Friday, June 30, 2023



Lucian, The Downward Journey 5 (tr. A.M. Harmon, with his note):
HERMES. Clotho, do you want us to get the unmourned aboard next?

CLOTHO. You mean the old people? Yes, for why should I bother now to investigate what happened before the flood?1 All of you who are over sixty go in now. What's this? They don't heed me, for their ears are stopped with years. You will probably have to pick them up and carry them in, too.

HERMES. Here you are again, three hundred and ninety-eight, all tender and ripe and harvested in season.

CHARON. Good Lord, yes! They're all raisins now!

1 Literally, "before Euclid," the Athenian archon of 403 B.C., the year in which the democracy was restored and the misdeeds of the oligarchy obliterated by a general amnesty.

ΕΡΜΗΣ. βούλει, ὦ Κλωθοῖ, τοὺς ἀκλαύστους ἐπὶ τούτοις ἐμβιβασώμεθα;

ΚΛΩΘΩ. τοὺς γέροντας λέγεις; οὕτω ποίει. τί γάρ με δεῖ πράγματα ἔχειν τὰ πρὸ Εὐκλείδου νῦν ἐξετάζουσαν; οἱ ὑπὲρ ἑξήκοντα ὑμεῖς πάριτε ἤδη. τί τοῦτο; οὐκ ἐπακούουσί μου βεβυσμένοι τὰ ὦτα ὑπὸ τῶν ἐτῶν. δεήσει τάχα καὶ τούτους ἀράμενον παραγαγεῖν.

ΕΡΜΗΣ. ἰδοὺ πάλιν οὗτοι δυεῖν δέοντες τετρακόσιοι, τακεροὶ πάντες καὶ πέπειροι καὶ καθ ̓ ὥραν τετρυγημένοι.

ΧΑΡΩΝ. νὴ Δί', ἐπεὶ ἀσταφίδες γε πάντες ἤδη εἰσί.
398 — literally 400 less 2.

Quoted by Erasmus, Adages II viii 67 (Viri senis astaphis calvaria, Ἀνδρὸς γέροντος ἀσταφὶς τὸ κρανίον). See also Suda A 4223 (vol. I, p. 389 Adler).


False Assumptions

Sophocles, Antigone 323 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
It is dangerous for the believer to believe what is not true.

ἦ δεινόν, ᾧ δοκεῖ γε, καὶ ψευδῆ δοκεῖν.
The same, tr. E.P. Watling:
To think that thinking men should think so wrongly!
R.C. Jebb ad loc.:
Creon has pronounced the Guard guilty on mere δόξα, without proof. The Guard says, 'It is grievous that, when a man does harbour suspicions (ᾧ δοκεῖ γε), those suspicions should at the same time (καὶ) be false.' γε means that, in such a matter, hasty δόξα should be avoided altogether. It is always bad to assume a man guilty without proof; it is worse when the rash assumption is also erroneous. Cp. δόκησις ἀγνώς, 'a blind suspicion' (O.T. 681), and ib. 608 γνώμῃ δ᾽ ἀδήλῳ μή με χωρὶς αἰτιῶ. Eur. Bacch. 311 μηδ᾽ ἢν δοκῇς μέν, (ἡ δὲ δόξα σου νοσεῖ,) | φρονεῖν δόκει τι.—Nauck supposes a play on two senses of δοκεῖν, ᾧ δοκεῖ (or, as he reads, δοκῇ) having been suggested by ἔδοξε τῷ δήμῳ, etc.: ''Tis monstrous that he who decides should have false views.' But, even if the absolute ᾧ δοκεῖ could be thus used, the colloquial frequency of δοκεῖ (μοι ποιεῖν τι) in Aristophanes suffices to show that ᾧ δοκεῖ could not, to an Athenian ear, have suggested 'the ruler' or 'the judge': it would have seemed to mean merely one who 'proposes,' not 'disposes.'—Schütz makes δοκεῖν depend on δοκεῖ: ''Tis grievous when a man is resolved to believe even what is false' (if only he wishes to believe it). A bold speech for the Guard to Creon; nor does it satisfy either γε or καί.



Peter Brown, Journeys of the Mind: A Life in History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2023), p. 104:
History, for me, has always been something more than a discipline—more than a set of problems to be solved, a narrative to be put together from bits and pieces of evidence about the past. It is, rather, a perpetual awareness of living beside an immense, strange country whose customs must be treated by the traveler from the present with respect, as often very different from our own; and whose aspirations, fears, and certitudes, though they may seem alien to us and to have turned pale with the passing of time, must be treated as having once run in the veins of men and women in the past with all the energy of living flesh and blood.



Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990), The Greek Islands (London: Faber and Faber, 1980), p. 105:
Rezina may well taste 'like pure turpentine which has been strained through the socks of a bishop,' as someone wrote to me; but it is to be recommended most warmly. You should make a real effort with it, but be warned that it is never as good bottled as it is fresh from the blue cans of the Athenian Plaka. It is a perfect adjunct for food which is oil-cooked, and sometimes with oil not too fresh. Its pungent aroma clears the mind and the palate at one blow. Yet it is mild and you can drink gallons without a hangover; nor does it ever provoke the disgusting, leaden sort of drunkenness that gin does — but rather, high spirits and wit. If you drink rezina you will live forever, and never be a trial to your friends or to waiters.

Thursday, June 29, 2023


The Big Toe of Pyrrhus

Plutarch, Life of Pyrrhus 3.4-5 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
[4] People of a splenetic habit believed that he cured their ailment; he would sacrifice a white cock, and, while the patient lay flat upon his back, would press gently with his right foot against the spleen. Nor was any one so obscure or poor as not to get this healing service from him if he asked it. [5] The king would also accept the cock after he had sacrificed it, and this honorarium was most pleasing to him. It is said, further, that the great toe of his right foot had a divine virtue, so that after the rest of his body had been consumed, this was found to be untouched and unharmed by the fire.

[4] τοῖς δὲ σπληνιῶσιν ἐδόκει βοηθεῖν, ἀλεκτρυόνα θύων λευκόν, ὑπτίων τε κατακειμένων τῷ δεξιῷ ποδὶ πιέζων ἀτρέμα τὸ σπλάγχνον. οὐδεὶς δὲ ἦν πένης οὐδὲ ἄδοξος οὕτως ὥστε μὴ τυχεῖν τῆς ἰατρείας δεηθείς. [5] ἐλάμβανε δὲ καὶ τὸν ἀλεκτρυόνα θύσας, καὶ τὸ γέρας τοῦτο ἥδιστον ἦν αὐτῷ. λέγεται δὲ τοῦ ποδὸς ἐκείνου τὸν μείζονα δάκτυλον ἔχειν δύναμιν θείαν, ὥστε μετὰ τὴν τελευτὴν τοῦ λοιποῦ σώματος κατακαέντος ἀπαθῆ καὶ ἄθικτον ὑπὸ τοῦ πυρὸς εὑρεθῆναι.


A Minor Omission

I'm learning a lot from Homer, Odyssey I. Edited with an Introduction, Translation, Commentary, and Glossary by Simon Pulleyn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019). I did, however, notice something unexpected in the translation of line 115 (p. 69, on Telemachus):
Imagining his father in his mind's eye, if perhaps he might arrive from somewhere
The Greek (p. 68):
ὀσσόμενος πατέρ᾽ ἐσθλὸν ἐνὶ φρεσίν, εἴ ποθεν ἐλθὼν
The translation omits ἐσθλὸν, defined in the glossary (p. 269) as "noble, good." In his commentary on this line (p. 141) Pulleyn writes:
His animus is directed at the suitors and not at his father, who is described as ἐσθλόν in a way that suggests that this is how Telemachus sees him.



Freedom of Speech

Moschion, fragment 4 (tr. Gilbert Norwood):
But what is right and just never will I leave unpoken; for honour bids a true man guard the freedom of speech fostered in Athen's citizens and the town of Theseus.

ὅμως τό γ' ὀρθὸν καὶ δίκαιον οὔποτε
σιγῇ παρήσω· τὴν γὰρ ἐντεθραμμένην
ἀστοῖς Ἀθάνας τῇ τε Θησέως πόλει
καλὸν φυλάξαι γνησίως παρρησίαν.
There is quite a distance between τὴν and παρρησίαν. Norwood's "honour bids a true man guard" is a bit free — more literally it means "(it is) good to guard nobly."

Wednesday, June 28, 2023


Priestess of Bacchus

John Collier (1850-1934), The Priestess of Bacchus:
Collier's middle name was Maler, an aptronym (German for painter).


Man Seeking Refuge from Man

Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962), Country Notes (London: Michael Joseph Ltd, 1939), pp. 162-163:
That last week of September 1938, excruciating though it proved at every moment to our strained nerves, enjoyed a singular outward beauty. September went down in a slanting golden sun, touching our familiar landscapes with a light so rich and mellow as to preclude all suggestion of irony. It seemed, indeed, inconceivable that devastation should fall suddenly on such a scene. Looking across at the harmless sunlit hills, the mind rejected the conception of violence. Men might be digging trenches in their gardens, and reason encouraged them to do so; but still some deep old stupid optimism lurked, telling them that this was only a precautionary measure, not really (not in the last resort) necessary. They joked as they dug, and it was hard to tell whether their joking or their digging was the more sincere. We dug a trench in the orchard here — a most inadequate trench which would certainly have fallen in at the first heavy rain, a most unscientifically constructed trench, which expressed the instinct to burrow into the friendly earth rather than any calculated attempt to provide a four or five years strong shelter against the attack of an efficient foe. Not that, out in the country as we are, danger seemed very likely; but one never knows, thinking of Spanish villages and the swoop of machine-guns. So one must make provision. This sudden hasty burrowing into the earth struck one as truly horribly uncivilised: man seeking refuge from man under the peacefully ripening apples and pears of September — man turning himself into a frightened furtive threatened creature like a rabbit or a mole. Human dignity fell crashing from its unique state: it dug, it tunnelled, it hid itself away in the last desperate attempt to protect its vulnerable body. Shocking, and yet necessary. How wrong and foolish that such a necessity should arise between man and man. What would a visitor from another world, a more co-operative world, have felt about my rough trench dug hastily in the orchard? Mars approaches, only thirty-six million miles away instead of forty-five, accompanied by two small moons, smaller than ours, more rapid in their flight; and we beneath the red planet cower between walls of yellow clay. There are indeed times when absurdity can appear more tragic than high tragedy; and so I thought when, visiting a rich man's garden, I came upon an elaborately revetted dug-out concealed among the rhododendrons.


Why Are You Laughing?

Lucian, Philosophies for Sale 13-14 (tr. A.M. Harmon; I changed DEMOCRITEAN to DEMOCRITUS):
BUYER. What is the matter, man? Why are you laughing?

DEMOCRITUS. Dost thou need to ask? Because to me it seemeth that all your affairs are laughable, and yourselves as well.

BUYER. What, are you laughing at us all, and do you think nothing of our affairs?

DEMOCRITUS. Even so; for there is nothing serious in them, but everything is a hollow mockery, drift of atoms, infinitude.

BUYER. No indeed, but you yourself are a hollow mockery in very truth and an infinite ass. Oh, what effrontery! Will you never stop laughing?

ΑΓΟΡΑΣΤΗΣ. τί ταῦτα, ὦ οὗτος; τί γελᾷς;

ΔΗΜΟΚΡΙΤΟΣ. ἐρωτᾷς; ὅτι μοι γελοῖα πάντα δοκέει τὰ πρήγματα ὑμέων καὶ αὐτοὶ ὑμέες.

ΑΓΟΡΑΣΤΗΣ. πῶς λέγεις; καταγελᾷς ἡμῶν ἁπάντων καὶ παρ᾿ οὐδὲν τίθεσαι τὰ ἡμέτερα πράγματα;

ΔΗΜΟΚΡΙΤΟΣ. ὧδε ἔχει· σπουδαῖον γὰρ ἐν αὐτέοισιν οὐδέν, κενεὰ δὲ πάντα καὶ ἀτόμων φορὴ καὶ ἀπειρίη.

ΑΓΟΡΑΣΤΗΣ. οὐ μὲν οὖν, ἀλλὰ σὺ κενὸς ὡς ἀληθῶς καὶ ἄπειρος. ὢ τῆς ὕβρεως, οὐ παύσῃ γελῶν;
Antoine Coypel (1661-1722), Démocrite (Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv. MI 1048):


Hostelry of the Muses

Plutarch, Life of Lucullus 42.1-2 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
[1] But what he did in the establishment of a library deserves warm praise. He got together many books, and they were well written, and his use of them was more honourable to him than his acquisition of them. His libraries were thrown open to all, and the cloisters surrounding them, and the study-rooms, were accessible without restriction to the Greeks, who constantly repaired thither as to an hostelry of the Muses, and spent the day with one another, in glad escape from their other occupations. [2] Lucullus himself also often spent his leisure hours there with them, walking about in the cloisters with their scholars, and he would assist their statesmen in whatever they desired. And in general his house was a home and prytaneium for the Greeks who came to Rome.

[1] σπουδῆς δ᾽ ἄξια καὶ λόγου τὰ περὶ τὴν τῶν βιβλίων κατασκευήν, καὶ γὰρ πολλὰ καὶ γεγραμμένα καλῶς συνῆγεν, ἥ τε χρῆσις ἦν φιλοτιμοτέρα τῆς κτήσεως, ἀνειμένων πᾶσι τῶν βιβλιοθηκῶν, καὶ τῶν περὶ αὐτὰς περιπάτων καὶ σχολαστηρίων ἀκωλύτως ὑποδεχομένων τοὺς Ἕλληνας ὥσπερ εἰς Μουσῶν τι καταγώγιον ἐκεῖσε φοιτῶντας καὶ συνδιημερεύοντας ἀλλήλοις, ἀπὸ τῶν ἄλλων χρειῶν ἀσμένως ἀποτρέχοντας. [2] πολλάκις δὲ καὶ συνεσχόλαζεν αὐτὸς ἐμβάλλων εἰς τοὺς περιπάτους τοῖς φιλολόγοις καὶ τοῖς πολιτικοῖς συνέπραττεν ὅτου δέοιντο· καὶ ὅλως ἑστία καὶ πρυτανεῖον Ἑλληνικὸν ὁ οἶκος ἦν αὐτοῦ τοῖς ἀφικνουμένοις εἰς Ῥώμην.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023


Fear of Death

Augustine, City of God 1.11.1-2 (tr. Henry Bettenson):
I am certain of this, that no one has died who was not going to die at some time, and the end of life reduces the longest life to the same condition as the shortest. When something has once ceased to exist, there is no more question of better or worse, longer or shorter. What does it matter by what kind of death life is brought to an end? When man's life is ended he does not have to die again. Among the daily chances of this life every man on earth is threatened in the same way by innumerable deaths, and it is uncertain which of them will come to him. And so the question is whether it is better to suffer one in dying or to fear them all in living.

hoc scio, neminem fuisse mortuum qui non fuerat aliquando moriturus. finis autem vitae tam longam quam brevem vitam hoc idem facit. neque enim aliud melius et aliud deterius, aut aliud maius et aliud brevius est, quod iam pariter non est. quid autem interest, quo mortis genere vita ista finiatur, quando ille cui finitur iterum mori non cogitur? cum autem unicuique mortalium sub cotidianis vitae huius casibus innumerabiles mortes quodam modo comminentur, quamdiu incertum est quaenam earum ventura sit: quaero utrum satius sit unam perpeti moriendo an omnes timere vivendo.
Tibullus 1.3.50 (tr. J.P. Postgate):
There are a thousand ways of sudden death.

leti mille repente viae.
Propertius 2.28.58 (tr. H.E. Butler):
Sooner or later death awaiteth all.

longius aut propius mors sua quemque manet.


Professor of Luxury

Lucian, Philosophies for Sale 12 (tr. A.M. Harmon; he = Aristippus, his creed = Cyrenaicism):
In general, he is accommodating to live with, satisfactory to drink with, and handy to accompany an amorous and profligate master when he riots about town with a flute-girl. Moreover, he is a connoisseur in pastries and a highly expert cook: in short, a Professor of Luxury. He was educated in Athens, and entered service in Sicily, at the court of the tyrants, with whom he enjoyed high favour. The sum and substance of his creed is to despise everything, make use of everything and cull pleasure from every source.

τὸ μὲν ὅλον, συμβιῶναι δεξιὸς καὶ συμπιεῖν ἱκανὸς καὶ κωμάσαι μετὰ αὐλητρίδος ἐπιτήδειος ἐρῶντι καὶ ἀσώτῳ δεσπότῃ· τὰ ἄλλα δὲ πεμμάτων ἐπιστήμων καὶ ὀψοποιὸς ἐμπειρότατος, καὶ ὅλως σοφιστὴς ἡδυπαθείας. ἐπαιδεύθη μὲν οὖν ̓Αθήνησιν, ἐδούλευσε δὲ καὶ περὶ Σικελίαν τοῖς τυράννοις καὶ σφόδρα εὐδοκίμει παρ' αὐτοῖς. τὸ δὲ κεφάλαιον τῆς προαιρέσεως, ἁπάντων καταφρονεῖν, ἅπασι χρῆσθαι, πανταχόθεν ἐρανίζεσθαι τὴν ἡδονήν.
I A 103 in Matteo Giovanni Brega, I Cirenaici. La filosofia del piacere. I frammenti e le testimonianze sulla scuola socratica più radicale del mondo antico (Milan: Mimesis, 2010), pp. 243-244.

Monday, June 26, 2023


Abuse of the Dead

Moschion, fragment 3 (from his Men of Pherae; tr. M.J. Cropp):
It's futile to abuse the shade of a dead man.
It's proper to punish the living, not the dead.

κενὸν θανόντος ἀνδρὸς αἰκίζειν σκιάν·
ζῶντας κολάζειν, οὐ θανόντας εὐσεβές.

κενὸν Nauck: καινὸν codd.
Cf. Euripides, fragment 176 (from Antigone; tr. Christopher Collard and M.J. Cropp):
Death is the end of their quarrels for men; and this is easy for everyone to understand. For who will inflict pain on a lofty crag by wounding it with a spear, and who on a corpse by dishonouring it, if these felt nothing of what they underwent?

θάνατος γὰρ ἀνθρώποισι νεικέων τέλος
ἔχει· μαθεῖν δὲ πᾶσίν ἐστιν εὐμαρές.
τίς γὰρ πετραῖον σκόπελον οὐτάζων δορὶ
ὀδύναισι δώσει, τίς δ' ἀτιμάζων νέκυν,
εἰ μηδὲν αἰσθάνοιντο τῶν παθημάτων;
Related posts:



Innes Randolph (1837-1887), "The Good Old Rebel," Poems (Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Company, Publishers, 1898), pp. 30-31 (at 31):
But I ain't agoin' to love 'em,
    Now that is sarten sure.
And I don't want no pardon
    For what I was and am;
I won't be reconstructed,
    And I don't care a dam.
Music from Richard Crawford, The Civil War Songbook: Complete Original Sheet Music for 37 Songs (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1977), pp. 71-72 (note the ironic dedication to abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens; click images once or twice to enlarge):
The accompaniment above is much better than the hack job by Jerry Silverman in Irwin Silber, Songs of the Civil War (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1995), pp. 356-357.

Performed by Bobby Horton here, by the 2nd South Carolina String Band here (with flat seventh).

See Gaines M. Foster, Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South 1865-1913 (1985; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 15, and Joseph M. Thompson, I Won't Be Reconstructed: Good Old Rebels, Civil War Memory, and Popular Song (diss. University of Mississippi, 2013).

Dedicated to the memory of my great-great-great-grandfather John B. Wagner (10th Regiment, Missouri Cavalry State Guard), my great-great-grandfather John Matthews (4th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, Company F), and my great-great-grandfather Thomas Ellis (38th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, Company C; my middle name is Ellis).

Charles Spencelayh (1865-1958), We Will Remember Them:


Conspicuous Consumption

Plutarch, Life of Cato the Elder 18.3 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
For most men think themselves robbed of their wealth if they are prevented from displaying it, and that display of it is made in the superfluities, not in the necessaries of life. This, we are told, is what most astonished Ariston the philosopher, namely, that those possessed of the superfluities of life should be counted happy, rather than those well provided with life's necessary and useful things.

πλούτου γὰρ ἀφαίρεσιν οἱ πολλοὶ νομίζουσι τὴν κώλυσιν αὐτοῦ τῆς ἐπιδείξεως, ἐπιδείκνυσθαι δὲ τοῖς περιττοῖς, οὐ τοῖς ἀναγκαίοις. ὃ δὴ καὶ μάλιστά φασι τὸν φιλόσοφον Ἀρίστωνα θαυμάζειν, ὅτι τοὺς τὰ περιττὰ κεκτημένους μᾶλλον ἡγοῦνται μακαρίους ἢ τοὺς τῶν ἀναγκαίων καὶ χρησίμων εὐποροῦντας.


Different Effects

Augustine, City of God 1.8.10 (tr. Henry Bettenson):
The fire which makes gold shine makes chaff smoke; the same flail breaks up the straw, and clears the grain; and oil is not mistaken for lees because both are forced out by the same press.

sub uno igne aurum rutilat palea fumat, et sub eadem tribula stipulae comminuuntur frumenta purgantur, nec ideo cum oleo amurca confunditur quia eodem preli pondere exprimitur.
The same, tr. George E. McCracken:
Exposed to the same fire gold grows red but chaff smokes, and under the same threshing-sledge the straw is broken to pieces but the grain separated, nor is the oil of olives intermixed with the mash because it is extracted by weight of the same press.
The same, tr. Demetrius B. Zema and Gerald G. Walsh:
For, in the same fire, gold gleams and straw smokes; under the same flail the stalk is crushed and the grain threshed; the lees are not mistaken for oil because they have issued from the same press.

Sunday, June 25, 2023



Lucian, Charon 19 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
Let me tell you, Hermes, what I think men and the whole life of man resemble. You have noticed bubbles in water, caused by a streamlet plashing down—I mean those that mass to make foam? Some of them, being small, burst and are gone in an instant, while some last longer and as others join them, become swollen and grow to exceeding great compass; but afterwards they also burst without fail in time, for it cannot be otherwise. Such is the life of men; they are all swollen with wind, some to greater size, others to less; and with some the swelling is short-lived and swift-fated, while with others it is over as soon as it comes into being; but in any case they all must burst.

ἐθέλω δ᾽ οὖν σοι, ὦ Ἑρμῆ, εἰπεῖν, ᾧτινι ἐοικέναι μοι ἔδοξαν οἱ ἄνθρωποι καὶ ὁ βίος ἅπας αὐτῶν. ἤδη ποτὲ πομφόλυγας ἐν ὕδατι ἐθεάσω ὑπὸ κρουνῷ τινι καταράττοντι ἀνισταμένας; τὰς φυσαλλίδας λέγω, ἀφ᾽ ὧν συναγείρεται ὁ ἀφρός· ἐκείνων τοίνυν τινὲς μὲν μικραί εἰσι καὶ αὐτίκα ἐκραγεῖσαι ἀπέσβησαν, αἱ δ᾽ ἐπὶ πλέον διαρκοῦσι: καὶ προσχωρουσῶν αὐταῖς τῶν ἄλλων αὗται ὑπερφυσώμεναι ἐς μέγιστον ὄγκον αἴρονται, ἔπειτα μέντοι κἀκεῖναι πάντως ἐξερράγησάν ποτε: οὐ γὰρ οἷόν τε ἄλλως γενέσθαι. τοῦτό ἐστιν ὁ ἀνθρώπου βίος· ἅπαντες ὑπὸ πνεύματος ἐμπεφυσημένοι οἱ μὲν μείζους, οἱ δὲ ἐλάττους· καὶ οἱ μὲν ὀλιγοχρόνιον ἔχουσι καὶ ὠκύμορον τὸ φύσημα, οἱ δὲ ἅμα τῷ συστῆναι ἐπαύσαντο· πᾶσι δ᾽ οὖν ἀπορραγῆναι ἀναγκαῖον.
From Macaulay Curtis:
Your post today reminded me of one of the most famous lines in Japanese literature, from 1212 A.D., which I share for curiosity's sake:

Kamo no Chōmei, An Account of My Hut (tr. Donald Keene):
The flow of the river is ceaseless and its water is never the same. The bubbles that float in the pools, now vanishing, now forming, are not of long duration: so in the world are man and his dwellings.




Plutarch, Life of Cato the Elder 9.5 (tr. David Sansone):
When reviling an obese man he said, "What use could the state possibly make of a body like that? Why, from gullet to groin there is nothing but belly."

τὸν δὲ ὑπέρπαχυν κακίζων "ποῦ δ᾽ ἄν," ἔφη, "σῶμα τοιοῦτόν τῇ πόλει γένοιτο χρήσιμον, οὗ τὸ μεταξὺ λαιμοῦ καὶ βουβώνων πᾶν ὑπὸ τῆς γαστρὸς κατέχεται;"
Aulus Gellius 6.22 (tr. John C. Rolfe):
The censors used to take his horse from a man who was too fat and corpulent, evidently because they thought that so heavy a person was unfit to perform the duties of a knight. For this was not a punishment, as some think, but the knight was relieved of duty without loss of rank. Yet Cato, in the speech which he wrote On Neglecting Sacrifice, makes such an occurrence a somewhat serious charge, thus apparently indicating that it was attended with disgrace. If you understand that to have been the case, you must certainly assume that it was because a man was not looked upon as wholly free from the reproach of slothfulness, if his body had bulked and swollen to such unwieldy dimensions.

nimis pingui homini et corpulento censores equum adimere solitos, scilicet minus idoneum ratos esse cum tanti corporis pondere ad faciendum equitis munus. non enim poena id fuit, ut quidam existimant, sed munus sine ignominia remittebatur. tamen Cato, in oratione quam de sacrificio commisso scripsit, obicit hanc rem criminosius, uti magis videri possit cum ignominia fuisse. quod si ita accipias, id profecto existimandum est non omnino inculpatum neque indesidem visum esse, cuius corpus in tam inmodicum modum luxuriasset exuberassetque.

Saturday, June 24, 2023


A Hearty Meal

James Herriot, All Creatures Great and Small, chapter 57:
The meal had taken up the whole of the round oak table by the fire—a thick steak of home-cured ham overlapping the plate with two fresh eggs nestling on its bosom, a newly baked loaf with the knife sticking in it, a dish of farm butter, some jam, a vast pot of tea and a whole Wensleydale cheese, circular, snow white, about eighteen inches high.

I could remember eating unbelievingly for a long time and finishing with slice after slice of the moist, delicately flavoured cheese. The entire meal had cost me half a crown.
Hat tip: Mrs. Laudator.


The Same Men Over and Over Again

Plutarch, Life of Cato the Elder 8.6 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
He censured his fellow citizens for choosing the same men over and over again to high office. "You will be thought," said he, "not to deem your offices worth much, or else not to deem many men worthy of your offices."

ἐπετίμα δὲ τοῖς πολίταις τοὺς αὐτοὺς αἱρουμένοις πολλάκις ἄρχοντας. "δόξετε γάρ" ἔφη "ἢ μὴ πολλοῦ τὸ ἄρχειν ἄξιον ἢ μὴ πολλοὺς τοῦ ἄρχειν ἀξίους ἡγεῖσθαι."


Gore and Grief

Sallust, The War with Catiline 51.9 (Caesar speaking; tr. J.C. Rolfe):
The greater number of those who have expressed their opinions before me have deplored the lot of the commonwealth in finished and noble phrases; they have dwelt upon the horrors of war, the wretched fate of the conquered, the rape of maidens and boys, children torn from their parents' arms, matrons subjected to the will of the victors, temples and homes pillaged, bloodshed and fire; in short arms and corpses everywhere, gore and grief.

plerique eorum qui ante me sententias dixerunt conposite atque magnifice casum rei publicae miserati sunt. quae belli saevitia esset, quae victis acciderent enumeravere: rapi virgines pueros, divelli liberos a parentum conplexu, matres familiarum pati quae victoribus conlubuissent, fana atque domos spoliari, caedem incendia fieri, postremo armis cadaveribus, cruore atque luctu omnia conpleri.


Quidquid Agunt Homines

Lucian, Charon 15 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
HERMES. But do you see the masses, Charon, the men voyaging, fighting, litigating, farming, lending money, and begging?

CHARON. I see that their activities are varied and their life full of turmoil; yes, and their cities resemble hives, in which everyone has a sting of his own and stings his neighbour, while some few, like wasps, harry and plunder the meaner sort. But what is that crowd of shapes that flies about them unseen?

HERMES. Hope, Fear, Ignorance, Pleasure, Covetousness, Anger, Hatred and their like. Of these, Ignorance mingles with them down below and shares their common life, and so do Hatred, Anger, Jealousy, Stupidity, Doubt, and Covetousness; but Fear and Hope hover up above, and Fear, swooping down from time to time, terrifies them and makes them cringe, while Hope, hanging overhead, flies up and is off when they are most confident of grasping her, leaving them in the lurch with their mouths open, exactly as you have seen Tantalus served by the water down below.

ΕΡΜΗΣ. τὴν δὲ πληθὺν ὁρᾷς, ὦ Χάρων, τοὺς πλέοντας αὐτῶν, τοὺς πολεμοῦντας, τοὺς δικαζομένους, τοὺς γεωργοῦντας, τοὺς δανείζοντας, τοὺς προσαιτοῦντας;

ΧΑΡΩΝ. ὁρῶ ποικίλην τινὰ τὴν διατριβὴν καὶ μεστὸν ταραχῆς τὸν βίον καὶ τὰς πόλεις γε αὐτῶν ἐοικυίας τοῖς σμήνεσιν, ἐν οἷς ἅπας μὲν ἴδιόν τι κέντρον ἔχει καὶ τὸν πλησίον κεντεῖ, ὀλίγοι δέ τινες ὥσπερ σφῆκες ἄγουσι καὶ φέρουσι τὸ ὑποδεέστερον. ὁ δὲ περιπετόμενος αὐτοὺς ἐκ τἀφανοῦς οὗτος ὄχλος τίνες εἰσίν;

ΕΡΜΗΣ. ἐλπίδες, ὦ Χάρων, καὶ δείματα καὶ ἄγνοιαι καὶ ἡδοναὶ καὶ φιλαργυρίαι καὶ ὀργαὶ καὶ μίση καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα. τούτων δὲ ἡ ἄγνοια μὲν κάτω συναναμέμικται αὐτοῖς καὶ συμπολιτεύεται, καὶ νὴ Δία καὶ τὸ μῖσος καὶ ὀργὴ καὶ ζηλοτυπία καὶ ἀμαθία καὶ ἀπορία καὶ φιλαργυρία, ὁ φόβος δὲ καὶ αἱ ἐλπίδες ὑπεράνω πετόμενοι ὁ μὲν ἐμπίπτων ἐκπλήττει ἐνίοτε καὶ ὑποπτήσσειν ποιεῖ, αἱ δ᾽ ἐλπίδες ὑπὲρ κεφαλῆς αἰωρούμεναι, ὁπόταν μάλιστα οἴηταί τις ἐπιλήψεσθαι αὐτῶν, ἀναπτάμεναι οἴχονται κεχηνότας αὐτοὺς ἀπολιποῦσαι, ὅπερ καὶ τὸν Τάνταλον κάτω πάσχοντα ὁρᾷς ὑπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος.

Friday, June 23, 2023


Body Parts

L'Année épigraphique (Année 1901), pp. 50-51, number 183 = Defixionum Tabellae 135 Audollent (pp. 191-193), translation and text in Henk S. Versnel, "καὶ εἴ τι λ[οιπὸν] τῶν μερ[ῶ]ν [ἔσ]ται τοῦ σώματος ὅλ[ο]υ[.. (... and any other part of the entire body there may be ...) An Essay on Anatomical Curses," in Fritz Graf, ed., Ansichten griechischer Rituale. Geburtstags-Symposium für Walter Burkert (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1998), pp. 216-267 (at 223):
A) Malchio son/slave of Nikon: his eyes, hands, fingers, arms, nails, hair, head, feet, thigh, belly, buttocks, navel, chest, nipples, neck, mouth, cheeks, teeth, lips, chin, eyes, forehead, eyebrows, shoulder-blades, shoulders, sinews, guts, marrow (?), belly, cock, leg, trade, income, health, I do curse in this tablet.

B) Rufa the public slave: her hands, teeth, eyes, arms, belly, breasts, chest, bones, marrow (?), guts, ....., mouth, feet, forehead, nails, fingers, womb, navel, cunt, vulva (?), groins: Rufa the public slave I do curse in this tablet.

A) Malcio Nicones oculos, manus, dicitos, bracias, uncis, capilo, caput, pedes, femus, venter, natis, umlicus, pectus, mamilas, collus, os, bucas, dentes, labias, me[nt]us, oclus, fronte, supercili, scaplas, umerum, nervias, ossu, merilas (?), venter, mentula, crus, quastu, lucru, valetudines, defico in as tabelas.

B) Rufa Pulica, manus, detes, oclos, bracia, venter, mamila, pectus, osu, merilas, venter, .... crus (?) os, pedes, frontes, uncis, dicitos, venter, umlicus, cunus, ulvas (?), ilae, Rufas Pulica de[f]ico in as tabelas.
Image of side A:
Image of side B:
For the nominatives (Malcio, Rufa) see J.N. Adams, Social Variation and the Latin Language (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), p. 212:
A curse may begin with a heading consisting of the name of the victim in the nominative, standing outside the syntax of the rest of the tablet.
On the text of side B see Celia Sánchez Natalías, Sylloge of Defixiones from the Roman West, Vol. II (Oxford: BAR Publishing, 2022), pp. 133-134 (Italy, number 51):
The reading of the beginning of B, l. 7 has proven somewhat controversial: while Borsari read quas il(l)ae (B, l. 7, as did I during my autopsy, with an interpunct separating the words), Audollent (and later Gager 1992: no. 80, Solin 1995: 571, Versnel 1998: 223, Urbanová 2019: 428) proposed the reading [v]ulva(m). Furthermore, Cimarosti (2005: 452f., notes 14 and 2) reads quasil(l)a{e}(ria), a reference to the slave's duties, while Kropp (2008: no. 1.4.2/3) reads qua<e>stum. While the latter two readings do not take into account the interpunct that divides the two words, the first proposal, ([v]ulva(m)), is impossible for several reasons. First (and most importantly), it ignores the fact that that same corner is preserved in full, which means that the text is also fully preserved and, consequently, that the reconstruction of [v] is artificial. In addition, the ul that should be following the imaginary [v], presents some palaeographical problems: compare this l with the ones found in the rest of the text (which never have a horizontal stroke on top of the vertical stroke). Thus, the reading quas · il(l)ae (B, l. 7) is secure. That said, it is a matter of debate how quas should be analysed: it could either be taken as qua(e)s[tum] (cf. A, l. 9) or the relative pronoun, though its gender does not agree with the immediate antecedents.


Six to Eight Hours on One Greek Word

Simon Pulleyn:
For six weeks or so, I've been on a roll with my commentary on Odyssey XI. But six to eight hours can pass without my noticing. And at the end, I'm lucky if I've moved on by one Greek word.


Short Prayer

Plautus, Trinummus 1070 (tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
Sea, earth, heaven, gods, your protection!

mare, terra, caelum, di vostram fidem!


Our History

Benjamin Morgan Palmer, in Minutes of the Ninth Annual Meeting and Reunion of the United Confederate Veterans, Held at Charleston, South Carolina ... 1899 (New Orleans: Hopkins Printing Office, 1900), p. 27:
[I]t is sometimes asked, why we should stir the ashes of that ancient feud, why we should not bury the past in its own grave, and turn to the living issues of the present and the future. To this question, comrades, we return the answer, with a voice loud as seven thunders, because it is history, because it is our history, and the history of our dead heroes who shall not go without their fame.
Seven thunders: Revelation 10:3-4.


I Hear the Twanging of the Bow

Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter XLI, note 15:
Νευρὴν μὲν μαζῷ πέλασεν, τόξῳ δὲ σίδηρον (Iliad, Δ. 123). How concise—how just—how beautiful is the whole picture! I see the attitudes of the archer—I hear the twanging of the bow.
λίγξε βιὸς, νευρὴ δὲ μέγ' ίαχεν, ἆλτο δ ̓ ὀϊστός.
Homer, Iliad 4.116-126 (tr. Richmond Lattimore; he = Pandarus):
He stripped away the lid of the quiver, and took out an arrow
feathered, and never shot before, transmitter of dark pain.
Swiftly he arranged the bitter arrow along the bowstring,
and made his prayer to Apollo the light-born, the glorious archer,
that he would accomplish a grand sacrifice of lambs first born        120
when he came home again to the city of sacred Zeleia.
He drew, holding at once the grooves and the ox-hide bowstring
and brought the string against his nipple, iron to the bowstave.
But when he had pulled the great weapon till it made a circle,
the bow groaned, and the string sang high, and the arrow, sharp-pointed,        12S
leapt away, furious, to fly through the throng before it.

αὐτὰρ ὁ σύλα πῶμα φαρέτρης, ἐκ δ᾽ ἕλετ᾽ ἰὸν
ἀβλῆτα πτερόεντα μελαινέων ἕρμ᾽ ὀδυνάων·
αἶψα δ᾽ ἐπὶ νευρῇ κατεκόσμει πικρὸν ὀϊστόν,
εὔχετο δ᾽ Ἀπόλλωνι Λυκηγενέϊ κλυτοτόξῳ
ἀρνῶν πρωτογόνων ῥέξειν κλειτὴν ἑκατόμβην        120
οἴκαδε νοστήσας ἱερῆς εἰς ἄστυ Ζελείης.
ἕλκε δ᾽ ὁμοῦ γλυφίδας τε λαβὼν καὶ νεῦρα βόεια·
νευρὴν μὲν μαζῷ πέλασεν, τόξῳ δὲ σίδηρον.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ δὴ κυκλοτερὲς μέγα τόξον ἔτεινε,
λίγξε βιός, νευρὴ δὲ μέγ᾽ ἴαχεν, ἆλτο δ᾽ ὀϊστὸς        125
ὀξυβελὴς καθ᾽ ὅμιλον ἐπιπτέσθαι μενεαίνων.

Thursday, June 22, 2023



H.L. Mencken, Prejudices, Third Series (New Tork: Alfred A. Knopf, 1922), pp. 15-16:
Would it be regarded as sane and laudable for a man to travel the Soudan trying to sell fountain-pens, or Greenland offering to teach double-entry bookkeeping or counterpoint? Coming closer, would the judicious pity or laugh at a man who opened a shop for the sale of incunabula in Little Rock, Ark., or who demanded a living in McKeesport, Pa., on the ground that he could read Sumerian? In precisely the same way it seems to me to be nonsensical for a man to offer generally some commodity that only a few rare and dubious Americans want, and then weep and beat his breast because he is not patronized. One seeking to make a living in a country must pay due regard to the needs and tastes of that country. Here in the United States we have no jobs for grand dukes, and none for Wirkliche Geheimräte, and none for palace eunuchs, and none for masters of the buck-hounds, and none (any more) for brewery Todsaufer—and very few for oboe players, metaphysicians, astrophysicists, assyriologists, water-colorists, stylites and epic poets. There was a time when the Todsaufer served a public need and got an adequate reward, but it is no more. There may come a time when the composer of string quartettes is paid as much as a railway conductor, but it is not yet. Then why practice such trades—that is, as trades? The man of independent means may venture into them prudently; when he does so, he is seldom molested; it may even be argued that he performs a public service by adopting them. But the man who has a living to make is simply silly if he goes into them; he is like a soldier going over the top with a coffin strapped to his back. Let him abandon such puerile vanities, and take to the uplift instead, as, indeed, thousands of other victims of the industrial system have already done. Let him bear in mind that, whatever its neglect of the humanities and their monks, the Republic has never got half enough bond salesmen, quack doctors, ward leaders, phrenologists, Methodist evangelists, circus clowns, magicians, soldiers, farmers, popular song writers, moonshine distillers, forgers of gin labels, mine guards, detectives, spies, snoopers, and agents provocateurs. The rules are set by Omnipotence; the discreet man observes them. Observing them, he is safe beneath the starry bed-tick, in fair weather or foul. The boobus Americanus is a bird that knows no closed season—and if he won’t come down to Texas oil stock, or one-night cancer cures, or building lots in Swampshurst, he will always come down to Inspiration and Optimism, whether political, theological, pedagogical, literary, or economic.


Tragic Curses

Diogenes of Sinope, fragment 4 (from Diogenes Laertius 6.38 etc.; tr. M.J. Cropp):
He (i.e. Diogenes) used to say that all the tragic curses had fallen upon him; he was, at any rate,
Cityless, homeless, bereft of fatherland,
a beggar, a vagrant, getting a living day by day.
εἰώθει δὲ λέγειν ⟨πάσας⟩ τὰς τραγικὰς ἀρὰς αὐτῷ συνηντηκέναι· εἶναι γοῦν
ἄπολις, ἄοικος, πατρίδος ἐστερημένος,
πτωχός, πλανήτης, βίον ἔχων ἐφήμερον.



Grinding and Snarling at His Texts

Edmund Wilson, "A.E. Housman," The Triple Thinkers: Twelve Essays on Literary Subjects (London: John Lehmann, 1952), pp. 64-74 (at 72):
But A.E. Housman, giving up Greek in order to specialize in Latin because he 'could not attain to excellence in both,' giving up Propertius, who wrote about love, for Manilius, who did not even deal with human beings, turning away from the lives of the Romans to rivet his attention to the difficulties of their texts, can only flatten out small German professors with weapons which would have found fit employment in the hands of a great reformer or a great satirist. He is the hero of The Grammarian's Funeral—the man of learning who makes himself impressive through the magnitude, not the importance, of his achievement. After all, there was no need for another Bentley.

It is only in the Latin verses—said to have been called by Murray the best since the ancient world—which Housman prefixed to his Manilius, in his few translations from Latin and Greek, and in his occasional literary essays, that the voice of the Shropshire Lad comes through—that voice which, once sped on its way, so quickly pierced to the hearts and the minds of the whole English-speaking worlcf and which went on vibrating for decades, disburdening hearts with its music that made loss and death and disgrace seem so beautiful, while poor Housman, burdened sorely forever, sat grinding and snarling at his texts.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023



Horace, Odes 4.4.65-68 (supposed speech of Hannibal on Rome; tr. Niall Rudd):
Plunge it in the deep, it emerges all the finer; wrestle with it, amid loud applause it will throw a previously unbeaten champion, and then go on to fight battles for its wives to tell of.

merses profundo: pulchrior evenit:
luctere: multa proruet integrum
    cum laude victorem geretque
        proelia coniugibus loquenda.

68 coniugibus codd.: carminibus Peerlkamp: Pieriis Hunt: postgenitis Maas: cum fidibus Delz
H. Darnley Naylor, Horace, Odes and Epodes: A Study in Poetic Word-Order (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1922), p. x:
[T]he commentators say 'wives' or 'widows.' But may not the picture be of husband and wife, at table or over the fire, talking about past campaigns (see Ovid Her. i.30)? Just as reges can mean 'king and queen,' so coniuges can mean 'man and wife.'
See Giuseppe Giangrande, "Two Horatian Problems," Classical Quarterly 17.2 (November, 1967) 327-331 (at 329-331).


Had Plato Learned Greek at Harrow

Virginia Woolf, "A Dialogue Upon Mount Pentelicus," The Complete Shorter Fiction (San Diego: Harcourt Inc., 1989), pp. 63-68 (at 64; they = a party of English tourists):
And to prove themselves duly inspired, they not only shared their wine flask with the escort of dirty Greek peasant boys but condescended so far as to address them in their own tongue as Plato would have spoken it had Plato learned Greek at Harrow. Whether they were just or not shall be left for others to decide; but the fact that Greek words spoken on Greek soil were misunderstood by Greeks destroys at one blow the whole population of Greece, both men and women and children. At such a crisis one word came aptly to their lips; a word that Sophocles might have spoken, and that Plato would have sanctioned; they were 'barbarian'. To denounce them thus was not only to discharge a duty on behalf of the dead but to declare the rightful inheritors, and for some minutes the marble quarries of Pentelicus thundered the news to all who might sleep beneath their rocks or haunt their caverns. The spurious people was convicted; the dusky garrulous race, loose of lip and unstable of purpose who had parodied the speech and pilfered the name of the great for so long was caught and convicted.


Jebb's Lectures

A.S.F. Gow, Letters from Cambridge, 1939-1944 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1945), p. 240:
Jebb was not an eccentric; he was a Knight, an M.P., a friend of Tennyson, and, as a scholar, not so distinguished as his contemporaries thought but still distinguished. His idea of lecturing was to read out in a monotonous inaudible voice from a notebook or proofsheets strings of references which nobody would look up and which would not have profited them if they had.



Lucian, Charon 11 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
CHARON. Is that gold, the bright substance that shines, the pale yellow substance with a cast of red? This is the first time that I have seen it, though I am always hearing of it.

HERMES. That is it, Charon, the name that they sing of and fight for.

CHARON. Really I don't see what good there is about it, except perhaps for one thing, that its bearers find it heavy.

HERMES. You do not know how many wars there have been on account of it, how many plots, perjuries, murders, imprisonments, trading ventures, and enslavements.

ΧΑΡΩΝ.Ἐκεῖνο γάρ ἐστιν ὁ χρυσός, τὸ λαμπρὸν ὃ ἀποστίλβει, τὸ ὕπωχρον μετ᾿ ἐρυθήματος; νῦν γὰρ πρῶτον εἶδον, ἀκούων ἀεί.

ΕΡΜΗΣ. Ἐκεῖνο, ὦ Χάρων, τὸ ἀοίδιμον ὄνομα καὶ περιμάχητον.

ΧΑΡΩΝ. Καὶ μὴν οὐχ ὁρῶ ὅ τι τὸ ἀγαθὸν αὐτῷ πρόσεστιν, εἰ μὴ ἄρα ἕν τι μόνον, ὅτι βαρύνονται οἱ φέροντες αὐτό.

ΕΡΜΗΣ. Οὐ γὰρ οἶσθα ὅσοι πόλεμοι διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἐπιβουλαὶ καὶ λῃστήρια καὶ ἐπιορκίαι καὶ φόνοι καὶ δεσμὰ [καὶ πλοῦς μακρὸς] καὶ ἐμπορίαι καὶ δουλεῖαι;

καὶ πλοῦς μακρὸς
del. Spath


A Fat, Sleek-Skinned Little Gentleman

T.E. Page, introduction to S.E. Winbolt, The Horace Pocket Book (Praecepta Horatiana) (London: G. Bell and Sons, Ltd., 1914), pp. vi-vii:
Men continually read the classics less—for what use are they in a foreign restaurant?—and of those who so read them fewer are of the sort to either understand or enjoy Horace. Scholarship has of late become very serious and solemn. Ceaselessly busied about manuscripts, emendations, epigraphy, folk-lore, archaeology and the like, or labouring wearily through Teutonic treatises, classical students now know little of that slippered ease without which the genial old poet wholly refuses intimacy. He claims to sit with you in the snuggery and by the fireside. There and then only he will make himself thoroughly at home, and there no one talks with a more pleasant wit or tells a story better than this fat, sleek-skinned little gentleman, whose words flow so easily, whose eye twinkles so goodhumouredly, who is so polished, so modest, and, above all, so wise.
Fat and little: Suetonius, Life of Horace (habitu corporis brevis fuit atque obesus). Sleek-skinned: Horace, Epistles 1.4.15 (nitidum bene curata cute).

Tuesday, June 20, 2023


Use of a Forbidden Ethnonym

Facial reconstruction of a 7th century skeleton by forensic artist Hew Morrison, from Katy Prickett, "Trumpington burial: Teenage Anglo-Saxon girl's face revealed," BBC News (June 20, 2023):
The headline, before it disappears:
Katy Prickett, or whoever wrote the headline, apparently hasn't heard that bien-pensants now frown upon the term Anglo-Saxon. See Craig Simpson, "Anglo-Saxons aren't real, Cambridge tells students in effort to fight 'nationalism'," Telegraph (June 3, 2023):
Cambridge is teaching students that Anglo-Saxons did not exist as a distinct ethnic group as part of efforts to undermine "myths of nationalism".

Britain's early medieval history is taught by the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, but the terms within its own title are being addressed as part of efforts to make teaching more "anti-racist".

Its teaching aims to "dismantle the basis of myths of nationalism" by explaining that the Anglo-Saxons were not a distinct ethnic group, according to information from the department.

The department's approach also aims to show that there were never "coherent" Scottish, Irish and Welsh ethnic identities with ancient roots.

The increased focus on anti-racism comes amid a broader debate over the continued use of terms like "Anglo-Saxon", with some in academia alleging that the ethnonym is used to support "racist" ideas of a native English identity.

Information provided by the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (ASNC) explains its approach to teaching, stating: "Several of the elements discussed above have been expanded to make ASNC teaching more anti-racist.

"One concern has been to address recent concerns over use of the term 'Anglo-Saxon' and its perceived connection to ethnic/racial English identity.

"Other aspects of ASNC's historical modules approach race and ethnicity with reference to the Scandinavian settlement that began in the ninth century.

"In general, ASNC teaching seeks to dismantle the basis of myths of nationalism — that there ever was a 'British', 'English', 'Scottish', 'Welsh' or 'Irish' people with a coherent and ancient ethnic identity — by showing students just how constructed and contingent these identities are and always have been."

One lecture addresses how the modern use of the term "Anglo-Saxon" has been embroiled in "indigenous race politics", by questioning the extent of settlement by a distinct ethnic group that could be called Anglo-Saxon.

The term typically refers to a cultural group which emerged and flourished between the fall of Roman Britain, and the Norman conquest, when Germanic peoples — Angles, Saxons, and Jutes — arrived and forged new kingdoms in what would later become a united England. This was also the period of Old English epics such as Beowulf.

However, the term Anglo-Saxon has recently become embroiled in controversy, with some academics claiming that the term Anglo-Saxon has been used by racists — particularly in the US — to support the idea of an ancient white English identity, and should therefore be dropped.

In 2019, the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists voted to change its name to the International Society for the Study of Early Medieval England, "in recognition of the problematic connotations that are widely associated with the terms 'Anglo-Saxon'".

This was triggered by the resignation from the society of the Canadian academic Dr Mary Rambaran-Olm, who has since written that the field of Anglo-Saxon studies is one of "inherent whiteness".

She later wrote in the Smithsonian magazine that: "The Anglo-Saxon myth perpetuates a false idea of what it means to be 'native' to Britain."
The word "girl" in the BBC headline probably offends some people as well, but that is a topic for another day.


Greek in Church

Peter Brown, Journeys of the Mind: A Life in History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2023), pp. 87-88:
Greek opened other worlds to me. It had begun as a slog. My very first act of conscious impiety was to decide, on a strict cost-opportunity basis, to devote my attention in school chapel not to the Psalms but to the silent recitation of Greek irregular verbs. But even this grind added a further dimension to my heart. When muttering verbs, I would stare at the stained glass windows of the school chapel. These were classic examples of what could be called "Anglican Hellenism." Here was an idealized ancient world, in which Apostles and Fathers of the Church were dressed in impeccable togas. In scenes of the life of Saint Martin or of the confrontation between Saint Ambrose and Theodosius I, holy persons in pure classical garb appeared before emperors and their soldiers, who were dressed in uniforms taken straight from our textbooks of Roman history. Eventually, Greek and Latin would open up for me not only the road back to Athens and Rome, but also (and just as importantly) the road to Galilee and to Saint Paul.
Cf. Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion (Princeton: Princeton University Press,1978), on classical scholar Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve (1831-1924):
A regular churchgoer, he kept himself awake during sermons by mentally translating them into Greek, sentence by sentence as uttered, a practice he recommended as "a peculiarly rewarding means of grace."


The Mind of Zeus

Hesiod, Works and Days 483-484 (tr. M.L. West):
Yet the mind of Zeus the aegis-bearer is different at different times,
and hard for mortal men to recognize.

ἄλλοτε δ' ἀλλοῖος Ζηνὸς νόος αἰγιόχοιο,
ἀργαλέος δ' ἄνδρεσσι καταθνητοῖσι νοῆσαι.
Hesiod, fragment 253 (tr. Glenn W. Most):
There is not even one seer among human beings on the earth
who could know the mind of aegis-bearing Zeus.

μάντις δ' οὐδ' εἷς ἐστιν ἐπιχθονίων ἀνθρώπων
ὅστις ἂν εἰδείη Ζηνὸς νόον αἰγιόχοιο.

Monday, June 19, 2023


Students Today

Anton Chekhov (1860-1904), "A Dull Story," III (tr. Ann Dunnigan):
If I were asked what it is I do not like in my students today, I should not be able to answer at once, nor to say very much, but I should be quite specific. I know their defects, and consequently have no need to resort to vague generalities. I do not like their smoking, drinking, and marrying late, nor the fact that they are so unconcerned, at times even so callous, as to tolerate want in their midst and to neglect paying up their arrears in the Students' Aid Society. They do not know other languages, and express themselves incorrectly in their own. Only yesterday one of my colleagues, a professor of hygienics, complained to me that he is obliged to lecture twice as long as he should because of their poor knowledge of physics and complete ignorance of meteorology. They readily succumb to the influence of the latest authors, even when they are by no means the best, but they are utterly indifferent to the classics such as Shakespeare, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, or Pascal, and it is this inability to distinguish the great from the inferior that more than anything else betrays their lack of practical intelligence.


Gibbon's Style

John Ruskin, letter to Thomas Carlyle (June 23, 1878):
I am going to stigmatise Gibbon's as the worst style of language ever yet invented by man—its affectation and platitude being both consummate. It is like the most tasteless water-gruel, with a handful of Epsom salts strewed in for flowers, and served with the airs of being turtle.



Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies (v. 1, p. 178 Stählin; tr. John Ferguson):
[5] Sensuality is simply a form of voluptuous gluttony, an excessive superfluity on the part of those dedicated to the passion of pleasure. [6] Diogenes [88 TrGF 1h] wrote revealingly in one of his tragedies:
Those who are sated at heart by pleasures
of abominably effeminate luxury
are unwilling for hardships however small,
and so on—shameful words and typical of pleasure-seekers.

[5] τί γὰρ ἕτερον ἡ τρυφὴ ἢ φιλήδονος λιχνεία καὶ πλεονασμὸς περίεργος πρὸς ἡδυπάθειαν ἀνειμένων; [6] ἐμφαντικῶς ὁ Διογένης ἔν τινι τραγῳδίᾳ γράφει·
οἱ τῆς ἀνάνδρου καὶ διεσκατωμένης
τρυφῆς ὑφ' ἡδοναῖσι σαχθέντες κέαρ
πονεῖν θέλοντες οὐδὲ βαιά,
καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τούτοις ὅσα αἰσχρῶς μὲν εἴρηται, ἐπαξίως δὲ τῶν φιληδόνων.

Meineke: ἀχθέντες L
θέλοντες Sylburg: ἐθέλοντες L


Vicisti, Galilaee

Peter Thiel, "The diversity myth," New Criterion (June 2023):
At the end of his life, when Nietzsche was going insane, he said something along the lines of, "God of the Jews, you have won."
Maybe Nietzsche said this, although I can find no record of it. By the way, Nietzsche went insane several years before the end of his life. To me, "God of the Jews, you have won" sounds like a confused recollection of the death of Julian the Apostate, here recorded by Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History 3.25.6-7 (tr. Blomfield Jackson):
Some say that he was wounded by an invisible being, others by one of the Nomads who were called Ishmaelites; others by a trooper who could not endure the pains of famine in the wilderness. But whether it were man or angel who plied the steel, without doubt the doer of the deed was the minister of the will of God. It is related that when Julian had received the wound, he filled his hand with blood, flung it into the air and cried, You have won, O Galilean. Thus he gave utterance at once to a confession of the victory and to a blasphemy. So infatuated was he.
The Greek, from Theodoret, Kirchengeschichte, ed. Léon Parmentier (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1911), pp. 204-205:
ἀλλ' οἱ μέν τινα τῶν ἀοράτων ταύτην ἐπενηνοχέναι φασίν, οἱ δὲ τῶν νομάδων ἕνα τῶν Ισμαηλιτὥν καλουμένων, ἄλλοι δὲ στρατιώτην τὸν λιμὸν καὶ τὴν ἔρημον δυσχεράναντα. ἀλλ εἴτε ἄνθρωπος εἴτε ἄγγελος ὦσε τὸ ξίφος, δῆλον ὡς τοῦτο δέδρακε τοῦ θείου νεύματος γενόμενος ὑπουργός. ἐκεῖνον δέ γέ φασι δεξάμενον τὴν πληγὴν εὐθὺς πλῆσαι τὴν χεῖρα τοῦ αἵματος καὶ τοῦτο ῥίψαι εἰς τὸν ἀέρα καὶ φάναι· νενίκηκας Γαλιλαῖἑ, καὶ κατὰ ταὐτὸν τήν τε νίκην ὁμολογῆσαι καὶ τὴν βλασφημίαν τολμῆσαι· οὕτως ἐμβρόντητος ἦν.
Latin translation from Patrologia Graeca, vol. 82, col. 1119:
Sunt qui ab invisibili quopiam incussum dicant, alii ab uno e nomadibus, quos Ismaelitas vocant: alii a milite famis et solitudinis molestias non ferente. Verum sive homo, sive angelus ferrum impulit, certum est, quisquis fuit, divinae voluntatis ministrum fuisse. Ferunt porro illum vulnere accepto implesse manum sanguine, et hoc in aerem projecto dixisse: Vicisti, Galilaee; simulque et victoriam confessum esse, et blasphemiam, adeo vecors erat, evomuisse.
The phrase is probably better known in its Latin form (Vicisti, Galilaee), used as the motto of Swinburne's "Hymn to Proserpine."

Sunday, June 18, 2023


Epitaph of Praecilius

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum VIII, 7156 (Constantine, Algeria), tr. Robert Knapp, Invisible Romans (London: Profile Books, 2011), p. 13:
Here I am silent, describing my life in verse.
I enjoyed a bright reputation, and the height of prosperity.
Praecilius by name, a native of Cirta, I was a skillful banker.
My honesty was wonderful, and I always adhered to truth;
I was courteous to all men, and whose distress did I not succor?
I was always gay, and hospitable to my dear friends;
a great change came over my life after the death of the virtuous Valeria.
As long as I could, I enjoyed the sweets of holy matrimony;
I celebrated a hundred happy birthdays in virtue and happiness;
but the last day has arrived, as the spirit leaves my exhausted limbs.
Alive I earned the titles which you read,
as Fortune willed it. She never deserted me.
Follow me in like manner; here I await you! Come.

hic ego qui taceo, versibus mea vita demonstro:
lucem clara fruitus et tempora summa
Praecilius Cirtensi lare argentariam exibui artem.
fydes in me mira fuit semper et veritas omnis.
omnibus communis ego cui non misertus? ubique,        5
risus, luxuria semper fruitus cun caris amicis.
talem post obitum dominae Valeriae non inveni pudicae
vitam; cum potui, gratam habui cun coniuge sanctam.
natales honeste meos centum celebravi felices,
at venit postrema dies, ut spiritus inania mempra reliquat.        10
titulos quos legis, vivus mee morti paravi,
ut voluit Fortuna; nunquam me deseruit ipsa.
sequimini tales, hic vos expecto, venitae.
The translation of line 6 ("I was always gay, and hospitable to my dear friends") is a bit free. More literally it means "Laughs (and) pleasure I always enjoyed with dear friends." Likewise line 11 ("Alive I earned the titles which you read"), which I would render as "While alive, I arranged for my death the inscription which you read." 

Notes from Ernst Diehl, Vulgärlateinische Inschriften (Bonn: A Marcus und E. Weber's Verlag, 1910), p. 128:
1 meam vitam 2 ff das acrostichon L. P(raecilius) Fortunatus 2 clara(m), wie luxuria(m) s. auch CE 980 CIL XI 987 5 omnisbus d. stein 7 oder talem (nämlich amicum) pudicae, 11 titulos zweisilbig wie CE 551, 3 (τίτλον) 13 exopecto d. stein
See Michel Griffe et al., "Épitaphe du banquier Praecilius (CIL VIII, 7156 = IL Alg. 2, 820 = CLE, 512)," Vita Latina 146 (1997) 15-25.



Dionysius of Syracuse, fragment 6 (tr. M.J. Cropp):
Either say something better than silence, or keep silent.

ἢ λέγε τι σιγῆς κρεῖσσον ἢ σιγὴν ἔχε.



Gaines M. Foster, Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South 1865-1913 (1985; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 18 (notes omitted):
Other southerners retreated into their work and families rather than into the church. George Mercer, for example, claimed, "My profession and my books are my only pride and pleasure: my house my castle: my family my country."

Ignoring politics, where southerners had to face both the Yankees and the harsh realities of defeat, constituted a less total but more common means of withdrawal. Many white southerners insisted that political matters no longer interested them. One Georgian argued that politics had become as useless to him "as diamond shoe-buckles would have been for Robinson Crusoe. . . ." An Alabaman maintained that he "lived in a very retired way" and had "turned away" from political discourse "with curses and disgust, as I would have done from the breath of a cur that had gorged himself on carrion."

Saturday, June 17, 2023


Song of Joy

Plautus, Trinummus 1115-1119 (the young man Lysiteles speaking; tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
LYS (pointing to himself) This man is exceeding all men,
surpassing them in pleasures and joys:
so opportunely do the things I wish for happen,
so opportunely does what I'm doing follow, arrive, and occur,
and so much does one joy crowd on other joys.

LYS hic homost omnium hominum praecipuos,        1115
voluptatibus gaudiisque antepotens:
ita commoda quae cupio eveniunt,
quod ago adsequitur, subest, supsequitur,
ita gaudiis gaudium suppeditat.
At 1115 hic homo reminded me of Greek ἀνὴρ ὅδε, a periphrasis for the first person singular personal pronoun. I see that J.H. Gray in his commentary (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1897), p. 186, made the connection.

Friedrich Leo on line 1118:
vocatum accurrit, prope est, pedibus adhaeret (quasi canis)
Eduard Fraenkel, Plautine Elements in Plautus, tr. Tomas Drevikovsky and Francis Muecke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 10-11, compares Terence, Andria 957 ff., Eunuch 549 ff., and a fragment from Juventius (Ribbeck 2-3):
If all men were to bring their joys into one place,
yet my happiness would surpass them.

gaudia sua si omnes homines conferant unum in locum,
tamen mea exsuperet laetitia.


The Old Age of Vestricius Spurinna

Pliny, Letters 3.1 (to Calvisius Rufus; tr. Betty Radice):
[1] I can't remember ever passing the time so pleasantly as I did on my recent visit to Spurinna; and, indeed, there is no one whom I would rather take for an example in my old age, if I am spared to live so long, for no way of living is better planned than his. [2] A well-ordered life, especially where the old are concerned, gives me the same pleasure as the fixed course of the planets. A certain amount of irregularity and excitement is not unsuitable for the young, but their elders should lead a quiet and orderly existence; their time of public activity is over, and ambition only brings them into disrepute.

[3] This is the rule strictly observed by Spurinna, and he even maintains a due order and succession in matters which would be trivial were they not part of a daily routine. [4] Every morning he stays in bed for an hour after dawn, then calls for his shoes and takes a three-mile walk to exercise mind and body. If he has friends with him he carries on a serious conversation, if he is alone a book is read aloud, and this is sometimes done when there are friends present, so long as they do not object. [5] Then he sits down, the book is continued, or preferably the conversation; after which he goes out in his carriage accompanied by his wife (a model to her sex) or one of his friends, a pleasure recently mine. [6] There is a special sort of pleasure in being thus singled out and given the entry into a bygone age as he talks of great men and their deeds to give you inspiration, though modesty restrains him from any appearance of laying down the law. [7] After a drive of seven miles he will walk another mile, then sit again or retire to his room and his writing, for he composes lyric verses in both Greek and Latin with considerable success; they are remarkable for their wit, grace, and delicacy, and their charm is enhanced by the propriety of their author. [8] When summoned to his bath (in mid-afternoon in winter and an hour earlier in summer) he first removes his clothes and takes a walk in the sunshine if there is no wind, and then throws a ball briskly for some time, this being another form of exercise whereby he keeps old age at bay. After his bath he lies down for a short rest before dinner, and listens while something light and soothing is read aloud. Meanwhile his friends are quite free to do the same as he does or not, as they prefer. [9] Dinner is brought on in dishes of antique solid silver, a simple meal but well served; he also has Corinthian bronze for general use, which he admires though not with a collector's passion. Between the courses there is often a performance of comedy, so that the pleasures of the table have a seasoning of letters, and the meal is prolonged into the night, even in summer, without anyone finding it too long amid such pleasant company.

[10] The result is that Spurinna has passed his seventy-seventh year, but his sight and hearing are unimpaired, and he is physically agile and energetic; old age has brought him nothing but wisdom. [11] This is the sort of life I hope and pray will be mine, and I shall eagerly enter on it as soon as the thought of my years permits me to sound a retreat. Meanwhile innumerable tasks fill my time, though here again Spurinna sets me a reassuring example, for he also accepted public offices, held magistracies, and governed provinces as long as it was his duty, and thus his present retirement was earned by hard work. [12] I have set myself the same race and goal, and I bind myself to it now with you as my witness: so, if you see me fail to stop, you can call me to account with this letter of mine and bid me retire when I can do so without being accused of laziness.
A fluent translation, easy to read, but too free for my taste in section 6:
There is a special sort of pleasure in being thus singled out and given the entry into a bygone age as he talks of great men and their deeds to give you inspiration, though modesty restrains him from any appearance of laying down the law.

quam pulchrum illud, quam dulce secretum! quantum ibi antiquitatis! quae facta, quos viros audias! quibus praeceptis imbuare! quamvis ille hoc temperamentum modestiae suae indixerit, ne praecipere videatur.
Cf. P.G. Walsh's rendering, which is closer to the Latin:
How fine, how exquisite was that tête-à-tête! How evocative of the old days! What events and what personalities one would hear of! In what rules of conduct would you be steeped, though he has imposed the restraint which his moderation demands, namely not to appear to lay down the law.
John E.B. Mayor ad loc.:
See Ronald Syme, "Vestricius Spurinna," in his Roman Papers, VII (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), pp. 541-550, and Tim G. Parkin, Old Age in the Roman World: A Cultural and Social History (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 73-74, 128.

Friday, June 16, 2023


Undignified Laughter

Paul Shorey, ed., Plato, The Republic, Vol. I: Books I-V (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1937), p. 211 (note on 3.3.388e):
The ancients generally thought violent laughter undignified. Cf. Isocrates Demon. 15, Plato Laws 732 C, 935 B, Epictetus Encheirid. xxxiii.4, Dio Chrys. Or. 33.703 R. Diogenes Laertius iii.26, reports that Plato never laughed excessively in his youth. Aristotle's great-souled man would presumably have eschewed laughter (Eth. iv.8, Rhet. 1389 b 10), as Lord Chesterfield advises his son to do.


Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Chaeremon, fragment 37 (tr. M.J. Cropp):
No one who is wise grieves over small things.

οὐδεὶς ἐπὶ σμικροῖσι λυπεῖται σοφός.


Faking It

Quintilian 12.3.12 (tr. H.E. Butler):
For philosophy may be counterfeited, but eloquence never.

philosophia enim simulari potest, eloquentia non potest.



A.D. Nuttall, Dead from the Waist Down: Scholars and Scholarship in Literature and the Popular Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), p. 5:
...theo-logia as a term, "God-reasoning," appears to be Abelard's invention...
The word occurs several times in Augustine's City of God (e.g. 6.5, quoting Varro). See also Jordanes, Getica 11.71 (p. 74 Mommsen).



Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7.2.33 (tr. H. Rackham):
These and similar varieties of the human race have been made by the ingenuity of Nature as toys for herself and marvels for us. And indeed who could possibly recount the various things she does every day and almost every hour?

haec atque talia ex hominum genere ludibria sibi, nobis miracula ingeniosa fecit natura. ex singulis quidem quae facit in dies ac prope horas, quis enumerare valeat?

Thursday, June 15, 2023


Effects of Wine

Athenaeus 2.35d, tr. S. Douglas Olson, Athenaeus, The Learned Banqueters, Books I-III.106e (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006 = Loeb Classical Library, 204), p. 203:
The tragic poet Chaeremon (TrGF 71 F 15) claims that wine provides those who consume it with
laughter, wisdom, a quick wit, sound judgment.
Greek text with note from Olson, p. 202:
Χαιρήμων δὲ ὁ τραγῳδὸς παρασκευάζειν φησὶ τὸν οἶνον τοῖς χρωμένοις
γέλωτα, σοφίαν, εὐμαθίαν4, εὐβουλίαν.
4 εὐμαθίαν Wagner: ἀμαθίαν CE
The note has it backwards. In reality, the manuscripts of Athenaeus read εὐμαθίαν, and ἀμαθίαν is the conjecture, made by Friedrich Wilhelm Wagner in Fragmenta Euripidis (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1846), p. 130:
Sed intolerabilis est anapaestus in quarto pede, qui facile removeri potest, si pro εὐμαθίαν scribitur ἀμαθίαν. Nam corruptela etiam sententiae inesse videtur: Chaeremo haud dubie dicere voluit (cf. fgm. sequ.), aliam esse in aliis hominibus vini efficacitatem; itaque primum risum, deinde ejus contrarium sapientiam commemoravit. Postea vero duo verba sequuntur, quae fere eandem vim habent, quorum alterum igitur, si recte Chaeremonis mentem perspeximus, emendandum est.
August Nauck, Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1856), p. 611 (apparently independently):
εὐμαθίαν libri, ἀμαθίαν scripsi.
In his second edition (1889), p. 787, Nauck gave credit to Wagner for the conjecture.

The mistake persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library. Perhaps it arose from Bruno Snell and Richard Kannicht, Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, Vol. I (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1986), p. 222, who say "εὐμαθίαν: Wagner."

If Wagner's conjecture is adopted, the meaning of the fragment (tr. M.J. Cropp) is:
laughter, wisdom, foolishness, good counsel.


Wednesday, June 14, 2023


The Practice of Civilized Nations

Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XLI (533 AD):
[T]he war was preceded, according the practice of civilized nations, by the most solemn protestations that each party was sincerely desirous of peace.



Carcinus II, fragment 7 (tr. M.J. Cropp):
Many men find silence a prescription against troubles;
and this belongs especially to a self-controlled temper.

πολλοῖς γὰρ ἀνθρώποισι φάρμακον κακῶν
σιγή· μάλιστα δ' ἐστὶ σώφρονος τρόπου.
Related post: Safety in Silence.


A Nasty New Religion

Gilbert K. Chesterton, The Club of Queer Trades (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1905), p. 241:
"Bosh," answered Grant. "I never said a word against eminent men of science. What I complain of is a vague popular philosophy which supposes itself to be scientific when it is really nothing but a sort of new religion and an uncommonly nasty one."


One Man in His Time Plays Many Parts

Bhartṛhari, The Vairāgya-śatakam: Or, The Hundred Verses on Renunciation, 2nd ed. (Mayavati: The Advaita Ashram, 1921), p. 32 (number 50):
Now a child for a while and then a youth of erotic ways, a destitute now for a while and then very wealthy, just like an actor, man makes at the end of his role—when diseased in all limbs by age and wrinkled all over the body—his exit behind the scene that veils the abode of Yama (death).
Other translations are available on Shreevatsa's very useful web site on Bhartṛhari.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023


Cast Your Mind on Other Days

W.B. Yeats (1865-1939), "Under Ben Bulben," V:
Irish poets learn your trade,
Sing whatever is well made,
Scorn the sort now growing up
All out of shape from toe to top,
Their unremembering hearts and heads
Base-born products of base beds.
Sing the peasantry, and then
Hard-riding country gentlemen,
The holiness of monks, and after
Porter-drinkers' randy laughter;
Sing the lords and ladies gay
That were beaten into the clay
Through seven heroic centuries;
Cast your mind on other days
That we in coming days may be
Still the indomitable Irishry.


Return to Ithaca

Homer, Odyssey I. Edited with an Introduction, Translation, Commentary, and Glossary by Simon Pulleyn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), p. 132 (on line 88):
ἰθάκηνδ᾽ ἐσελεύσομαι. As between this and the MS variant ἰθάκην ἐσελεύσομαι, the form with -δε is to be preferred after ἐλεύσομαι (cf. Od. 17.52, Il. 6.365). ἰθάκηνδε ἐλεύσομαι is possible at the caesura (S.R. West 1988: 86) but has no MS attestation, being a conjecture of Ahrens.
I see no reason for the lower-case initial iotas here with the proper name Ithaca. Read Ἰθάκηνδ᾽, Ἰθάκην, and Ἰθάκηνδε.

I noticed another misprint on p. 65 (translation of line 63):
In reply to her spoke Zeus, the gather of clouds:
For gather read gatherer (a good example of haplography).




Ronald Syme, "Diet on Capri," in his Roman Papers, VI (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), pp. 409-420 (at 411-412):
'Siser' is reported from Varro onwards, three times in poetry (Horace, the Moretum, Columella, Book X) with three more in Columella, eight in Pliny. Therefore of some significance for classical scholars. None the less, little care or curiosity has obtained.

A familiar passage in Horace proves instructive. 'Siser' occurs in the first course of the banquet of Nasidienus, along with radishes, horseradishes, and others, 'qualia lassum pervellunt stomachum' (Sat. ii 8, 8 ff.). The German commentary has 'Rapunzel', with no doubts expressed.15 That is to say, French 'raiponce', English 'rampion'. It may be for this reason that OLD was content with 'perhaps rampion', offering no alternative (fasc. vii, 1980).

Rampion, a name not often on the lips of men, must be banished forthwith and for ever. It is soft and sweet and miserable, merely 'Campanula rapunculus'.16 By contrast, Umbelliferae, that potent and odorous family with flavours owed to essential oils, which goes all the way from parsley by parsnips to fennel and hemlock.

English translators and commentators on Columella and Pliny likewise conform to the notorious 'déformation professionelle' of classical philology (that is, 'psittacosis'). They bring up another unfamiliar word to vex the innocent reader, namely 'skirret', vouchsafing no kind of elucidation.17

Yet they were on the right track. The skirret is the water parsnip, sevium sisarium, 'formerly much cultivated in Europe for its esculent tubers'.18 Further, it may perhaps be held identical with Pliny's 'siser erraticum' commended on medical grounds (xx 34 f.).

But enough. In the year 1958 a masterly demonstration established the parsnip himself.19 To be ignored only at dire peril.20

15 Kiessling-Heinze (1957). And Villeneuve translated it as 'raiponce' (Budé, 1951).

16 According to OED 'very rare in England'. The Italian name is 'rampanzolo'.

17 In annotation on NH xix 62, the Loeb edition (1950) stated that 'siser' may be the parsnip, but in 90 and 93 it is translated as 'skirret'; and in 88 the parsnip is 'pastinaca'. Again, in Columella's poem (x 114), 'siser' appears as 'Skirwort', to be registered as 'skirwort' four times in the Index (Loeb, vol. iii, 1955). Further, the comprehensive Loeb Index of plants (compiled by W.H.S. Jones) did not help: probably not che skirret 'but rather the parsnip, peucedanum sativum, or the carrot, Daucus carota' (vol. iii (1956), 538).

18 OED. In French 'chenis'; not to be confused with 'chervil', of the same family, which is 'cerfolium'.

19 A.C. Andrews, 'The Parsnip as a Food in the Classical Era', CP liii (1958), 155 ff. He had previously dealt with celery and parsley, CP xliv (1949), 91 ff. and with the carrot, ibid. 182 ff.

20 André was in favour long ago, op. cit. (1956), 395: 'probablement le panais (Pastinaca sativa)'. And no hesitation in his note on NH xix 90 (Budé, 1964), duly citing A.C. Andrews.
André = Jacques André, Lexique des termes de botanique en latin (Paris: Klincksieck, 1956).

Latin siser is etymologically related to Greek σίσαρον = parsnip.

On psittacosis see:



Hesiod, Works and Days 373-374 (tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White):
Do not let a flaunting woman coax and cozen and deceive you: she is after your barn.

μὴ δὲ γυνή σε νόον πυγοστόλος ἐξαπατάτω
αἱμύλα κωτίλλουσα, τεὴν διφῶσα καλιήν.
Flaunting is a euphemism. The Cambridge Greek Lexicon defines πυγοστόλος as "(of a woman) clothed in a way that draws attention to her arse, fancy-arsed."

The same, tr. A.E. Stallings:
Don't let a woman mystify your mind
With sweet talk and the sway of her behind —
She's just after your barn.
M.L. West ad loc.:

Monday, June 12, 2023


A Mystery Religion

Stephanie W. Jamison, Sacrificed Wife/Sacrificer's Wife: Women, Ritual, and Hospitality in Ancient India (New York: Oxford University Press, 1006), p. 3:
Ancient India remains the province of the philologists—among whom I am proud to number myself. It can only be approached through its texts, and the philological methods employed to investigate these texts may, to the outsider, appear to approach the status of a mystery religion, to be even more esoteric than the contents of the texts they study. As a philologist, a practitioner of this cult, I am certain that the intricacies of the method are necessary. But I also regret the result: that the knowledge we gain too often remains walled off from the rest of the scholarly community, that the process of gaining it is so consuming that we often lack the energy to communicate it to others—and that others will not invest their energy in attending to the unfamiliar details that must be grasped in order to understand the whole.


Joy and Grief

Diogenes Laertius 2.8.98 (on Theodorus; tr. R.D. Hicks):
He considered joy and grief to be the supreme good and evil, the one brought about by wisdom, the other by folly.

τέλος δ᾽ ὑπελάμβανε χαρὰν καὶ λύπην· τὴν μὲν ἐπὶ φρονήσει, τὴν δ᾽ ἐπὶ ἀφροσύνῃ.


All About Endings

Peter Brown, Journeys of the Mind: A Life in History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2023), pp. 59-60:
The teachers who guided us in this brisk forced march of learning were a mixed bunch. Private schools such as Aravon were human bird sanctuaries. Some teachers were local figures. They held part-time teaching assignments as a form of outdoor relief (welfare). Mr. Monk Gibbon (known as "Gubb-Gubb") was one such gentleman down on his luck. He was a travel writer, who later wrote a Batsford travel book on the baroque churches of Austria. He was also a poet; and not only was he a poet—he was also a cousin of W.B. Yeats. As we have seen, he was permanently aggrieved that his distinguished relative had not included any of his poems in the famous Oxford Book of Modern Verse.

Monk Gibbon made a point of coming to Aravon only on Fridays. It was known why he did so. As a Protestant school, we refused to eat fish on Fridays, as the Catholics did. Instead, Irish stew was served for lunch. And the Friday Irish stew was the best meat dish of the week. Well-fed, Monk Gibbon would then proceed to conduct what he considered to be a Latin lesson.
Latin [he told us] is all about endings. Yes: that's it ... endings. Nominative ending and accusative ending.

Brown! Hit Cornish!
This was a bad turn for the lesson to take. Cornish, who sat beside me, was a boy of conker toughness. Such a blow would not remain unavenged after class. Knowing that I would sign my own death warrant by striking him, I gave Cornish a hesitant tap.
There you are! [Monk Gibbon continued] Brownus hits Cornishum. That's it. Nominative Brownus. Accusative Cornishum. There you have it!
Wherewith the poet wrapped his thick tweed coat more tightly around him, placed his feet on the stove that warmed the classroom, and settled down into his armchair as if for a good sleep. It was not, perhaps, the best introduction to a classical tongue.



Claudius, quoted in Suetonius, Life of Claudius 40.1 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Who can live without a snack?

quis potest sine offula vivere?

Sunday, June 11, 2023


The Joys of Bilocation

Jessamy Calkin, "'I made a pilgrimage to see Britain's greatest trees – all 2,700 of them'. Martin Hügi is walking from Land's End to John O'Groats on a mission to visit our country's oldest trees," The Telegraph (11 June 2023):
When I catch up with Hügi a couple of weeks later, he is in Wiltshire (478 trees and 402 miles in), enjoying the hospitality of Wyndham's Oak, the oldest tree in Dorset.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.



Object of Worship

Pausanias 6.26.5 (tr. W.H.S. Jones):
But the image of Heracles, most devoutly worshipped by the inhabitants, is merely the male member upright on the pedestal.

τοῦ Ἑρμοῦ δὲ τὸ ἄγαλμα, ὃν οἱ ταύτῃ περισσῶς σέβουσιν, ὀρθόν ἐστιν αἰδοῖον ἐπὶ τοῦ βάθρου.
Loeb Classical Library edition, vol. III, pp. 158-159:
For Heracles read Hermes. The error persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library.


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