Cicero the Bibliophile, ad Atticum 1.11.3


“Be careful not to lend your books to anyone; save them, as you wrote, for me. I have a zeal for them which is matched only by my detestation of all other things right now…”


Libros vero tuos cave cuiquam tradas; nobis eos, quem ad modum scribis, conserva. Summum me eorum studium tenet sicut odium iam ceterarum rerum

Simonides, Fr. 17: Don’t Say Anything About Tomorrow


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“Since you are a human being, never mention what happens tomorrow
Nor, if you see a lucky man, say how long he will be so.
For not even the flick of a wide-winged fly
Is as swift as this

[in some texts the following is added]

Everything comes to a single, dreadful Charybis—
The great virtues and wealth the same.”


ἄνθρωπος ἐὼν μή ποτε φάσηις ὅ τι γίνεται 〚αὔριον〛,
μηδ’ ἄνδρα ἰδὼν ὄλβιον ὅσσον χρόνον ἔσσεται·
ὠκεῖα γὰρ οὐδὲ τανυπτερύγου μυίας
οὕτως ἁ μετάστασις.
πάντα γὰρ μίαν ἱκνεῖται δασπλῆτα Χάρυβδιν,
αἱ μεγάλαι τ’ ἀρεταὶ καὶ ὁ πλοῦτος.

Upon correcting beginning Greek exams, I wish I had taken Simonides’ advice when getting a little too excited yesterday.

If only Fleetwood Mac had read this poem, we might have been spared this:

Using The Ancient World to Think about Leadership


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In a class of mine this semester on Leadership in the Ancient World, students were asked to work in groups for their final project and to use some inspiration from ancient literature and history to develop approaches to teaching about leadership.

The project had few other instructions besides that; and the students developed some entertaining and fabulous final products.

One group, inspired by Homer and discussions of the metaphor of “shepherd of the host”, created a Jenga Challenge–they asked groups of students around campus to designate a leader and complete a giant Jenga task in exchange for cookies. I would tell you more, but the video tells it all.

Another group of students, inspired by decision-making scenes in the Odyssey made a choose your own adventure comic book based on the scene in Polyphemos’ cave. The site Pixton has the digital version, but the paper edition is amazing.

choose your own

Another group banded together and started a website called HomerandHomies where they are sharing their own stories, experiments, interviews and thoughts about the ancient world and leadership.  Any summary here fails to describe their work.

Some highlights include: an analysis of the Beatles’ leadership issues informed by the conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon; A piece of fiction about a football team based on Odysseus’ struggles to get home; leadership advice from that wily hero Himself; and a debate about education modeled on Plato’s Lesser Hippias..

To all readers, check out these projects.  To my students, I cannot express my gratitude for a wonderful semester.

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.218-227: Children, Shipwrecked into Life


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“Why does nature nourish and increase the races
of horrible beasts, enemies to humankind on land and sea?
Why do the seasons of the year bring diseases?
Why does an early death come suddenly?
So a child, just like a shipwrecked man tossed by savage waves,
lies naked and speechless on the ground needing everything required
to support life at the very moment when nature pours him
from his mother’s womb into the world of light,
he fills the room with a sorrowful wail, as if he knows
the measure of troubles that still remain for him to endure in life.”

praeterea genus horriferum natura ferarum
humanae genti infestum terraque marique
cur alit atque auget? cur anni tempora morbos
adportant? quare mors inmatura vagatur?
tum porro puer, ut saevis proiectus ab undis
navita, nudus humi iacet infans indigus omni
vitali auxilio, cum primum in luminis oras
nixibus ex alvo matris natura profudit,
vagituque locum lugubri complet, ut aequumst
cui tantum in vita restet transire malorum.

Aesop, Fabula 302: Mouse Meets Frog; Frog Drowns Mouse; Bird Eats Both


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“There was a time when all the animals spoke the same language. A mouse who was on friendly terms with a frog, invited him to dinner and led him into a storehouse of his wealth where he kept his bread, cheese, honey, dried figs and all of his precious things. And he said “Eat whatever you wish, Frog.” Then the Frog responded: “When you come visit me, you too will have your fill of fine things. But I don’t want you to be nervous, so I will fasten your foot to my foot.” After the Frog bound his foot to the mouse’s and dragging him in this way, he pulled the tied-up mouse into the pond. While he drowned, he said “I am being mortified by you, but I will be avenged by someone still alive!” A bird who saw the mouse afloat flew down and seized him. The Frog went aloft with him too and thus, the bird slaughtered them both.

A wicked plot between friends is thus a danger to them both”

ὅτε ἦν ὁμόφωνα τὰ ζῷα, μῦς βατράχῳ φιλιωθεὶς ἐκάλεσεν αὐτὸν εἰς δεῖπνον καὶ ἀπήγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς ταμιεῖον πλουσίου, ὅπου ἦν ἄρτος, τυρός, μέλι, ἰσχάδες καὶ ὅσα
ἀγαθά, καί φησιν „ἔσθιε, βάτραχε, ἐξ ὧν βούλει.” ὁ δὲ βάτραχος ἔλεγε• „ἐλθὼν οὖν καὶ σὺ πρὸς ἐμὲ ἐμπλήσθητι τῶν ἀγαθῶν μου. ἀλλ’ ἵνα μὴ ὄκνος σοι γένηται, προσαρτήσω τὸν πόδα σου τῷ ποδί μου.” δήσας οὖν ὁ βάτραχος τὸν πόδα τοῦ μυὸς τῷ ἑαυτοῦ ποδὶ ἥλατο εἰς τὴν λίμνην ἕλκων καὶ τὸν μῦν δέσμιον. ὁ δὲ πνιγόμενος ἔλεγεν• „ἐγὼ μὲν ὑπό σου νεκρωθήσομαι, ἐκδικήσομαι δὲ ὑπὸ ζῶντος.” λούππης δὲ θεασάμενος τὸν μῦν πλέοντα καταπτὰς ἥρπα-σεν. ἐφέλκετο οὖν σὺν αὐτῷ καὶ ὁ βάτραχος καὶ οὕτως ἀμφοτέρους διεσπάραξεν.
ὅτι ἡ τῶν φίλων πονηρὰ συμβουλὴ καὶ ἑαυτοῖς κίνδυνος γίνεται.

Note 1: ὁμόφωνα τὰ ζῷα, “common animal language”: It is unclear whether, in these halcyon days before the fall from linguistic harmony, a Frog would squeak or a Mouse would croak when in the other’s company.

Note 2: ἐμπλήσθητι τῶν ἀγαθῶν :”you will have your fill of good things”. If the Mouse knew his Pindar (῎Αριστον μὲν ὕδωρ, 1.1), he would suspect that the Frog will do what in fact does, which is to fill his lungs with water. This illustrates that good things are in fact relative. A Mouse and Frog will hold different things dear.

The Battle of Frogs and Mice, Part 10: Carnage; Murine Aristeia; Gods Intervene


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In our last episode, the Mice and Frogs joined battle…the fight rages on!

“Platelicker then killed blameless Mudbedder
as he sprung at him with his shield. Then darkness covered his eyes.
When Greenstalk saw this he dragged Smoke-hunter by the foot
overpowered him, and drowned him in the pond as he reached out his hand.
Crumbthief defended his dead friend
and hurled at Greenstalk through his stomach into his liver–
then he fell forward then his soul descended to Hades.
Cabbage-treader saw this and threw a lump of mud at him;
it smeared his face and blinded him a little bit.
When he was enraged by this, he grabbed a heavy rock
Lying on the ground, a burden to the earth, with his stout hand
and he struck Cabbagetreader with it below the knees. His right greave
was completely shattered and he fell from high to the dust.
Croakerson defended him and went straight at the other guy
striking him in the middle of the stomach. The sharp reed
pierced into him and all of his guts poured out
around the spear as it was withdrawn by the strong hand.
When Holedweller saw this from the banks of the river,
He retreated from the battle to stop, since he terribly worn out.
He rushed into the ditches in order to flee the sheer destruction.
Breadmuncher struck Bellowmouth on the top of the foot.
And as he was pressed down he fled driven into the pond.
And when Greenstalk saw him falling half-choked
He went through the champions and hurled his sharp-reed.
He didn’t break the shield and the tip of the spear held fast.
Shining Oregano didn’t hit the four-measured, blameless helm
As he imitated Ares himself
Who alone prevailed through the engagement among the frogs.
And he rushed at him. But when he saw him, he didn’t wait for
The strong heroes, but he dived into the depths of the pond.

There was a child among the mice who stood out from all others
Pieceplunder, the dear son of blameless Grater the Bread-councilor.
He was on his way home; he had ordered the child to refrain from war.
But he was threatening to eliminate the race of the frogs
as he stood nearby desiring to fight with force
First, he split a nut along its middle into two halves
and set them on both his naked hands as defense,
then everyone feared him and scattered around the pond.
He would have achieved his goal since his strength was so great
if the father of men and gods had not taken note.
Kronos’ son pitied the dying frogs;
He spoke this kind of speech as he shook his head.
“O friends, I really see a wonder with my eyes
Pieceplunder worries me not a little as he crosses as
a thief among the frogs. But quickly then
Let’s send war-rousing Pallas and Ares too
who will restrain him from battle though he is mighty.”

So Zeus spoke and Ares responded with a speech:
“Son of Cronus, neither the power of Athena or Ares
Is able to ward steep destruction from the frogs.
Let’s all go as allies. Or maybe you should
brandish your arms. Whoever is best will be caught in this way
As when you killed the stout man Kapaneus
and great Engkelados and fierce tribes of the giants.”

231 Λειχοπίναξ δ’ ἔκτεινεν ἀμύμονα Βορβοροκοίτην,
232 ἔγχει ἐπαΐξας• τὸν δὲ σκότος ὄσσε κάλυψεν.
233 Πρασσαῖος δὲ ἰδὼν ποδὸς εἵλκυσε Κνισσοδιώκτην ,
234 ἐν λίμνῃ δ’ ἀπέπνιξε κρατήσας χειρὶ τένοντα.
235 Ψιχάρπαξ δ’ ἤμυν’ ἑτάρου περὶ τεθνειῶτος
236 καὶ βάλε Πρασσαῖον κατὰ νηδύος ἐς μέσον ἧπαρ,
237 πῖπτε δέ οἱ πρόσθεν, ψυχὴ δ’ ᾿Αϊδόσδε βεβήκει.
238 Κραμβοβάτης δὲ ἰδὼν πηλοῦ δράκα ῥίψεν ἐπ’ αὐτόν,
239 καὶ τὸ μέτωπον ἔχρισε καὶ ἐξετύφλου παρὰ μικρόν.
240 ὠργίσθη δ’ ἄρ’ ἐκεῖνος, ἑλὼν δ’ ἄρα χειρὶ παχείῃ
241 κείμενον ἐν δαπέδῳ λίθον ὄβριμον, ἄχθος ἀρούρης,
242 τῷ βάλε Κραμβοβάτην ὑπὸ γούνατα• πᾶσα δ’ ἐκλάσθη
243 κνήμη δεξιτερή, πέσε δ’ ὕπτιος ἐν κονίῃσι.
244 Κραυγασίδης δ’ ἤμυνε καὶ αὖθις βαῖνεν ἐπ’ αὐτόν,
245 τύψε δέ οἱ μέσσην κατὰ γαστέρα• πᾶς δέ οἱ εἴσω
246 ὀξύσχοινος ἔδυνε, χαμαὶ δ’ ἔκχυντο ἅπαντα
247 ἔγκατ’ ἐφελκομένῳ ὑπὸ δούρατι χειρὶ παχείῃ•
248 Τρωγλοδύτης δ’ ὡς εἶδεν ἐπ’ ὄχθῃσιν ποταμοῖο,
249 σκάζων ἐκ πολέμου ἀνεχάζετο, τείρετο δ’ αἰνῶς•
250 ἥλατο δ’ ἐς τάφρους, ὅππως φύγῃ αἰπὺν ὄλεθρον.
251 Τρωξάρτης δ’ ἔβαλεν Φυσίγναθον ἐς ποδὸς ἄκρον.
252 ἔσχατος δ’ ἐκ λίμνης ἀνεδύσετο, τείρετο δ’ αἰνῶς
253 Πρασσαῖος δ’ ὡς εἶδεν ἔθ’ ἡμίπνουν προπεσόντα,
254 ἦλθε διὰ προμάχων καὶ ἀκόντισεν ὀξύσχοινον•
255 οὐδ’ ἔρρηξε σάκος, σχέτο δ’ αὐτοῦ δουρὸς ἀκωκή•
256 οὐδ’ ἔβαλε τρυφάλειαν ἀμύμονα καὶ τετράχυτρον
257 δῖος ᾿Οριγανίων, μιμούμενος αὐτὸν ῎Αρηα,
258 ὃς μόνος ἐν βατράχοισιν ἀρίστευεν καθ’ ὅμιλον•
259 ὥρμησεν δ’ ἄρ’ ἐπ’ αὐτόν• ὁ δ’ ὡς ἴδεν οὐχ ὑπέμεινεν
ἥρωας κρατερούς, ἀλλ’ ἔδυνε βένθεσι λίμνης

260 ῏Ην δέ τις ἐν μυσὶ παῖς Μεριδάρπαξ ἔξοχος ἄλλων,
261 Κναίσωνος φίλος υἱὸς ἀμύμονος ἀρτεπιβούλου•
262 οἴκαδ’ ἴεν, πολέμου δὲ μετασχεῖν παῖδ’ ἐκέλευεν•
263 οὗτος ἀναρπάξαι βατράχων γενεὴν ἐπαπείλει•
264 ἀγχοῦ δ’ ἕστηκεν μενεαίνων ἶφι μάχεσθαι
265 καὶ ῥήξας καρύοιο μέσην ῥάχιν εἰς δύο μοίρας
266 φράγδην ἀμφοτέροισι κενώμασι χεῖρας ἔθηκεν•
267 οἱ δὲ τάχος δείσαντες ἔβαν πάντες κατὰ λίμνην•
268 καί νύ κεν ἐξετέλεσσεν ἐπεὶ μέγα οἱ σθένος ἦεν,
269 εἰ μὴ ἄρ’ ὀξὺ νόησε πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε.
270 καὶ τότ’ ἀπολλυμένους βατράχους ᾤκτειρε Κρονίων,
271 κινήσας δὲ κάρη τοίην ἐφθέγξατο φωνήν•
272 ῍Ω πόποι ἦ μέγα θαῦμα τόδ’ ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ὁρῶμαι•
273 [οὐ μικρόν με πλήσσει Mεριδάρπαξ ὃς κατὰ λίμνην ]
274 ῞aρπαξ ἐν βατράχοισιν ἀμείβεται• ἀλλὰ τάχιστα
275 Παλλάδα πέμψωμεν πολεμόκλονον ἢ καὶ ῎Αρηα,
276 οἵ μιν ἐπισχήσουσι μάχης κρατερόν περ ἐόντα.
277 ῝Ως ἄρ’ ἔφη Κρονίδης• ῎Αρης δ’ ἀπαμείβετο μύθῳ•
278 οὔτ’ ἄρ’ ᾿Αθηναίης Κρονίδη σθένος οὔτε ῎Αρηος
279 ἰσχύει βατράχοισιν ἀμυνέμεν αἰπὺν ὄλεθρον.
280 ἀλλ’ ἄγε πάντες ἴωμεν ἀρηγόνες• ἢ τὸ σὸν ὅπλον
281 κινείσθω• οὕτω γὰρ ἁλώσεται ὅς τις ἄριστος,
282 ὥς ποτε καὶ Καπανῆα κατέκτανες ὄβριμον ἄνδρα
283 καὶ μέγαν ᾿Εγκελάδοντα καὶ ἄγρια φῦλα Γιγάντων.

Callimachus, Epigram 8: Even in Death, Stepmothers are Deadly


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“A boy was placing a garland on his stepmother’s grave
Believing that she had softened her ways after death
But the stone leaned and fell and killed the child.
Avoid your stepmother, even in death, first sons!”

Στήλην μητρυιῆς, μικρὰν λίθον, ἔστεφε κοῦρος,
ὡς βίον ἠλλάχθαι καὶ τρόπον οἰόμενος•
ἡ δὲ τάφῳ κλινθεῖσα κατέκτανε παῖδα πεσοῦσα.
φεύγετε μητρυιῆς καὶ τάφον οἱ πρόγονοι.

The Indefatigable Lover: Propertius 2.22.25-34


“Jupiter slept with Alcmene two nights, and for two nights the heavens missed their king. He did not on that account languidly resume his thunderbolt: no lovemaking defrauded him of his virility. When Achilles left the embrace of Briseis, did the Phrygians then flee his missiles less? Did the Mycenaean ships fear the war less because Hector had just come from Andromache’s bed? Hector could have burnt those ships, Achilles could have leveled those walls: in this I am Achilles, in this am I Hector.”


Iuppiter Alcmenae geminas requieverat Arctos,
et caelum noctu bis sine rege fuit;
nec tamen idcirco languens ad fulmina venit:
nullus amor vires eripit ipse suas.
quid? cum e complexu Briseidos iret Achilles,
num fugere minus Thessala tela Phryges?
quid? ferus Andromachae lecto cum surgeret Hector
bella Mycenaeae non timuere rates?
ille vel hic classis poterant vel perdere muros:
hic ego Pelides, hic ferus Hector ego.

Catullus 106: Take Care in the Company You Keep (Or, Don’t Be Pretty)


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“If you see a pimp out with a pretty boy,
can you help but believe that he wants to sell himself?”

Cum puero bello praeconem qui videt esse,
quid credat, nisi se vendere discupere?

If it walks like a duck…
If the shoe fits…

Plato, Hippias Minor: Achilles and Odysseus


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“Homer made Achilles the best man of those who went to Troy, Nestor the wisest, and Odysseus the most shifty.”

φημὶ γὰρ Ὅμηρον πεποιηκέναι ἄριστον μὲν ἄνδρα Ἀχιλλέα τῶν εἰς Τροίαν ἀφικομένων, σοφώτατον δὲ Νέστορα, πολυτροπώτατον δὲ Ὀδυσσέα.


“Achilles is true and simple; Odysseus is shifty and false.”

ὡς ὁ μὲν Ἀχιλλεὺς εἴη ἀληθής τε καὶ ἁπλοῦς, ὁ δὲ Ὀδυσσεὺς πολύπροπός τε καὶ ψευδής


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