Work-Contests: Two Passages from the Odyssey about Manual Labor (For Labor Day, Of Course)

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A repeated motif in the Odyssey is Odysseus’ ability to do manual labor, often marked out in contrast with the suitors who just lay about consuming another man’s wealth.  While it is clear that this is not a revolutionary embrace of the lower classes’ life of labor, it nevertheless signals something of a Hesiodic appreciation for the difficulty of daily labor and the corruption of a life of leisure.

 

What better for Labor day than passages that make labor the subject of epic poetry?

(Even if it could be an example of aristocratic expropriation of the labor and labors of those who live beneath them…)

 

Odyssey 15.321-324

 

“No mortal could rival me in work:
No one could best me at building a fire or dry wood,
At serving at the table, cooking meat or serving wine–
All those tasks lesser men complete for their betters.”

 

 

δρηστοσύνῃ οὐκ ἄν μοι ἐρίσσειε βροτὸς ἄλλος,
πῦρ τ’ εὖ νηῆσαι διά τε ξύλα δανὰ κεάσσαι,
δαιτρεῦσαί τε καὶ ὀπτῆσαι καὶ οἰνοχοῆσαι,
οἷά τε τοῖς ἀγαθοῖσι παραδρώωσι χέρηες.”

 

 

Odyssey, 18.366-383

 

“Eurymachus: I wish the two of us could have a labor-contest
In the height of spring when the days are drawing longer,
In the thickening grass. I would grip the curved scythe
And you could hold the same thing, so we could test each other
At work, fasting right up to dusk where the grass was thick.
And then the next day we could drive the oxen, the strongest ones,
Bright and large, both stuffed full with their food,
A pair of the same age, equally burdened, their strength unwavering.
I’d wish for a four-acre parcel to put under the plow.
Then you’d see me, how I would cut a furrow straight from end to end.
Or if, instead, Kronos’ son would send me a war today,
And I would have a shield and two spears
Matched with a bronze helmet well-fit to my temples.
Then you’d see me mixing it up in the front lines
And you wouldn’t bawl about, belittling my hungry stomach.”

 

“Εὐρύμαχ’, εἰ γὰρ νῶϊν ἔρις ἔργοιο γένοιτο
ὥρῃ ἐν εἰαρινῇ, ὅτε τ’ ἤματα μακρὰ πέλονται,
ἐν ποίῃ, δρέπανον μὲν ἐγὼν εὐκαμπὲς ἔχοιμι,
καὶ δὲ σὺ τοῖον ἔχοις, ἵνα πειρησαίμεθα ἔργου
νήστιες ἄχρι μάλα κνέφαος, ποίη δὲ παρείη·
εἰ δ’ αὖ καὶ βόες εἶεν ἐλαυνέμεν, οἵ περ ἄριστοι,
αἴθωνες μεγάλοι, ἄμφω κεκορηότε ποίης,
ἥλικες ἰσοφόροι, τῶν τε σθένος οὐκ ἀλαπαδνόν,
τετράγυον δ’ εἴη, εἴκοι δ’ ὑπὸ βῶλος ἀρότρῳ·
τῶ κέ μ’ ἴδοις, εἰ ὦλκα διηνεκέα προταμοίμην.
εἰ δ’ αὖ καὶ πόλεμόν ποθεν ὁρμήσειε Κρονίων
σήμερον, αὐτὰρ ἐμοὶ σάκος εἴη καὶ δύο δοῦρε
καὶ κυνέη πάγχαλκος ἐπὶ κροτάφοισ’ ἀραρυῖα,
τῶ κέ μ’ ἴδοις πρώτοισιν ἐνὶ προμάχοισι μιγέντα,
οὐδ’ ἄν μοι τὴν γαστέρ’ ὀνειδίζων ἀγορεύοις.

Greek is a Given!

“Greek, then, is a postulate not further to be disputed. The problem is not whether Greek is worth while, but Greek being given, what is the best way of connecting it with the life of today? For the teacher, for the learner, the problem is how to teach, how to learn Greek so as to make it a part, or, if you choose, recognize it as a part of the moral and intellectual life of our time.”

-Basil L. Gildersleeve, The Channels of Life

Ancient Speculation on Homer and Hesiod: Aulus Gellius, 3.11

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“There is no consensus regarding the age of Homer and Hesiod. Some have written that Homer is older than Hesiod, among whom are Philochorus and Xenophanes. Others have written that he is younger, among whom are Lucius Accius the poet and Ephorus the historian. Marcus Varro, however, in his first book of On the Imagines, says that it is not sufficiently well established which one of them was born first, but he adds that there is no doubt that they both lived at the same time, and he notes that this is shown by an epigram which is written on a tripod which according to tradition was placed on Mount Helicon by Hesiod.

Accius however, in the first book of his Didascalia, uses some rather flimsy arguments by which he thinks he has proven that Hesiod is older. He writes, ‘Homer, in the beginning of his poem, says that Achilles is the son of Peleus, but he does not add anything about the identity of Peleus. He would have undoubtedly done so if not for the fact that Peleus’ biography was already given by Hesiod.’ He adds, ‘The same is true of the Cyclops. Homer would not have neglected to mention that the cyclops had only one eye if that fact had not previously been popularized by Hesiod.’

There is also much doubt about Homer’s place of birth. Some say that he is from Colophon, others from Smyrna, still others from Athens, and there are even some who say that he came from Egypt. Aristotle says that he came from the island of Ios. Marcus Varro, in his first book of On the Imagines, added this epigram to the portrait of Homer: ‘This white goat marks out the tomb of Homer, because this is the rite which the inhabitants of Ios perform for the dead.'”

Super aetate Homeri atque Hesiodi non consentitur.  Alii Homerum quam Hesiodum maiorem natu fuisse scripserunt, in quis Philochorus et Xenophanes, alii minorem, in quis L. Accius poeta et Ephorus historiae scriptor.  M. autem Varro in primo de imaginibus, uter prior sit natus, parum constare dicit, sed non esse dubium, quin aliquo tempore eodem vixerint, idque ex epigrammate ostendi, quod in tripode scriptum est, qui in monte Helicone ab Hesiodo positus traditur. Accius autem in primo didascalico levibus admodum argumentis utitur, per quae ostendi putat Hesiodum natu priorem: “quod Homerus,” inquit “cum in principio carminis Achillem esse filium Pelei diceret, quis esset Peleus, non addidit; quam rem procul” inquit “dubio dixisset, nisi ab Hesiodo iam dictum videret. De Cyclope itidem,” inquit “vel maxime quod unoculus fuit, rem tam insignem non praeterisset, nisi aeque prioris Hesiodi carminibus involgatum esset.” De patria quoque Homeri multo maxime dissensum est. Alii Colophonium, alii Smyrnaeum, sunt qui Atheniensem, sunt etiam qui Aegyptium fuisse dicant, Aristoteles tradidit ex insula Io. M. Varro in libro de imaginibus primo Homeri imagini epigramma hoc apposuit: capella Homeri candida haec tumulum indicat quod hac letae mortuo faciunt sacra.

Drinking with the Ancients: Homer, Anacreon, Theognis and Friends on Imbibing

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Just in time for the weekend: drinking advice from the ancient Theognisworld

Horace, Epistulae 1.19.6

“Homer is said to have been a drunkard because of his praise of wine”

laudibus arguitur vini vinosus Homerus

I don’t know that Horace didn’t have the following passage in mind:

Homer, Odyssey 14.464-6

“Wicked wine–which makes even a prudent man sing aloud, giggle, dance and speak some word better left unsaid–compels me.”

 …οἶνος γὰρ ἀνώγει
ἠλεός, ὅς τ᾽ ἐφέηκε πολύφρονά περ μάλ᾽ ἀεῖσαι
καί θ᾽ ἁπαλὸν γελάσαι, καί τ᾽ ὀρχήσασθαι ἀνῆκε,
καί τι ἔπος προέηκεν  περ τ᾽ ἄρρητον ἄμεινον.

So Odysseus in disguise speaks to Eumaios and his fellow swine-herds as they drink during an evening rainstorm. Here’s the full text.

But some ancient authors saw important connections between drinking and inspiration:

Cratinus, fr. 199

“Wine is like a swift horse for a charming poet; you won’t produce anything clever if you’re drinking water.”

οἶνός τοι χαρίεντι πέλει ταχὺς ἵππος ἀοιδῷ,
ὕδωρ δὲ πίνων οὐδὲν ἂν τέκοι σοφόν.

For orators or politicians, not drinking wine might have been an advantage, as Philostratus implies:

Lives of the Sophists, 507-8

“The conflict between Aeschines and Demosthenes began in part because of the fact that the one acted on behalf of the King and the other acted for another—as it seems to me. But there was also a difference of character: and hatred always seems to develop from characters that are strongly opposed to one another without any other cause. And the two were opposed for these reasons. Aeschines was a man who liked to drink, but he was sweet and had kind manners and he had the general charm of Dionysus; indeed, when he was in his youth he played parts for the tragic actors. But Demosthenes had a downcast face, a heavy brow, and he drank water: and for this reason he was assumed a ill-tempered and bad-mannered man….”

διαφορᾶς δ’ ἦρξεν Αἰσχίνῃ καὶ Δημοσθένει καὶ αὐτὸ μὲν τὸ ἄλλον ἄλλῳ βασιλεῖ πολιτεύειν, ὡς δ’ ἐμοὶ φαίνεται, τὸ ἐναντίως ἔχειν καὶ τῶν ἠθῶν, ἐξ ἠθῶν γὰρ ἀλλήλοις ἀντιξόων φύεται μῖσος αἰτίαν οὐκ ἔχον. ἀντιξόω δ’ ἤστην καὶ διὰ τάδε• ὁ μὲν Αἰσχίνης φιλοπότης τε ἐδόκει καὶ ἡδὺς καὶ ἀνειμένος καὶ πᾶν τὸ ἐπίχαρι ἐκ Διονύσου ᾑρηκώς, καὶ γὰρ δὴ καὶ τοῖς βαρυστόνοις ὑποκριταῖς τὸν ἐν μειρακίῳ χρόνον ὑπετραγῴδησεν, ὁ δ’ αὖ συννενοφώς τε ἐφαίνετο καὶ βαρὺς τὴν ὀφρὺν καὶ ὕδωρ πίνων, ὅθεν [ἐν] δυσκόλοις τε καὶ δυστρόποις ἐνεγράφετο…

Theognis of Megara had some things to say about drinking:

Theognis 989-990

“Drink whenever they drink but let no man discover you’re burdened
whenever you’re sick in the heart.”

Πῖν’ ὁπόταν πίνωσιν· ὅταν δέ τι θυμὸν ἀσηθῆις,
μηδεὶς ἀνθρώπων γνῶι σε βαρυνόμενον.

Perhaps Theognis was concerned about a talkative friend:

Anonymous Lyrics (Plutarch, Table-Talk 1)

“I hate the drinking buddy who doesn’t forget.”

μισέω μνάμονα συμπόταν

One might be better served going out with a dedicated drinker like Anacreon:

Anacreon Fr. 356 a (Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 10.427ab)

“Bring me a bowl so I can  drink straight without breathing”

ἄγε δὴ φέρ᾿ ἡμῖν ὦ παῖ
κελέβην, ὅκως ἄμυστιν

προπίω…

But he might force others to practice what he thinks is right for himself.  A tragedian we know would object:

Sophocles, Fr. 735 (Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 10, 428 A)

“Drinking under compulsion is an evil equal to thirst”

τὸ πρὸς βίαν / πίνειν ἴσον πέφυκε τῷ διψῆν κακόν

But perhaps we should listen to Theognis and take some good advice:

Theognis 627-628

“It is shameful when a man is drunk among the sober
and it is shameful if man remains sober among drunks.”

Αἰσχρόν τοι μεθύοντα παρ’ ἀνδράσι νήφοσιν εἶναι,
αἰσχρὸν δ’ εἰ νήφων πὰρ μεθύουσι μένει

I guess we should always heed the old adage that “like attracts like”.

Just in case you’re still trying to work things out, lots of Greeks had things to say about wine and drinking:

Panyassis fr. 12 (19 W; Stobaeus 3.18.21)

“A mortal who does not draw wine to his heart’s delight does not seem to me to be alive or to live the life of an enduring man—he’s a moron.”

οὐ γάρ μοι ζώειν γε δοκεῖ βροτὸς οὐδὲ βιῶναι
ἀνθρώποιο βίον ταλασίφρονος, ὅστις ἀπ’ οἴνου
θυμὸν ἐρητύσας πίνει ποτόν, ἄλλ’ ἐνεόφρων.

Panyassis fr. 12 (19 W)

“Mortals have a fine gift equal to fire: wine, a defense against evil and companion of any song.”

οἶνος γὰρ πυρὶ ἶσον ἐπιχθονίοισιν ὄνειαρ
ἐσθλόν, ἀλεξίκακον, πάσης συνοπηδὸν ἀοιδῆς.

Cypria, Fragment 17 (18W) (Athenaeus, Deipnosophists)

“Menelaus, the best thing the gods made to scatter the cares of mortal men is wine”

οἶνόν τοι, Μενέλαε, θεοὶ ποίησαν ἄριστον
θνητοῖς ἀνθρώποισιν ἀποσκεδάσαι μελεδῶνας.

Alcaeus 347. 3-4 (Athenaeus, Deipnosophists x 430c-d)

“Wine, the thing Semele and Zeus’ son gave to men
an amnesia from their troubles.”

οἶνον γὰρ Σεμέλας καὶ Δίος υἶος λαθικάδεον
ἀνθρώποισιν ἔδωκ’.

Alcaeus, fragment 335

“Bucchus, the best of all medicine for those who have wine is getting drunk”

ὦ Βύκχι, φαρμάκων δ’ ἄριστον
οἶνον ἐνεικαμένοις μεθύσθην

And when you want to impress with a toast, this one works well:

Drinking Songs, 890 ( schol. Plato Gorg. 451e)

“The best thing for a mortal man is to be healthy
And second, to be pretty.
Third, is to be wealthy without deceit.
And fourth is to be young with friends.”

ὑγιαίνειν μὲν ἄριστον ἀνδρὶ θνητῶ̣

δεύτερον δὲ καλὸμ φυὰν γενέσθαι

τὸ τρίτον δὲ πλουτεῖν ἀδόλως

καὶ τέταρτον ἡβᾶν μετὰ τῶν φίλων

And, finally, some more instructive drinking songs:

Carm. Conv. 17

“I wish I could turn into an ivory lyre
And that beautiful children would carry me to the Dionysian dance.”

εἴθε λύρα καλὴ γενοίμην ἐλεφαντίνη
καί με καλοὶ παῖδες φέροιεν Διονύσιον ἐς χορόν.

Carm. Conv. 6

“What kind of man each person is
I wish I could know by opening his chest and then
Looking at his mind and after closing it again
To recognize a dear friend by his guileless thought”

εἴθ’ ἐξῆν ὁποῖός τις ἦν ἕκαστος
τὸ στῆθος διελόντ’, ἔπειτα τὸν νοῦν
ἐσιδόντα, κλείσαντα πάλιν,
ἄνδρα φίλον νομίζειν ἀδόλωι φρενί.

Ne Quid Nimis: Pattison, Pindar, and Pedantry

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“It cannot be emphasized too much that this thing of classical reserve, this ne quid nimis, may be overdone. Many of the classics themselves lack classical reserve. The editors of Pindar have most of them ceased to vindicate Pindar’s style. In the matter of metaphor, says Schroeder, he is still ‘crude and unclarified.’ But what can be more ‘crude and unclarified’ than the following passage, which I take from Mark Pattison, the erudite biographer of Casaubon, a man steeped in every kind of lore, classical and other? ‘Even at this day a country squire or rector in landing with his cub under his wing in Oxford finds himself very much at sea.‘ Since reading this I have given myself very little concern about Pindar’s mixed metaphors or mine.”

-Basil L. Gildersleeve, The Channels of Life

A Tough Choice: Aulus Gellius, 4.8

“Fabricius Luscinus was a man who had attained great glory and performed many great deeds. Publius Cornelius Rufus was a man of action, a good warrior, and was pretty well versed in military discipline, but he was a thieving rogue cursed with bitter avarice. Fabricius did not approve of him, nor were they on friendly terms; this hatred was the result of Rufinus’ character. But when, in the crisis of the Roman Republic, there was a need for creating consuls, Rufinus sought the consulship against a crowd of competitors who were unwarlike and not to be entrusted with such an office, Fabricius used all of his power to make sure that Rufinus obtained the consulship. Many wondered at this extraordinary thing, that he should wish to make consul a man whom he hated most of all; Fabricius responded to this surprise by saying, ‘I would rather be fleeced by a Roman citizen than sold into slavery by an enemy.'”

Fabricius Luscinus magna gloria vir magnisque rebus gestis fuit.  P. Cornelius Rufinus manu quidem strenuus et bellator bonus militarisque disciplinae peritus admodum fuit, sed furax homo et avaritia acri erat.  Hunc Fabricius non probabat neque amico utebatur osusque eum morum causa fuit. Sed cum in temporibus rei difficillimis consules creandi forent et is Rufinus peteret consulatum competitoresque eius essent inbelles quidam et futtiles, summa ope adnixus est Fabricius, uti Rufino consulatus deferretur. Eam rem plerisque admirantibus, quod hominem avarum, cui esset inimicissimus, creari consulem vellet, “malo,” inquit “civis me compilet, quam hostis vendat”.

Some Divergent Greek Views on Heroes: Pluralism in Ancient Poetry

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Pindar Olympian 2.2

“What god, what hero and what man will we celebrate?”

τίνα θεόν, τίν’ ἥρωα, τίνα δ’ ἄνδρα κελαδήσομεν;

 

The Greeks have left us some evidence for attitudes about heroes that might surprise some modern readers. The line from Pindar above is a classic account of the hero as a mid-point between man and god, sharing in both worlds but truly part of neither.

One of the things that is different from our usage is that Greek heroes represent, in some readings, a particular generation in time (the race before ours, according to Hesiod in the Works and Days). And this race of heroes whose trials and tribulations give us so many myths included men and women, as the poet Corinna would remind us:

 

Corinna, fr.644 (Apollonius Dyskolus, Pronouns)

“I sing of the virtues of heroes and heroines.”

ἱώνει δ᾿ εἱρώων ἀρετὰς / χεἰρωάδων

 

This ‘race’ of heroes was appropriated to different contexts to different ends. As in our modern world, ‘heroes’ were sometimes portrayed as defenders of men and protectors of the community—and to an extent this is how they feature in the martial poetry of Kallinos of Sparta:

 

Kallinos, Fr. 1.18-21

“The loss is felt by the whole country when a brave man dies,
A man the equal of heroes;
Someone they see as a fortress before their eyes;
Someone who does the work of many even when alone.”

 

λαῶι γὰρ σύμπαντι πόθος κρατερόφρονος ἀνδρὸς
θνήσκοντος, ζώων δ’ ἄξιος ἡμιθέων·
ὥσπερ γάρ μιν πύργον ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ὁρῶσιν·
ἔρδει γὰρ πολλὼν ἄξια μοῦνος ἐών.

 

But the Greeks, like everyone throughout time, were far from unanimous in their opinions about heroes. In the fragments of early comedy, for example, heroes are singled out for that which is their nature: being singled out, and different:

 

Myrtilus, fr. 2 (Titan-pans; Scholia to Aristophanes’ Birds)

“Heroes get ornery and mean when people get too close.”

οἵ ἥρωες δὲ δυσόργητοι καὶ χαλεποὶ τοῖς ἐμπελάζουσι γίνονται

 

And even in early epic, what it means to be a hero is at play. The Iliad and the Odyssey give very different versions of what it means to be heroic (and they oscillate among differing visions in the same narrative. Other epic fragments play with the debates offered in the Homeric poems.

 

Panyasis fr. 12K (=16 Benarbe) 8-9

“I would make the fame of the man who enjoys himself at the feast equal to the one earned by commanding the rest of the army.”

τοῦ κεν ἐγὼ θείμην ἶσον κλέος, ὅς τ’ ἐνὶ δαιτὶ
τέρπηται παρεὼν ἅμα τ’ ἄλλον λαὸν ἀνώγῃ

 

In part, the exploration of what it means to be a hero is a further step in the definition of what it means to be a man, to be a human being, and to live together as people in a city. One of the things that both the Iliad and the Odyssey dramatize is the danger that their heroes can both fend off and cause to their people. This was probably a current in the thought of early Greek philosophers and poets.

 

Xenophanes, Fragment 2. 16-19

“Swiftness of feet—the thing honored most in all of man’s acts of strength in the contest—could never make a city governed well.”

οὐδὲ μὲν εἰ ταχυτῆτι ποδῶν, τόπερ ἐστὶ πρότιμον,
ῥώμης ὅσσ’ ἀνδρῶν ἔργ’ ἐν ἀγῶνι πέλει,
τούνεκεν ἂν δὴ μᾶλλον ἐν εὐνομίηι πόλις εἴη·

By the time of Classical Athens, it was clear that the outsized ambitions (and honors) of individuals could be undermining to the state. Herein lies the quandary: cities need great men to protect them, but their very strengths often bring ruin. This is dramatized in the heroic myths from Herakles through Odysseus and explored as well in Athenian tragedy.

 

And to end, some random, confusing samples:

 

 

Euripides, fr. 237 (Archelaus)

 

“A young man ought to be bold always,
Since no laid-back man becomes famous.
Work gives birth to a good reputation.”

 

νεανίαν γὰρ ἄνδρα χρὴ τολμᾶν ἀεί·
οὐδεὶς γὰρ ὢν ῥᾴθυμος εὐκλεὴς ἀνήρ,
ἀλλ’ οἱ πόνοι τίκτουσι τὴν εὐδοξίαν.

 

 

Euripides, fr. 257 (Archelaus)

 

“A rash heart and a limited mind
Has destroyed many men: dual evils for whoever has them.”

 

πολλοὺς δ’ ὁ θυμὸς ὁ μέγας ὤλεσεν βροτῶν
ἥ τ’ ἀξυνεσία, δύο κακὼ τοῖς χρωμένοις.

 

 

Euripides, fr. 275 (Auge)

 

“Pray that all who rejoice in tyranny,
Or in some small monarchy in their city, die terribly.
The name ‘freedom’ is worth everything—
Even if he possesses a little, a man who has this is considered great.”

 

κακῶς δ’ ὄλοιντο πάντες οἳ τυραννίδι
χαίρουσιν ὀλίγῃ τ’ ἐν πόλει μοναρχίᾳ·
τοὐλεύθερον γὰρ ὄνομα παντὸς ἄξιον,
κἂν σμίκρ’ ἔχῃ τις, μεγάλ’ ἔχειν νομιζέτω.

Religion, Superstition, and Adjectives in -osus: Aulus Gellius, 4.9

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What the Word “Religiosus” Properly Signifies; and How That Meaning Has Changed; and the Words of Nigidius Figulus, Taken from His Commentaries, Concerning That Matter

Nigidius Figulus, who was – in my opinion – the most learned man next to Marcus Varro, in the eleventh book of his grammatical commentaries recalls a verse from an ancient song which seems truly worthy of note:

‘You should be religious (religentem), so that you do not become superstitious (religiosus).’

He does not however record whose poem this was. And in the same place, Nigidius says, ‘The suffix -osus in words of this sort, such as vinosusmulierosus, religiosus, indicates a certain unseemly abundance of the thing in question. On that account someone is called religiosus if he has bound himself up with a certain excessive and superstitious religion. That sort of thing is reckoned up as a fault.'”

Quid significet proprie “religiosus”; et in quae diverticula significatio istius vocabuli flexa sit; et verba Nigidii Figuli ex commentariis eius super ea re sumpta. Nigidius Figulus, homo, ut ego arbitror, iuxta M. Varronem doctissimus, in undecimo commentariorum grammaticorum versum ex antiquo carmine refert memoria hercle dignum:
religentem esse oportet, religiosus ne fuas,
cuius autem id carmen sit, non scribit. 2 Atque in eodem loco Nigidius: “Hoc” inquit “inclinamentum semper huiuscemodi verborum, ut “vinosus”, “mulierosus”, “religiosus”, significat copiam quandam inmodicam rei, super qua dicitur. Quocirca “religiosus” is appellabatur, qui nimia et superstitiosa religione sese alligaverat, eaque res vitio assignabatur.”

Tantalizing Testimonia: A Collection of Tidbits on the Homeric Batrakhomuomakhia

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Yes, we are obsessed with the Homeric “Battle of Frogs and Mice”–but that obsession is nearing its telos as we get closer to completing our commentary.  Here is a random collection of ancient testimonies about the poem:

Greek Anthology, Exhortatory Epigrams 90.1–2:

῞Ομηρος αὐτοῦ γυμνάσαι γνῶσιν θέλων, / τῶν βατράχων ἔπλασε καὶ μυῶν μῦθον.

“Because he wanted to exercise his mind / Homer made up the tale of frogs and mice”

Preface to the Scholia to the Batrakhomuomakhia

“[Homer] adapted epic for young children who were especially excited for games [paignia], those whom a general education still milk-fed”.

ἁρμόζει μείραξιν ἁπαλοῖς ὲπτοημένοις περὶ τὰ παίγνια, ὅσους δηλαδὴ ἔτι ἐγκύκλιος παίδευσις γαλακτοτροφεῖ

Plutarch, On the Malice of Herodotus

“And last of all, [he made] the Greeks who were stationed at Plataia ignorant of the contest right up to the end of it, as if there were a Frog-War going on, the kind of thing Pigres wrote while playing around nonsensically in epic verse.”

τέλος δέ, καθημένους ἐν Πλαταιαῖς ἀγνοῆσαι μέχρι τέλους τὸν ἀγῶνα τοὺς ῞Ελληνας, ὥσπερ βατραχομαχίας γινομένης, ἣν Πίγρης ὁ ᾿Αρτεμισίας ἐν ἔπεσι παίζων καὶ φλυαρῶν ἔγραψε.

Statius, Preface to Silvae 8-10

“But we read the Culex and we know the Batrachomachia too / there is no famous poet who has not toyed in style more relaxed than in his other works”

sed et Culicem legimus et Batrachomachiam etiam agnoscimus, nec quisquam est inlustrium poetarum qui non aliquid operibus suis stilo remissiore praeluserit 

Martial, Epigram 14.183

“Read the frogs sung in Maeonian song / or my trifles to smooth out your brow”

, Perlege Maeonio cantatas carmine ranas / Et frontem nugis solvere disce meis ().

Plut. Life of Agesilaos. 15.5:

“Men, when we were defeating Darius there, it was like a Mouse-battle in Arcadia”

῎Εοικεν, ὦ ἄνδρες, ὅτε Δαρεῖον ἡμεῖς ἐνικῶμεν ἐνταῦθα, ἐκεῖ τις ἐν ᾿Αρκαδίᾳ γεγονέναι μυομαχία

A Doorkeeper in the House of Philology

“A great teacher, one to whose living presence I owe a great deal, one whom I love to recall in his flashing prime, has said: Enthusiasm abides only in specialization. Rightly interpreted, I believe in this also. A man who simply raves about the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome is one for whom the real lover of antiquity has little respect. A man who exhausts his English vocabulary in extolling a Greek orator and mistranslates the passages that he selects for especial comment is worse than the infidel who does not believe in Greek. It is better to be a doorkeeper in the house of philology than to dwell in the tents of the rhetorician.”

-Basil L. Gildersleeve, The Channels of Life

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