Before You Shop for Christmas, Read Some More Lucretius

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Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.1430-1439

“The race of man, then, labors uselessly and in vain
as we always consume our time in empty concerns
because we don’t understand that there’s a limit to having—
and there’s an end to how far true pleasure can grow.
This has dragged life bit by bit into the deep sea
and has stirred at its bottom great blasts of war.
But the guardian of the earth turns around the great sky
and teaches men truly that the year’s seasons come full circle
and that all must be endured with a sure reason and order.”

Ergo hominum genus in cassum frustraque laborat
semper et [in] curis consumit inanibus aevom,
ni mirum quia non cognovit quae sit habendi
finis et omnino quoad crescat vera voluptas;
idque minutatim vitam provexit in altum
et belli magnos commovit funditus aestus.
at vigiles mundi magnum versatile templum
sol et luna suo lustrantes lumine circum
perdocuere homines annorum tempora verti
et certa ratione geri rem atque ordine certo.

Snow in Words, Battle and, in season, On the Ground

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We braved the winter gauntlet yesterday by plane, bus and automobile.  This means, of course, that I have to repost some snow-lines from the ancient world. (I would love to hear some more).

 

Homer Il. 3.222-3
“Yet, then a great voice came from his chest And [Odysseus’] words were like snowy storms”
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ ὄπα τε μεγάλην ἐκ στήθεος εἵη καὶ ἔπεα νιφάδεσσιν ἐοικότα χειμερίῃσιν,

Homer, Il. 13.754
“And then Hector surged up like a snowy mountain”

῏Η ῥα, καὶ ὁρμήθη ὄρεϊ νιφόεντι ἐοικὼς

 

Cicero, in Catilinam 2.23

“How will they bear the Appenines covered in frosts and snow? Maybe they think that they can tolerate the cold, because they learned to dance naked at dinner parties.”

Quo autem pacto illi Appeninum atque illas pruinas ac nivis perferent? Nisi idcirco se facilius hiemem toleraturos putant, quod nudi in conviviis saltare didicerunt.

 

Solon, fr.9 1-4: Causation–Lightning comes from Thunder?

“The fury of snow and hail comes from a cloud

and thunder comes from bright lightning.

A city is destroyed by great men and the people fall

into the slavery of monarchy thanks to ignorance.”

 

ἐκ νεφέλης πέλεται χιόνος μένος ἠδὲ χαλάζης,

βροντὴ δ’ ἐκ λαμπρῆς γίγνεται ἀστεροπῆς·

ἀνδρῶν δ’ ἐκ μεγάλων πόλις ὄλλυται, ἐς δὲ μονάρχου

δῆμος ἀϊδρίηι δουλοσύνην ἔπεσεν.

Happy Thanksgiving–If You Bring the Food, Drink and Company (Catullus 13)

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“You’ll dine well at my house, Fabullus
In a few days, if the gods favor you, and
If you bring a fine, large meal with you.
And don’t forget: a bright-eyed girl,
Wine, salt, and every kind of cheer.
If you bring these things I ask, fine friend,
You will dine well: for your Catullus’ wallet
Is full of nothing but spider webs.
In exchange, you’ll get unmixed love,
Or something even sweeter and more elegant:
I will give you a perfume which
Venuses and Cupids gave to my girl.
The kind of thing that when you smell it, Fabullus,
You’ll beg the gods to make you all nose.”

Cenabis bene, mi Fabulle, apud me
paucis, si tibi di favent, diebus,
si tecum attuleris bonam atque magnam
cenam, non sine candida puella
et vino et sale et omnibus cachinnis.
haec si, inquam, attuleris, venuste noster,
cenabis bene; nam tui Catulli
plenus sacculus est aranearum.
sed contra accipies meros amores
seu quid suavius elegantiusve est:
nam unguentum dabo, quod meae puellae
donarunt Veneres Cupidinesque,
quod tu cum olfacies, deos rogabis,

totum ut te faciant, Fabulle, nasum.

The Sons of Odysseus Part 4, Telegonos

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(This is a continuation of a search for all the children of Odysseus)

In our version of Hesiod’s Theogony, Telegonos appears in a disputed line as one of the sons of Kirkê and Odysseus. It is thought that the line was interpolated to keep Hesiod ‘current’ with the Cyclic poem the Telegony by Eugammon of Cyrene (which is lost):
“Kirkê, the daughter of Helios, Hyperion’s son,
After having sex with Odysseus, gave birth to
Agrios and Latînos, blameless and strong.
And she also gave birth to Telegonos thanks to golden Aphrodite.
Her sons rule far away in the recess of the holy islands
Among the glorious Tursênians.”

Κίρκη δ’ ᾿Ηελίου θυγάτηρ ῾Υπεριονίδαο
γείνατ’ ᾿Οδυσσῆος ταλασίφρονος ἐν φιλότητι
῎Αγριον ἠδὲ Λατῖνον ἀμύμονά τε κρατερόν τε•
[Τηλέγονον δὲ ἔτικτε διὰ χρυσῆν ᾿Αφροδίτην•]
οἳ δή τοι μάλα τῆλε μυχῷ νήσων ἱεράων
πᾶσιν Τυρσηνοῖσιν ἀγακλειτοῖσιν ἄνασσον.

West (1966, 434-5) considers the line about Telegonos to be a Byzantine interpolation. Though I do not aim to argue strenuously against troubling this line, it is important to note that Telegonos’ name (“born far away”; “begotten far away”) may be echoed in the line after the supposed interpolation (μάλα τῆλε). Both his and Telemakhos’ names in marking their distance, their ‘farness’, seem to echo the far-flung traveling nature of their father.

(And though Telemakhos is obviously in the Odyssey and mentioned in the Iliad, neither he nor Telegonos have a large presence in the larger body of myth. Both are largely absent from Archaic and Classical Greek art…)

Eustathius (Comm. Ad Od.1.142.35) explains such naming for sons: “Concerning being born far off, it is sufficiently clear in the Iliad. And now it will be addressed to an extent. Among the ancients, that someone is far-born is not only about where he was born, as the only son of Menelaos was Megapenthes, but that he was born when he father was far away or grew up in this way after he was born. A first example of this is Telegonos who was born from Kirkê when Odysseus was far away.”

Περὶ δὲ τοῦ τηλύγετος, ἱκανῶς ἡ ᾿Ιλιὰς δηλοῖ. νῦν δὲ εἰς τοσοῦτον ῥητέον. ὡς τηλύγετος παῖς παρὰ τοῖς παλαιοῖς, οὐ μόνον μεθ’ ὃν οὐκ ἔστι τεκνώσασθαι, ἢ ὁ μόνος υἱὸς ὡς ὁ Μεγαπένθης ἐνταῦθα τῷ Μενελάῳ, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὁ τῆλε ὄντι τῷ πατρὶ γεννηθεὶς, ἢ καὶ αὐξηθεὶς μετὰ γέννησιν. παράδειγμα τοῦ πρώτου, Τηλέγονος ὁ ἐκ Κίρκης τῆλέ που γεννηθεὶς τῷ ᾿Οδυσσεῖ.

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Arrius the ‘Ellenic Aspirant: Catullus 84

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“Arrius would always say ‘khonvenience’ when he meant to say ‘convenience,’ and ‘hevil plots’ instead of ‘evil plots.’ He really thought that he was speaking after quite the grand fashion when he put all of his energy into his, ‘hhhhevil plots.’ I imagine that his mother, his uncle, and his maternal grandparents all spoke that way.

Then, he went to Syria, and everyone’s ears took a break. They heard these phrases now with a lighter, softer inflection. They no longer had such a dread fear of such phrases, when suddenly, we received some terrible news: the Ionian Sea, after Arrius had gone there, was now no longer ‘Ionian,’ but ‘Hionian.'”

 

Chommoda dicebat, si quando commoda vellet
dicere, et insidias Arrius hinsidias,
et tum mirifice sperabat se esse locutum,
cum quantum poterat dixerat hinsidias.
credo, sic mater, sic liber avunculus eius.
sic maternus auus dixerat atque avia.
hoc misso in Syriam requierant omnibus aures
audibant eadem haec leniter et leviter,
nec sibi postilla metuebant talia verba,
cum subito affertur nuntius horribilis,
Ionios fluctus, postquam illuc Arrius isset,
iam non Ionios esse sed Hionios.

 

NOTE: Arrius puts on this affectation in an effort to sound more Greek by (rather absurdly) adding aspiration to his C to make it sound more like Chi, and aspirating his vowels. Greek education was very much in fashion among the younger set, and there would be no better way to “hint” that you had studied in Greece than to pretend that your lengthy stay in that country had permanently altered your speech.

Hesiod on Justice and the Corruption of Power (Works and Days, 256-273)

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“Justice is a maiden who was born from Zeus.
The gods who live on Olympus honor her
and whenever someone wrongs her by bearing false witness
she sits straightaway at the feet of Zeus, Kronos’ son
and tells him the plans of unjust men so that the people
will pay the price of the wickedness of kings who make murderous plans
and twist her truth by proclaiming false judgments.
Keep these things in mind, bribe-swallowing kings:
whoever wrongs another also wrongs himself;
an evil plan is most evil for the one who makes it.
The eye of Zeus sees everything and knows everything
and even now, if he wishes, will look on us and not miss
what kind of justice the walls of our city protects.
Today, I wouldn’t wish myself to be a just man among men
nor my son, since it bad to be a just man
If anyone who is more unjust has greater rights.
But I hope that Zeus, the counselor, will not let this happen.”

 

ἡ δέ τε παρθένος ἐστὶ Δίκη, Διὸς ἐκγεγαυῖα,
κυδρή τ’ αἰδοίη τε θεοῖς οἳ ῎Ολυμπον ἔχουσιν,
καί ῥ’ ὁπότ’ ἄν τίς μιν βλάπτῃ σκολιῶς ὀνοτάζων,
αὐτίκα πὰρ Διὶ πατρὶ καθεζομένη Κρονίωνι
γηρύετ’ ἀνθρώπων ἀδίκων νόον, ὄφρ’ ἀποτείσῃ
δῆμος ἀτασθαλίας βασιλέων οἳ λυγρὰ νοεῦντες
ἄλλῃ παρκλίνωσι δίκας σκολιῶς ἐνέποντες.
ταῦτα φυλασσόμενοι, βασιλῆς, ἰθύνετε μύθους,
δωροφάγοι, σκολιέων δὲ δικέων ἐπὶ πάγχυ λάθεσθε.
οἷ αὐτῷ κακὰ τεύχει ἀνὴρ ἄλλῳ κακὰ τεύχων,
ἡ δὲ κακὴ βουλὴ τῷ βουλεύσαντι κακίστη.
πάντα ἰδὼν Διὸς ὀφθαλμὸς καὶ πάντα νοήσας
καί νυ τάδ’, αἴ κ’ ἐθέλῃσ’, ἐπιδέρκεται, οὐδέ ἑ λήθει
οἵην δὴ καὶ τήνδε δίκην πόλις ἐντὸς ἐέργει.
νῦν δὴ ἐγὼ μήτ’ αὐτὸς ἐν ἀνθρώποισι δίκαιος
εἴην μήτ’ ἐμὸς υἱός, ἐπεὶ κακὸν ἄνδρα δίκαιον
ἔμμεναι, εἰ μείζω γε δίκην ἀδικώτερος ἕξει.
ἀλλὰ τά γ’ οὔπω ἔολπα τελεῖν Δία μητιόεντα.

 

Although he holds out the promise of a world governed by just and wise rulers in the Theogony, Hesiod laments the failure of those in power to uphold justice and judge those beneath them fairly in the Works and Days. Those in power or favored by power structures, it seems, have always had their own interests in mind. Hesiod’s combination of lament, indignation, and irrational hope for a better world have lingered in my mind this week as I have contemplated the abuses and concealments of power in the news. May Hesiod’s hopes not go unfulfilled.

 

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.1145-1160: On The Origin of the Social Contract

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“The race of man, tired of living in a state of violence
was languishing in feuds and they were eager
to submit themselves to law and strict judgments.
Otherwise, each man would turn himself to vengeance
More harshly than our current laws allow,
And this is why man has avoided living in a state of violence.
From here comes the fear that alters life’s rewards
Since violence and pain entrap the man who wields them
And tend to return most to those who acted first.
It isn’t easy to lead a quiet and peaceful life
If you break the faith of a community’s written peace.
Even if you deceive the races of god and man,
There’s no way to be sure to keep a secret forever.
Often many men reveal themselves by speaking in sleep
Or confused by a lengthy illness, they finally
Disclose their deeply hidden memories and sins.”
nam genus humanum, defessum vi colere aevom,
ex inimicitiis languebat; quo magis ipsum
sponte sua cecidit sub leges artaque iura.

acrius ex ira quod enim se quisque parabat
ulcisci quam nunc concessumst legibus aequis,
hanc ob rem est homines pertaesum vi colere aevom.
inde metus maculat poenarum praemia vitae.
circumretit enim vis atque iniuria quemque
atque unde exortast, ad eum plerumque revertit,
nec facilest placidam ac pacatam degere vitam
qui violat factis communia foedera pacis.
etsi fallit enim divom genus humanumque,
perpetuo tamen id fore clam diffidere debet;
quippe ubi se multi per somnia saepe loquentes
aut morbo delirantes protraxe ferantur
et celata [mala] in medium et peccata dedisse.

Manic Monday: Euripidean Fragments on Fortune, Suffering and Intelligence

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Euripides, fr. 102 (Alcmene)

We are all wiser at weighing our neighbor’s bad luck than our own.

σοφώτεροι γὰρ συμφορὰς τὰς τῶν πέλας
πάντες διαθρεῖν ἢ τύχας τὰς οἴκοθεν.

Euripides,fr. 205 (Antiope)

 

“I know that I suffer and this is no small pain:
Not to know, now that brings some pleasure to
The troubled—ignorance is an advantage amid grief.”

 

φρονῶ δ’ ὃ πάσχω, καὶ τόδ’ οὐ σμικρὸν κακόν·
τὸ μὴ εἰδέναι γὰρ ἡδονὴν ἔχει τινὰ
νοσοῦντα, κέρδος δ’ ἐν κακοῖς ἀγνωσία.

Euripides, fr. 290 (Bellerophon)

“I always fear less a dull man who is naturally strong
Than someone who is weak and clever.”

ἀεὶ γὰρ ἄνδρα σκαιὸν ἰσχυρὸν φύσει
ἧσσον δέδοικα τἀσθενοῦς τε καὶ σοφοῦ.

Tibullus, Elegies Book 1, 10: 33-44: Life is Short Enough, War is F***ing Crazy

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“What insanity is it to hurry dark death along with wars?
It is already imminent, coming secretly with a quiet foot.
There aren’t any fields below nor cultured vines, but only
Bold Cerberus and the foul boatman beside Stygian waters.
There with crushed eyes and burned hair
A pale crowd wanders toward murky lakes.
Instead, we should praise the man whom old age finds
In his small stocked house once his children are prepared.
He follows his sheep as his son cares for the lambs
And his wife heats cold water for the tired man.
May I be like him; may the hair on my head grow grey
As I recall the good old days in the way of an elderly man.”

Quis furor est atram bellis accersere mortem?
Inminet et tacito clam venit illa pede.
Non seges est infra, non vinea culta, sed audax 35
Cerberus et Stygiae navita turpis aquae;
Illic percussisque genis ustoque capillo
Errat ad obscuros pallida turba lacus.
Quam potius laudandus hic est, quem prole parata
Occupat in parva pigra senecta casa. 40
Ipse suas sectatur oves, at filius agnos,
Et calidam fesso conparat uxor aquam.
Sic ego sim, liceatque caput candescere canis,
Temporis et prisci facta referre senem.

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