Cicero the Prankster

 

“When Cicero served as quaestor in Sicily, he erected a silver monument to the gods. He inscribed upon it the first two parts of his name, Marcus Tullius, and then, as a joking substitute for the third, he ordered the craftsman to engrave a chickpea next to the names.”

NOTE: “Cicer” was the Latin word for “chickpea.” The name Cicero was sometimes thought to have been assigned to one of Cicero’s ancestors in reference to a wart.

ταμιεύων δ’ ἐν Σικελίᾳ καὶ τοῖς θεοῖς ἀνάθημα ποιούμενος ἀργυροῦν, τὰ μὲν πρῶτα δύο τῶν ὀνομάτων ἐπέγραψε, τόν τε Μᾶρκον καὶ τὸν Τύλλιον, ἀντὶ δὲ τοῦ τρίτου σκώπτων ἐρέβινθον ἐκέλευσε παρὰ τὰ γράμματα τὸν τεχνίτην ἐντορεῦσαι..

 

On Reading without Prior Convictions

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Aristotle, Poetics 1461a31

“Whenever some word seems to mean something opposite to what it means, it is best to examine how many things this might mean in the place is used. For instance, “by which the bronze spear was held”—someone might figure the best way by considering in how many ways is it possible to be hindered. This approach is opposite to what Glaukon says, that some people accept a position illogically and then make arguments based on their prior convictions and then, should anything seem to contradict them, they find fault with the poet because he meant something opposite to what they thought. The matter of Ikarios is an instance of this. For people suppose that he was Lakonian, so it is strange that Telemachus does not meet him when he goes to Sparta. But perhaps it is instead as the Kephallenians claim. For they say that Odysseus married one of their people and that his name was Ikadios not Ikarios. That the issue comes from a mistake is probable. Generally, impossible details should be credited to poetic character, to fashioning a better tale, or to keeping with popular belief. Poetic license should make something plausible but impossible more acceptable than something implausible yet possible.”

δεῖ δὲ καὶ ὅταν ὄνομά τι ὑπεναντίωμά τι δοκῇ σημαίνειν, ἐπισκοπεῖν ποσαχῶς ἂν σημήνειε τοῦτο ἐν τῷ εἰρημένῳ, οἷον τῷ “τῇ ῥ’ ἔσχετο χάλκεον ἔγχος” τὸ ταύτῃ κωλυθῆναι ποσαχῶς ἐνδέχεται, ὡδὶ ἢ ὡδί, ὡς μάλιστ’ ἄν τις ὑπολάβοι· κατὰ τὴν καταντικρὺ ἢ ὡς Γλαύκων λέγει, ὅτι ἔνιοι ἀλόγως προϋπολαμβάνουσί τι καὶ αὐτοὶ καταψηφισάμενοι συλλογίζονται, καὶ ὡς εἰρηκότος ὅ τι δοκεῖ ἐπιτιμῶσιν, ἂν ὑπεναντίον ᾖ τῇ αὑτῶν οἰήσει. τοῦτο δὲ πέπονθε τὰ περὶ ᾿Ικάριον. οἴονται γὰρ αὐτὸν Λάκωνα εἶναι· ἄτοπον οὖν τὸ μὴ ἐντυχεῖν τὸν Τηλέμαχον αὐτῷ εἰς Λακεδαίμονα ἐλθόντα. τὸ δ’ ἴσως ἔχει ὥσπερ οἱ Κεφαλλῆνές φασι· παρ’ αὑτῶν γὰρ γῆμαι λέγουσι τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα καὶ εἶναι ᾿Ικάδιον ἀλλ’ οὐκ ᾿Ικάριον· δι’ ἁμάρτημα δὲ τὸ πρόβλημα †εἰκός ἐστιν†. ὅλως δὲ τὸ ἀδύνατον μὲν πρὸς τὴν ποίησιν ἢ πρὸς τὸ βέλτιον ἢ πρὸς τὴν δόξαν δεῖ ἀνάγειν. πρός τε γὰρ τὴν ποίησιν αἱρετώτερον πιθανὸν ἀδύνατον ἢ ἀπίθανον καὶ δυνατόν·

 

 

Fragmentary Friday: How Democritus Blinded Himself

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From Aulus Gellius’ Attic Nights, 10.17

18: Why and How the Philosopher Democritus blinded himself; and the fine and charming verses Laberius wrote on the subject
“It is recorded among the accomplishments of Greek history that the philosopher Democritus, a man worthy of praise beyond the rest and blessed with ancient authority, deprived himself of eyesight willingly because he believed that his mind’s thoughts and reflections in considering the laws of nature would be clearer and more precise if he freed them from the incitements of sight and the eye’s mistakes.

Laberius the poet has described this deed and the method by which he accomplished his own blindness with a clever device in his farce named the Ropemaker, which describes the affair with just enough verses, written clearly. Laberius, however, created a different cause for the blindness and included it in the tale which he was writing, not inaptly. The character who speaks the following lines in Laberius’ poem is a wealthy but stingy wretch who laments the excessive spending and low behavior of his adolescent son. Here are Laberius’ lines:

 
“Democritus, the natural philosopher of Adbera
Placed a shield to face Hyperion’s arrival,
So that he might destroy his eyes with blazing bronze,
Thus he ruined his eyes with the rays of the sun,
So that he might not witness wicked citizens faring well.
Just so, I wish to blind the final portion of my years
Through the blaze of shining money
Rather than gazing upon my son’s extravagant prosperity.”

XVII. Quam ob causam et quali modo Democritus philosophus luminibus oculorum sese privaverit; et super ea re versus Laberii pure admodum et venuste facti.

I. Democritum philosophum in monumentis historiae Graecae scriptum est, virum praeter alios venerandum auctoritateque antiqua praeditum, luminibus oculorum sua sponte se privasse, quia existimaret cogitationes commentationesque animi sui in contemplandis naturae rationibus vegetiores et exactiores fore, si eas videndi inlecebris et oculorum impedimentis liberasset. II. Id factum eius modumque ipsum, quo caecitatem facile sollertia subtilissima conscivit, Laberius poeta in mimo, quem scripsit Restionem, versibus quidem satis munde atque graphice factis descripsit, sed causam voluntariae caecitatis finxit aliam vertitque in eam rem, quam tum agebat, non inconcinniter. III. Est enim persona, quae hoc aput Laberium dicit, divitis avari et parci sumptum plurimum asotiamque adulescentis viri deplorantis. IV. Versus Laberiani sunt:

Democritus Abderites physicus philosophus
clipeum constituit contra exortum Hyperionis,
oculos effodere ut posset splendore aereo.
Ita radiis solis aciem effodit luminis,
malis bene esse ne videret civibus.
Sic ego fulgentis splendorem pecuniae
volo elucificare exitum aetati meae,
ne in re bona videam esse nequam filium.

 

Decimus Liberius is a Roman playwright from the 1st century BCE

Hesiod the Prophet? A Liar or a Cheat

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Lucian, A Conversation with Hesiod, 1-2

 

“Hesiod, the fact that you are the best poet and that you obtained this title with the laurel from the Muses, you make clear yourself in your poetry, where everything is divinely inspired and reverent and we believe that it is true. But there is one thing that seems awry: since you claim in fact on your on part that you also received in that exchange the divine song from the gods in order that you may sing and praise events of past while also prophesying the future. Of these tasks, you fully complete narrating the births of the gods right up until the first beings, Chaos and Earth, Ouranos and Sex. Then you praised the virtues of women and advise farmers about the Pleiades, the right time for plowing and reaping, about sailing, and every other kind of thing. But the second half which would be far more useful to life and more appropriate for divine gifts—and in this I mean the prediction of the future, you did not begin. You have left this subject completely forgotten in your poetry, never playing the part of a Calchas, a Telemon, a Polyeidos or Phineus, all men who never obtained this gift from the muses but still prophesied anyway and were never reluctant to provide oracles to those who requested it.

 

Hence, it is necessary that you bear one of these three charges. Either you lie, which is a bit harsh to say, when you claim that the Muses promised you the power to tell the future. Or, the Muses gave what they promised, but you conceal it out of envy and guard such a gift in your pocket without sharing it with those who request it. Or, a great deal of prophecy has been written by you but you have not shared it with the world, perhaps preserving its use for a special time I know nothing about.”

᾿Αλλὰ ποιητὴν μὲν ἄριστον εἶναί σε, ὦ ῾Ησίοδε, καὶ τοῦτο παρὰ Μουσῶν λαβεῖν μετὰ τῆς δάφνης αὐτός τε δεικνύεις ἐν οἷς ποιεῖς—ἔνθεα γὰρ καὶ σεμνὰ πάντα—καὶ ἡμεῖς πιστεύομεν οὕτως ἔχειν. ἐκεῖνο δὲ ἀπορῆσαι ἄξιον, τί δήποτε προειπὼν ὑπὲρ σαυτοῦ ὡς διὰ τοῦτο λάβοις τὴν θεσπέσιον ἐκείνην ᾠδὴν παρὰ τῶν θεῶν ὅπως κλείοις καὶ ὑμνοίης τὰ παρεληλυθότα καὶ θεσπίζοις τὰ ἐσόμενα, θάτερον μὲν καὶ πάνυ ἐντελῶς ἐξενήνοχας θεῶν τε γενέσεις διηγούμενος ἄχρι καὶ τῶν πρώτων ἐκείνων, χάους καὶ γῆς καὶ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ἔρωτος—ἔτι δὲ γυναικῶν ἀρετὰς καὶ παραινέσεις γεωργικάς, καὶ ὅσα περὶ Πλειάδων καὶ ὅσα περὶ καιρῶν ἀρότου καὶ ἀμήτου καὶ πλοῦ καὶ ὅλως τῶν ἄλλων ἁπάντων· θάτερον δὲ καὶ ὃ χρησιμώτερον ἦν τῷ βίῳ παρὰ πολὺ καὶ θεῶν δωρεαῖς μᾶλλον ἐοικός—λέγω δὲ τὴν τῶν μελλόντων προαγόρευσιν—, οὐδὲ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐξαπέφηνας, ἀλλὰ τὸ μέρος τοῦτο πᾶν λήθῃ παραδέδωκας οὐδαμοῦ τῆς ποιήσεως ἢ τὸν Κάλχαντα ἢ τὸν Τήλεμον ἢ τὸν Πολύειδον ἢ καὶ Φινέα μιμησάμενος οἳ μηδὲ παρὰ Μουσῶν τούτου τυχόντες ὅμως προεθέσπιζον καὶ οὐκ ὤκνουν χρᾶν τοῖς δεομένοις.

῞Ωστε ἀνάγκη σοι τῶν τριῶν τούτων αἰτιῶν μιᾷ γε πάντως ἐνέχεσθαι· ἢ γὰρ ἐψεύσω, εἰ καὶ πικρὸν εἰπεῖν, ὡς ὑποσχομένων σοι τῶν Μουσῶν καὶ τὰ μέλλοντα προλέγειν δύνασθαι· ἢ αἱ μὲν ἔδοσαν ὥσπερ ὑπέσχοντο, σὺ δὲ ὑπὸ φθόνου ἀποκρύπτεις καὶ ὑπὸ κόλπου φυλάττεις τὴν δωρεὰν οὐ μεταδιδοὺς αὐτῆς τοῖς δεομένοις· ἢ γέγραπται μέν σοι καὶ τοιαῦτα πολλά, οὐδέπω δὲ αὐτὰ τῷ βίῳ παραδέδωκας οὐκ οἶδα εἰς ὃν καιρόν τινα ἄλλον ταμιευόμενος τὴν χρῆσιν αὐτῶν.

Lucian here is referring to Theogony lines 26-34

“Rustic shepherds, shameless reproaches, nothing more than bellies,
We know how to speak many lies that ring of the truth,
But we can utter true things when we want to.”
So the eloquent daughters of great Zeus spoke
And they gave me a scepter, an offshoot of blooming laurel
To carry, so that I might sing the things that will be and were before
And they ordered me to praise the race of the blessed gods who always are
And to sing of them both at the first and the last.”

“ποιμένες ἄγραυλοι, κάκ’ ἐλέγχεα, γαστέρες οἶον,
ἴδμεν ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγειν ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα,
ἴδμεν δ’ εὖτ’ ἐθέλωμεν ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι.”
ὣς ἔφασαν κοῦραι μεγάλου Διὸς ἀρτιέπειαι,
καί μοι σκῆπτρον ἔδον δάφνης ἐριθηλέος ὄζον
δρέψασαι, θηητόν· ἐνέπνευσαν δέ μοι αὐδὴν
θέσπιν, ἵνα κλείοιμι τά τ’ ἐσσόμενα πρό τ’ ἐόντα,
καί μ’ ἐκέλονθ’ ὑμνεῖν μακάρων γένος αἰὲν ἐόντων,
σφᾶς δ’ αὐτὰς πρῶτόν τε καὶ ὕστατον αἰὲν ἀείδειν.

The Measure of a Man: the Priapeia on Odysseus (NSFW)

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Caveat Lector: Again, we bring one of the not-so-nice poems from the ancient world to light.  A colleague of mind decided that today was the day to turn to the Priapeia, a collection of poems dedicated to none other than the Phallus god, Priapus.

This elegant poem imagines the, well, endowment that made Odysseus so irresistible to mortal women and goddesses alike.

“The other topic is the wandering of deceiving Ulysses:
If you seek the truth, love also moves this poem:
Here a root, from which a golden flower emerges, is discussed.
When the poem calls it molu, molu was a prick.
Here we read about how Circe and Atlantean Calypso
Sought the large equipment of the Dulichian man.
The daughter of Alcinous marveled at the member of this man,
Which could scarcely be covered by the leafy branch.
And nevertheless he rushed back to his his own old lady,
And his whole mind was in a pussy, Penelope, yours.”

Odysseus CIrce

Now we know what she sees in him.

altera materia est error fallentis Vlixei:
si verum quaeras, hanc quoque movit amor.
hic legitur radix, de qua flos aureus exit,
quam cum μωλυ vocat, mentula μωλυ fuit.
hic legimus Circen Atlantiademque Calypson
grandia Dulichii vasa petisse viri.
huius et Alcinoi mirata est filia membrum
frondenti ramo vix potuisse tegi.
ad vetulam tamen ille suam properabat, et omnis
mens erat in cunno, Penelopea, tuo:

 

Using Archaic Words is as Bad as Using Made-Up New Ones

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Aulus Gellius, Attics Nights 11.7

“One Should Avoid Very Archaic Words That Have Become Antiquated and Fallen Out of Use”

“Using words that are obsolete and worn down seems as affected as using uncustomary or new ones of harsh or unpleasant character. Personally, I find more annoying and offensive those words that are new, unknown, or previously unheard rather than those that are merely colloquial and vulgar. I do insist, however, that phrases seem new when they are unused and abandoned, even if they are really ancient. In truth, it is a common vice of learning late in life, what the Greeks call opsimathia, when there’s something you’ve never said and of which you were ignorant for a while, which, once you have begun to understand it, you manage to work it into any place or into any matter you’re discussing.

For example, at Rome we met an experienced man famous for his work as a public defender who had achieved a rapid and incomplete education. When he was speaking to the prefect of the city and wanted to say that a certain many lived on poor and miserable food—he ate bread made of bran and drank old, spoiled wine—he said “this Roman knight eats apluda and drinks flocces.” Everyone who was there looked at one another, at first rather severely and with confused, inquiring faces wondering what either word meant: then, as if he had spoken in Etruscan or Gallic, they all laughed together. That man had read that ancient farmers had called grain apluda—the word is used by Plautus in a comedy called Astraba, if that is a Plautine comedy. Similarly, “flocces” in ancient usage indicated the lees of a vine pressed from grapes, like the fruit from olives, a thing he read in Caecilius’ Polumeni. And he had saved these two words for decorating a speech!”

7 Verbis antiquissimis relictisque iam et desitis minime utendum.

1 Verbis uti aut nimis obsoletis exculcatisque aut insolentibus novitatisque durae et inlepidae par esse delictum videtur. Sed molestius equidem culpatiusque esse arbitror verba nova, incognita, inaudita dicere quam involgata et sordentia. 2 Nova autem videri dico etiam ea, quae sunt inusitata et desita, tametsi sunt vetusta. 3 Est adeo id vitium plerumque serae eruditionis, quam Graeci opsimathian appellant, ut, quod numquam didiceris, diu ignoraveris, cum id scire aliquando coeperis, magni facias quo in loco cumque et quacumque in re dicere. Veluti Romae nobis praesentibus vetus celebratusque homo in causis, sed repentina et quasi tumultuaria doctrina praeditus, cum apud praefectum urbi verba faceret et dicere vellet inopi quendam miseroque victu vivere et furfureum panem esitare vinumque eructum et fetidum potare, “hic” inquit “eques Romanus apludam edit et flocces bibit”. 4 Aspexerunt omnes, qui aderant, alius alium, primo tristiores turbato et requirente voltu, quidnam illud utriusque verbi foret; post deinde, quasi nescio quid Tusce aut Gallice dixisset, universi riserunt. 5 Legerat autem ille “apludam” veteres rusticos frumenti furfurem dixisse idque a Plauto in comoedia, si ea Plauti est, quae Astraba inscripta est, positum esse. 6 Item “flocces” audierat prisca voce significare vini faecem e vinaceis expressam, sicuti fraces oleis, idque aput Caecilium in Poltimenis legerat, eaque sibi duo verba ad orationum ornamenta servaverat. 7

Velleius Paterculus on the death of Augustus, II.123

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“This is the time attended by the most fear. Augustus had sent his own grandson Germanicus to Germany to handle the end of the conflict there. And he was about to send his son Tiberius to Illyricum to shore up the peace where he had subjugated with war. Following him and at the same time intending to visit the athletic competitions which had been established in his honor by the Neapolitans, Augustus traveled to Campania. Although he had already at that point felt the growth of weakness and sensed the beginning of his own deterioration, he followed his son with a resolute strength of spirit—he parted from him at Beneventum and left for Nola. There, as his strength dissipated by the day, and he recognized whom it was necessary to summon if he wished for everything to remain safe once he was gone, he quickly recalled his son.

Tiberius returned back to the father of his fatherland more quickly than he was expected. Then, confessing that he has more content because he was surrounded by the embrace of his son, he entrusted to him their common efforts without any kind of an end, allowing that, if the fates demanded, he was ready. Even though he was renewed at first by the sight of his son and at the voice of someone dearest to him, soon, since the fates can conquer every kind of care, he released his elements and returned his divine soul to heaven in his seventy-sixth year, during the consulship of Pompeius and Apuleius” (14 CE).

Venitur ad tempus, in quo fuit plurimum metus. Quippe Caesar Augustus cum Germanicum nepotem suum reliqua belli patraturum misisset in Germaniam. Tiberium autem filium missurus esset in Illyricum ad firmanda pace quae bello subegerat, prosequens eum simulque interfuturus athletarum certaminis ludicro, quod eius honori sacratum a Neapolitanis est, processit in Campaniam. Quamquam iam motus imbecillitatis inclinataeque in deterius principia valetudinis senserat, tamen obnitente vi animi prosecutus filium digressusque ab eo Beneventi ipse Nolam petiit: et ingravescente in dies valetudine, cum sciret, quis volenti omnia post se salva remanere accersendus foret, festinanter revocavit filium; ille ad patrem patriae expectato revolavit maturius. 2 Tum securum se Augustus praedicans circumfususque amplexibus Tiberii sui, commendans illi sua atque ipsius opera nec quidquam iam de fine, si fata poscerent, recusans, subrefectus primo conspectu alloquioque carissimi sibi spiritus, mox, cum omnem curam fata vincerent, in sua resolutus initia Pompeio Apuleioque consulibus septuagesimo et sexto anno animam caelestem caelo reddidit.

 

Tawdry Tuesday: More (Misogynistic) Mayhem with Martial

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Martial, Epigrams 11.21

As usual, these Tuesday entries will seem truly abominable to some. Caveat Lector.

 

“Lydia is as wide as the ass of a bronze rider’s horse,
Or a fast hoop that sounds its clattering bronze,
Or a wheel crossed untouched by an acrobat,
Or an old shoe wet with muddy water,
Or as the wide nights that wait for wandering birds,
Or the awnings which close Pompey’s theater to the South Wind,
Or as arm-jewelry slipped off a diseased male-hooker,
Or a mattress separated from its Leuconian stuffing,
Or the old trousers of a British pauper,
Or the foul throat of a Revennian Pelican.
I am reputed to have fucked her in a salty fishpond.
I am not sure: I think I fucked the fishpond.”

Lydia tam laxa est equitis quam culus aeni,
quam celer arguto qui sonat aere trochus,
quam rota transmisso totiens inpacta petauro,
quam vetus a crassa calceus udus aqua,
quam quae rara vagos expectant retia turdos,
quam Pompeiano vela negata Noto,
quam quae de pthisico lapsa est armilla cinaedo,
culcita Leuconico quam viduata suo,
quam veteres bracae Brittonis pauperis, et quam
urpe Ravennatis guttur onocrotali.
Hanc in piscina dicor futuisse marina.
Nescio; piscinam me futuisse puto.

A Comic’s Lament: Tragedy is So Easy

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From Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 6.222c-e

“Since, friend Timocrates, you are always asking about the things said among the learned dinnermates, because you think that I am making up crazy things, let me remind you of what Antiphanes says in his play Poetry, in this way:

Tragedy is the luckiest art form
of all. First, the stories
Are already known by the audience
Before anyone even speaks—the poet only needs
To remind: “Oedipus I say…”
And they know the rest: father Laios,
mother Iocasta, some daughters, some sons,
what he will suffer, and what he has. And, again,
If someone says “Alkmaeon”, he’s just as good
as mentioned all his kids and that
he went crazy and killed his mother, and that
Adrastus will get angry and return.
Then when they can’t say anything else
And they have fallen down in exhaustion
they raise up their crane like little finger
and they have a happy audience!
But it isn’t like that for us, we a have to make up
everything, new names and….
then the events that happened
previously, currently, and at the end,
As well as an introduction!
If some Chremes or Pheidon
Misses even one of these things
They boo and hiss him off the stage.
But you can get away with this with Peleus and Teucer.”

᾿Επειδὴ ἀπαιτεῖς συνεχῶς ἀπαντῶν, ἑταῖρε Τιμόκρατες, τὰ παρὰ τοῖς δειπνοσοφισταῖς λεγόμενα, καινά τινα νομίζων ἡμᾶς εὑρίσκειν, ὑπομνήσομέν σε τὰ παρὰ ᾿Αντιφάνει λεγόμενα ἐν Ποιήσει (II 90 K) τόνδε τὸν τρόπον·

μακάριόν ἐστιν ἡ τραγῳδία
ποίημα κατὰ πάντ’, εἴ γε πρῶτον οἱ λόγοι
ὑπὸ τῶν θεατῶν εἰσιν ἐγνωρισμένοι,
πρὶν καί τιν’ εἰπεῖν· ὥσθ’ ὑπομνῆσαι μόνον
δεῖ τὸν ποιητήν. Οἰδίπουν γὰρ φῶ ……
τὰ δ’ ἄλλα πάντ’ ἴσασιν· ὁ πατὴρ Λάιος,
μήτηρ ᾿Ιοκάστη, θυγατέρες, παῖδες τίνες,
τί πείσεθ’ οὗτος, τί πεποίηκεν. ἂν πάλιν
εἴπῃ τις ᾿Αλκμέωνα, καὶ τὰ παιδία
πάντ’ εὐθὺς εἴρηχ’, ὅτι μανεὶς ἀπέκτονε
τὴν μητέρ’, ἀγανακτῶν δ’ ῎Αδραστος εὐθέως
ἥξει πάλιν τ’ ἄπεισι …………..
ἔπειθ’ ὅταν μηθὲν δύνωντ’ εἰπεῖν ἔτι,
κομιδῇ δ’ ἀπειρήκωσιν ἐν τοῖς δράμασιν,
αἴρουσιν ὥσπερ δάκτυλον τὴν μηχανήν,
καὶ τοῖς θεωμένοισιν ἀποχρώντως ἔχει.
ἡμῖν δὲ ταῦτ’ οὐκ ἔστιν, ἀλλὰ πάντα δεῖ
εὑρεῖν, ὀνόματα καινά, …………
………… κἄπειτα τὰ διῳκημένα
πρότερον, τὰ νῦν παρόντα, τὴν καταστροφήν,
τὴν εἰσβολήν. ἂν ἕν τι τούτων παραλίπῃ
Χρέμης τις ἢ Φείδων τις, ἐκσυρίττεται·
Πηλεῖ δὲ ταῦτ’ ἔξεστι καὶ Τεύκρῳ ποιεῖν.

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