Friday, May 31, 2024


Those in Power

Sallust, The War Against Jugurtha 31.12 (tr. William W. Batstone):
But who are these men who have taken over the state? They are the most criminal of men, with bloody hands, savage greed, the most malignant and yet the most arrogant, for them honesty, propriety, devotion, in fact everything whether honourable or dishonourable, serves only for profit.

at qui sunt ii qui rem publicam occupavere? homines sceleratissumi, cruentis manibus, immani avaritia, nocentissumi et idem superbissumi, quibus fides decus pietas, postremo honesta atque inhonesta omnia quaestui sunt.



Pindar, Nemean Odes 5.40-41 (tr. Anthony Verity):
Inborn Destiny determines the outcome of every deed.

πότμος δὲ κρίνει συγγενὴς ἔργων περὶ


No Progress

John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson (July 9, 1813):
While all other Sciences have advanced, that of Government is at a stand; little better understood; little better practiced now than 3 or 4 thousand Years ago. What is the Reason? I say Parties and Factions will not suffer, or permit Improvements to be made. As soon as one Man hints at an improvement his Rival opposes it. No sooner has one Party discovered or invented an Amelioration of the Condition of Man or the order of Society, than the opposite Party, belies it, misconstrues it, misrepresents it, ridicules it, insults it, and persecutes it. Records are destroyed. Histories are annihilated or interpolated, or prohibited sometimes by Popes, sometimes by Emperors, sometimes by Aristocratical and sometimes by democratical Assemblies and sometimes by Mobs.
Democrats, Rebells and Jacobins, when they possessed a momentary Power, have shewn a disposition, both to destroy and to forge Records, as vandalical, as Priests and Despots. Such has been and such is the World We live in.


The Lord Giveth

Homer, Odyssey 14.443-445 (tr. Peter Green):
Eat, my strange guest, and enjoy what's offered here,
such as it is. A god will give one thing, but let another go,
just as the whim takes him. He can do anything.

ἔσθιε, δαιμόνιε ξείνων, καὶ τέρπεο τοῖσδε,
οἷα πάρεστι· θεὸς δὲ τὸ μὲν δώσει, τὸ δ᾽ ἐάσει,
ὅττι κεν ᾧ θυμῷ ἐθέλῃ· δύναται γὰρ ἅπαντα.        445
Id. 4.236-237:
                                  Now to one man, now to another
the god, Zeus, gives good or ill, for he can do anything.

                                                 ἀτὰρ θεὸς ἄλλοτε ἄλλῳ
Ζεὺς ἀγαθόν τε κακόν τε διδοῖ· δύναται γὰρ ἅπαντα.

Thursday, May 30, 2024


Small and Great

Revelation 13:16 (KJV):
And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads...

καὶ ποιεῖ πάντας, τοὺς μικροὺς καὶ τοὺς μεγάλους, καὶ τοὺς πλουσίους καὶ τοὺς πτωχούς, καὶ τοὺς ἐλευθέρους καὶ τοὺς δούλους, ἵνα δῶσιν αὐτοῖς χάραγμα ἐπὶ τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῶν τῆς δεξιᾶς ἢ ἐπὶ τὸ μέτωπον αὐτῶν...
David E. Aune, Revelation 6-16 (1998; rpt. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014 = Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 52B), pp. 765-766:
The first term, πάντας, "all," is comprehensive; then the following terms describe in various ways the social polarities that make up the "all." These antithetical terms (the rhetorical term is divisio or merismus, i.e., dividing a whole into its parts) constitute a figure of speech used to express the notion of totality (see P. Boccaccio, "I termini contrari come espressione della totalità in ebraico," Bib. 33 [1952] 173-90; A. M. Honeyman, "Merismus in Biblical Hebrew," JBL 71 [1952] 11-18). The use of the stereotyped expression "insignificant and important," literally "small and great," occurs four times elsewhere in Revelation (11:18; 19:5, 18; 20:12) and often appears to be a redactional element used to unify the composition; in 19:18 it is accompanied by an analogous antithetical pair, "free and slave," as here in 13:16. A similar, but much larger, inclusive list occurs in Rev 19:18 (see Comment there). The phrase "the least and the greatest" as an idiom connoting social inclusivity occurs with some frequency in the OT and early Jewish literature (Gen 19:11; Deut 1:17; 1 Kgs 22:31; 2 Kgs 23:2; 25:26; 1 Chr 12:14; 25:8 ; 26:13; 2 Chr 18:30; 34:30; Job 3:19; Wis 6:7; Jdt 13:4,13; Jer 6:13; 31:34[LXX 38:34]; 1 Macc 5:45) as well as in the NT ( Acts 8:10; 26:22; Heb 8:11 [quoting Jer 38:34]). Used in this way the phrase "small and great" is an idiom meaning the totality of people of all ages or all stations in life, found in both Semitic and Greek literature.

A specifically Semitic idiom is מִקָּטֹ֖ןוְעַד־גָּד֑וֹל miqqāṭōn wĕʿad gādôl, "from small to great" (Gen 19:11), which occurs more than thirty times in the OT (TDOT 2:398-400), though there are also Greek parallels (e.g., Ign. [long rec.] Ad Philippenses 15.1, ἀπὸ μικροῦ ἕως μεγάλου; see also Ad Antiochenos 12.3; Ad Hieronem 8.2). The more typical Greek form of this idiom is μικρῷ τε καὶ μεγάλῳ, "to both small and great" (Acts 26:22). The phrase "small and great" is also applied to minor and major things (2 Chr 36:18; Amos 8:5; 2 Macc 5:20; 1 Esdr 1:54; Sir 5:15; 29:23; Plutarch Pericles 17.1; Pompey 57.1; Quaest. conv. 730A; Epictetus 2.19.29; 2.23.28; Ign. [long rec.] Phld. 6.9). It also occurs in the magical papyri in formulaic contexts in which the practitioner wishes to be inclusive: PGM 21.21, πρὸς πάντας ἀνθρώπους, μικροὺς καὶ μεγάλους, for all people, small and great: an example of merismus. In PGM XXXV.17-19 the magician demands favor, influence, victory, and strength "before everyone, small men and great [ἔμπροσθεν πάντων, ἀνδρῶν μικρῶν καὶ μεγάλων], as well as gladiators, soldiers, civilians, women, girls, boys, and everybody [καὶ πάντων]." "Small and great" as groups or classes at the opposite end of the social pyramid are also referred to in Rev 11a8; 20:12 (see Wis 6:7; Jonah 3:5; Jer 6:13). PGM XII.49 refers to those whom the magical practitioner desires power over: "men or women, small or great." Similarly, PGM XV.18 refers to spirits the magician wants under his control: "whether male or female, small or great." In a magical procedure from the Sepher ha-Razim 1.135-40 (tr. Morgan, 34) we find the same inclusive language: "You angels who go around and circulate in the world, bring around (to me) all the citizens of this city, great and small, old and young, lowly and distinguished." In a famous inscription describing the foundation and regulations of a mystery cult published most recently by Sokolowski (Lois, 53-58, no. 20), the phrase "men and women, free persons and slaves" occurs three times (lines 5-6, 15-16, 53-54) of those who could have access to the cult (i.e., everyone). The term μικροί, literally "small ones," is a designation for people with little power or influence and is sometimes a term for disciples of Jesus (Matt 10:42; 18:6 = Mark 9:42 = Luke 17:2; Matt 18:10).
Also known as polare Ausdrucksweise. See, e.g., G.E.R. Lloyd, Polarity and Analogy: Two Types of Argumentation in Early Greek Thought (1966; rpt. Bristol: Bristol Classical Press, 1992), pp. 90-94.


Love of Power

Plutarch, Should Old Men Take Part in Affairs of State? 18 (Moralia 793d; tr. Harold North Fowler):
But for a very aged man that love of office which invariably offers itself as a candidate at every election, that busy restlessness which lies in wait for every opportunity offered by court of justice or council of State, and that ambition which snatches at every ambassadorship and at every precedence in legal matters, are, even if you eliminate the discredit attached to them, toilsome and miserable.

πρεσβύτῃ δὲ κομιδῇ, κἂν τὸ ἄδοξον ἀφέλῃς, ἐπίπονος καὶ ταλαίπωρος ἡ πρὸς πᾶν μὲν ἀεὶ κληρωτήριον ἀπαντῶσα φιλαρχία, παντὶ δ᾽ ἐφεδρεύουσα δικαστηρίου καιρῷ καὶ συνεδρίου πολυπραγμοσύνη, πᾶσαν δὲ πρεσβείαν καὶ προδικίαν ὑφαρπάζουσα φιλοτιμία.
The same, tr. Jeffrey Beneker:
But for the older person—even if you disregard the bad reputation earned by such an attitude—the love of holding office that asserts itself at every election, the meddlesomeness that watches for every opportunity to appear in court or at a council meeting, and the love of honor that grasps at every embassy and guardianship, all of this is wearying and miserable.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024


Komm, süßer Tod, komm, selge Ruh!

Sophocles, Philoctetes 797-798 (tr. Richard Jebb):
O Death, Death, though I am always summoning you
day after day, why do you never come?

ὦ Θάνατε Θάνατε, πῶς ἀεὶ καλούμενος
οὕτω κατ᾽ ἦμαρ, οὐ δύνᾳ μολεῖν ποτε;
Ludwig Radermacher ad loc.:


A Hole in the Head

Bronze head from Olympia, ca. 630 BC (Karlsruhe, Badisches Landesmuseum, F 1890):
John Boardman, Greek Sculpture: The Archaic Period (London: Thames and Hidson, 1978), fig. 37:
Bronze head from Olympia. Hollow cast, probably from a complete figure which served as a support, perhaps for a bowl (there is a hole at the crown of the head). The hair is shown by incised vertical wavy lines at the back but in horizontal layers at the side. The eyes were inlaid.


Political Parties

John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson (June 30, 1813):
The real terrors of both Parties have allways been, and now are, The fear that they shall loose the Elections and consequently the Loaves and Fishes; and that their Antagonists will obtain them. Both parties have excited artificial Terrors and if I were summoned as a Witness to say upon Oath, which Party had excited, Machiavillialy, the most terror, and which had really felt the most, I could not give a more sincere Answer, than in the vulgar Style "Put Them in a bagg and shake them, and then see which comes out first."
Id. (July 3, 1813):
I know not which Party has the most unblushing Front, the most lying Tongue, or the most impudent and insolent not to say the most seditious and rebellious Pen.


A Difficult Poet?

Hugh-Lloyd-Jones (1922-2009), "Pindar," Greek in a Cold Climate (London: Duckworth, 1991), pp. 22-43 (at 22):
Pindar has always had a reputation for being difficult. One cannot deny that he is difficult, but the difficulty has been exaggerated; his style and language, once superficial awkwardnesses have been overcome, are hardly as difficult as those of Sophocles. His text is better preserved than that of any of the great tragedians; and though some of his poems are written in complicated metres, about half are written in dactylo-epitrite, whose main features can be set out in half a page.3

3 See P. Maas, Greek Metre (1962), pp. 40-1.
Adrian Hollis, "William Spencer Barrett 1914-2001," Proceedings of the British Academy 124, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows III (2004) 25-36 (at 34):
A former pupil, not particularly academic, once lamented to him how difficult he found Pindar; Spencer's reply came out uncensored: 'Oh no, very easy.'

Tuesday, May 28, 2024



John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson (June 28, 1812):
I am weary of contemplating Nations from the lowest and most beastly degradations of human Life, to the highest Refinement of Civilization: I am weary of Philosophers, Theologians, Politicians, and Historians. They are immense Masses of Absurdities, Vices and Lies.


Silver Chamber Pots

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Colossians 7 (Patrologia Graeca, vol. 62, cols. 349, 351-352; tr. J. Ashworth):
For in point of senselessness wherein do they differ, tell me, from that golden plane tree, who make golden jars, pitchers, and scent bottles? And wherein do those women differ, (ashamed indeed I am, but it is necessary to speak it,) who make chamber utensils of silver?


What softness is it! What luxury, what wantonness! This is not luxury but wantonness. What senselessness is it! What madness! So many poor stand around the Church; and though the Church has so many children, and so wealthy, she is unable to give relief to one poor person; but one is hungry, and another is drunken [1 Cor. xi.21]; one voideth his excrement even into silver, another has not so much as bread! What madness! what brutishness so great as this?

τί γὰρ, εἰπέ μοι, τῆς χρυσῆς πλατάνου διαφέρουσι κατὰ ἄνοιαν οἱ κεράμια ποιοῦντες χρυσᾶ καὶ χύτρας καὶ ἀλάβαστρα; τί δὲ αἱ γυναῖκες (αἰσχύνομαι μὲν οὖν, πλὴν ἀναγκαῖον εἰπεῖν), ἀμίδας ἀργυρᾶς ποιοῦσαι;


τίς ἡ βλακεία; τίς ἡ τρυφή; τίς ἡ ὕβρις; οὐ τρυφὴ τοῦτο, ἀλλ' ὕβρις. τίς ἡ ἄνοια; τίς ἡ μανία; Πένητες τοσοῦτοι τὴν ἐκκλησίαν περιεστήκασι, καὶ τέκνα ἔχουσα τοσαῦτα ἡ Ἐκκλησία, οὕτω πλουτοῦντα, οὐδενὶ πένητι ἐπαμῦναι δύναται· ἀλλ' ὁ μὲν πεινᾷ, ὁ δὲ μεθύει· ὁ μὲν καὶ ἐν ἀργύρῳ ἀποπατεῖ, ὁ δὲ οὐδὲ ἄρτου μετέχει. τίς ἡ μανία; τίς ἡ θηριωδία ἡ τοσαύτη;
See Margaret M. Mitchell, “Silver Chamber Pots and Other Goods Which Are Not Good: John Chrysostom's Discourse against Wealth and Possessions,” in William Schweiker and Charles Mathewes, edd., Having: Property and Possession in Religious and Social Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), pp. 88-121.

Monday, May 27, 2024


Here We Lie

Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982), "On a Military Graveyard," Complete Poems (Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 2004), p. 591:
Stranger, when you come to Washington
Tell them that we lie here
Obedient to their orders.

                    after Simonides
Rexroth modified slightly the epigram by Simonides recorded by Herodotus 7.228:
ὦ ξεῖν', ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε
    κείμεθα τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.
Rexroth also translated the original in his Poems from the Greek Anthology (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1999, rpt. 2002), p. 106:
Stranger, when you come to
Lakedaimon, tell them we lie
Here, obedient to their will.
Cicero's translation of Simonides into Latin:
dic, hospes, Spartae nos te hic vidisse iacentes
    dum sanctis patriae legibus obsequimur.
C.M. Bowra, The Oxford Book of Greek Verse in Translation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1938), pp. lix-lxi:
The first thing to notice is this — that by a fiction the dead are made to speak, and that their epitaph takes the form of a message from the field. As none survived, some one else must deliver that message. Hence the appeal in the first two words — a form of address found in many another Greek epitaph, but with less excuse.1

These first two words are the first difficulty. Cicero rendered them by ‘hospes’, a closer approximation than English allows. No single word in English has the same meanings, inherent and adherent, as the Greek. ‘Stranger’ is too remote, and tends to be American, ‘friend’ is too familiar. The compromise ‘passer-by’ has found, perhaps, most favour.

Next, the word ἀγγέλλειν. Here a problem of adherent meaning is raised not by the word itself but by the use of the infinitive to convey an injunction.  This idiom was common in Dorian speech, and would therefore be appropriate on the lips of the Spartan dead, while to Greek readers in general, familiar with its use in Hesiod and other old poets, it would also have had a dignified, archaic ring.2 If that were the whole truth, an archaizing translation, such as ‘Take tiding(s)’, might be defended. But the idiom is also military and not confined to the Dorians In this dispatch from the field its military use is appropriate, and hence a very different suggestion, namely, that we should translate ‘Report to the Lacedaemonians ...’.

Modern poetry is wholesomely inclusive in its diction, but even so Report would be out of keeping. For the diction of the epitaph as a whole has a conscious poetic colouring, as the forms ξεῖν' for ξέν' and κείνων for ἐκείνων attest. And after all, the idiom was archaic and poetical as well as military. Once again, then, we must compromise on some neutral expression such as ‘Tell them in Lacedaemon ...’.

Two further problems of meaning are set by the last two words. Some have argued that ῥήμασι bears much the same sense as ῥημάτων in No. 206 — the poem written by Simonidês on Danaê. It would then mean not ‘orders’ or ‘ordinances’, but ‘words’ or ‘sayings’ such as Plutarch collected in his Sayings of Laconian Women, e.g. ‘Come back with your shield — or upon it’. One may answer, of course, that the meaning ‘orders’ is better suited to a soldierly dispatch; but why demand one meaning and one only? A poet’s economy, especially in epigram, is to say one thing and suggest much more. In English ‘word’ (rather than ‘words’) has some of the requisite associations, and also covers the possible alternatives most completely.

Finally, πειθόμενοι. It is often said that the use of the present participle implies continuity and demands the translation ‘still obeying’. But the temporal reference of the participle cannot be stressed, and ‘still obeying’ is a sentimental, un-Greek idea, certainly out of place on the lips of Spartans.

1 Cf. R. Heinze, Neue Jahrb. f. d. klass. Altertum, 1915, p 6.

2 Cf. W. Rhys Roberts, Eleven Words of Simonides, Camb. Univ. Press, 1920.


The Price

Bruce Catton, This Hallowed Ground (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1956), p. 42:
The price ... Well, what do you pay for an American Civil War? What is the cost of development from national adolescence to manhood; for the idea that the oneness of all people must run unbroken all through the national fabric; for a notion of citizenship that draws no line of color, birth, or where your grandfather’s people came from? The coins are various: a boy dying of typhoid in a cold tent, trampled grass growing up around the legs of his cot, a careless steward offering salt pork and hardtack for a final meal; another boy falling in a swamp with a slug of hot lead in his lungs; a home disrupted, with the goods that were to keep a family through the winter trampled on by grinning hoodlums; a woman on a farm in Indiana, or Mississippi, learning that the child who used to run barefooted across the meadows in spring has gone under the turf in some place whose name she never heard before ... These are some of the coins, bloodshed and suffering and a deep sorrow in the breast, spent prodigally by folk who had not wanted to buy anything at all but who had just hoped to get along the best they could, winning a little happiness out of life if their luck was in: the total of these coins high beyond counting, the payment exacted from people who had made no bargain, the thing bought a mystic intangible dim in the great shadows.


Differences of Opinion

Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams (June 15, 1813):
About facts, you and I cannot differ; because truth is our mutual guide. And if any opinions you may express should be different from mine, I shall recieve them with the liberality and indulgence which I ask for my own...
Id. (June 27, 1813):
To me then it appears that there have been differences of opinion, and party differences, from the first establishment of governments, to the present day; and on the same question which now divides our own country: that these will continue thro' all future time: that every one takes his side in favor of the many, or of the few, according to his constitution, and the circumstances in which he is placed: that opinions, which are equally honest on both sides, should not affect personal esteem, or social intercourse...

Sunday, May 26, 2024


Boast of a Small-Town Boy

Sophocles, Philoctetes 324-326 (Neoptolemus speaking; tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
I wish it may be granted to me to satisfy my rage by violence,
so that Mycenae and Sparta may know that
Skyros also is a mother of valiant men!

θυμὸν γένοιτο χειρὶ πληρῶσαί ποτε,
ἵν᾿ αἱ Μυκῆναι γνοῖεν ἡ Σπάρτη θ᾿ ὅτι        325
χἠ Σκῦρος ἀνδρῶν ἀλκίμων μήτηρ ἔφυ.
Bernd Manuwald on lines 325-326:
Aus den bedeutenden Orten Mykene und Sparta kommen die Atreus-Söhne Agamemnon und Menelaos, Neoptolemos’ Heimat dagegen ist das sprichwörtlich unbedeutende, felsige (459) Skyros, dessen Wert durch die erwünschte künftige Rache erwiesen werden soll. Zur Einschätzung von Sparta und Skyros vgl. Eur. Andr. 209 f.; Zenobios, Centuria 1,32 (CPG I, p. 11).


They Kill Us for Their Sport

David Kovacs, The Heroic Muse: Studies in the Hippolytus and Hecuba of Euripides (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), p. 74:
In neither the one case nor the other would it be true to say that the gods make human beings into puppets and destroy their freedom. The proper analogy is not a puppeteer and his puppets but a grand master playing chess with a novice. The novice's freedom is complete: he may make any moves he likes. But the grand master defeats defeats him easily because he is a better chess player and can see farther ahead. Just so are the gods more powerful than mortals, and when a god wishes to destroy a man, his actions may be free but they will not achieve their intended goal. And just as a grand master might add insult to injury by announcing in advance the exact piece with which he will produce check-mate, so the gods often mock their victims by giving them accurate prophecies of future destruction, prophecies which they nevertheless cannot avoid and which may even be instrumental in their downfall.


Amazing and Miraculous

Gilbert Highet (1906-1978), Explorations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 341-342:
It still strikes me with amazement when I open a book of speeches by Demosthenes and begin to hear the voice, the very syllables and cadences, of a man who died some twenty-three centuries ago. Surely it is almost miraculous that we can take up the Aeneid of Vergil, reproduced by machinery that would have astounded Vergil, on a material he had never seen, in a format he could scarcely have imagined, and after two millennia find that, undimmed by time and change, his poetry still sings, his mystical visions still transport us as they did his first readers, and the subtleties of his poetic architecture still hold secrets only half discovered.

Saturday, May 25, 2024



Homer, Iliad 9.121-130 (some of Agamemnon's proposed recompense to Achilles; tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
In the presence of you all let me name the glorious gifts:
seven tripods that the fire has not touched, and ten talents of gold
and twenty gleaming cauldrons, and twelve strong horses,
winners in the race, that have won prizes by their fleetness.
Not without booty would that man be,
nor unpossessed of precious gold,
who had wealth as great as the prizes my single-hoofed horses have won for me.
And I will give seven women skilled in noble handiwork,
women of Lesbos, whom on the day when Achilles himself took well-built Lesbos
I chose out for myself from the spoil, who in beauty surpassed all the tribes of women.

ὑμῖν δ᾽ ἐν πάντεσσι περικλυτὰ δῶρ᾽ ὀνομήνω
ἕπτ᾽ ἀπύρους τρίποδας, δέκα δὲ χρυσοῖο τάλαντα,
αἴθωνας δὲ λέβητας ἐείκοσι, δώδεκα δ᾽ ἵππους
πηγοὺς ἀθλοφόρους, οἳ ἀέθλια ποσσὶν ἄροντο.
οὔ κεν ἀλήϊος εἴη ἀνὴρ ᾧ τόσσα γένοιτο,        125
οὐδέ κεν ἀκτήμων ἐριτίμοιο χρυσοῖο,
ὅσσά μοι ἠνείκαντο ἀέθλια μώνυχες ἵπποι.
δώσω δ᾽ ἑπτὰ γυναῖκας ἀμύμονα ἔργα ἰδυίας
Λεσβίδας, ἃς ὅτε Λέσβον ἐϋκτιμένην ἕλεν αὐτὸς
ἐξελόμην, αἳ κάλλει ἐνίκων φῦλα γυναικῶν.        130
Bryan Hainsworth ad loc.:
In negotiations with such a character as Akhilleus any number of things could go wrong, so Agamemnon makes sure that no one could criticize him for meanness and lists his gifts publicly. For other lists of gifts, which typify what is counted as wealth in the Homeric world, cf. 8.290-1 (tripod, horses, and concubine), 24.229-34 (clothing, gold, tripods, and cups), Od. 4.128-35 (bathtubs, tripods, gold, distaff, and work-basket), 8.392-3 (clothing and gold), 9.202-5 (gold, crater, wine), 24.274-7 (gold, crater, clothing), [Hesiod] frr. 197 M-W (women, goblets) and 200 M-W (bowl, tripod, gold). To the conventional items (gold and tripods) are added such extras as the donors may be thought to have handy, here horses (124) and slaves (128).
M.M. Austin and P. Vidal-Naquet, Economic and Social History of Ancient Greece: An Introduction (London: Batsford Academic and Educational Ltd, 1977), pp. 196-197:
Nothing is more difficult in the Homeric world than to distinguish — if indeed one must distinguish — between premonetary instru­ments which serve as a standard of value for exchange purposes, objects for hoarding and ostentation1, goods that were indis­pensable for the daily life of warriors (such as metal in raw or worked form), and landed estates pure and simple. Are these premonetary signs? The ox was the standard of measure: Laertes purchased Eurycleia for the price of 20 oxen (Odyssey I, 430-1), which does not mean that oxen were a means of exchange. The list of presents which Agamemnon proposes to give to Achilles to restore their friendship includes objects which continued to be used for a long time as 'premonetary'2 instruments and which as late as the fourth century in the treasures of temples served simultaneously as symbolic wealth and as money3, but it also includes captive women and cities.

1 See the admirable study by L. Gernet, 'La notion mythique de la valeur en Grèce', Journal de Psychologie 41 (1948), pp. 415-62, reproduced in Anthropologie de la Grèce ancienne, pp. 93-137, and M.I. Finley, The World of Odysseus, pp. 70ff.

2 Thus in Crete where a payment 'in cauldrons' is still specified in an inscription from Cnossos of the fourth or third century and where the Gortyn inscriptions regularly provide for payments in tripods or cauldrons till the end of the sixth century; see G. le Rider, Monnaies crétoises (Paris, 1966), p. 167.

3 See for example the inventory of a temple at Thespiae (beginning of the fourth century) republished by P. Roesch and J. Taillardat, in Revue de Philologie 40 (1956), pp. 70-87; one finds there side by side cauldrons, 'spit-drachmae' similar to the Spartan iron currency (below, no 56), tripods, domestic utensils, weapons, etc.


Horace's Soracte Ode

Horace, Odes 1.9, tr. H. Rackham, Greece & Rome 10 (May, 1941) 138:
How dazzling white with drifted snow
Soracte stands! The woods below
    Are bowed to breaking with their burden;
The frozen rivers have ceased to flow.

Come, friend, let's drive away the cold:
Pile the logs high as hearth will hold,
    And bring me forth a flask of Sabine,
The strong, the mellow, the four years old.

All else entrust to heaven's will,
Which bids the battling winds be still—
    And waves grow calm, and peace possesses
The ash and cypress upon the hill.

No matter what the morrow prove:
Count each day gain the Powers above
    May grant us. Take what boyhood offers,
The fun and dancing and making love.

Leave gloom for when your hair is grey;
Youth is the time for sport and play—
    Then off to keep your tryst at twilight
And softly prattle an hour away;

Or by a tell-tale laugh to trace
The saucy charmer's hiding-place,
    And snatch a pledge from wrist or finger,
Surrendered with but a feign'd ill grace.

Vides ut alta stet nive candidum
Soracte, nec iam sustineant onus
    silvae laborantes geluque
    flumina constiterint acuto.

Dissolve frigus ligna super foco        5
large reponens atque benignius
    deprome quadrimum Sabina,
    o Thaliarche, merum diota.

Permitte divis cetera; qui simul
stravere ventos aequore fervido        10
    deproeliantis, nec cupressi
    nec veteres agitantur orni.

Quid sit futurum cras, fuge quaerere et
quem fors dierum cumque dabit lucro
    adpone, nec dulcis amores        15
    sperne puer neque tu choreas,

donec virenti canities abest
morosa. Nunc et Campus et areae
    lenesque sub noctem susurri
    composita repetantur hora;        20

nunc et latentis proditor intimo
gratus puellae risus ab angulo
    pignusque dereptum lacertis
    aut digito male pertinaci.
Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Sappho und Simonides (Berlin: Weidmann, 1913), p. 311:
Hübsche Verse, aber noch kein Gedicht.
R.G.M. Nisbet and Margaret Hubbard, A Commentary on Horace: Odes Book I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), p. 118:
This is a great poem.

Friday, May 24, 2024


A Traditionalist

Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams (April 20, 1812):
The Wabash prophet [Tenskwatawa] is a very different character, more rogue than fool, if to be a rogue is not the greatest of all follies. He arose to notice while I was in the administration, and became of course a proper subject of enquiry for me. The enquiry was made with diligence. His declared object was the reformation of his red brethren, and their return to their pristine manner of living. He pretended to be in constant communication with the great spirit, that he was instructed by him to make known to the Indians that they were created by him distinct from the Whites, of different natures, for different purposes, and placed under different circumstances, adapted to their nature and destinies: that they must return from all the ways of the Whites to the habits and opinions of their forefathers. They must not eat the flesh of hogs, of bullocks, of sheep etc. the deer and buffalo having been created for their food; they must not make bread of wheat, but of Indian corn. They must not wear linen nor woollen, but dress like their fathers in the skins and furs of wild animals. They must not drink ardent spirits; and I do not remember whether he extended his inhibitions to the gun and gunpowder, in favor of the bow and arrow. I concluded from all this that he was a visionary, inveloped in the clouds of their antiquities, and vainly endeavoring to lead back his brethren to the fancied beatitudes of their golden age.


Praise for the Enemy's Courage

Caesar, Gallic War 2.27.3-5 (tr. Carolyn Hammond):
The enemy, however, even at this critical moment showed such determination in their bravery that when those in the front rank had fallen the men behind them stood upon the slain and continued the fight from on top of the corpses. When they were overthrown the pile of bodies grew higher, while the survivors used the heap as a vantage-point for throwing missiles at our men, or catching their spears and throwing them back. Not without good reason were they judged to be men of enormous bravery. For they had dared to cross a very wide river, climb its steep banks, and advance on extremely difficult ground: the Nervii's courage had made light of these obstacles.

at hostes etiam in extrema spe salutis tantam virtutem praestiterunt, ut, cum primi eorum cecidissent, proximi iacentibus insisterent atque ex eorum corporibus pugnarent; his deiectis et coacervatis cadaveribus, qui superessent, ut ex tumulo, tela in nostros conicerent et pila intercepta remitterent: ut non nequiquam tantae virtutis homines iudicari deberet ausos esse transire latissimum flumen, ascendere altissimas ripas, subire iniquissimum locum; quae facilia ex difficillimis animi magnitudo redegerat.


Bedtime Reading

A.S.F. Gow, "Sir Stephen Gaselee, K.C.M.G. 1882-1943," Proceedings of the British Academy 29 (1943) 441-461 (at 446-447):
Gaselee throughout his life combined with a very retentive memory and a capacity for reading very rapidly a remarkable power of getting things done without appearing to be busy; and where another, after working into the small hours, might choose a novel or other light literature to read himself to sleep, he would take to bed some work of formidable austerity—a Gothic grammar, perhaps, or a Greek text of Gregory of Nazianzus. Fortified by a cigar and a somewhat garish blazer of undergraduate date he would resume the volume in the morning before he got up and not only read but digest it. Much that to most people would have seemed work served him for recreation, and to that fact his remarkable output is partly due.
Sir Stephen Gaselee, by Bassano Ltd (National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG x34907):
Related posts:

Thursday, May 23, 2024


T.E. Page

Ronald Storrs (1881-1955), Orientations (London: Ivor Nicholson & Watson, 1937), pp. 10-11:
For permanent inspiration in the great humanities there was none to compare with the Sixth Form Master, Thomas Ethelbert Page. As a housemaster, as a schoolmaster, he was compassed about by details and difficulties with which he should never have had to cope. He had none of the technique of coaching or of cramming, but those who sat under him, as I did for three years, had the opportunity of drinking in the quintessence of scholarship. If the object of classical study is to create, not mere grammatical, syntactical or textual erudition but the deepest and broadest education, a love of spiritual greatness increasing through life — Macaulay’s scholar reading Plato with his feet on the fender: T. E. Lawrence in the desert with his sole volume, Aristophanes — then it is a tragedy that T. E. Page, one of the few who could inspire as well as teach, was not in the prime of life appointed a University Professor of Latin or of Greek or the Master of some great college. But it is a tragedy of which no sixth-form Charterhouse boy can complain, and for which some of us must always feel and express, though we never can repay, an infinite debt of gratitude.
Related post: Variations on a Theme.



Hat tip: Alan Crease.


Judging the Grain from the Stubble

Homer, Odyssey 14.211-221 (Odysseus in disguise, telling one of his tall tales; tr. George Herbert Palmer, slightly modified):
Nevertheless, I took to wife the daughter of a wealthy house,
winning her by my merit; because I was no weakling
and not afraid of war. Now all is gone.
Yet still, when you see stubble I think you know the grain;
hardships innumerable have pressed me sore.
In those days Ares and Athene gave me courage,
and strength to break the line; and when I picked for an ambush
our bravest, sowing the seeds of evil for our foes,
my swelling heart cast not a look on death;
but charging ever foremost, I would catch upon my spear
whatever foeman showed less speed than I.

ἠγαγόμην δὲ γυναῖκα πολυκλήρων ἀνθρώπων
εἵνεκ᾽ ἐμῆς ἀρετῆς, ἐπεὶ οὐκ ἀποφώλιος ἦα
οὐδὲ φυγοπτόλεμος· νῦν δ᾽ ἤδη πάντα λέλοιπεν·
ἀλλ᾽ ἔμπης καλάμην γέ σ᾽ ὀΐομαι εἰσορόωντα
γιγνώσκειν· ἦ γάρ με δύη ἔχει ἤλιθα πολλή.        215
ἦ μὲν δὴ θάρσος μοι Ἄρης τ᾽ ἔδοσαν καὶ Ἀθήνη
καὶ ῥηξηνορίην· ὁπότε κρίνοιμι λόχονδε
ἄνδρας ἀριστῆας, κακὰ δυσμενέεσσι φυτεύων,
οὔ ποτέ μοι θάνατον προτιόσσετο θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ,
ἀλλὰ πολὺ πρώτιστος ἐπάλμενος ἔγχει ἕλεσκον        220
ἀνδρῶν δυσμενέων ὅ τέ μοι εἴξειε πόδεσσιν.
W.B. Stanford ad loc.:
214-15. 'Still, if you look at the straw you can see what the ear was, for I have had trouble enough and to spare' (Butler). Another agricultural Metaphor (cp. Il. 19, 222): an experienced farmer can judge from the straw or stubble alone how good the grain must have been; cp. ex stipula cognoscere aristam. Eumaeus, as a good judge of men, will recognize O.'s former prowess despite his weak and withered appearance now.

216 ff. ἔδοσαν: a plural verb between two singular subjects, a usage called the σχῆμα Ἀλκμανικόν from Alcman's fondness for it. I follow Monro in punctuating with a comma after ῥηξηνορίην (from ῥήγνυμι and ἀνήρ 'power to break through a line of warriors') and a colon after φυτεύων, on the grounds that it is not Homeric to begin a sentence with ὁπότε in the middle of a line. Then οὔ ποτέ μοι κ.τ.λ. in 219 is a kind of apodosis: '(in such a case) I never feared, etc.', repeating the statement in 216-17 in a new form: hence the Asyndeton. Monro compares 15, 317; 16, 466; 18, 278. Most of the other editors put a colon after ῥηξηνορίην and a comma after φυτεύων, taking ὁπότε κρίνοιμι κ.τ.λ. with the following clause.

221. 'Any enemy who was inferior to me in speed of foot.' Others translate 'who fled before me on foot '. ὅ τέ = ὅτε τις or εἴ τις here. Professor W.H. Porter suggests that the original may have been ὅτε τις changed to ὅτε μοι when the Digamma ceased to be felt in ϝείκω.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024


Little Latin and Less Greek

Gilbert Highet (1906-1978), Explorations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 246 (on Ezra Pound):
Most readers seem to believe that Pound is a truly scholarly writer. How deeply, how accurately, and how sensitively he knows other languages I cannot tell; but although he shows off his Greek and his Latin, his Latin is poor and his Greek is contemptible.
Id., p. 247
Pound never had more than a smattering of Greek, scarcely enough to enable him to spell Greek words correctly, either in the Greek alphabet or in our own. In Latin he knew enough to let him follow the general sense of a simple sentence, and to grasp some of the more obvious effects of sound and rhythm, but not nearly enough to permit him to understand or even to approach the greatest Roman poets, or to save him from making coarse and degrading blunders in interpreting Roman poetry. Worse than that, he would not learn. He would not admit his deficiencies and cure them through humility and industry. Nor would he shun those areas where a display of ignorance might be damaging. Where others would turn their eyes away from the sanctuary, or else enter with quiet step and bowed head, Ezra Pound charged in, shouting and singing and hiccuping, on roller skates, and rollicked around breaking the decorations and scrawling his name on the walls.
Id., pp. 249-250:
Now, if a more modest or more dedicated poet did not know Greek and yet wished to use a passage from Homer in his poetry, he would take five or six versions of Homer in languages which he did understand—English and French and Italian, for example—and by combining them and extracting their essence, he might get fairly close to the original. Or—reflecting that art is long—he would set out to learn Greek. Pound did neither. He used a line-for-line word-for-word translation from Homer’s poetic Greek into flat literal Latin prose which was published in 1538 by a hack named Andrea Divo. Whether he thought this was the best available translation, it is difficult to tell. If he did, he was quite wrong. And in any case the affectation of using a Renaissance Latin pony to help him understand a Greek poem caused him far more trouble than it was worth. Not only did Andrea Divo sometimes get Homer’s meaning wrong, but Ezra Pound sometimes got Andrea Divo’s meaning wrong. The result was a double layer of misunderstanding spread, like Cimmerian mist, between the radiant sun of Homer and Pound’s wretched readers, benighted beneath.


The Best Thing

Pindar, fragment 126 Snell-Maehler, 110 Bowra (tr. Gregory S. Jones):
Do not impair pleasure in life; for by far
the best thing for man is a pleasant lifetime.

μηδ' ἀμαύρου τέρψιν ἐν βίῳ· πολύ τοι
φέριστον ἀνδρὶ τερπνὸς αἰών.

μηδ' ἀμαύρου codd.: μηδὲ μαύρου Boeckh

Tuesday, May 21, 2024


Cathy, Don't Go

Todd Wasserman, "With JPMorgan, Mastercard on board in biometric ‘breakthrough’ year, you may soon start paying with your face," CNBC (May 20, 2024):
Biometric payment options are becoming more common in the U.S., such as Apple Face ID enabling app purchases, and Amazon's introduction of pay-by-palm technology in stores, and financial firms from JPMorgan to Mastercard embracing the technology.
People who are tempted by this sort of thing need to watch the "Cathy, Don't Go" music video (



C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), Surprised by Joy (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., © 1955), p. 10:
My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents' interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not. Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass.



P.A. Brunt, "Marcus Aurelius in His Meditations," Journal of Roman Studies 64 (1974) 1-20 (at 9):
Even among Greek moralists veracity is little discussed or commended.46 I can find only one allusion to it in Epictetus (Ench. 52). Plutarch suggests that from time to time we should follow special moral exercises and for a given period refrain from sexual intercourse, wine and lying (464B)! Plato authorized his philosopher kings to deceive their subjects for their own good, and the idea was not alien to the old Stoics;47 it does not occur to Marcus, who would speak plainly in the senate (n. 44). His attitude is more typical of the good old Roman than of Greeks; he wished to act 'as a Roman' (ii, 5). Nepos praises Atticus because 'mendacium neque dicebat neque pati poterat' (Att. 15, 1); this was characteristic of traditional Roman moral values.48 They obtained in the circle of Marcus' early years; he recalls the truthfulness of Severus and Maximus (i, 14 f.), and from Fronto he had learned to avoid 'tyrannical hypocrisy' (i, ii). Both he and Verus told Fronto that he had taught them truthfulness,49 and Fronto himself names love of veracity and straightforwardness as ideals.50 Hellenistic and Imperial Roman thought on statecraft tends to be content with representing the model ruler as the virtuotus man, but it seems to be only in Roman treatments of his good qualities that truthfulness and simplicity strongly appear, perhaps first under Trajan, who is contrasted by Pliny and others with the tyrant Domitian, 'insidiossissimus princeps '.51 For Dio Marcus himself was a 'truly good man, free of all pretence' (lxxi, 34, 4).

46 Pythagoras allegedly taught that men approximate to the gods by τὸ ἀληθεύειν (telling the truth) and conferring benefits (Ael., VH xii, 59). Other moralists of course reprehend lying (cf. n. 41; Plato, Laws 730C; 943E, cf. Alcib. 122A) as a general rule, but without Marcus' emphasis. Epictetus constantly uses πιστός of the good man, but men thought that philosophers condoned lying (iv, 6, 33).

47 e.g. Rep. 389 B; 459 C. Cf. SVF iii, 513; 554; ii 132; but note iii, 629.

48 'Verus, veritas' constantly mean 'truthful, veracity' in Latin, see Forcellini's Lexicon, and are often linked with 'fides' (on which E. Fraenkel, Kl. Beiträge i, 15 ff.) and simplicitas, cf. nn. 49, 50, 55. Cf. Cic., de Offic. i, 63: 'itaque viros fortes et magnanimos, eosdem bonos et simplices, veritatis amicos minimeque fallaces esse volumus'; 109: 'veritatis cultores, fraudis inimici '; perhaps the Roman (cf. e.g. Verr. ii, 1,4; 3,144; Quinct. 10; Balb. 12), rather than the translator of Panaetius, is speaking. Cf. also 'apertus et simplex' (Fam. i, 9, 22 etc.); Pliny, ep. ii, 9,4; iv, 22,3; ix, 25,2.

49 i, 16 H. = 49 N.: 'verum me (Marcus) dicere satius simul et audire verum me doces'; ii, 18 = 130 N.: Verus has leamed from Fronto 'prius multo simplicitatem verique amorem quam loquendi polite disciplinam'.

50 ii, 230 H. = 235 N.: 'multa ... fideliter ... consulta ... Verum dixi sedulo, verum audivi libenter.' ii, 224 H. = 232 N.: 'Victorinum pietate mansuetudine veritate innocentia maxima '. ii, 154 H. = 135 N.: 'simplicitas, castitas, veritas, fides Romana plane, φιλοστοργία vero nescio an Romana . . ., (For the last quality cf. Med. i, 11 with 9,3; 17,7; vi, 30,1; xi, 18,4; Epict. i, 11,6; 23,3; ii, 17,38.)

51 Pliny, Pan. 1,6; 49,8; 54,5; 67,1; 84,1; 95,3; the same contrast in Mart. x, 72 with Domitian, on whom cf. Tac., Agr. 42; Suet., Dom. ii; Dio lxvii, 1; see also on Tiberius, another 'tyrant', Tac., Ann. i, 11,2; vi, 50,1; 51,3 etc.; Suet., Tib. 24,11 42,1; Dio lvii, 1. The ideal of 'veri affectus': Tac., Hist. i, 15,4. On Trajan, Dio lxviii, 5,3; 6,2; Dio Chrys. (cf. n. 45) iii, 2. Veracity and simplicity do not appear in the evidence collected by W. Schubart, 'Das Hellenistische Königsideal nach Inschr. u. Papyri', Arch. f. Pap. xii, i ff., nor in what we have of Greek treatises on monarchy by 'Ecphantus' and 'Diotogenes', probably of Roman imperial date (L. Delatte, Les Traités de la royauté. . . 1942), yet reflecting Hellenistic thought; there is one reference in Aristeas' letter, s. 206. Dio Chrysostom depicts the ideal king as truthful, sincere and simple (i, 26; ii, 26), perhaps because Trajan was so regarded. Arrian's view that a king like Ptolemy I should tell the truth (Anab. pr.) might simply represent his own (Roman?) view, but in vii, 5,2, perhaps from Ptolemy himself, he ascribes this view to Alexander.



Augustine, Sermons 171.4 (Patrologia Latina, vol. 38, cols. 934-935; tr. Edmund Hill):
What is joy in the world? Rejoicing in iniquity, rejoicing in infamy, rejoicing in what is dishonorable, rejoicing in what is vile. These are all the things the world rejoices in. And none of them would exist, if people didn't want them to. There are some things people do; others that are done to them, they endure even if they don't like it. So what is this world, and what is the joy of this world? I will tell you, brothers and sisters, as briefly as I can, as far as God helps me. Briefly, quickly, I'll tell you. What the world relishes is villainy that no one punishes. Let people indulge in dissolute living, in fornication, in the frivolities of the games; let them drown themselves in drink, befoul themselves with infamy—and suffer no harm: and there you have the joy of the world. Let these evil things I've listed not be chastised by famine, or by fear of war, or any other fear; not by any disease or any misfortunes at all; but let them all pass in material plenty, in bodily ease, in peace of mind—an evil mind: and again, there you have the joy of the world.

In saeculo gaudium quod est? Gaudere de iniquitate, gaudere de turpitudine, gaudere de dedecore, de deformitate. De his omnibus gaudet saeculum. Quae omnia non essent, nisi homines voluissent. Alia sunt quae faciunt homines, alia quae patiuntur, etsi nolunt, ferunt. Quid ergo est hoc saeculum, et quod est gaudium saeculi? Dico, fratres, breviter quantum possum, quantum Deus adiuvat; festinanter, breviter dico. Saeculi laetitia est impunita nequitia. Luxurientur homines, fornicentur, in spectaculis nugentur, ebriositate ingurgitentur, turpitudine foedentur, nihil mali patiantur: et videte saeculi gaudium. Ista mala quae commemoravi, non castiget fames, non belli timor, non aliquis timor, non aliquis morbus, non aliquae adversitates; sed sint omnia in rerum abundantia, in pace carnis, in securitate malae mentis: ecce videte saeculi gaudium.

Monday, May 20, 2024


Response to a Question...

...during a political debate or a Ph.D. oral examination, from Sophocles, Philoctetes 253 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
Know that I am ignorant of what you are asking me about.

ὡς μηδὲν εἰδότ᾿ ἴσθι μ᾿ ὧν ἀνιστορεῖς.

Sunday, May 19, 2024


An Epithet of Athena

Lamprocles, fragment 1a (Poetae Melici Graeci 735), in Greek Lyric, IV: Bacchylides, Corinna, and Others. Edited and Translated by David A. Campbell (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992 = Loeb Classical Library, 461), pp. 320-321:
Παλλάδα περσέπτολιν κλῄζω πολεμαδόκον ἁγνάν
παῖδα Διὸς μεγάλου <δαμάσιππον>

Pallas, sacker of cities, I summon, the warlike, the pure, child of great Zeus.
Campbell prints δαμάσιππον (which appears without brackets in PMG) but doesn't translate it — it means horse-taming and is an epithet of Athena. See e.g. Christopher Metcalf, The Gods Rich in Praise: Early Greek and Mesopotamian Religious Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 132, who translates:
Pallas the sacker of cities I praise, the warlike, chaste,
horse-taming daughter of great Zeus.
On Athena's association with horses see Nikolaos Yalouris, "Athena als Herrin der Pferde," Museum Helveticum 7 (1950) 19-101 (this fragment discussed on p. 55).


The Death of Arius

Theodoret of Cyrrhus, A History of the Monks of Syria 1.10 (tr. R.M. Price):
While in a disgusting and noisome place that wretch was evacuating the refuse from his gluttony, he evacuated its receptacle as well; so with his inwards dissolved and ejected along with his excrement, the miserable creature instantly breathed his last and underwent this most shameful death, called to answer for his noisome blasphemy in a noisome place and slain by the tongue of the great James.

ἐν βδελυκτοῖς γὰρ καὶ δυσώδεσι χωρίοις ὁ ἀλάστωρ ἐκεῖνος τῆς ἀπλήστου τροφῆς ἐκκρίνων τὰ περιττώματα, καὶ τὰ τούτων μετὰ τούτων ἐξέκρινε δοχεῖα. οὕτω δὲ τῶν σπλάγχων αὐτοῦ διαλυθέντων καὶ σὺν τῇ κόπρῳ κεχωρηκότων, ἐξέπνευσεν ὁ δείλαιος παραχρῆμα καὶ τὸν αἴσχιστον ἐκεῖνον ὑπέμεινε θάνατον, τῆς δυσώδους αὐτοῦ βλασφημίας ἐν δυσώδεσι χωρίοις εἰσπραχθεὶς τὰς εὐθύνας καὶ διὰ τῆς Ἰακώβου τοῦ μεγάλου γλώττης δεξάμενος τὴν σφαγήν.
James = James of Nisibis.

Related posts:




E.J. Kenney, "Two Disputed Passages in the Heroides," Classical Quarterly 29.2 (1979) 394-431 (at 395):
In questions of authenticity only negative proofs are as a rule convincing. It is often possible to show that a work or a passage displays so many incorrect, absurd, or anomalous features that, even when due allowance is made for textual corruption, it is unreasonable, on a balance of probabilities, to attribute it to its reputed author. It is rarely possible to prove authenticity with anything like even this limited degree of cogency. The most that it is usually realistic to expect is what I have called a verdict of nihil obstat: a conclusion that, on balance, a disputed work or passage contains nothing fundamentally inconsistent with its reputed authorship.



Demosthenes 10.25 (4th Philippic; tr. Jeremy Trevett):
It would be shameful, by Zeus and all the gods, and unworthy of you and the city and the deeds of your ancestors, to sacrifice the rest of the Greeks into slavery for the sake of our private comfort, and I for one would rather die than make such a proposal.

αἰσχρὸν μὲν νὴ τὸν Δία καὶ πάντας θεοὺς καὶ ἀνάξιον ὑμῶν καὶ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων τῇ πόλει καὶ πεπραγμένων τοῖς προγόνοις, τῆς ἰδίας ῥᾳθυμίας ἕνεκα τοὺς ἄλλους ἅπαντας Ἕλληνας εἰς δουλείαν προέσθαι, καὶ ἔγωγε αὐτὸς μὲν τεθνάναι μᾶλλον ἂν ἢ ταῦτ᾽ εἰρηκέναι βουλοίμην.
Id. 10.46-47:
Men of Athens, you have abandoned the policy you inherited from your ancestors, and have been persuaded by speakers who think it an unnecessary and pointless expense to champion the Greeks and use a well-organized force to help all who are victims of injustice. You supposed that living a quiet life and neglecting your duty, but instead abandoning every place one after another and allowing others to take them, provided you with wonderful happiness and great security. As a result, another man has come forward to the post that you should have occupied and has become wealthy and powerful and the ruler of many.

ἐξέστητ᾽, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, τῆς ὑποθέσεως ἐφ᾽ ἧς ὑμᾶς οἱ πρόγονοι κατέλιπον, καὶ τὸ μὲν προΐστασθαι τῶν Ἑλλήνων καὶ δύναμιν συνεστηκυῖαν ἔχοντας πᾶσι τοῖς ἀδικουμένοις βοηθεῖν περίεργον ἐπείσθητ᾽ εἶναι καὶ μάταιον ἀνάλωμ᾽ ὑπὸ τῶν ταῦτα πολιτευομένων, τὸ δ᾽ ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ διάγειν καὶ μηδὲν τῶν δεόντων πράττειν, ἀλλὰ προϊεμένους καθ᾽ ἓν ἕκαστον πάνθ᾽ ἑτέρους ἐᾶσαι λαβεῖν, θαυμαστὴν εὐδαιμονίαν καὶ πολλὴν ἀσφάλειαν ἔχειν ᾤεσθε. ἐκ δὲ τούτων παρελθὼν ἐπὶ τὴν τάξιν ἐφ᾽ ἧς ὑμῖν τετάχθαι προσῆκεν ἕτερος, οὗτος εὐδαίμων καὶ μέγας καὶ πολλῶν κύριος γέγονεν.

Saturday, May 18, 2024


More on Supplements

Giuseppe Giangrande, "Hesiod's Fragments," a review of R. Merkelbach and M.L. West, Fragmenta Hesiodea (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), in Classical Review 20.2 (June, 1970) 151-156 (at 151-152):
Merkelbach and West have succumbed to the occupational disease to which some papyrologists are notoriously prone: too often they have filled hopelessly large gaps with fragments of their own composition. Page, when editing his Loeb Greek Literary Papyri, recovered from the illness at the eleventh hour (p. viii), and this is why his collection, uncluttered by handfuls of private poetry, is so serviceable still today, more than twenty years after: Merkelbach-West were not cured, and therefore the same reservations are valid for their collection as were made by Kerényi in his review of Zimmermann's romance papyri:1 the reader would much prefer to have in front of him a genuine fragment, however mutilated, rather than a line which is almost exclusively modern reconstruction.

1 Cf. B. Lavagnini, Studi sul romanzo greco, Messina (1950), p. 209.
Hat tip: Christopher Brown, who adds:
Although most would judge the edition to be a work of very high quality, Giangrande is right that M-W print some speculative supplements. Such a practice would be more of a problem in a text less formulaic than Hesiod, but at least they meticulously present the papyrological evidence. Page was writing after a period in which papyrus texts were commonly printed fully supplemented, and in some cases no typographical devices were used to identify supplements (such matters were typically relegated to an apparatus). A good example is the edition of Herodas by Headlam and Knox from 1922 (the commentary is still extremely valuable). Page himself was misled: he quotes λινέην κύπασσιν at Her. 8.31 to illustrate a linen chiton (S & A 222 n. 2), but λινέην is a highly speculative supplement by Knox. In his Teubner edition Cunnigham prints ].ν κύπα[σσ]ιν̣, and did not think that Knox’s suggestion was worth mentioning in the app. crit. at all.
S & A = Sappho and Alcaeus.


Harmony and Discord

Sallust, Jugurtha 10.6 (tr. John C. Rolfe):
For harmony makes small states great, while discord undermines the mightiest empires.

nam concordia parvae res crescunt, discordia maxumae dilabuntur.


An Epoch of Decadence?

Ronald Syme (1903-1989), Sallust (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964 = Sather Classical Lectures, 33), pp. 16-17 (footnotes omitted):
The fashion persists of condemning and deploring the last epoch of the Roman Republic. It was turbulent, corrupt, immoral. And some speak of decadence. On the contrary, it was an era of liberty, vitality—and innovation. Political strife brought oratory to perfection; and the master of eloquence, in seasons of eclipse or disappointment, turned his abundant energies to refining the Latin language, which he converted into a suitable medium for theoretical disquisition. Other writers went in for verse, with new and splendid achievements of vigour or elegance.

Roman life was coming to feel to the full the liberating effects of empire and prosperity. In the aftermath of the Punic Wars, cult and ritual lapsed, and law was separated from religion (the process and agents are obscure). In various other ways good sense or chicanery were able to abate or circumvent the "antiquus rigor," the "duritia veterum." The quality of a civilisation can be estimated on various criteria. One of them is art and letters, which posterity tends to rate highly, for interested reasons. Another is the position of women in relation to husband and property. Ancient custom kept the woman in strict tutelage. Tutela was never abolished, only disregarded in practice; and women (at least of the better sort) acquired a large measure of liberty. That was not all. Divorce was easy and normal, the initiative not always coming from the husband. The classical law of marriage eschewed rigour or formality. It was perhaps the most imposing achievement of the Roman legal genius.

This liberal and humane evolution is seldom appraised as it deserves. Sallust himself is partly to blame. Not that he wasted words or regrets on the decay of religion. But he wrote in revulsion from his own time. He interpreted a process of economic change and political adjustment in terms of morals; and he fell an easy prey to conventional notions about old Roman virtue. The distortion was enhanced in the next epoch, eager to escape from the memory of recent freedom and turbulence, and complacent in its own type of felicity—that is, liberty but not licence, discipline but not despotism. Political fraud and Augustan romanticism conspired to embellish the venerable past—with unhappy consequences for historical study ever after.

Friday, May 17, 2024


Supplements as Private Poetry

Denys L. Page, Select Papyri III (Poetry) (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1941 = Loeb Classical Library, 360), p. xvi:
A word about supplements. I began eager to fill every gap with flawless fragments of my own composition; I ended with the desire—too late—to remove all that is not either legible in the papyrus or replaceable beyond reasonable doubt. At the eleventh hour, indeed, I expelled handfuls of private poetry: yet far too much remains, hard though I tried to print nothing which is inconsistent with spaces and traces in the papyrus, and to be guided, for the sense of my supplements, by certain or probable indications provided by the legible text.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Corruption in Elections

John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson (April 6, 1796):
Corruption in Elections has heretofore destroyed all Elective Governments. What Regulations or Precautions may be devised to prevent it in future, I am content with you to leave to Posterity to consider. You and I shall go to the Kingdom of the just or at least shall be released from the Republick of the Unjust, with Hearts pure and hands clean of all Corruption in Elections: so much I firmly believe.



Xenophon, Hellenica 2.4.17 (Thrasybulus speaking, before the Battle of Munychia; tr. Carleton L. Brownson):
And now, comrades, we must so act that each man shall feel in his breast that he is chiefly responsible for the victory. For victory, God willing, will now give back to us country and homes, freedom and honours, children, to such as have them, and wives. Happy, indeed, are those of us who shall win the victory and live to behold the gladdest day of all! And happy also he who is slain; for no one, however rich he may be, will gain a monument so glorious.

ἀλλ᾽, ὦ ἄνδρες, οὕτω χρὴ ποιεῖν ὅπως ἕκαστός τις ἑαυτῷ συνείσεται τῆς νίκης αἰτιώτατος ὤν. αὕτη γὰρ ἡμῖν, ἂν θεὸς θέλῃ, νῦν ἀποδώσει καὶ πατρίδα καὶ οἴκους καὶ ἐλευθερίαν καὶ τιμὰς καὶ παῖδας, οἷς εἰσί, καὶ γυναῖκας. ὦ μακάριοι δῆτα, οἳ ἂν ἡμῶν νικήσαντες ἐπίδωσι τὴν πασῶν ἡδίστην ἡμέραν. εὐδαίμων δὲ καὶ ἄν τις ἀποθάνῃ· μνημείου γὰρ οὐδεὶς οὕτω πλούσιος ὢν καλοῦ τεύξεται.

Thursday, May 16, 2024


Different Standards

Bernard Knox (1914-2010), Word and Action: Essays on the Ancient Theater (1979; rpt. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), p. 130, with notes on p. 154:
But we must remember that for Sophocles and his contemporaries, gods and men were not judged by the same standards.37 The Christian ideal, "be ye therefore perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect,"37 would have made little or no sense to an Athenian, whose deepest religious conviction would have been most clearly expressed in opposite terms: "Do not act like a god."

37. cf. Σ on [Ajax] 79 σκληρὸν μὲν τὸ λέγειν ἐπεγγελᾶν τοῖς ἐχθροῖς ἀλλὰ θεός ἐστιν οὐκ εὐλαβουμένη τὸ νεμεσητόν. Lesky (Die Tragische Dichtung, p. 110) puts it well: "Die Sophrosyne ist bei Sophokles nicht Sache der Götter, die Menschen haben sie zu wahren."

38. Matthew 5:48.
Thanks to Christopher Brown for correcting a misprint and also for the following note:
Knox was clearly using an older edition of the scholia (Papageorgius?). The more recent edition by Christodoulou prints a supplemented version of that passage: σκληρὸν μὲν τὸ λέγειν <ἥδιστον τὸ> ἐπεγγελᾶν τοῖς ἐχθροῖς. He also notes that ἡδύ is another possibility (both are anonymous conjectures). The addition makes the note somewhat more pointed, I think, picking up Sophocles’ γέλως ἥδιστος. The prologue of the Ajax is an unsettling scene!


A Long Tale of Woe

Homer, Odyssey 14.193-198 (Odysseus, in disguise, to Eumaeus; tr. Peter Green):
I only wish that we two had enough supplies of food
and sweet wine, here in your hut, enough to last a while,
that we could feast on in silence, while others did the work:
easily then could I take up the space of a whole year
and still not have finished the tale of my heartfelt sufferings—
sum total of all that by the gods' will I've endured.

εἴη μὲν νῦν νῶϊν ἐπὶ χρόνον ἠμὲν ἐδωδὴ
ἠδὲ μέθυ γλυκερὸν κλισίης ἔντοσθεν ἐοῦσι,
δαίνυσθαι ἀκέοντ᾽, ἄλλοι δ᾽ ἐπὶ ἔργον ἕποιεν·        195
ῥηϊδίως κεν ἔπειτα καὶ εἰς ἐνιαυτὸν ἅπαντα
οὔ τι διαπρήξαιμι λέγων ἐμὰ κήδεα θυμοῦ,
ὅσσα γε δὴ ξύμπαντα θεῶν ἰότητι μόγησα.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024


An Archaeologist's Definition of a Philologist

Richard Stoneman, Land of Lost Gods: The Search for Classical Greece (London: Hutchinson, 1987), pp. 290-291:
It was in the last season that the archaeologist Carl Schuchardt came to work with him [Carl Humann] at Pergamum, and his account brings the forty-seven-year-old archaeologist vividly to life. If he knew he was no scholar or connoisseur, he knew too what his own value was.

'Are you a philologist?' was his greeting to Schuchardt. The latter, sensing a trap, hastily assured the older man he was an archaeologist. This was as well, when he heard Humann's definition of a philologist — 'a man with two left hands who when he comes here falls off the fortifications'. It was indeed not long before Schuchardt fell over and hurt his knee; you may imagine he kept quiet about it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024



John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson (November 21, 1794):
I have spent my Summer so deliciously in farming that I return to the old Story of Politicks with great Reluctance. The Earth is grateful. You find it so, I dare say. I wish We could both say the Same of its Inhabitants.


Homer, Iliad 9.89

Homer, Iliad, Books 1-12. With an English Translation by A.T. Murray. Revised by William F. Wyatt (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999 = Loeb Classical Library, 170), pp. 400-401 (9.89-90):
Ἀτρεΐδης δὲ γέροντας7 ἀολλέας ἦγεν Ἀχαιῶν
ἐς κλισίην, παρὰ δέ σφι τίθει μενοεικέα δαῖτα.

7 γέροντας: ἀριστέας

But the son of Atreus led the counselors of the Achaeans all together to his hut, and set before them a feast to satisfy the heart.
The critical apparatus implies, at least to me, that Aristarchus read ἀριστέας instead of γέροντας. But in fact he read ἀριστέας instead of ἀολλέας. See, e.g., M.L. West's Teubner edition of the Iliad (vol. 1, p. 255), and Hartmut Erbse, ed., Scholia Graeca in Homeri Iliadem, vol. II: Scholia ad Libros E-I Continens (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1971), p. 417.



Pleasures Available to Old Men

Plutarch, Should Old Men Take Part in Affairs of State? 5 (Moralia 786a-b; tr. Harold North Fowler):
For granted that nature seeks in every way pleasure and enjoyment, old men are physically incapacitated for all pleasures except a few necessary ones, and not only
Aphroditê with old men is wroth,
as Euripides [fragment 23 Kannicht, line 2] says, but their appetites also for food and drink are for the most part blunted and toothless, so that they can, if I may say so, hardly whet and sharpen them. They ought to prepare for themselves pleasures in the mind, not ignoble and illiberal ones like that of Simonides, who said to those who reproached him for his avarice that, since old age had deprived him of all other pleasures, he was comforting his declining years with the only one left, the pleasure of gain.

καὶ γὰρ εἰ ζητεῖ πάντως ἡ φύσις τὸ ἡδὺ καὶ τὸ χαίρειν, τὸ μὲν σῶμα τῶν γερόντων ἀπείρηκε πρὸς πάσας, πλὴν ὀλίγων τῶν ἀναγκαίων, τὰς ἡδονάς, καὶ οὐχ "ἡ Ἀφροδίτη τοῖς γέρουσιν ἄχθεται" μόνον, ὡς Εὐριπίδης φησίν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰς περὶ πόσιν καὶ βρῶσιν ἐπιθυμίας ἀπημβλυμμένας τὰ πολλὰ καὶ νωδὰς κατέχοντες μόλις οἷον ἐπιθήγουσι καὶ χαράττουσιν· ἐν δὲ τῇ ψυχῇ παρασκευαστέον ἡδονὰς οὐκ ἀγεννεῖς οὐδ᾽ ἀνελευθέρους, ὡς Σιμωνίδης ἔλεγε πρὸς τοὺς ἐγκαλοῦντας αὐτῷ φιλαργυρίαν, ὅτι τῶν ἄλλων ἀπεστερημένος διὰ τὸ γῆρας ἡδονῶν ὑπὸ μιᾶς ἔτι γηροβοσκεῖται τῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ κερδαίνειν.

Monday, May 13, 2024


God's Power

Pindar, Pythian Odes 2.49-52 (tr. C.M. Bowra):
God reaches, as soon as thought, his ends:
God, who can catch the winged eagle
And overtakes the dolphin in the sea.
He can bring down any whose heart is high,
And to others he will give unaging splendour.

θεὸς ἅπαν ἐπὶ ἐλπίδεσσι τέκμαρ ἀνύεται,
θεός, ὃ καὶ πτερόεντ᾿ αἰετὸν κίχε, καὶ θαλασσαῖον παραμείβεται
δελφῖνα, καὶ ὑψιφρόνων τιν᾿ ἔκαμψε βροτῶν,
ἑτέροισι δὲ κῦδος ἀγήραον παρέδωκ᾿.



Homer, Odyssey 14.156-157 (Odysseus, in disguise, speaking; tr. A.T. Murray):
For hateful in my eyes as the gates of Hades
is that man, who, yielding to stress of poverty, tells a deceitful tale.

ἐχθρὸς γάρ μοι κεῖνος ὁμῶς Ἀΐδαο πύλῃσι
γίγνεται, ὃς πενίῃ εἴκων ἀπατήλια βάζει.
Sophocles, Philoctetes 108-109 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
Do you not think it disgraceful to tell lies?
Not if the lie brings us salvation!

οὐκ αἰσχρὸν ἡγῇ δῆτα τὸ ψευδῆ λέγειν;
οὔκ, εἰ τὸ σωθῆναί γε τὸ ψεῦδος φέρει.


To the Smart Kids in the Class

Augustine, Sermons 169.7 (Patrologia Latina, vol. 38, col. 919; tr. Edmund Hill):
Those of you who have anticipated the solution in your minds, please think of yourselves as fast walkers traveling the road with slower people. Let your speed be held in check a little, in order not to leave your slower companion behind.

Qui praevenistis intellectu expositionem, arbitramini vos tamquam veloces in via cum tardioribus ambulare. Celeritas aliquantum reprimatur, ne comes tardior deseratur.

Sunday, May 12, 2024


Lawfare and Political Rivalry

Aristophanes, Knights 710-721 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson, slightly revised):
I’ll haul you before Demos and get justice from you!        710
And I’ll haul you, and outslander you!
But Demos doesn’t listen to anything you say, you creep,
whereas I can make a fool of him as much as I want.
You’re pretty sure you’ve got Demos in your pocket.
Right; I know the sort of tidbits he likes.        715
Sure, you feed him, just like the nannies: badly!
You chew some food and feed him a morsel,
after you’ve bolted down three times as much yourself.
And what’s more, by god, thanks to my dexterity
I can make Demos expand and contract.        720
Even my arsehole can do that trick!

ἕλξω σε πρὸς τὸν δῆμον, ἵνα δῷς μοι δίκην.        710
κἀγὼ δὲ σ᾿ ἕλξω καὶ διαβαλῶ πλείονα.
ἀλλ᾿, ὦ πόνηρε, σοὶ μὲν οὐδὲν πείθεται·
ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἐκείνου καταγελῶ γ᾿ ὅσον θέλω.
ὡς σφόδρα σὺ τὸν δῆμον σεαυτοῦ νενόμικας.
ἐπίσταμαι γὰρ αὐτὸν οἷς ψωμίζεται.        715
κᾆθ᾿ ὥσπερ αἱ τίτθαι γε σιτίζεις κακῶς·
μασώμενος γὰρ τῷ μὲν ὀλίγον ἐντίθης,
αὐτὸς δ᾿ ἐκείνου τριπλάσιον κατέσπακας.
καὶ νὴ Δί᾿ ὑπό γε δεξιότητος τῆς ἐμῆς
δύναμαι ποιεῖν τὸν δῆμον εὐρὺν καὶ στενόν.        720
χὠ πρωκτὸς οὑμὸς τουτογὶ σοφίζεται.
Cf. Benjamin Bickley Rogers' euphemistic rendering of line 721:
I can do that with many things, I trow.

Saturday, May 11, 2024


Books as Weapons

Holbrook Jackson (1874-1948), The Anatomy of Bibliomania (London: The Soncino Press, 1932), p. 167 (Part VIII: "Of the Uses of Books," § V: "Their Belligerent Usefulness"):
Whether they have proved successful as armour or not, they are no despicable munitionment of war in other respects. As weapons they have done their bit, most effectively, as when Dr. Johnson knocked Osborne down with a folio, because that notorious bookseller had blamed his learned and diligent employee for negligence. The historic volume, so Sir Leslie Stephen records, a copy of Biblia Graeca Septuaginta, 1594, was in the possession of a Cambridge bookseller as late as the year 1812. Few will dispute with Stephen when he urges that so desirable an association copy should have been placed in some safe author’s museum.2 Another instance of the use of books as weapons is recorded by Anthony Trollope, whose father often knocked him down with a great Folio Bible as a punishment for youthful idleness.3 As missiles they are widely appreciated, lending themselves as they do both by reason of their size and shape to sudden precipitation at an offending head. Another Johnson, William (Cory), used them in this manner. He threw a book at any boy in his class at Eton who was either flagrantly unoccupied or suspiciously absorbed;4 and it is reported that William Morris hurled a fifteenth-century quarto (which was so precious that he would allow no one to touch it) at the head of a person who had irritated him, and with such force that in the course of its militant career it knocked the panel out of a door.

2 L. Stephen, Johnson. 27. 3 Autobiography. World’s Classics Ed. 14. In Lit. Anec. of 19th Cent. ii, 400.
"Man Arrested for Easter Bible Belting of Walgreens Worker, Cops Say," The Smoking Gun (April 2, 2024):
On Easter, the manager of a Walgreens store suffered a Bible belting “because she was being rude,” according to a customer who is now facing a felony battery charge.

Police say Peter Owens, 35, went to the pharmacy Sunday evening to purchase a pair of headphones. While at the Clearwater, Florida business, Owens got into a “verbal altercation” with an employee over the headphones, according to a criminal complaint.

When Nicole Merck, the 36-year-old store manager, approached Owens ... and asked him to leave the Walgreens, “Peter used the brown Bible in his hand and struck Nicole in the face one time before he exited the store.”

After the alleged Bible battery, cops located Owens and took him into custody. After being read his rights, Owens reportedly admitted to striking Merck “in the face one time with his Bible because she was being rude to him.”

“Peter stated he did not mean to hit her,” Officer Ryan Wall reported.
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The Pinnacle of Wickedness

Demosthenes 19.69 (On the Dishonest Embassy; tr. C.A. Vince and J.H. Vince):
Could any men be more wicked or more lost to all sense of shame?

πῶς ἂν ἄνθρωποι κακίους ἢ μᾶλλον ἀπονενοημένοι τούτων γένοιντο;
On ἀπονενοημένοι see Theophrastus, Characters 6 ("The Man Who Has Lost All Sense").



David Abulafia, "'Anglo-Saxon' isn't racist. It's a source of English pride," The Telegraph (10 May 2024):
A heritage worth celebrating: the Sutton Hoo helmet in the British Museum CREDIT: Martin Beddall/Alamy

No one who visits the Sutton Hoo gallery at the British Museum ever forgets the magnificent artistry of our Anglo-Saxon predecessors. We may think of the fourth to the 10th centuries as a “Dark Age”, ruled by crude barbarism and economic collapse, but the gold and bejewelled treasures they left behind are utterly spellbinding — in their way as good as anything produced by the Roman conquerors who came before.

Which is why it is regrettable that a distinguished journal that dominates the study of Anglo-Saxon history — simply and inoffensively entitled Anglo-Saxon England — is to be renamed by its no less reputable publisher, Cambridge University Press, under the bland new title Early Medieval England and its Neighbours.

Many believe it is due to the hue and cry about the term “Anglo-Saxon” in the US, where white supremacists have mobilised it as a variant of the term “Aryan”.

If that is the reason for the change, then as a historian I must protest. For a start, the term “Anglo-Saxon” is not a racial label, but a cultural one. Many English people are the product of a fusion between the Angle, Saxon, and Jute settlers, and the native Britons; the invaders coming from a wide arc of coastline stretching from the Netherlands to Jutland. Anglo-Saxon Britain was no apartheid state, but one fundamentally of rapid synthesis.

Indeed, the language we speak today was one noticeable product: just under half of the words we use remain of Anglo-Saxon origin. The Anglo-Saxon interpretation of Christianity, too, lives with us still: the Sutton Hoo treasures indicate Christianity was making inroads by the early seventh century, not long after the Jutish king of Kent accepted baptism from the first archbishop of Canterbury. Christian art of this period features stunning iconography derived from the pagan religions that came before.

Thereafter, Anglo-Saxon culture flourished in a myriad of ways: English monasteries produced startlingly beautiful manuscripts and Anglo-Saxon literature flowered, including rich alliterative poetry; the cultural ties extended to the royal courts in France and Germany.

King Alfred is the only English king to be known as “the Great”, not just for holding his own against Danish invaders but for his patronage of learning. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms merged, divided and merged again, but out of their rivalries rose a large and wealthy kingdom, rich in wool sent to the looms of Flanders, and therefore highly attractive to waves of Viking raiders, followed in 1066 by William, duke of Normandy, himself of Viking descent.

The desirability of this kingdom reflects the high standard of artistic production, learning and prosperity that by the 11th century had few rivals in northern Europe. Its legacy has been extremely powerful. For if we dispense with the Anglo-Saxons, what happens to the name of England, the country of the Angles, or Essex and Sussex, territories of the Saxons? Can we talk any longer of the Anglophone countries? It is telling that even today Russian propaganda mockingly refers to us Britons as Anglosaksy, thinking it a term of derision. Such an insult makes one quite proud.

Any suggestion of broad ethnic or cultural cohesiveness inevitably generates suspicion in an academic world, where the fantasies of Critical Race Theory find racism under every ancient stone. Yet that is to forget that, even at the time, peoples saw each other as distinct cultures, with unique traits and practices.

Cambridge University Press would do well to acknowledge that its headquarters are in East Anglia. Instead of erasing the term “Anglo-Saxon”, it is far better to accept that our forebears oversaw a flourishing and fascinating period of this island’s history. It deserves a proper name, and it already has one.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Friday, May 10, 2024


On the Distance Between the Head and Certain Other Bodily Parts

Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods 2.56.141 (tr. H. Rackham):
And just as architects relegate the drains of houses to the rear, away from the eyes and nose of the masters, since otherwise they would inevitably be somewhat offensive, so nature has banished the corresponding organs of the body far away from the neighbourhood of the senses.

atque ut in aedificiis architecti avertunt ab oculis naribusque dominorum ea quae profluentia necessario taetri essent aliquid habitura, sic natura res similes procul amandavit a sensibus.
Arthur Stanley Pease ad loc.:
for the thought cf. Off. 1, 126-127: quae partes autem corporis ad naturae necessitatem datae aspectum essent deformem habiturae atque foedum eas contexit atque abdidit. hanc naturae tam diligentem fabricam imitata est hominum verecundia, etc.; Xen. Mem. 1, 4, 6: ἐπεὶ δὲ τὰ ἀποχωροῦντα δυσχερῆ, ἀποστρέψαι τοὺς τούτων ὀχετοὺς καὶ ἀπενεγκεῖν ᾗ δυνατὸν προσωτάτω ἀπὸ τῶν αἰσθήσεων [cf. Plut. De cap. ex Inim. 10, p. 91 f; [Longin.] 43, 5]; Plat. Tim. 45 a; Varr. Menipp. 430 Bücheler: retrimenta cibi qua exirent per posticum vallem feci; Sen. N.Q. 1, 16, 7; Apul. De Plat. 1, 13; Corp. Herm. 5, 6: τίς ὁ τὰ τιμιώτατα εἰς τὸ φανερὸν ἐκτυπώσας καὶ τὰ αἰσχρὰ κρύψας; Lact. De Opif. 7,7; Ambr. Exam. 6, 72; Cyril. Hieros. Cat. 4, 22; Hier. Adv. Iovin. 1, 36; Aug. C. lulian. Op. imperf. 4, 37; C. Iulian. Pelag. 5, 33: quod in nostro corpore loca digestionis Balbus remota dixit a sensibus, ideo verum est quoniam sensus nostros ea quae digerimus non alliciunt sed offendunt; propterea pars qua egeruntur naturaliter aliis partibus altrinsecus prominentibus occultatur; Isid. Etym. 11, 1, 105; Michael Ephes. in Part. An. 4, p. 76, 34-36 Hayduck; Melet. De Nat. Hom. (Cramer, Anecd. Oxon. 3, 107-108): καθάπερ καὶ οἱ πόλεων τινῶν ἐπιμελούμενοι, ὀχετοὺς καὶ ἀμάρρας καὶ ῥύακας παρασκευάζουσιν εἰς λίμνας ἢ ποταμοὺς ἢ θαλάσσας τὰ συναγόμενα πέμποντες περιττά. Cf. also an analogous case in Aristot. Part. An. 4, 5, 681 b 26-28. Posidonius may here be attacking, on the grounds of nature's own creations, the offensive tenets and practices of the Cynics; cf. I. Heinemann, Poseidonios' metaphys. Schr. 2 (1928), 212; also M. Pohlenz, Ant. Führertum (1934), 75-76, with remarks on αἰδώς. On his general inclination to modesty and even euphemism cf. K. Reinhardt, Poseidonios (1921), 254, who remarks upon his omission from the discussion of refe­rence to the reproductive organs.



Happy the Man

Bacchylides, Victory Odes 5.50-55 (tr. Richard C. Jebb):
Happy is he to whom the god has granted a portion of honours, and a life of opulence, with enviable fortune: for no mortal man is blest in all things.

ὄλβιος ᾧτινι θεὸς        50
μοῖράν τε καλῶν ἔπορεν
σύν τ᾽ ἐπιζήλῳ τύχᾳ
ἀφνεὸν βιοτὰν διάγειν· οὐ
γάρ τις ἐπιχθονίων
πάντα γ᾽ εὐδαίμων ἔφυ.        55
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A Popular Orator

J.J. Ingalls, quoted in Daniel W. Wilder, Annals of Kansas (Topeka: Geo. W. Martin, Kansas Publishing House, 1875), p. 263 (May 10, 1861; on James H. Lane):
It would be hard to give a rational and satisfactory analysis of the causes of Gen. Lane's popularity as an orator. Destitute of all graces of the art, he possesses but few even of its essentials; he writhes himself into more contortions than Gabriel Ravel in a pantomime; his voice is a series of transitions from the broken scream of a maniac to the hoarse rasping gutturals of a Dutch butcher in the last gasp of inebriation; the construction of his sentences is loose and disjointed; his diction is a pudding of slang, profanity and solecism; and yet the electric shock of his extraordinary eloquence thrills like the blast of a trumpet; the magnetism of his manner, the fire of his glance, the studied earnestness of his utterance, find a sudden response in the will of his audience, and he sways them like a field of reeds shaken in the wind.

Thursday, May 09, 2024



Berthold L. Ullman, "Hints for Teachers," Classical Journal 20.4 (January, 1925) 246-248 (at 248):
A correspondent recalls the following which he read in copies of Harper's Drawer published 70 years ago:

Motto for a tea-caddy: Tu doces (thou tea-chest).

Motto given by a wag to a newly rich tobacconist who had just acquired a carriage: Quid rides (English pronunciation). Soon the tobacconist lost his money and absconded. The wag wrote on the door of the shop: Quid fles.

An English gentleman serving clam stew to his guests found much broth and few clams. In serving the last guest he searched long for a clam. Finally he brought up from the bottom of the tureen a single bivalve and exclaimed triumphantly: De profundis clam-avi (clam 'ave I).
Hat tip: Alan Crease.


The Rot at the Top

Plutarch, To an Uneducated Ruler 7 = Moralia 782 E-F (tr. Harold North Fowler):
Nor is it possible in positions of power for vices to be concealed. Epileptics, if they go up to a high place and move about, grow dizzy and reel, which makes their disease evident, and just so Fortune by such things as riches, reputations, or offices exalts uneducated and uncultured men a little and then, as soon as they have risen high, gives them a conspicuous fall; or, to use a better simile, just as in a number of vessels you could not tell which is whole and which is defective, but when you pour liquid into them the leak appears, just so corrupt souls cannot contain power, but leak out in acts of desire, anger, imposture, and bad taste.

οὐδὲ γὰρ λαθεῖν οἷόν τε τὰς κακίας ἐν ταῖς ἐξουσίαις· ἀλλὰ τοὺς μὲν ἐπιληπτικούς, ἂν ἐν ὕψει τινὶ γένωνται καὶ περιενεχθῶσιν, ἴλιγγος ἴσχει καὶ σάλος, ἐξελέγχων τὸ πάθος αὐτῶν, τοὺς δ᾽ ἀπαιδεύτους καὶ ἀμαθεῖς ἡ τύχη μικρὸν ἐκκουφίσασα πλούτοις τισὶν ἢ δόξαις ἢ ἀρχαῖς μετεώρους γενομένους εὐθὺς, ἑπιδείκνυσι πίπτοντας· μᾶλλον δ᾽, ὥσπερ τῶν κενῶν ἀγγείων οὐκ ἂν διαγνοίης τὸ ἀκέραιον καὶ πεπονηκός, ἀλλ᾽ ὅταν ἐγχέῃς, φαίνεται τὸ ῥέον· οὕτως αἱ σαθραὶ ψυχαὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας μὴ στέγουσαι ῥέουσιν ἔξω ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις, ταῖς ὀργαῖς, ταῖς ἀλαζονείαις, ταῖς ἀπειροκαλίαις.

Wednesday, May 08, 2024


Overcoming Obstacles

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), "Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit," V.17, Parerga und Paralipomena (tr. Sabine Roehr and Christopher Janaway):
Meanwhile, we should all do something in proportion to our abilities. For we realize the extent to which we are adversely affected by a lack of systematic activity, of some kind of work, on long pleasure trips, when we feel quite unhappy from time to time, because, lacking an actual occupation, we are, as it were, torn out of our natural elements. To labour and fight against resistance is a human need, as digging is for moles. The stagnation produced by the contentment of a lasting pleasure would be unbearable to us. Overcoming obstacles means the full enjoyment of our existence; they might be of a material nature, as in acting and doing, or of an intellectual nature, as in learning and investigating; struggling with them and winning make us happy.

Inzwischen treibe Jeder etwas, nach Maaßgabe seiner Fähigkeiten. Denn wie nachtheilig der Mangel an planmäßiger Thätigkeit, an irgend einer Arbeit, auf uns wirke, merkt man auf langen Vergnügungsreisen, als wo man, dann und wann, sich recht unglücklich fühlt; weil man, ohne eigentliche Beschäftigung, gleichsam aus seinem natürlichen Elemente gerissen ist. Sich zu mühen und mit dem Widerstande zu kämpfen ist dem Menschen Bedürfniß, wie dem Maulwurf das Graben. Der Stillstand, den die Allgenugsamkeit eines bleibenden Genusses herbeiführte, wäre ihm unerträglich. Hindernisse überwinden ist der Vollgenuß seines Daseyns; sie mögen materieller Art seyn, wie beim Handeln und Treiben, oder geistiger Art, wie beim Lernen und Forschen: der Kampf mit ihnen und der Sieg beglückt.

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