient strength,
the arms, the courage, the resolve?
Who stripped you of your sword?
Who betrayed you?
What treachery, what sabotage, what power
could take away your cloak and golden crown?
When did you fall, and how,
so low from such great heights?

Chi di te parla o scrive,        25
Che, rimembrando il tuo passato vanto,
Non dica: già fu grande, or non è quella?
Perchè, perchè? dov'è la forza antica,
Dove l'armi e il valore e la constanza?
Chi ti discinse il brando?        30
Chi ti tradì? qual arte o qual fatica
O qual tanta possanza
Valse a spogliarti il manto e l'auree bende?
Come cadesti o quando
Da tanta altezza in così basso loco?        35
Did Galassi mean "What happened to your ancient strength," etc.?



Demosthenes 5.15 (On the Peace; tr. Jeremy Trevett):
And let no one interrupt me before he hears what I have to say.

καί μοι μὴ θορυβήσῃ μηδεὶς πρὶν ἀκοῦσαι.


A Great Masquerade

Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. II, Chapter 8 (On Ethics), §114 (tr. E.F.J. Payne):
O for an Asmodeus of morality who for his minion rendered transparent not merely roofs and walls, but also the veil of dissimulation, falseness, hypocrisy, grimace, lying, and deception that is spread over everything, and who enabled him to see how little genuine honesty is to be found in the world and how often injustice and dishonesty sit at the helm, secretly and in the innermost recess, behind all the virtuous outworks, even where we least suspect them. Hence we see the four-footed friendships of so many men of a better nature; for how could we recover from the endless dissimulation, duplicity, perfidy, and treachery of men if it were not for the dogs into whose open and honest eyes we can look without distrust? Our civilized world, then, is only a great masquerade; here we meet knights, parsons, soldiers, doctors, barristers, priests, philosophers, and the rest. But they are not what they represent themselves to be; they are mere masks beneath which as a rule moneymakers are hidden. One man dons the mask of the law which he has borrowed for the purpose from his barrister, merely in order to be able to come to blows with another. Again, for the same purpose, a second chooses the mask of public welfare and patriotism; a third that of religion or religious reform. Many have already donned for all kinds of purposes the mask of philosophy, philanthropy, and so on.
The German, from his Sämtliche Werke, Fünfter Band, ed. Paul Deussen (Munich: R. Piper & Co., Verlag, 1913), pp. 230-231:
O, um einen Asmodäus der Moralität, welcher seinem Günstlinge nicht bloß Dächer und Mauern, sondern den über Alles ausgebreiteten Schleier der Verstellung, Falschheit, Heuchelei, Grimace, Lüge und Trug durchsichtig machte, und ihn sehn ließe, wie wenig wahre Redlichkeit in der Welt zu finden ist, und wie so oft, auch wo man es am wenigsten vermuthet, hinter allen den tugendsamen Außenwerken, heimlich und im innersten Receß, die Unrechtlichkeit am Ruder sißt. — Daher eben kommen die vierbeinigen Freundschaften so vieler Menschen besserer Art: denn freilich, woran sollte man sich von der endlosen Verstellung, Falschheit und Heimtücke der Menschen erholen, wenn die Hunde nicht wären, in deren ehrliches Gesicht man ohne Mißtrauen schauen kann? — Ist doch unsere civilisirte Welt nur eine große Maskerade. Man trifft daselbst Ritter, Pfaffen, Soldaten, Doktoren, Advokaten, Priester, Philosophen, und was nicht alles an! Aber sie sind nicht was sie vorstellen: sie sind bloße Masken, unter welchen, in der Regel, Geldspekulanten (moneymakers) stecken. Doch nimmt auch wohl Einer die Maske des Rechts, die er sich dazu beim Advokaten geborgt hat, vor, bloß um auf einen Andern tüchtig losschlagen zu können: wieder Einer hat, zum selben Zwecke, die des öffentlichen Wohls und des Patriotismus gewählt; ein Dritter die der Religion, der Glaubensreinigkeit. Zu allerlei Zwecken hat schon Mancher die Maske der Philosophie, wohl auch der Philanthropie u. dgl. m. vorgesteckt.

Saturday, April 15, 2023


Men Worthy of Freedom

Xenophon, Anabasis 1.7.3 (tr. Carleton L. Brownson):
Be sure, therefore, to be men worthy of the freedom you possess.

ὅπως οὖν ἔσεσθε ἄνδρες ἄξιοι τῆς ἐλευθερίας ἧς κέκτησθε.


Leopardi's Personal Lexicon

Iris Origo, Leopardi: A Study in Solitude (Chappaqua: Helen Marx Books, 1999), pp. 121-122, with notes on p. 352:
A great critic of our own time, Professor Momigliano, has referred to the 'sublime poverty' of his style.17 He was referring, I think, not only to the poet's deliberate restraint and economy of expression, but also to the actual size of his vocabulary—which is surprisingly small. But this 'poverty' was rather like a millionaire's whim to lead the simple life: it was founded upon riches. The years that he had spent in his philological studies, noting down innumerable words and phrases, tracing their origin and their development, had provided him with an unequalled storehouse to draw upon; and it is fascinating to observe the process of rejection and exclusion by which his personal lexicon was formed. He had always maintained that the exclusion of archaisms, as practised by some of his contemporaries and especially by the French, was an unnecessary and mistaken act of self-impoverishment, and there are a number of words which he always preferred to use in their old form. Indeed it was this deliberate use of archaisms, as well as the close web of classical reminiscence, which formed the very texture of his thought, that caused Tommaseo to observe maliciously that Leopardi's work was like a badly scraped palimpsest, in which, beneath the new writing, one can always perceive the old. But beside these archaisms there are a number of familiar, very simple words so frequently used by him, and so often linked to the same adjectives or verbs, that they have almost come to form a personal language. The night is almost always placida or quieta, the moon candida or tacita, solinga or pellegrina; the woods, too (selve, not boschi), are tacite; beauty is fugace or fuggitiva, and so is life (though sometimes, instead, sudata); fate is acerbo or duro; youth l'età verde or il fior degli anni miei, and life 'il viver mio'.18 Among the most frequent archaisms are speme or spene for speranza (generally linked to tanta or cotanta), desìo for desiderio, for giorno, alma for anima, donzella for giovanetta, beltà for bellezza, il sembiante for faccia; illusions are called inganni, errori, larve, fole; a bird is an augello, and a beast a fera; every sword becomes a ferro or a brando, and most houses an ostello. It is the conventional language of Petrarca and Tasso and subsequently of Metastasio, and yet, used by Leopardi's pen, the well-worn phrases undergo a strange alchemy: they are renewed, they become his own.

17. A. Momigliano, La poesia di Leopardi, in a series of lectures at the Lyceum of Florence.

18. Cf. Flora's Preface to his school edition of I Canti e le Prose scelte, pp. 9–14.

Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?