Tuesday, April 30, 2024


The Destruction of the Phocians

Demosthenes 19.65-66 (On the Dishonest Embassy; tr. Arthur Wallace Pickard-Cambridge, with his notes):
For when recently we were on our way to Delphin we could not help seeing it all—houses razed to the ground, cities stripped of their walls, the land destitute of men in their prime—only a few poor women and little children left, and some old men in misery. Indeed, no words can describe the distress now prevailing there. Yet this was the people, I hear you all saying, that once gave its vote against the Thebans,n when the question of your enslavement was laid before them.

What then, men of Athens, do you think would be the vote, what the sentence, that your forefathers would give, if they could recover consciousness, upon those who were responsible for the destruction of this people? I believe that if they stoned them to death with their own hands, they would hold themselves guiltless of blood. Is it not utterly shameful—does it not, if possible, go beyond all shame—that those who saved us then, and gave the saving vote for us, should now have met with the very opposite fate through these men, suffering as no Hellenic people has ever suffered before, with none to hinder it? Who then is responsible for this crime? Who is the author of this deception? Who but Aeschines?

§ 65. on our may to Delphi. Demosthenes had been one of the Athenian representatives at the meeting of the Amphictyonic Council at Delphi this year.

gave its vote, &c. After the battle of Aegospotami at the end of the Peloponnesian War, the representative of Thebes proposed to the Spartans and their allies that Athens should be destroyed and its inhabitants sold into slavery.

ὅτε γὰρ νῦν ἐπορευόμεθ᾽ εἰς Δελφούς, ἐξ ἀνάγκης ἦν ὁρᾶν ἡμῖν πάντα ταῦτα, οἰκίας κατεσκαμμένας, τείχη περιῃρημένα, χώραν ἔρημον τῶν ἐν ἡλικίᾳ, γύναια δὲ καὶ παιδάρι᾽ ὀλίγα καὶ πρεσβύτας ἀνθρώπους οἰκτρούς· οὐδ᾽ ἂν εἷς δύναιτ᾽ ἐφικέσθαι τῷ λόγῳ τῶν ἐκεῖ κακῶν νῦν ὄντων. ἀλλὰ μὴν ὅτι τὴν ἐναντίαν ποτὲ Θηβαίοις ψῆφον ἔθενθ᾽ οὗτοι περὶ ἡμῶν ὑπὲρ ἀνδραποδισμοῦ προτεθεῖσαν, ὑμῶν ἔγωγ᾽ ἀκούω πάντων.

τίν᾽ ἂν οὖν οἴεσθ᾽, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, τοὺς προγόνους ὑμῶν, εἰ λάβοιεν αἴσθησιν, ψῆφον ἢ γνώμην θέσθαι περὶ τῶν αἰτίων τοῦ τούτων ὀλέθρου; ἐγὼ μὲν γὰρ οἶμαι κἂν καταλεύσαντας αὐτοὺς ταῖς ἑαυτῶν χερσὶν καθαροὺς ἔσεσθαι νομίζειν. πῶς γὰρ οὐκ αἰσχρόν, μᾶλλον δ᾽ εἴ τις ἔστιν ὑπερβολὴ τούτου, τοὺς σεσωκότας ἡμᾶς τότε καὶ τὴν σῴζουσαν περὶ ἡμῶν ψῆφον θεμένους, τούτους τῶν ἐναντίων τετυχηκέναι διὰ τούτους, καὶ περιῶφθαι τοιαῦτα πεπονθότας οἷ᾽ οὐδένες ἄλλοι τῶν Ἑλλήνων; τίς οὖν ὁ τούτων αἴτιος; τίς ὁ ταῦτα φενακίσας; οὐχ οὗτος;
The name Aeschines doesn't appear in the Greek, just the pronoun οὗτος.



Bacchylides, Victory Odes 1.159-177 (tr. Richard C. Jebb):
The best glory is that of Virtue, so deem I now and ever: wealth may dwell with men of little worth, and will exalt the spirit; but he who is bountiful to the gods can cheer his heart with a loftier hope. If a mortal is blessed with health, and can live on his own substance, he vies with the most fortunate. Joy attends on every state of life, if only disease and helpless poverty be not there. The rich man yearns for great things, as the poorer for less; mortals find no sweetness in opulence, but are ever pursuing visions that flee before them.

    φαμὶ καὶ φάσω μέγιστον
κῦδος ἔχειν ἀρετάν· πλοῦ-        160
    τος δὲ καὶ δειλοῖσιν ἀνθρώπων ὁμιλεῖ,
ἐθέλει δ᾿ αὔξειν φρένας ἀν-
    δρός· ὁ δ᾿ εὖ ἔρδων θεούς
ἐλπίδι κυδροτέρᾳ
    σαίνει κέαρ. εἰ δ᾿ ὑγιείας        165
θνατὸς ἐὼν ἔλαχεν
    ζώειν τ᾿ ἀπ᾿ οἰκείων ἔχει,
πρώτοις ἐρίζει· παντί τοι
    τέρψις ἀνθρώπων βίῳ
ἕπεται νόσφιν γε νόσων        170
    πενίας τ᾿ ἀμαχάνου.
ἶσον ὅ τ᾿ ἀφνεὸς ἱ-
    μείρει μεγάλων ὅ τε μείων
παυροτέρων· τὸ δὲ πάν-
    των εὐμαρεῖν οὐδὲν γλυκύ        175
θνατοῖσιν, ἀλλ᾿ αἰεὶ τὰ φεύ-
    γοντα δίζηνται κιχεῖν.
See Herwig Maehler, Die Lieder des Bakchylides. Erster Teil: Die Siegeslieder, II. Kommentar (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1982), pp. 20-24.


Interest in Genealogy

Sophocles, Oedipus the King 1076-1077 (Oedipus speaking; tr. David Grene):
Break out what will! I at least shall be
willing to see my ancestry, though humble.

ὁποῖα χρῄζει ῥηγνύτω· τοὐμὸν δ᾽ ἐγώ,
κεἰ σμικρόν ἐστι, σπέρμ᾽ ἰδεῖν βουλήσομαι.

Monday, April 29, 2024



Euripides, Orestes 1022-1024 (Orestes to Electra; tr. Edward P. Coleridge):
Be silent! an end to womanish lamenting!
resign yourself to your fate. It is piteous, but nevertheless
you must bear the present fate.

οὐ σῖγ᾽ ἀφεῖσα τοὺς γυναικείους γόους
στέρξεις τὰ κρανθέντ᾽; οἰκτρὰ μὲν τάδ᾽, ἀλλ᾽ ὅμως
φέρειν σ᾽ ἀνάγκη τὰς παρεστώσας τύχας.

1022 γόους MB: λόγους rell.
1024 del. Kirchhoff (non habuit Σ)
C.W. Willink ad loc.:


The Look of Words

Gilbert Highet (1906-1978), Explorations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 112:
One variation of this idea appeals to me, although I know it is not to be taken seriously. This is the notion that some words, when they are written or printed, look like the thing they denote. My favorite is pool, where the two o's evoke the deep water with its reflection of the sky, and the downward stroke of the p and the riser of the l resemble the tree reflected in the still lakelet. Moon is also very good. Meat looks to me like a slab of tenderloin oozing with juice; and now that I think of it, ooze looks like something oozing and the word juice both looks and sounds like juice. The printed word potato is very like a big lumpy Long Island potato with two bumps on it. Bulb is just right, whether it means an electric bulb narrowing upwards to its neck, or a bulgy tulip bulb. Tulip is pretty good too, both in sound and in appearance. The r's in mirror seem to me to mirror the shiny surface of the mirror. Ankle and elbow both resemble bent joints. Tongue looks like the flexible boneless organ which curls and has a thin projecting tip. Dante thought a man's face looked like the old Italian word for man: omo, the strong bony nose being the M and the two round O's the eyes on each side of it. One scholar claimed that Hungarian was the ideal language because the Hungarian word for scissors, ollò, looked exactly like a pair of scissors. Stop. Stop! That way madness lies!

Sunday, April 28, 2024


A Rich Man

Homer, Odyssey 14.96-105 (tr. Peter Green):
Great indeed, past telling, were his resources: no other
heroic warrior, either away on the dark mainland,
or on Ithákē itself, could match them. Not twenty men
together had as much wealth: I'll list you the sum of it.
On the mainland, twelve herds of cattle, twelve flocks of sheep,
as many droves of swine and wide-ranging troops of goats
are pastured alike by outsiders and his own herdsmen.
Eleven wide-ranging troops of goats browse at the farthest
end of the island, and over them good men watch.

ἦ γάρ οἱ ζωή γ᾽ ἦν ἄσπετος· οὔ τινι τόσση
ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων, οὔτ᾽ ἠπείροιο μελαίνης
οὔτ᾽ αὐτῆς Ἰθάκης· οὐδὲ ξυνεείκοσι φωτῶν
ἔστ᾽ ἄφενος τοσσοῦτον· ἐγὼ δέ κέ τοι καταλέξω.
δώδεκ᾽ ἐν ἠπείρῳ ἀγέλαι· τόσα πώεα οἰῶν,        100
τόσσα συῶν συβόσια, τόσ᾽ αἰπόλια πλατέ᾽ αἰγῶν
βόσκουσι ξεῖνοί τε καὶ αὐτοῦ βώτορες ἄνδρες.
ἐνθάδε δ᾽ αἰπόλια πλατέ᾽ αἰγῶν ἕνδεκα πάντα
ἐσχατιῇ βόσκοντ᾽, ἐπὶ δ᾽ ἀνέρες ἐσθλοὶ ὄρονται.        105
Related post: Wealth in Cattle.


Divine Retribution

Hesiod, Works and Days 238-247 (tr. M.L. West):
But for those who occupy themselves with violence and wickedness and brutal deeds,
Kronos' son, wide-seeing Zeus, marks out retribution.
Often a whole community together suffers in consequence of a bad man
who does wrong and contrives evil.
From heaven Kronos' son brings disaster upon them,
famine and with it plague, and the people waste away.
The womenfolk do not give birth, and households decline,
by Olympian Zeus' design. At other times again
he either destroys those men's broad army or city wall,
or punishes their ships at sea.

οἷς δ᾽ ὕβρις τε μέμηλε κακὴ καὶ σχέτλια ἔργα,
τοῖς δὲ δίκην Κρονίδης τεκμαίρεται εὐρύοπα Ζεύς.
πολλάκι καὶ ξύμπασα πόλις κακοῦ ἀνδρὸς ἀπηύρα,        240
ὅστις ἀλιτραίνει καὶ ἀτάσθαλα μηχανάαται.
τοῖσιν δ᾽ οὐρανόθεν μέγ᾽ ἐπήγαγε πῆμα Κρονίων,
λιμὸν ὁμοῦ καὶ λοιμόν· ἀποφθινύθουσι δὲ λαοί·
οὐδὲ γυναῖκες τίκτουσιν, μινύθουσι δὲ οἶκοι
Ζηνὸς φραδμοσύνῃσιν Ὀλυμπίου· ἄλλοτε δ᾽ αὖτε        245
ἢ τῶν γε στρατὸν εὐρὺν ἀπώλεσεν ἢ ὅ γε τεῖχος
ἢ νέας ἐν πόντῳ Κρονίδης ἀποτείνυται αὐτῶν.


Maybe He Should Have Listened to Her

Sophocles, Oedipus the King 1065 (Oedipus to Jocasta; tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
You will never persuade me not to find out the truth!

οὐκ ἂν πιθοίμην μὴ οὐ τάδ᾽ ἐκμαθεῖν σαφῶς.
Herbert Weir Smyth, Greek Grammar, rev. Gordon M. Messing (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, ©1984), p. 624, § 2745:
Any infinitive that would take μή, takes μὴ οὐ (with a negative force), if dependent on a negatived verb. Here οὐ is the sympathetic negative and is untranslatable.

οὐκ ἂν πιθοίμην μὴ οὐ τάδ᾽ ἐκμαθεῖν σαφῶς I cannot consent not to learn this exactly as it is S. O.T. 1065.
See also William Watson Goodwin, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb (Boston: Ginn & Company, 1890), p. 326 (§ 815, 2).

Friday, April 26, 2024


Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

Homer, Odyssey 13.362 (Athena to Odysseus; tr. A.T. Murray):
Be of good cheer, and let not these things distress thy heart.

θάρσει, μή τοι ταῦτα μετὰ φρεσὶ σῇσι μελόντων.
Also at Odyssey 24.357 (Odysseus to Laertes) and Iliad 18.463 (Hephaestus to Thetis). Cf. also Iliad 19.29 (Thetis to Achilles):
τέκνον, μή τοι ταῦτα μετὰ φρεσὶ σῇσι μελόντων.

Thursday, April 25, 2024


The Convert

Donald Davidson (1893-1968), "The Breaking Mould," Poems 1922-1961 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1966), pp. 167-172 (at 167-168):
And lo, I was seized, marching from Baltic forests,
Or pressing beyond the Danube, the Rhine, or the Seine.
Salty with wash of the fjords, rimy with sea-spray,
I in my great boar-helmet was seized and won
By a lean priest whose eyes were kindling with dreams
Of the blessed Rood. I was gentled with Latin hymns,
Cleansed with holy water and crowned with thorns,
And told to remember a sin I had not known.
The hammer of Thor was fallen forever, and Odin
Looked upon Asgard sadly. Twilight came
With a mild Christian splendor of bells and incense.
The Goths unbuckled the sword. The sons of the Goths
Remembered the saints in stone with arches leaping
Heavenward like my soul from the desolate earth.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024


Glad to Be Back

Homer, Odyssey 13.353-354 (tr. A.T. Murray):
Glad then was the much-enduring, goodly Odysseus,
rejoicing in his own land, and he kissed the earth, the giver of grain.

γήθησέν τ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἔπειτα πολύτλας δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς,
χαίρων ᾗ γαίῃ, κύσε δὲ ζείδωρον ἄρουραν.
Arie Hoekstra on line 354:
κύσε: as he did at v 463 (which has the same formula) and Agamemnon did on his return (Od. iv 522). Both ζείδωρος (probably from *ζεϝέδωρος) ἄρουρα and its complementary formula φυσίζοος αἶα (cf. Bechtel, Lexilogus, I48) are probably highly archaic. For ζειαί, Triticum monococcum (and/or bicoccum?), see S. West on iv 41; on the problem of ζ (as compared with γ in Sanskrit yáva- 'barley') see M. Leroy in Mélanges Chantraine, op. cit. (xiv 199 n.), 106-17. ἄρουρα, lit. 'arable land', already in Mycenaean, PY Eq 213 (Ventris-Chadwick, Documents, no. 154), cf. also Ruijgh, Élément, 111 and 122-3.
Illustration by Jan Styka (1858-1925):


Two Accounts of the Battle of Morristown

My 3rd great-grandfather, John B. Wagner, served in the pro-Confederate Missouri State Guard, 8th Division (under Brigadier General James Spencer Rains), 10th Cavalry Regiment (under Colonel William Hugh Erwin), from September 1, 1861, to April 22, 1862.
It is therefore likely (though not certain) that he fought with his regiment in the Battle of Morristown, Cass County, Missouri, on September 17, 1861. Here are two accounts of the battle by participants, one (John Berry) on the Confederate side, the other (Thomas Moonlight) on the Union side.

"The Battle of Morristown in Cass County Was Sixty-Five Years Ago," Cass County Democrat (June 10, 1926), p. 9 (excerpt, cols. 2-3), rpt. in Missouri Historical Review 21.2 (January, 1927) 284-285 (I quote from the newspaper):
On September 17, 1861, one hundred and twenty-one Confederate troops were encamped just a short distance northeast of the main part of Morristown. The soldiers were under the command of Colonel Will Hugh Irwin and for the most part were untrained and poorly equipped.... [T]he location of the camp ... was not far from the town's main thoroughfare. Colonel Irwin and his company of men were there for the purpose of recruiting a regiment of soldiers to join the army of General Sterling Price who was then fighting at Lexington, Mo. Colonel Irwin was a Cass county citizen, making his home on a farm near the present town of Peculiar.

A member of Colonel Irwin's company of men at that time was John Ed. Berry, then just nineteen years old. Mr. Berry is now eighty-four years old and lives in Harrisonville. To watch him in action one would set him down as being twenty years younger, for he did not show fatigue after recently conducting a party of sight-seers over the old battle-ground, and telling how the handful of Confederate soldiers escaped after being surprised by two regiments, or some 1,500 Union soldiers, under the command of General Lane.

The night of September 16 was quiet, with no one stirring except those on guard duty. Just at the break of day, however, the pickets rushed to the sleeping camp and notified the officers that hordes of Federal soldiers were approaching the camp from the east. There was no time to prepare for defense, for the camp was unprotected and its occupants outnumbered ten to one, so the Confederate soldiers deployed along the brushy stream ... and soon were surrounded by the enemy.

There was a saloon located near the first bend in the stream, and it was here that Mr. Berry was ensconced, having a plain view of all that took place. While the Union soldiers were deploying, a column of cavalry headed by Colonel Johnson, rushed down Morristown's main street, while a body of infantrymen was stationed northeast of the Confederate camp. There was no disciplined order of battle, for the Confederates, using the dry stream as a trench and its rocky ledges as a parapet, were firing whenever there was a good target, Colonel Johnson being killed almost in front of Mr. Berry. The battle lasted until 8:30 o'clock that morning, with the Union soldiers getting decidedly the worst of the engagement. Not only were the Confederates outnumbered, but the enemy used two pieces of field artillery, which were not of much effect under the circumstances although a barn across the stream, south, which is yet standing, can show evidence of artillery fire.

Seeing that the Confederate forces would be annihilated if the battle continued, the officers ordered a retreat, which was accomplished, although Union soldiers had the southern soldiers pocketed. Being thoroughly familiar with the terrain, Colonel Irwin selected Mr. Berry to lead the retreat. This was successfully accomplished by following the stream east, during which they could see and hear the Union soldiers but could not be seen. The escape was miraculous, and after leaving the battle scene, the soldiers made their way to Harrisonville. As near as Mr. Berry can remember, one hundred and nineteen Union soldiers were killed and a great many wounded, while none of the Confederate forces lost their lives, although several were wounded and five were taken prisoners. The Union forces, after destroying the camp, left Morristown about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. The prisoners were taken toward Paola, Kans., and were executed just after the Kansas line was passed. The Union soldiers were stationed at Paola on recruiting duty and had marched to Morristown to drive out the Confederate soldiers, the march, about thirty-five miles, being made at night. Mr. Berry did not receive a scratch in the skirmish, and as far as he knows, there are now only four Confederate survivors of this battle. Besides himself, there are Jim Beegles of East Lynne, Mo., Tom Dolan of Rocky Ford, Colo., and Robert White of Kansas City, Mo.

Mr Beegles was not far from Mr. Berry when the former was wounded by a bullet piercing his right side. After the retreat to Harrisonville Mr. Berry and Hale Beegles, a brother of Jim Beegles, went back and after some difficulty, located the injured man. Jim Beegles recovered and for years has lived in East Lynne, in this county. He still possesses the bullet which went clear through his side.

Following are the names of some the Confederate soldiers who took part in the battle: John Ed. Berry, Jim Beegles, Tom Dolan, Robert White, yet living; Captain Will Dolan, Frank Dolan, Eph Jones, Captain Robert Adams, Captain A. S. Bradley, Walter Adams, Sam Oldham, George Nowell, Green Williams, William Stark, Dan Stark, Hale Beegles, Ed. Dunn, John Dunn, ———— McGruder, Reliford Hook, John Hammond, "Doc" Peterson and John L.L. Stephens. Captain Bradley was the father of Mack Bradley, now a prominent farmer of this county, and had been doing recruiting in Everett, a village northwest of Archie, this county. There may be other Confederate survivors of this skirmish, but their names are not known.

There were other skirmishes in and near this scene. That part of Cass county was undeveloped then, many of the present fine farms being nothing but timberland. A relic of the Morristown battle was recently unearthed near the spot where the saloon stood. It was a demijohn, full of bullet holes.

Details of the battle of Morristown have hitherto been unpublished. We have consulted several histories of Cass county in which the affair was mentioned, and they indicate that the Union forces did not know that the southern soldiers were encamped at Morristown, but Mr. Berry is certain they did.

There may be inaccuracies in the above account of the skirmish, but we have been faithful to what we saw and was told us. Over half a century has elapsed since that stormy period, but we believe that Mr. Berry told us of the fray as he remembered it.

One incident of the battle he recalls very distinctly. A Yankee bugler was blowing some signal quite lustily, when Green Williams, a Confederate soldier stationed not far from Mr. Berry, raised up and said, "I'll stop that dam' music." He fired and the "music" stopped.
Kip Lindberg and Matt Matthews, "'The Eagle of the 11th Kansas': Wartime Reminiscences of Colonel Thomas Moonlight," Arkansas Historical Quarterly 62.1 (Spring, 2003) 1-41 (at 10-12):
My next skirmish was at Butler, a town in Missouri that was captured by Col. Johnson's 5th Kansas24 about the 12th of the month [September, 1861]. Nothing of special interest occurred in the way of a fight as the rebels ran at our approach, several, however, were killed where they were found in their houses afterwards or in the brush. On the 17th two columns left West Point, a small place right on the Missouri & Kansas line. This command left in the afternoon and marched as if going into Kansas, but as soon as darkness came on the head of the column was changed towards Missouri. During the night the command was divided into two wings, each numbering about 300 men- one moving under Col. Johnson and the other under Col. Montgomery; the latter was to march straight on Morristown from the westward and strike the rebel command there at daybreak. Col. Johnson was to march northward through fields, fences and whatever came in his way and strike the enemy on the northeast side in conjunction with Col. Montgomery. I accompanied, with one howitzer, the command of Col. Johnson.

A more dashing and brilliant march was never made, a distance of about 30 miles was made most rapidly without incident. Col. Johnson was a little too fast and Col. Montgomery a little too slow, the former getting to Morristown at early day break, and the latter about an hour after day. The enemy were encamped in Morristown and numbered about 500 under command of Col. Irwin,25 all Missourians, and as completely did Col. Johnson take them by surprise that not a picket or even a sentinel killed until the bullets from our sharps rifles went whistling through their tents. Had Col. J[ohnson]. behaved and conducted the attack with as much judgement as he had exhibited of gallantry, the enemy would not [have] escaped.

My last conversation with Col. Johnson was within one hundred yards of the rebel camp, where we were hidden from view by the timber. He asked me for my opinion as to the mode of attack. I urged the dismounting of the men and the summoning in of the howitzer, by hand, double cannistered [sic], right into camp and play into the tents until they cried "Hold enough!"26 The Colonel would not hear to dismounting but ordered 2 companies to charge into camp, while with the balance, including my howitzer, he would sweep along the street from the eastward and cut off their retreat southward. Supposing, I humanely believe, that Col. Montgomery, who had only about half the distance to travel, would immediately on the sound of his guns close from the westward and completely hem in the enemy. "Man proposes but God disposes," [and] as I said before Montgomery was slow, and sick.

Ere we could make the little circuit as to get on the street, the rebels (or at least the most of them) had run from camp, crossed the street, [and] hid themselves in a ravine behind some brick buildings. As we came dashing along the street we received a crossfire from at least 400 rifles, at a not greater distance than ten steps. Col. Johnson was ahead of the chief bugler and received almost the entire fire. I came next and just saved myself and my men by seizing the bridle of the lead horse of the piece and dashing them round against the brick walls. Several of our men were killed and wounded at that moment, and but for the cowardice of the enemy not one of us would have escaped. We were huddled together, cavalry and artillery, in the street, and I trembled for the result until we changed our position; it became my duty to attend to this, as after the fall of Col. Johnson I was next in command, and none had seen him fall but myself, as it was still quite early in the morning. I immediately swung the command out of the street on to clear ground, opened on the ravine and houses with case shot27 and sharps rifles, and in less than ten minutes the crack of a rebel rifle could not be heard.

We captured the entire camp and garrison equipage of the enemy, as well as horses, mules, wagons, rations & a number of arms; the loss of such property was of immense damage to the enemy as they could not possibly replace there equipage in the country, besides the demoralizing effect such a defeat had on a newly organized regiment, as was the case with this one. About 40 killed and wounded on our side, among the list of killed was the gallant Col. Johnson, with whom a braver soldier, a truer man and upright Christian never offered up his life a sacrifice on the alter [sic] of this country. After the wounded had been collected together Col. Montgomery's command came into town, which was thoroughly plundered and afterwards burnt.28 Morristown was a den of rebels and a rendezvous for all the bushwhackers who ranged on Kansas soil, and the destroying of it saved Kansas in a manner from their depredations during that fall and winter.

24 Col. Hampton P. Johnson, of Leavenworth, Kansas, was a Methodist minister and veteran of the Mexican War, having served under the command of his friend, James H. Lane. H.D. Fisher, The Gun and the Gospel: Early Kansas and Chaplain Fisher, 4th ed. (Kansas City: Hudson-Kimberly, 1902).

25 Col. Hugh Erwin, commanding the Tenth Cavalry Regiment, Eighth Division, Missouri State Guard.

26 Moonlight was proposing to advance the howitzer a short distance by hand, rather than by horse, in hopes that the movement could be more quietly accomplished. "Double canistered" is simply loading two tin cylinders of lead balls at once to double the blast effect.

27 A hollow iron shell, filled with lead balls and a small bursting charge, which could be timed to explode at any distance from the cannon by means of a fuse. It was invented by Henry Shrapnel, a British artillery officer whose name became synonymous with explosive fragments.

28 Because of their protective cover, pro-Confederate casualties were minimal, with only a single man known wounded. The Leavenworth Daily Conservative stated, however, "Twelve prisoners were taken, of whom five were subsequently shot." Witnesses reported the murdered men were first made to dig their own graves. Henry E. Palmer, "The Black-Flag Character of the War on the Border," Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society 9 (1909-1910), 456.
Morristown no longer exists. Its location can be seen on this map, west of Harrisonville on the railroad line:
Related post: John B. Wagner.


Beginning the Study of Foreign Languages

Gilbert Highet (1906-1978), Explorations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 97-98:
I am not a professional linguist, but I have learned and can read eight languages besides English. I have failed with two—Russian and Hebrew: Russian because it is too complex for me to learn it from a handbook without a teacher, and Hebrew because I have a block about the alphabet and the vowel points; but I'll master them both yet! And I still remember the excitement with which, at the age of eleven, I started learning French and Latin and ancient Greek. (Of course, that is the age when foreign languages should be instilled into the young: eleven at latest; ten or nine would be even better. At that period the young mind is flexible and the young character is pretty docile. It is perfectly ridiculous to postpone the study of languages to the high school age, when the mind begins to lose its concentration and the emotions are constantly interfering with its activities.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2024


Nature versus Nurture

Pindar, Nemean Odes 3.40-42 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
The splendor running in the blood has much weight.
A man can learn and yet see darkly, blow one way, then another, walking ever
on uncertain feet, his mind unfinished and fed with scraps of a thousand virtues.

συγγενεῖ δέ τις εὐδοξίᾳ μέγα βρίθει.
ὃς δὲ διδάκτ᾿ ἔχει, ψεφεννὸς ἀνὴρ
    ἄλλοτ᾿ ἄλλα πνέων οὔ ποτ᾿ ἀτρεκεῖ
κατέβα ποδί, μυριᾶν δ᾿ ἀρετᾶν ἀτελεῖ νόῳ γεύεται.
The same (tr. Anthony Verity):
It is by inborn distinction that a man gains authority,
while he who has only been taught is a man of shadows;
he veers hither and thither, and never enters the arena with a confident step,
trying out thousands of exploits in his futile mind.
The same (tr. C.M. Bowra):
A man has much weight if glory belongs to his breed,
But whoso needs to be taught,
His spirit blows here and there in the dark,
Nor ever enters he the lists with sure foot,
Though countless the glories his futile fancy savours.
The same (tr. Anne Pippin Burnett):
Fame inborn gives weight to a man, but
one who needs teaching pants blindly after
this and that, his foot never sure
as he foolishly samples ten-thousand exploits.
Stephen Instone ad loc.:
40-2 The conclusion to be drawn from 28-39 turns out to be one of Pindar's favourite sayings, namely that success in physical struggle depends on the natural ability one has inherited rather than on any taught skills (cf. O. 2.86-8, O. 9.100-4). It is not surprising that Pindar should be drawn to this belief, since (a) many of the successful athletes for whom he wrote were themselves descendants of successful athletes (though not, it seems, Aristocleidas, since nothing is said in N. 3 about previous victories in his family), (b) success in the games requires good physique rather than brain.

The way the contrast is expressed has been tailored to the context: 'carries great weight' (βρίθει 40) suits a heavily-built pancratiast; 'with a sure foot' (ἀτρεκεῖ ποδί 42) suggests the pancratiast's need to resist being thrown; and the implied consequence of having inborn ability, namely that it will enable you to see through to the end what you set out to achieve, is clearly relevant to the victor: he has devoted himself single-mindedly to the pancration event and met with success. Lines 70-1 below resume the theme: achievement comes from putting yourself to a proper test.

41 a faint man ψεφεννὸς, not found elsewhere, is equivalent to σκοτεινός ('dark') or ἀμαυρός ('dim').

blowing now this way now that ἄλλοτ᾿ ἄλλα πνέων, lit. 'breathing different things at different times'. The man is like an inconstant, erratic wind; cf. Hes. Theog. 872-80 ('Winds blow differently at different times, and wreck ships and destroy sailors', 875-6).

The man who dabbles in lessons in this and that, with no inborn talent for any single activity, is a feeble person: he can never achieve anything or reach his goal; cf. N. 4.39-41 (on the futility of being envious): 'With envious eyes he rolls in the dark his empty thought and it falls to the ground'; P. 11.30 'The man who breathes on the ground roars unnoticed' (i.e. he who lives in obscurity may make a loud noise, but it will be futile).
See llja Leonard Pfeijffer, Three Aeginetan Odes of Pindar (Leiden: Brill, 1999 = Mnemosyne: Supplementum, 197), pp. 324-334.


A Method of Language Learning

Gilbert Highet (1906-1978), Explorations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 95-96:
I think of a jolly old philosopher named John Alexander Smith. (I spent an unforgettable year reading Aristotle's Metaphysics in a seminar with him and H.H. Joachim.) He was not a dry logic-chopper or a gloomy metaphysical brooder, but a sharp, bold, critical thinker, with some delightful personal eccentricities, such as having a huge library of whodunits, and grading each of them alpha, beta, gamma, or delta after reading it. After he grew to man's estate, he learned a new language every year of his life. He always taught himself, and he always used the same method. Choosing his language, he got hold of a translation of the Bible in it, and started to read, beginning either with the Book of Genesis, or with one of the Gospels, since he knew these books pretty well by heart. By the time he had finished one book of Scripture, he had a grasp of the general pattern of the language. After finishing one of the Testaments, he could read fluently. When he had finished the entire Bible, he could read and write the new language and could make a shot at talking it when necessary.


Pythagoras, Father of Physical Anthropology

Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius: An Antonine Scholar and his Achievement, rev. ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 252-263 (material in square brackets added):
In 1.1 Plutarch [fragment 7] relates how Pythagoras calculated Heracles' human height: since the running track at Olympia was 600 of his feet in length, and those in other cities, though also reckoned at 600 feet, were shorter than the Olympic prototype, Heracles' foot was longer than common mortals' feet in proportion as the Olympic stade exceeded others; but since there was a settled ratio between length of foot and height of body, he was also taller than other people in the proportion just established. Read in the light of Vitruvius 3.1.2, 7 (foot : stature :: 1 : 6),9 this makes Heracles' height 6 x 320-45 mm = 1.9227 m [= 6 ft, 3.7 in], striking but not superhuman,10 which suits well with the ancients' unquestioning belief in the heroes' historicity, if supernatural tales were discounted;11 even if we infer from Varro, p. 86 Salvadore at NA 3.10.10 that Heracles was seven Olympic feet = 2.24315 m tall, that would not be quite incredible.

9 But see Gros 18.

11 Apollod. Bibl. 2.4- 9 makes Heracles six foot tall, Herodorus (FGrH 31 F 19) seven; cf. Sol. 1.88 with Salmasius i.42bB-D. He is μορφὰν βραχύϲ beside Antaeus at Pi. I. 3-4. 71, an ode in praise of an ill-favoured victor; the two-cubit footprint by the Dniester, Hdt. 4. 82, would imply a height of 18 feet; Luc. VH 1.7 is a joke, but giants are easily fantasized by persons ignorant of the cube-square law. For the competing conceptions of heroes as human and superhuman in stature see S(amson) Eitrem, SO 8 (1929), 53-6, Von der Mühll 12-13 (cf. NA 3.10.11 on Orestes with Ch. 16 n. 100). Six Olympic feet are 4.89 cm more than the six Byzantine feet allotted Jesus Christ by Epiphanius Monachus, De uita B. Virg. 15 (PG 120.204 c); only 5.25 feet Nicephorus Callistus, Eccl. hist. 1.40 = PG 145.748 c. At BAV Reg. lat. 572, fo. 67r (s. xii in.) lines of 128 mm and 96 mm (so I measure them, despite Rosalind Hill, edn. of Gesta Francorum, 103) purportedly represent 1/15th of Christ's height and 1/9th of his breadth respectively; see too Rykwert 84, 86 (ill.), 418-19 n. 35.

11 Veyne 52-3.
I'm especially interested in Epiphanius Monachus' statement (Holford-Strevens, n. 10) that Jesus Christ was six feet tall—my grandmother used to insist that Jesus was the only person in history who was exactly six feet tall. Others might have been a hair more or less than six feet, she said, but only Jesus was exactly that height.

Related post: How Tall Was Jesus?

Monday, April 22, 2024


Lawsuit of the Soul Against the Body

[Plutarch,] On Desire and Grief 2 (tr. F.H. Sandbach):
Theophrastus, on the contrary, said that the soul's lodging in the body was an expensive one; that for a short tenancy it paid a heavy price in its pains and fears, desires and jealousies; and that its involvement with these emotions in the body gave it a better case to take to court, since it could accuse the body of mayhem for all it had been caused to forget, of forcible seizure for its detention, and of outrage for the ill-fame and vituperation it suffers through being undeservedly held responsible for the evils that befall the body.

Θεόφραστος δὲ τοὐναντίον ἔφη τῷ σώματι πολλοῦ τὴν ψυχὴν ἐνοικεῖν, ὀλίγου χρόνου βαρεῖς μισθοὺς ὑποτελοῦσαν, τὰς λύπας, τοὺς φόβους, τὰς ἐπιθυμίας, τὰς ζηλοτυπίας, αἷς συμφερομένη περὶ τὸ σῶμα δικαιότερον ἂν αὐτῷ δικάζοιτο πηρώσεως ὧν ἐπιλέλησται, καὶ βιαίων ἐφ' οἷς κατέχεται, καὶ ὕβρεως ὧν ἀδοξεῖ καὶ λοιδορεῖται, τῶν ἐκείνου κακῶν ἀναδεχομένη τὰς αἰτίας οὐ προσηκόντως.


Bad Behavior

Euripides, Orestes 823-824 (tr. David Kovacs):
This is the elaborately dressed godlessness of knaves,
and the mad behavior of fools.

τόδ᾽ αὖ κακούργων ἀσέβεια ποικίλα
κακοφρόνων τ᾽ ἀνδρῶν παράνοια.

Sunday, April 21, 2024



Homer, Iliad 8.228-235 (Agamemnon speaking; tr. Richmond Lattimore):
Shame, you Argives, poor nonentities splendid to look on.
Where are our high words gone, when we said that we were the bravest?
those words you spoke before all in hollow vaunting at Lemnos
when you were filled with abundant meat of the high-horned oxen
and drank from the great bowls filled to the brim with wine, how each man
could stand up against a hundred or even two hundred Trojans
in the fighting; now we together cannot match one of them,
Hektor, who must presently kindle our ships with the hot fire.

αἰδὼς Ἀργεῖοι, κάκ᾽ ἐλέγχεα, εἶδος ἀγητοί·
πῇ ἔβαν εὐχωλαί, ὅτε δὴ φάμεν εἶναι ἄριστοι,
ἃς ὁπότ᾽ ἐν Λήμνῳ κενεαυχέες ἠγοράασθε,        230
ἔσθοντες κρέα πολλὰ βοῶν ὀρθοκραιράων
πίνοντες κρητῆρας ἐπιστεφέας οἴνοιο,
Τρώων ἄνθ᾽ ἑκατόν τε διηκοσίων τε ἕκαστος
στήσεσθ᾽ ἐν πολέμῳ· νῦν δ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ἑνὸς ἄξιοί εἰμεν
Ἕκτορος, ὃς τάχα νῆας ἐνιπρήσει πυρὶ κηλέῳ.        235


Studying History

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962), Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game, tr. Clara and Richard Winston (1969; rpt. New York: Bantam Books, 1978), p. 151 (Father Jacobus speaking):
Studying history, my friend, is no joke and no irresponsible game. To study history one must know in advance that one is attempting something fundamentally impossible, yet necessary and highly important. To study history means submitting to chaos and nevertheless retaining faith in order and meaning. It is a very serious task, young man, and possibly a tragic one.


We, Too

Donald Davidson (1893-1968), "Late Answer: A Civil War Seminar," Poems 1922-1961 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1966), pp. 52-55 (at 54-55):
We, too, have names that blaze on mouldering stone
And I have seen men's tears fall where they slept
And heard a shouting while I wept,
A century off yet louder in my ear
Than all that's so much magnified and near.


Learning New Languages

Gilbert Highet (1906-1978), Explorations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 93-94:
Friends sometimes ask me why I like learning new languages. I always feel like asking them why they do not like learning new languages, but I never do. For one thing, it would be too much like asking a tone-deaf man why he does not care for Debussy. For another, I know that many of them are actually afraid, and it would be embarrassing to expose their fear. They are timid about sounding like fools or small children while they are learning, and they are reluctant to remold their thinking and their habits of speech. I sympathize with this. Every human being has some inhibitions about learning certain new activities: skiing or dancing, diving or acting, public speaking or private thinking, all repel some of us. Then again, some people of a conservative bent believe subconsciously that there is only one language, their own; and that all others are silly monkey-talk not worth learning. They will not make the effort, any more than they would learn to bark and mew because they had a dog and a cat. This reluctance often appears when two language-groups live together on unsympathetic terms. Not many Peruvians of Spanish descent learn Quechua, the language of the conquered. Not many Englishmen learn Welsh: it was a special diplomatic effort for the present Prince of Wales to master the tongue of his princedom. Not many Jews in old Poland could speak Polish, and very few Poles knew Yiddish. I remember a British officer in Germany who, after some persuasion, though sticking in his big hooves and laying back his long hairy ears, started to learn German. When he was told that Please and Thank you were Bitte schön and Danke schön, he asked exactly what the phrases meant. 'What! what!' he grumbled when he heard. 'Pretty please and Pretty thanks? Silly bloody language, I'm damned if I learn another word of it!'

Saturday, April 20, 2024


The Greek Ideal

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Morgenröte, Book 4, § 306 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale, Daybreak):
Greek ideal.—What did the Greeks admire in Odysseus? Above all, his capacity for lying, and for cunning and terrible retribution; his being equal to contingencies; when need be, appearing nobler than the noblest; the ability to be whatever he chose; heroic perseverence [sic, read perseverance]; having all means at his command; possession of intellect—his intellect is the admiration of the gods, they smile when they think of it—: all this is the Greek ideal! The most remarkable thing about it is that the antithesis of appearance and being is not felt at all and is thus of no significance morally. Have there ever been such consummate actors!

Griechisches Ideal.— Was bewunderten die Griechen an Odysseus? Vor Allem die Fähigkeit zur Lüge und zur listigen und furchtbaren Wiedervergeltung; den Umständen gewachsen sein; wenn es gilt, edler erscheinen als der Edelste; sein können, was man will; heldenhafte Beharrlichkeit; sich alle Mittel zu Gebote stellen; Geist haben—sein Geist ist die Bewunderung der Götter, sie lächeln, wenn sie daran denken—: diess Alles ist griechisches Ideal! Das Merkwürdigste daran ist, dass hier der Gegensatz von Scheinen und Sein gar nicht gefühlt und also auch nicht sittlich angerechnet wird. Gab es je so gründliche Schauspieler!


Not Too Bad

Homer, Odyssey 13.242-247 (on Ithaca; tr. Peter Green):
It’s rough terrain, not fit for the driving of horses,
Yet not wholly worthless, even if lacking broad plains.
Grain grows there abundantly, wine too is a product,
there’s always rain and dew to keep it fertile, it’s good
pasture for goats and cattle, there’s also fine ground cover
of every sort, together with all-year watering-places.

ἦ τοι μὲν τρηχεῖα καὶ οὐχ ἱππήλατός ἐστιν,
οὐδὲ λίην λυπρή, ἀτὰρ οὐδ᾽ εὐρεῖα τέτυκται.
ἐν μὲν γάρ οἱ σῖτος ἀθέσφατος, ἐν δέ τε οἶνος
γίγνεται· αἰεὶ δ᾽ ὄμβρος ἔχει τεθαλυῖά τ᾽ ἐέρση·        245
αἰγίβοτος δ᾽ ἀγαθὴ καὶ βούβοτος· ἔστι μὲν ὕλη
παντοίη, ἐν δ᾽ ἀρδμοὶ ἐπηετανοὶ παρέασι.
A.M. Bowie ad loc.:
242 ἦ τοι μέν: this combination of particles is used of strong expressions of opinion (GP 389).

243 λυπρή ‘poor’, from λύπη ‘pain, poor condition’, is a hapax in Homer, like βούβοτος (246), but the presence of two such words is not a strong argument for deletion of the lines: cf. 14.10n. for a similar collocation of hapaxes in one passage. τέτυκται: the perfect of τεύχομαι regularly means no more than ‘be’ (GH ii.6; cf. 14.138, 234).

244 ἀθέσφατος ‘unlimited’; lit. ‘that which has not been stated or decided by a god’, and so ‘something that does not fit in a given order’ (Fraenkel 1923: 281–2).
W.B. Stanford ad loc.:



Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), "Ode to the King. On his Irish Expedition and the Success of his Arms in General," lines 119-129 (from Stanza VII):
That Restless Tyrant, who of late
Is grown so impudently Great,        120
That Tennis-Ball of Fate;
This Gilded Meteor which flyes
As if it meant to touch the Skies;
For all its boasted height,
For all its Plagiary Light,        125
Took its first Growth and Birth
From the worst Excrements of Earth;
Stay but a little while and down again 'twill come,
And end as it began, in Vapour, Stink, and Scum.
Swift meant Louis XIV, but I can think of some modern political figures who fit the bill equally well.

Friday, April 19, 2024


For This?

Donald Davidson (1893-1968), "Lee in the Mountains," Poems 1922-1961 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1966), pp. 43-46 (at 45):
And nothing else than this? Was it for this
That on an April day we stacked our arms
Obedient to a soldier's trust? To lie
Ground by heels of little men,
Forever maimed, defeated, lost, impugned?


Desire to Escape the City

The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams. Edited by Lester J. Cappon (1959; rpt. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1987), p. 255 (Adams to Jefferson, May 11, 1794):
If I had Your Plantation and your Labourers I should be tempted to follow your Example and get out of the Fumum et Opes Strepitumque Romae ["the smoke, the wealth, the din of Rome"] which I abominate.
The editor doesn't identify the source of the quotation, which is Horace, Odes 3.29.12.

For the sentiment see also p. 176 (Adams to Jefferson, March 1, 1787):
If it lay in my Power, I would take a Vow, to retire to my little Turnip yard, and never again quit it.
and p. 228 (Abigail Adams to Jefferson, February 26, 1788):
I have lived long enough, and seen enough of the world, to check expectations, and to bring my mind to my circumstances, and retiring to our own little farm feeding my poultry and improveing my garden has more charms for my fancy, than residing at the court of Saint James's where I seldom meet with characters so innofensive as my Hens and chickings, or minds so well improved as my garden.



Homer, Odyssey 13.79-80 (tr. A.T. Murray):
Sweet sleep fell upon his eyelids,
an unawakening sleep, most sweet, and most like to death.

καὶ τῷ νήδυμος ὕπνος ἐπὶ βλεφάροισιν ἔπιπτε,
νήγρετος, ἥδιστος, θανάτῳ ἄγχιστα ἐοικώς.
W.B. Stanford ad loc.:
Related post: Sleep and Death.

Thursday, April 18, 2024


The Rule of Rhadamanthus

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 5.5.3 (1132 b 27) = Hesiod, fragment 286, line 2 Merkelbach and West (tr. W.D. Ross):
Should a man suffer what he did, right justice would be done.

εἴ κε πάθοι τά τ᾽ ἔρεξε, δίκη κ᾽ ἰθεῖα γένοιτο.


Without a Translation

Donald Davidson (1893-1968), "The Thankless Muse and Her Fugitive Poets," Sewanee Review 66.2 (Spring, 1958) 201-228 (at 211; on Herbert Sanborn, professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt University):
One could not but be awed and obedient when Dr. Sanborn strode vigorously to his desk, cloaked in all the Olympian majesty of Leipzig and Heidelberg, and, without a book or note before him, delivered a perfectly ordered lecture, freely sprinkled with quotations from the original Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, German, French, or Italian, which of course he would not insult us by translating.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024


Peace in Place of Discord

Pindar, fragment 109 Maehler, 99.b Bowra (tr. William H. Race):
Let any townsman who would put the public good
in fair weather seek out proud Peace's
shining light,
having plucked from his mind wrathful discord,
giver of poverty, hateful nurse of children.

τὸ κοινόν τις ἀστῶν ἐν εὐδίᾳ
τιθεὶς ἐρευνασάτω μεγαλάνορος Ἡσυχίας
τὸ φαιδρὸν φάος,
στάσιν ἀπὸ πραπίδος ἐπίκοντον ἀνελών,
πενίας δότειραν, ἐχθρὰν κουροτρόφον.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024


As You Began, So You Remain

Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843), "The Rhine," lines 46-53 (tr. Christopher Middleton):
A riddle it is, whatever
Springs from the pure source. Even song
May hardly reveal it. For
As you began so you remain
And though compulsions leave their mark,
And upbringing, birth performs
The most, and the ray of light encountering
The newborn being.

Ein Rätsel ist Reinentsprungenes. Auch
Der Gesang kaum darf es enthüllen. Denn
Wie du anfingst, wirst du bleiben,
So viel auch wirket die Not,
Und die Zucht, das meiste nämlich        50
Vermag die Geburt,
Und der Lichtstrahl, der
Dem Neugebornen begegnet.
Quoting these lines, Gilbert Norwood, Pindar (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1945 = Sather Classical Lectures, 19), p. 232, n. 2, says:
In at least one original poem (Der Rhein, 46 ff.) he uses not only the Pindaric tone but also one of the Pindaric beliefs.


Words Deserving Many Deaths

Demosthenes 19.15-16 (On the Dishonest Embassy; him = Philocrates; tr. Arthur Wallace Pickard-Cambridge):
Aeschines rose and spoke in support of him, using language for which he deserves, God knows, to die many deaths, saying that you must not remember your forefathers...

ἀναστὰς ἐδημηγόρει καὶ συνηγόρει ἐκείνῳ πολλῶν ἀξίους, ὦ Ζεῦ καὶ πάντες θεοί, θανάτων λόγους, ὡς οὔτε τῶν προγόνων ὑμᾶς μεμνῆσθαι δέοι...


Si Monumentum Requiris, Circumspice

Richard Weaver (1910-1963), Ideas Have Consequences. Expanded Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), p. 2:
Surely we are justified in saying of our time: If you seek the monument to our folly, look about you. We may well ask, in the words of Matthew, whether we are not faced with "great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world." We have for many years moved with a brash confidence that man had achieved a position of independence which rendered the ancient restraints needless. Now, in the first half of the twentieth century, at the height of modern progress, we behold unprecedented outbreaks of hatred and violence; we have seen whole nations desolated by war and turned into penal camps by their conquerors; we find half of mankind looking upon the other half as criminal. Everywhere occur symptoms of mass psychosis. Most portentous of all, there appear diverging bases of value, so that our single planetary globe is mocked by worlds of different understanding.


Old Tales

Donald Davidson (1893-1968), "Hermitage," Poems 1922-1961 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1966), pp. 68-73 (at 73):
These old tales are like prayers. I only know
This is the secret refuge of our race
Told only from a father to his son,
A trust laid on your lips, as though a vow
To generations past and yet to come.

Monday, April 15, 2024


Smiling Babies

Vergil, Eclogues 4.60-63 (tr. Barbara Hughes Fowler):
Begin, then, little boy, to know your mother
with a smile. Ten long months have left your mother tired.
Begin, little boy: he who has not smiled at his mother
is not worthy of a god's table or a goddess's bed.

Incipe, parve puer, risu cognoscere matrem
(matri longa decem tulerunt fastidia menses)
incipe, parve puer: qui non risere parenti,
nec deus hunc mensa, dea nec dignata cubili est.

62 qui Quint. 9.3.8: cui PRω, Serv., Quintiliani codd. (corr. Politianus)
parenti Schrader: parentes codd.
Wendell Clausen on line 62:
62. qui non risere parenti: the MSS and Servius have 'cui non risere parentes', which gives the wrong sense; so far from being wonderful, it is natural for parents to smile at a new-born child. Quintilian 9.3.8 evidently read 'qui non risere parentes', but this again gives the wrong sense; rideo with the accusative can only mean 'laugh at' or 'mock', as in Hor. Epist. 1.14.39 'rident uicini glaebas et saxa mouentem'. J. Schrader saw that parenti was wanted; cf. Catull. 61.209-12 'Torquatus uolo paruulus / . . . / . . . / dulce rideat ad patrem' (ad patrem being equivalent to patri). The marvellous child is urged to greet his mother with a smile ('risu cognoscere matrem' )—a recognition of which a new-born child is incapable, except in the fond imagination of his mother—for no god invites to table those who have not smiled at their mother, no goddess to bed. The transition from a generalizing plural to the singular is Greek; P. Maas, Textkritik4 (Leipzig, 1960), 23, compares Eur. Herc. 195-7; for other examples see Fraenkel on Aesch. Ag. 1522 ff. (p. 717 n. 3). Schrader also conjectures hos for hunc, but the singular, as Maas remarks, will be intelligible to anyone who thinks of the goddess's bed. See Norden, Die Geburt des Kindes, 62 n. 2.

parenti: for the feminine see TLL s.v. 354.31 , Hofmann-Szantyr 7.
See also Egil Kraggerud, Vergiliana: Critical studies on the texts of Publius Vergilius Maro (London: Routledge, 2017), pp. 21-22.

Plutarch, fragment 216(a) (tr. F.H. Sandbach):
That new-born babies do not smile but have a fierce look for about three weeks, sleeping most of the time. But all the same at times in their sleep they often laugh and relax.

Ὅτι τὰ νεογενῆ παιδία ἀμειδῆ ἐστι καὶ ἄγριον βλέπει μέχρι τριῶν σχεδὸν ἑβδομάδων, ὑπνώττοντα τὸν πλείω χρόνον· ἀλλ᾿ ὅμως ποτὲ καθ᾿ ὕπνους καὶ πολλάκις γελᾷ καὶ διαχεῖται.
Id. 217(f):
Whether many babies laugh in their sleep, though they do not yet do so when awake...

Εἰ πολλὰ παιδία ὑπνώττοντα γελᾷ, ὕπαρ δ᾿ οὔπω...
Augustine, Confessions 1.6.8 (tr. Vernon J. Bourke):
Later, I began to smile: first, while sleeping; then, while waking. This was told me about myself and I believed it, since we so observe other babies; of course, I do not remember those things about myself.

post et ridere coepi, dormiens primo, deinde vigilans. hoc enim de me mihi indicatum est et credidi, quoniam sic videmus alios infantes: nam ista mea non memini.
James J. O'Donnell ad loc.:
Modern medicine ascribes the apparent smile of a sleeping newborn to flatulence...
Augustine, Sermons 167.1 (Patrologia Latina, vol. 38, col. 909; tr. Edmund Hill):
Let's question the very babies as they are born, why they begin by crying, though they are also capable of laughing. It's born, and straightaway it cries; after I don't know how many days it laughs.

Istos pueros qui nascuntur, interrogemus, quare a ploratu incipiunt, qui et ridere possunt. Nascitur, et statim plorat; post nescio quot dies ridet.


Good Wishes

Homer, Odyssey 13.45-46 (tr. A.T. Murray):
And may the gods grant you prosperity
of every sort, and may no evil come upon your people.

                               θεοὶ δ᾽ ἀρετὴν ὀπάσειαν
παντοίην, καὶ μή τι κακὸν μεταδήμιον εἴη.

Sunday, April 14, 2024


Air Pollution

John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson (June 7, 1785):
The Smoke and Damp of this City is ominous to me. London boasts of its Trottoir, but there is a space between it and the Houses through which all the Air from Kitchens, Cellars, Stables and Servants Appartements ascends into the Street and pours directly on the Passenger on Foot. Such Whiffs and puffs assault you every few Steps as are enough to breed the Plague if they do not Suffocate you on the Spot.


Friends or Kinsmen?

Euripides, Orestes 804-806 (tr. David Kovacs):
This proves it: get comrades, not just blood kin!
An outsider whose character fuses with yours
is a better friend to have than countless blood relations!

τοῦτ᾽ ἐκεῖνο, κτᾶσθ᾽ ἑταίρους, μὴ τὸ συγγενὲς μόνον·
ὡς ἀνὴρ ὅστις τρόποισι συντακῇ, θυραῖος ὢν,        805
μυρίων κρείσσων ὁμαίμων ἀνδρὶ κεκτῆσθαι φίλος.
Proverbs 18:24 (KJV):
There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
Cf. Hesiod, Works and Days 707 (tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White):
Do not make a friend equal to a brother.

μὴ δὲ κασιγνήτῳ ἶσον ποιεῖσθαι ἑταῖρον.
Related post: Family Values.

Saturday, April 13, 2024


A Howler

The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams. Edited by Lester J. Cappon (1959; rpt. Chapel Hill:The University of North Carolina Press, 1987), p. 29 (letter of Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson, June 6. 1785):
Whilst I am writing the papers of this day are handed me. From the publick Advertiser I extract the following. "Yesterday morning a messenger was sent from Mr. Pitt to Mr. Adams the American plenipotentiary with notice to suspend for the present their intended interview" (absolutely false). From the same paper:

"An Ambassador from America! Good heavens what a sound! The Gazette surely never announced any thing so extraordinary before, nor once on a day so little expected. This will be such a phœnomenon in the Corps Diplomatique that tis hard to say which can excite indignation most, the insolence of those who appoint the Character, or the meanness of those who receive it. Such a thing could never have happened in any former Administration, not even that of Lord North. It was reserved like some other Humiliating circumstances to take place
Sub Jove, sed Jove nondum
Barbato—————" 29
29. "Under Jove, but Jove not yet barbaric."
The editor in his footnote mistranslated the Latin tag from Juvenal 6.15-16. For "barbaric" read "bearded," i.e. when Jupiter was still young (thus, in the earliest time).

Related post: Barbarians and Beards.




Augustine, Sermons 148-183, tr. Edmund Hill (New Rochelle: New City Press, 1992), p. 144, n. 2 (translator's note on sermon 161.1):
Calling us, or our bodies, "members of Christ" is really very unsatisfactory as a translation of membra, because in current English the word is confined to its secondary sense, signifying belonging to some club, society, or organization. But to find an alternative is difficult; "limbs" is too narrow, since it doesn't include most of our organs, like eyes and ears and so on; in fact we only have four limbs. "Organs" is too medical, "parts" too mechanical. So I think we are stuck with "members," but every now and again need to amplify it with one of these other words.

Friday, April 12, 2024



M.I. Finley (1912-1986), The Use and Abuse of History (New York: The Viking Press, 1975), p. 62:
Consider the word 'Greek', whether as noun or as adjective. It is literally impossible to make any statement including 'Greek' which excludes some sort of generalization. Furthermore, it is impossible to make such a statement which would be true without greater or less qualification (excepting such truisms as 'All Greeks must eat'). In the first place, there is no meaningful definition of 'Greek' which does not differentiate in time, between a Mycenaean Greek and a contemporary Greek, to give the most extreme example. Second, applied to the ancient world any definition must face the fact of mixed populations, part Greek, part something else. Third, any meaningful statement, even when restricted to 'pure' Greeks at a fixed moment of time, must allow for variations in ideas or practices, whether by region or by class or for some other reason.



Sophocles, Oedipus the King 977-979 (Jocasta to Oedipus; tr. Richard Jebb):
What should a mortal man fear, for whom the decrees of Fortune
are supreme, and who has clear foresight of nothing?
It is best to live at random, as one may.

τί δ᾽ ἂν φοβοῖτ᾽ ἄνθρωπος ᾧ τὰ τῆς τύχης
κρατεῖ, πρόνοια δ᾽ ἐστὶν οὐδενὸς σαφής;
εἰκῆ κράτιστον ζῆν, ὅπως δύναιτό τις.

979 εἰκῇ L: εἰκῆ KA
C.M. Bowra, Sophoclean Tragedy (1944; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952), pp. 207-208:
The words may easily be underestimated. Though they are not the language of complete unbelief, they show a grave irresponsibility and culpable ignorance of what the gods are. Luck was not unreal or always unworthy of respect. So long as it was associated with some higher power, it was even pious to take note of it. There is nothing wrong when Pindar calls Luck the daughter of Zeus.3 But it was a different matter to substitute the rule of Luck for that of the gods, and this is what Jocasta does. She is perilously near to denying the power of the gods altogether and displays a scepticism like that of Euripides' Talthybius:
O Zeus, what shall I say? that you regard
Mankind? Or are the gods an idle fancy
And Luck the only governor of the world?1
or his Odysseus:
Or should we think Luck a divinity,
And everything divine less strong than she?2
Since Jocasta denies the rule of the gods, she also denies human responsibility towards them and thinks that it is best to live at random, without purpose or plan. She can be contrasted with the pious Nicias who thought it unwise to trust in Luck,3 and her real motives are well illustrated by Democritus' searching words that 'Men have made an image of Luck as an excuse for their own lack of wisdom'.4 By exalting Luck Jocasta defies the gods and denies her responsibilities. This is not only impious; it is imprudent. It means that she has no foresight for the fixture. Thucydides distrusts those who believe in Luck and says that we attribute to it anything that turns out contrary to our reckoning.5 When Jocasta says that providence or foresight is impossible and that it is best to live at random, she deprives life of order and security. She offends against religion, morality, and common prudence. The audience would expect her to be corrected, and before the scene is over she has been.

[p. 207]
3 Ol. xii.1.

[p. 208]
1 Hec. 488-91 [including 490, omitted by Bowra]
ὦ Ζεῦ, τί λέξω; πότερά σ᾽ ἀνθρώπους ὁρᾶν;
ἢ δόξαν ἄλλως τήνδε κεκτῆσθαι μάτην,
ψευδῆ, δοκοῦντας δαιμόνων εἶναι γένος
τύχην δὲ πάντα τἀν βροτοῖς ἐπισκοπεῖν;
2 Cyc. 606-7
ἢ τὴν τύχην μὲν δαίμον᾽ ἡγεῖσθαι χρεών,
τὰ δαιμόνων δὲ τῆς τύχης ἐλάσσονα;
3 Thuc. v.16.

4 Fr. 119
ἄνθρωποι τύχης εἴδωλον ἐπλάσαντο πρόφασιν ἰδίης ἀβουλίης.
5 Thuc. i.140.1.

Thursday, April 11, 2024


The Worst Life Is Better Than Death

Homer, Odyssey 11.488-491 (Achilles speaking; tr. Richmond Lattimore):
O shining Odysseus, never try to console me for dying.
I would rather follow the plow as thrall to another
man, one with no land allotted him and not much to live on,
than be a king over all the perished dead.

μὴ δή μοι θάνατόν γε παραύδα, φαίδιμ᾽ Ὀδυσσεῦ.
βουλοίμην κ᾽ ἐπάρουρος ἐὼν θητευέμεν ἄλλῳ,
ἀνδρὶ παρ᾽ ἀκλήρῳ, ᾧ μὴ βίοτος πολὺς εἴη,        490
ἢ πᾶσιν νεκύεσσι καταφθιμένοισιν ἀνάσσειν.
W.B. Stanford ad loc.:
The θῆτες (cp. 4, 644), though they had personal freedom, often lived less comfortably, and always more precariously, than the δμῶες who were fed and housed by their masters. A θής on a poor estate was particularly hard-worked and pitiable, being often cheated by the land-owner (cp. Il. 21, 444 ff.; Keller, H.S. pp. 84-5 ; Nilsson, H.M. p. 244). Hesiod (Works 602) recommends farmers to drive them out as soon as the harvest is over. Note in this passage the typical early Greeks' attitude to existence after death. Its shadowy impotence appalled them, for they loved vigour, action, personality and the sunshine. Contrast Milton's Satan — 'Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven'. The recurrent melancholy of all Greek literature is mainly due to this abhorrence of losing one's vital physical powers after death. The Mystery Religions and some philosophies tried to dispel it. But it met no decisive challenge till St. Paul on the Areopagus proclaimed the Resurrection of the Body (Acts 17, 32). In 489 ἐπάρουρος is ἅπαξ εἰρημένον and is best taken = ἐπὶ γῆς = 'on earth' (cp. ἄχθος ἀρούρης) as distinct from νέρθεν γῆς in 302; but L.-S.-J. and others render it as 'attached to the soil, as a serf '.
Lexikon des frühgriechischen Epos s.v. ἐπάρουρος:

Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Scenes from the Odyssey

6th century BC black-figure drinking cup depicting scenes from the Odyssey, with nonsense words written in Greek letters, in Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 99.518, Side A, with description from the Museum's web page:
"Circe and the companions of Odysseus, eight figures. Circe appears in center mixing her potion for Odysseus' men. The men have animal heads and arms, but retain their human lower bodies. Eurylochus escapes the scene at far right and Odysseus enters at far left."

Side B, with description from the Museum's web page:
"Odysseus in the cave of Polyphemos, seven figures. Polyphemos is the central figure, kneeling on one knee in a state of drunkenness. Odysseus' companions bring more wine from the left. Odysseus appears at right with an oinochoe containing more wine. Athena stands behind Odysseus, as his guardian."

For bibliography see the Beazley Archive, number 302569, which also gives the nonsense Greek words on side A as follows:
χνεπ(.)hχ̣(.). χ(ε)νυνι. ϝκ(.)π(ο), retr. χκ̣h(.), retr. κχ̣(.), retr. κοπν[--]. κϝνκχ(ϝ)ϝ(2), retr. κυκκ·, retr.{3}. πχγοτ. πυπhπο(.)[--]. κμϝοσπχγ. κhκνϝ(ϝ)ϝ̣ε(λ). κοεhο(α). ϝ(α)ϝ·{3}. ϝν[.]ι̣οϝπγνρ̣. πḥοϝ(π)χ(ε)χ(4) (.)πολι̣.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Minor Corrections

Donald Kagan (1932-2021), The Fall of the Athenian Empire (1987; rpt. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), p. 39:
On reflection, they decided instead to draw the ships up and shore and guard them with their soldiers until a chance of escape should occur.
For "up and" read "up on".

Id., p. 55, n. 15:
Thucydides seems to date the beginning of the suspicion against Alcibiades after the death of Chalcideus (8.24.1) and the battle of Miletus (8.25-26): Ἀλκιβιάδης μετὰ τὸν Χαλκιδέως καὶ τὴν ἐν Μιλήτῳ μάχην τοῖς Πελοποννησίοις ὕποπτος ὤν, καὶ ἀπ᾽ αὐτῶν ἀφικομένης ἐπιστολῆς πρὸς Ἀστύοχον ἐκ Λακεδαίμονος ὥστ᾽ ἀποκτεῖναι .... "After the death of Chalcideus and the battle at Miletus Alcibiades, being an object of suspicion to the Peloponnesians and a letter having come to Astyochus from Sparta as a result of this ordering him to be killed .... he withdrew to Tissaphernes" (8.45.1).
The quotation from Thucydides is faulty—add θάνατον after Χαλκιδέως. Probably also add at least some of πρῶτον μὲν ὑποχωρεῖ δείσας παρὰ Τισσαφέρνην after the ellipsis.

There is no entry for Kagan, who was Sterling Professor of Classics at Yale, in the Database of Classical Scholars.


Tuesday, April 09, 2024


Marks of a Proud Man

Augustine, Sermons 160.3 (Patrologia Latina, vol. 38, col. 874; tr. Edmund Hill):
But this proud fellow, with his nose in the air, and his gobbling throat, and his big words, and his puffed out cheeks, he sneers at Christ crucified.

sed superbus iste, erecta cervice, tumenti gutture, elata lingua, inflatis buccis irridet Christum crucifixum.
The translation is loose, e.g. there is no nose in the Latin. It might be worthwhile rummaging around in Richard Foerster's Scriptores Physiognomonici Graeci et Latini for parallels, but I'm too lazy to do it.


Childish Things

Pompeius Macer, fragment 1, lines 4-6 (perhaps from his Medea), in Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, ed. Bruno Snell, rev. Richard Kannicht, vol. I, p. 313 (tr. Marinos Yeroulanos):
Play now, young spirits,
for now is your life's springtide;
worries grow as you grow.

                         παίζετ’ ὦ νέαι φρένες·
ὡς ἔστιν ὑμῖν τοῦτ’ ἔαρ παντὸς βίου,
ἥβῃ δὲ λῦπαι φροντίδες θ’ ἡβῶσ’ ὁμοῦ.

Monday, April 08, 2024


A Bad Thing

Homer, Odyssey 11.464 (tr. A.T. Murray):
And it is an ill thing to speak words vain as wind.

κακὸν δ᾽ ἀνεμώλια βάζειν.



F.L. Lucas, "To Herr Baedeker, Thanksgiving Ode," Poems, 1935 (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1935), pp. 11-12 (line numbers added):
on returning alive from the Mediterranean

HERR BAEDEKER, Herr Baedeker,
Majestic and immortal Herr,
All-highest of all cicerones,
Where lodge at last your travelled bones?
You knew the place of death and birth        5
Of every worthy on this earth,
But none knows yours, great oracle
Geographic, practical, historical;
None lays a laurel on your grave,
For all that good advice you gave        10
To the headlong and unheeding stranger—
"Cold milk can be a serious danger”,
Or "Despite romantic loathing,
Always wear flannel underclothing”,
Or "As a safeguard against chills,        15
It is more prudent in the hills
To don at night a woollen vest!”
How wise you were, the tombs attest
Of all that dared, though you forbad,
"Without an overcoat, or plaid,        20
To leave the house"; or held too light
The words—"On no account lose sight
Of a main road without a guide!
The dogs are savage!” Men have died
Like flies, because their mockery drown’d        25
Your warning cry—"Adders abound.”

Herr Baedeker, Herr Baedeker,
Ah, what a deathless character!
Ah, happy, happy, happy few
That once with wondering eyes watched you        30
Tree-like stalking across the plain,
As Birnam Wood towards Dunsinane,
With vests on vests, and coats on coats,
Perspiring, but still taking notes;
Behelmeted, bepuggareed,
Equipped for every mortal need,        35
For every pleasure, every task,
With drinking-cup and travelling-flask,
Disguised in duly blackened spectacles,
Followed by (packed in due receptacles)
Forks and "knives with folding handles",        40
Rugs and sleeping-bags and candles,
Cups, compasses, and riding-whip
(For dogs)—enough to load a ship
Or occupy a caravan—
A walking Providence, not a man!        45
Pilgrim, to you 'tis surely given
Henceforth to assign the stars in Heaven.
St John or the Blessed Damozel
Could never map Paradise half as well;
Doubtless by now you have planned beside
To supersede Dante, with a Guide        50
To Hell
; and then complete the story
With a Short-cuts through Purgatory.
Thanks to my friend Eric Thomson for the following notes on Lucas' ode:

15-17, 37-43 Karl Baedeker, Greece: Handbook for Travellers (Leipsic: Karl Baedeker/London: Dual and Co., 1889) pp. xvii-xviii:
Riding-breeches are highly desirable; but if ordinary trousers are worn, buttons for riding-straps should not be forgotten. Woollen underclothing is necessary as a preventive of chills (comp. p. xxx), and it is prudent to wear a woollen vest at night. Flannel shirts are in many respects more convenient than linen ones, and they practically diminish the bulk of the luggage. For the transport of the latter on horseback, waterproof bags or wallets are much more convenient than trunks or hard leather portmanteaux. The boots should be strong and able to resist the friction of rocky mountain-paths and ruined masonry. The hat should have a brim wide enough to afford some shade from the sun, and a 'puggaree' tied round it (obtainable in Athens) will also be found acceptable. Smoke-coloured spectacles will be found a great relief to the eyes, though their use feels a little strange at first. They may be purchased from the Italian optician Labarbera, in the Rue d'Hermes, and in several other shops in Athens, but may be obtained more cheaply in England or Italy.

The traveller in the interior should also have a travelling flask and drinking cup, a knife large enough to be used in eating if necessary, candles for evening use, and a good compass. A stout cane or long riding-whip will sometimes be found useful in repelling the village and shepherds' dogs.
20-21 Karl Baedeker, Greece: Handbook for Travellers (Leipsic: Karl Baedeker/London: Dual and Co., 1889) p. xxx:
The visitor should invariably be somewhat more warmly clad than in a similar temperature at home, and he should never leave the house without an overcoat or plaid, to be donned on passing from sun-shine to shade, when sitting in a boat or carriage, and in the evening.
26 Adders abound. Karl Baedeker, Southern France from the Loire to the Italian and Spanish Frontiers, Including Corsica: Handbook for Travellers (Leipsic: Karl Baedeker/London: Dual and Co., 1891) p.137:
To the PIC DE NÉRÉ, 3¾ hrs. from LUZ, there and back 6½ hrs., delightful excursion which can be made on horseback part of the way; guide 12, horse 10 fr. (adders abound).
The oxymoron of 'delightful' and 'adders' is achieved by way of what Edward Mendleson ("Baedeker's Universe," Yale Review 74 (Spring 1985) 386-403) dubs the "Baedeker parenthesis":
One of its many functions was to juxtapose, without irony, the poetical and the practical. The best example of a Baedeker parenthesis was written not by Baedeker but by E.M. Forster in imitation of Baedeker. In Where Angels Fear to Tread, while Mrs. Herriton "was not one to detect the hidden charms of Baedeker... Philip could never read 'The view from the Rocca (small gratuity) is finest at sunset' without a catching at the heart."
Baedeker's gravestone in the Hauptfriedhof cemetery, Koblenz.


Without a System

James J. O'Donnell, Augustine, Confessions II: Commentary on Books 1-7 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), p. 34 (on 1.6.7):
A. had no system, despite what we try to make of him, but found himself following the teachings of a God who did not always make everything perfectly clear. A. managed, with great difficulty, to make his peace with the uncertainties of that condition: not all his students since have been so successful.

Sunday, April 07, 2024


Before You Do a Favor

Democritus, fragment 93 (tr. Kathleen Freeman):
When you do a favour, study the recipient first, lest he prove a scoundrel and repay evil for good.

χαριζόμενος προσκέπτεο τὸν λαμβάνοντα, μὴ κακὸν ἀντ᾿ ἀγαθοῦ κίβδηλος ἐὼν ἀποδῷ.


It Doesn't Take Much

Sophocles, Oedipus the King 961 (tr. R.B. Rutherford):
A little weight in the scale sends aged bodies to their rest.

σμικρὰ παλαιὰ σώματ᾽ εὐνάζει ῥοπή.
I.e. to their final rest.



Aristophanes, Knights 350 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
You fool, what an absurd idea!

ὦ μῶρε, τῆς ἀνοίας.
I understand τῆς ἀνοίας as a simple genitive of exclamation. So apparently do Carl Arne Anderson and T. Keith Dix in their commentary (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2020), p. 114, but James Wilson Poultney, The Syntax of the Genitive Case in Aristophanes (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1936), p. 124, says it's dependent on μῶρε, which makes no sense to me.

Saturday, April 06, 2024



Homer, Odyssey 11.412-415 (Agamemnon to Odysseus; tr. A.T. Murray):
So I died by a most pitiful death, and round about me the rest of my comrades
were slain unceasingly like white-tusked swine,
which are slaughtered in the house of a rich man of great might
at a marriage feast, or a joint meal, or a rich drinking-bout.

ὣς θάνον οἰκτίστῳ θανάτῳ· περὶ δ᾽ ἄλλοι ἑταῖροι
νωλεμέως κτείνοντο σύες ὣς ἀργιόδοντες,
οἵ ῥά τ᾽ ἐν ἀφνειοῦ ἀνδρὸς μέγα δυναμένοιο
ἢ γάμῳ ἢ ἐράνῳ ἢ εἰλαπίνῃ τεθαλυίῃ.        415
Greek Anthology 10.85 (by Palladas; tr. W.R. Paton):
We are all kept and fed for death,
like a herd of swine to be slain without reason.

πάντες τῷ θανάτῳ τηρούμεθα, καὶ τρεφόμεσθα
    ὡς ἀγέλη χοίρων σφαζομένων ἀλόγως.
The same (tr. Tony Harrison):
Death feeds us up, keeps an eye on our weight
and herds us like pigs through the abattoir gate.


Where Was Aristophanes?

Gilbert Murray (1866-1957), Aristophanes: A Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1935), p. 102:
One cannot help wondering what Aristophanes was doing at the time of Socrates' trial in 399. Did he come forward as a witness to character, explaining how innocent had been the meaning of those twenty-four-year-old mockeries? Was he himself regarded by the extreme democrats as a suspicious character, whose support would do more harm than good? Or, again, was he away on garrison duty somewhere, and not in Athens at all? It is in cases like this that one feels the terrible incompleteness of the evidence from which we have to construct our understanding of ancient history.

Thursday, April 04, 2024


A Grave Was All My Gain

F.L. Lucas, "On a Boeotian Mercenary of Alexander, Fallen in Media," Poems, 1935 (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1935), p. 13:
We served the Macedonian. The Great King fled before us,
    The world was ours for winning. A grave was all my gain.
From Hellespont to Ganges we marched—could it restore us
    The freedom of our fathers, though we forged all Asia's chain?
Better than golden Susa wast thou, poor land that bore us,
    The little Vale of Thisbe than this gaunt Median Plain.


An Expression of Intellectual Freedom

Werner Jaeger (1888-1961), Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, tr. Gilbert Highet, Vol. I (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1946), p. 359, with notes on p. 481:
More than any other art, comedy is tied to the realities of its own time and place. Although that fact makes it fascinating from a historical point of view, its sole purpose, in portraying ephemeral events and personalities, is to represent certain aspects of their eternal humanity which are overlooked by loftier types of poetry like epic and tragedy. The philosophy of poetry which was developed in the fourth century defined tragedy and comedy as fundamentally opposite and complementary expressions of the same primitive human instinct for imitation. It asserted that tragedy, and all the other types of high poetry which succeeded the epic, sprang from the inclination of noble minds to imitate great men, notable deeds and famous lives; while it explained the origin of comedy by the irresistible imitative urge of commoner natures—or, as we should put it, by the impulse of the ordinary man, with his realistic and critical outlook—to ape bad, blameworthy, and contemptible things.1 The famous scene in the Iliad which holds up the vulgar and hideous agitator Thersites to the malicious laughter of the mob—a rare comedy among the many tragedies in Homeric poetry—is a true piece of popular comedy; for it caters to the instincts of the mob. So also, in the divine farce which the enamoured Ares and Aphrodite are forced to play against their will, the Olympians themselves become a laughing audience at a comedy.

If even the mighty gods could laugh and be laughed at in this frankly comic way, the Greeks obviously felt that every human being, and every being with human attributes, had not only the power of feeling heroic emotion and serious dignity, but the ability and the need to laugh. Later Greek philosophy defined man as the only animal capable of laughter,2 though he was usually described as a talking or thinking animal; thereby they placed laughter on the same plane with thought and speech, as an expression of intellectual freedom.

1. Arist. Poet. 2, 1448a1; 4, 1448b24.
2. Arist. Part. An. III, 10, 673a8, 28.


A Terrible Thing

Euripides, Orestes 772 (tr. Edward P. Coleridge):
A terrible thing is the mob, when it has villains to lead it.

δεινὸν οἱ πολλοί, κακούργους ὅταν ἔχωσι προστάτας.
Scholia ad loc. (tr. Donald J. Mastronarde):
Perhaps he is alluding covertly to the demagogic activities in his own time,and possibly to Cleophon. For two years before the production of Orestes he was the one who prevented a peace-treaty being concluded for the Athenians with the Lacedaemonians, as Philochorus reports.

ἴσως αἰνίττεται πρὸς τὰς καθ’ αὑτὸν δημαγωγίας, μήποτε δὲ εἰς Κλεοφῶντα. πρὸ ἐτῶν γὰρ δύο τῆς διδασκαλίας τοῦ Ὀρέστου οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ κωλύσας σπονδὰς γενέσθαι Ἀθηναίοις πρὸς Λακεδαιμονίους, ὡς Φιλόχορος [FGrHist 328 F 139b Jacoby] ἱστορεῖ.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024


Things That Delight Us

Augustine, Sermons 159.2 (Patrologia Latina, vol. 38, col. 868; tr. Edmund Hill):
There are things, after all, that it is natural for us in our weakness to delight in; like food and drink which delight us when we are hungry and thirsty; like this light which delights us when it pours down on us from the sky after the sun is risen, or shines from the moon and the stars, or is kindled on earth in lamps to relieve our eyes in the dark; we are delighted by a melodious voice and a lovely ditty, delighted by a sweet smell; our sense of touch delighted too by anything to do with the pleasures of the flesh.

Delectant enim quaedam naturaliter infirmitatem nostram, ut cibus et potus delectant esurientes atque sitientes; ut nos delectat haec lux, quae de caelo funditur sole exorto, vel quae de sideribus et luna fulget, vel quae in terra accenditur luminibus consolantibus tenebras oculorum: delectat canora vox et suavissima cantilena, delectat odor bonus; delectant etiam tactum nostrum quaecumque pertinent ad carnis aliquam voluptatem.
He goes on to distinguish between licit and illicit pleasures:
And of all these things which delight our bodily senses, some are lawful. Our eyes are delighted, as I said, by these great spectacles of nature; but the eyes are also delighted by the spectacles to be seen in the theaters. The first sort are lawful, the other sort unlawful. A sacred psalm sung sweetly delights our ears, but so too do the songs of the music halls; the first sort lawfully, the second unlawfully. The scent of flowers and spicy smells delight our noses; so too does the incense on the altars of demons; the first sort lawfully, the second unlawfully. Food that is not forbidden delights the taste; so too do the banquets that follow sacrilegious sacrifices; the first sort lawfully, the second unlawfully. The embraces of husbands and wives are delightful; so too are those of harlots; the first sort lawfully, the second unlawfully. So you see, my dearest friends, that our bodily senses provide us with delights both lawful and unlawful.

Et haec omnia, quae nos delectant in sensibus corporis, aliqua licita sunt. Delectant enim, ut dixi, oculos spectacula ista magna naturae; sed delectant oculos etiam spectacula theatrorum. Haec licita, illa illicita. Psalmus sacer suaviter cantatus delectat auditum: sed delectant auditum etiam cantica histrionum. Hoc licite, illud illicite. Delectant olfactum flores et aromata, et haec Dei creatura; delectant olfactum etiam thura in aris daemoniorum. Hoc licite, illud illicite. Delectat gustum cibus non prohibitus; delectant gustum etiam epulae sacrilegorum sacrificiorum. Hoc licite, illud illicite. Delectant coniugales amplexus: delectant etiam meretricum. Hoc licite, illud illicite. Videtis ergo, carissimi, esse in istis corporis sensibus licitas et illicitas delectationes.


Hesiod's Worst Hexameter

Hesiod, Theogony 319 (tr. M.L. West):
But she bore Chimaera, who breathed invincible fire...

ἣ δὲ Χίμαιραν ἔτικτε πνέουσαν ἀμαιμάκετον πῦρ...
West in his commentary ad loc.:
This peculiarly ungainly verse is the result of determination to combine the Chimaera's epithets πῦρ πνείουσα (fr. 43 (a) 87, cf. Il. 6.182, Pi. O. 13.90) and ἀμαιμάκετος (Il. 6.179, 16.329), which has become transferred to πῦρ in the process. Wilamdwitz is justified in calling it Hesiod's worst hexameter (Gr. Verskunst, p. 8, n. 1: it violates Hermann's Bridge, and it is the only line in early epic to combine such a violation with a final monosyllable; it also violates Meyer's First Law (p. 95); and it has an un-Homeric correption before a mute and nasal combination (p. 98).
West, Introduction to Greek Metre (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), p. 21:
A 'bridge' is the converse of a caesura: a place where word-end is avoided. Gottfried Hermann observed in 1805 that it is avoided between the two shorts of the fourth biceps.
West in Ian Morris and Barry Powell, edd., A New Companion to Homer (Leiden: Brill, 1997), p. 225:
Meyer's First Law states that words which begin in the first foot do not end between the shorts of the second foot, or at the end of that foot.
See Jon Solomon, "In Defense of Hesiod's 'Schlechtestem Hexameter'," Hermes 113.1 (1985) 21-30.

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