Bacchylides Epinicia, fr. 10.38-53: On Knowledge, Wealth and Fortune

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“The knowledge of man has countless forms—
whether learned in some prophetic art
or allotted the Graces’ honor,
the wise man certainly flourishes with golden hope.
Another man aims his dabbled bow at boys.
Others fortify their hearts in the field
Or with herds of cattle.
But the future bears ends that make the path of fortune
unmeasurable.
This thing is best: to be a noble man
envied by many men.
I know something about wealth’s great power:
It makes even the most useless man useful.
But why do I pilot my great tongue so
and drive off the road?
When the moment of victory is appointed for mortals,
only then the wise man must…[ ]
With flutes [pay back the favor of the gods]
And mingle [among those who may envy]

 

… Μυρίαι δ’ ἀνδρῶν ἐπιστᾶμαι πέλονται·
ἦ γὰρ σ[ο]φὸς ἢ Χαρίτων τιμὰν λελογχὼς
ἐλπίδι χρυσέᾳ τέθαλεν
ἤ τινα θευπροπίαν ἰ-
δώς· ἕτερος δ’ ἐπὶ παισὶ
ποικίλον τόξον τιταίνει·
οἱ δ’ ἐπ’ ἔργοισίν τε καὶ ἀμφὶ βοῶν ἀ[γ]έλαις
θυμὸν αὔξουσιν. Τὸ μέλλον
δ’ ἀκρίτους τίκτει τελευτάς,
πᾶ τύχα βρίσει. Τὸ μὲν κάλλιστον, ἐσθλὸν
ἄνδρα πολλῶν ὑπ’ ἀνθρώπων πολυζήλωτον εἶμεν·
οἶδα καὶ πλούτου μεγάλαν δύνασιν,
ἃ καὶ τ[ὸ]ν ἀχρεῖον τί[θησ]ι
χρηστόν. Τί μακρὰν γ̣[λ]ῶ[σ]σαν ἰθύσας ἐλαύνω
ἐκτὸς ὁδοῦ; Πέφαται θνατοῖσι νίκας
[ὕστε]ρον εὐφροσύνα,
αὐλῶν []
μειγν[υ]

χρή τιν[]

 

 

The last few lines of this poem are completely fragmentary. In italics I put in something just to complete the sentence. I think that the reference to flutes probably indicates some ritual celebration, but I also wanted the end to repeat the note of warning about the mutability of fortune. Any other suggestions?

Wavy tail

sententiaeantiquae:

Egyptians, Greeks and abusing cats. Our friend PlatoSparks finds some fun in Athenaeus!

Originally posted on platosparks:

τὸν αἰέλουρον κακὸν ἔχοντ᾽ ἐὰν ἴδῃς
κλαίεις, ἐγὼ δ᾽ ἥδιστ᾽ ἀποκτείνας δέρω.

If you see a cat suffering you cry, but I would quite happily kill it and skin it.

Athenaius. 7.55 (quoting Antiphanes)

The above was part of a comic verse looking at the difference between Egyptians and Greeks. The Greek for cat is αἴλουρος which means “wavy tail”. Perhaps ancient cats had a kink in their tail or maybe it could refer to another interpretation of the prefix αἰόλος which has no exact equivalent in English but could be rendered as shimmering referring to the glossiness of the tail or again it could refer to the quick movement of the tail. Or possibly wavy tail is a false etymology.

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The Battle of Frogs and Mice, Part 2: Once Upon a Time, A Frog Met a Mouse

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An Illustration by Fred Gwynne from George Martin's "The Battle of Frogs and Mice, An Homeric Fable" (1962)

An Illustration by Fred Gwynne from George Martin’s “The Battle of Frogs and Mice, An Homeric Fable” (1962)

Here’s the second Installment of our translation of the Batrakhomuomakhia

Once upon a time, a thirsty mouse escaped the danger of a cat
and then lowered his greedy chin down to a pond                              10
To take pleasure in the honey-sweet water.  A pond-loving frog,
Bellowmouth, saw him and uttered something like this:

“Friend, who are you? From where have you come to our shore? Who sired you?
Tell me everything truly so I don’t think you’re a liar.
If I consider you a worthy friend, I’ll take you home,
where I will give you many fine gifts of friendship.
I am King Bellowmouth, and I am honored
throughout the pond as leader of frogs for all days.
My father Mudman raised me up after he had sex
with Watermistress along the banks of the Eridanus.                         20
I see that you are noble and brave beyond the rest,
and also a scepter-bearing king and a warrior in battles.
Come closer and tell me of your lineage.”

9 Μῦς ποτε διψαλέος γαλέης κίνδυνον ἀλύξας,
10 πλησίον ἐν λίμνῃ λίχνον προσέθηκε γένειον,
11 ὕδατι τερπόμενος μελιηδέϊ• τὸν δὲ κατεῖδε
12 λιμνόχαρις πολύφημος , ἔπος δ’ ἐφθέγξατο τοῖον•
13 Ξεῖνε τίς εἶ; πόθεν ἦλθες ἐπ’ ἠϊόνας; τίς ὁ φύσας;
14 πάντα δ’ ἀλήθευσον, μὴ ψευδόμενόν σε νοήσω.
15 εἰ γάρ σε γνοίην φίλον ἄξιον ἐς δόμον ἄξω•
16 δῶρα δέ τοι δώσω ξεινήϊα πολλὰ καὶ ἐσθλά.
17 εἰμὶ δ’ ἐγὼ βασιλεὺς Φυσίγναθος, ὃς κατὰ λίμνην
18 τιμῶμαι βατράχων ἡγούμενος ἤματα πάντα•
19 καί με πατὴρ Πηλεὺς ἀνεθρέψατο, ῾Υδρομεδούσῃ
20 μιχθεὶς ἐν φιλότητι παρ’ ὄχθας ᾿Ηριδανοῖο.
21 καὶ σὲ δ’ ὁρῶ καλόν τε καὶ ἄλκιμον ἔξοχον ἄλλων,
22 σκηπτοῦχον βασιλῆα καὶ ἐν πολέμοισι μαχητὴν
23 ἔμμεναι• ἀλλ’ ἄγε θᾶσσον ἑὴν γενεὴν ἀγόρευε.

How To Say “Happy Birthday” in Ancient Greek

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After tweeting in desperation last night, I awoke with a mission: to learn more about birthdays in ancient Greek (whether they observed them, how and what, if anything, they said). I sent some emails and then started in two logical places: a Greek phrase book and the Oxford Classical Dictionary.

H. W. Auden’s Greek Phrase Book provides a phrase for observing birthday sacrifices: τὰ γενέθλια ἑστιᾶν (1963, 44)

Oxford Classical Dictionary. 3rd Edition (s.v. Birthday): γενέθλιος ἡμέρα: The ancient Greeks celebrated the birthdays of some of the Olympian gods during the days of the month. Birthdays, according to this entry, became more significant along with ruler-cults and biographical traditions. The Romans seem to have celebrated birthdays from an early period.

Then the Homerist and all-around good-guy Erwin Cook told me via email that we know little about the birthday sacrifices held in the Archaic and early Classical periods, but he pointed me to Aeschylus’ mention in the Eumenides of giving a birthday gift to Apollo (8-9):

Φοίβη• δίδωσι δ’ ἣ γενέθλιον δόσιν
Φοίβῳ• τὸ Φοίβης δ’ ὄνομ’ ἔχει παρώνυμον.

Euripides also mentions birthday sacrifices (Ion 805): παιδὸς προθύσων ξένια καὶ γενέθλια.   Our friend, Platosparks, tells me that modern Greeks use καλά γενέθλια as a benediction, which seems like a nice derivation from the sacrifice. But multiple respondents have reported something like the following for modern Greek usage:

All of which is good to know. Phrynichus tells us a little about the Athenian practice–but not enough (Eklogai, 75.1-3):

“Genesia are not strictly speaking on the day of birth. Among the Athenians, the genesia are a festival. It is better to call them days of birth or birth-day sacrifices.”

Γενέσια οὐκ ὀρθῶς τίθεται ἐπὶ τῆς γενεθλίου ἡμέρας• Γενέσια γὰρ ᾿Αθήνησιν ἑορτή. λέγειν οὖν δεῖ τὰς γενεθλίους ἡμέρας ἢ γενέθλια.

But, as with many rituals from the ancient world, we know little about what they entailed and what they meant to the individuals who practiced them. The historian Appian gives us the kernel of the phrase ‘birthday’ (γενέθλιον ἦμαρ) as well:

εἰσὶ δ’ οἳ καὶ λέγουσιν αὐτὸν εἰσηγήσασθαι τὴν ἡμέραν θέσθαι τῇ πόλει γενέθλιον

Plato (Alcibiades 121c7) notes that all of Asia celebrates the birthday of the great King:

ὧν ἂν ἄρχῃ, εἶτα εἰς τὸν ἄλλον χρόνον ταύτῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ βασιλέως γενέθλια πᾶσα θύει καὶ ἑορτάζει ἡ ᾿Ασία• ἡμῶν

Lucian, Gallos 9.10 writes of gathering together to celebrate a daughter’s birthday:, “Μίκυλλε,” φησί, “θυγατρὸς τήμερον ἑστιῶ γενέθλια καὶ παρεκάλεσα τῶν φίλων μάλα πολλούς• ἐπεὶ δέ τινά φασιν αὐτῶν. See also Hermotimus 11.12 for a daughter’s birthday feast.

But nowhere could I find an indication of how to wish good fortune on the birthday. We know then that a birthday gift was a thing; that birthday sacrifices and eventually feasts were also culturally recognized phenomena. But no benediction was to be found. (which doesn’t mean that there isn’t one somewhere!)

So, using the Latin Felix Dies Natalis as a model (and the phrase γενέθλιον ἦμαρ from Appian, paralleled in the Greek Anthology as PlatoSparks notes in the comments) and choosing the neuter form to hedge as to whether this is accusative (in an absolute sense) or nominative, I decided to make it up myself (and I take Palaiophron’s comments below to heart, this is an anachronistic somewhat silly exercise, but once down the rabbit-hole….):

ὄλβιον
μακάριον γενέθλιον ἦμαρ [sc. εἴη σοι]
εὐτυχὲς
καλὸν (based on καλά γενέθλια)

Of the three, I think I like this combination the most: γενέθλιον ἦμαρ εὐτυχὲς
I also like the rhythm of this one: μακάριον γενέθλιον ἦμαρ.
But with the parallel καλά γενέθλια from PlatoSparks, perhaps καλὸν γενέθλιον ἦμαρ is good too

And we can add particles for flavor and force:

εἰ γὰρ μακάριον γενέθλιον ἦμαρ!
μακάριον δὴ γενέθλιον ἦμαρ!
or

εἰ γὰρ καλὸν γενέθλιον ἦμαρ!
καλὸν δὴ γενέθλιον ἦμαρ!

To be sure, it is highly unlikely that any Ancient Greek ever said this. But no ancient Greek used twitter either. Any suggestions for improvement?

Or Youtube:

Felix Dies Natalis — Sententiae Antiquae: A Pu Pu Platter from our Infancy

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This site and its twitter feed is three years old today.  We have passed from diapers (nappies in the UK!) and a liquid diet to full sentences and a different kind of liquid diet. Here are some quotations from our first few months.

 

The first post we ever put up:

 

Homer, Iliad 22.304-5

“May I not die without a fight and without glory but after doing something big for men to come to learn about”

μὴ μὰν ἀσπουδί γε καὶ ἀκλειῶς ἀπολοίμην,

ἀλλὰ μέγα ῥέξας τι καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι.

 

A good one for Halloween:

Seneca, De clementia 1.1.6

“No one can wear a mask for very long; affectation soon returns to true nature”

nemo enim potest personam diu ferre, ficta cito in naturam suam recidunt

And this made an appearance again in our aggregation of Seneca quotes.

 

A reminder to carpere diem, but in Greek:

Semonides, Fragment 3

“We have ample time to be dead yet we live our few years badly”

πολλὸς γὰρ ἥμιν ἐστι τεθνάναι χρονος

ζῶμεν δ᾿ ἀριθμῷ παῦρα κακῶς ἔτεα

 

One of our many lines about friendship:

Sallust, Catilinae coniuratio 20.4

“Wanting the same thing and also not wanting the same thing: this, ultimately, is true friendship”

idem velle atque idem nolle, ea demum firma amicitia est

 

Proof that U2 plagiarizes:

Martial, Epigrams 12.46.2

“I can’t live with you or without you”

nec tecum possum vivere nec sine te

 

A necessary does of humility:

Heraclitus, Fragment 40

“Knowing much doesn’t teach you how to think.”

πολυμαθίη νόον ἔχειν οὐ διδάσκει.

 

Existential Angst:

Pindar, Pythian 8.95

“What is a person? What is not a person? Man is a dream of a shadow”

τί δέ τις; τί δ’ οὔ τις; σκιᾶς ὄναρ / ἄνθρωπος.

 

Pithy Rumsfeldian Response:

Tacitus, Agricola 30.4

 

“Every unknown is overblown”

omne ignotum pro magnifico est

 

Because we still don’t understand this:

Pisander, fr. 9 (Hesychius 683)

“You can’t reason with Centaurs”

νοῦς οὐ παρὰ Κενταύροισι

 

Because to err is human:

 

Cicero, Philippics 12.5

“All men make mistakes; but it is fools who persist in them”

cuiusvis hominis est errare; nullius nisi insipientis perseverare in errore

 

This is for Cicero and Seneca who came to unhappy ends:

Sophocles, Electra 1007-8

“Death isn’t the most hateful thing. Worse is when someone wants to die but cannot.”

οὐ γὰρ θανεῖν ἔχθιστον, ἀλλ᾽ ὅταν θανεῖν
χρῄζων τις εἶτα μηδὲ τοῦτ᾽ ἔχῃ λαβεῖν.

 

A rejected motto:

Ovid, Ars Amatoria 1.159

“Trivialities occupy fickle minds”

para leves capiunt animos

 

From a quotable but less well-known sage:

Publilius Syrus, Sententiae M.54

“A bad plan is one that can’t be changed”

malum est consilium quod mutari non potest

 

The eternal troll of anonymous wit:

 

CIL IV, 1904

“I am amazed, wall, that you have not fallen in ruins,
you who bear the weight of so many boring inscriptions.”

admiror, paries, te non cecidisse ruinis,
qui tot scriptorum taedia sustineas.

 

Something that may or may not be true about quotation:

Horace, Ars Poetica 309

“The origin and source of good writing is good judgment”.

scribendi recte sapere est et principium et fons.

 

As good a way to start as to end:

Parmenides, fr. 6.16

 

“The path of all things goes backwards.”

…πάντων δὲ παλίντροπός ἐστι κέλευθος.

 

Thanks to everyone who has read, commented and retweeted over the past three years!

Πόλλ’ ἀγαθὰ γένοιτό ὑμῖν!

Like this:

Homer, Iliad 9.340-3

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“Are the sons of Atreus the only men who love their wives? A man who is good and sound of judgment loves his wife and feels a certain concern for her, just as I loved Briseis from the bottom of my heart, even though I carried her off with my spear.”

ἦ μοῦνοι φιλέουσ᾽ ἀλόχους μερόπων ἀνθρώπων
Ἀτρεΐδαι; ἐπεὶ ὅς τις ἀνὴρ ἀγαθὸς καὶ ἐχέφρων
τὴν αὐτοῦ φιλέει καὶ κήδεται, ὡς καὶ ἐγὼ τὴν
ἐκ θυμοῦ φίλεον δουρικτητήν περ ἐοῦσαν.

Latin Anthology, Codex Salmasianus, 30

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“In dreams, Apollo ordered me not to drink wine, and I obey him: now I just drink while I’m awake.”

Phoebus me in somnis vetuit potare Lyaeum.

Pareo praeceptis: tunc bibo, dum vigilo.

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.

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 1. 1164-1174: Entropy Strikes! (slowly)

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Some more Lucretius to lighten a Tuesday’s burden:

“Now as he shakes his head slowly the ancient plowman
whispers that his great labors have amounted to nothing
and when he compares his life’s work to former times
he often praises the good fortunes of his father.
It is sad but true: the caretaker of the shriveled vine
blames the passage of time and carps about his generation,
complaining how the older world so full of devotion
managed to support life with much slighter means,
when each man was apportioned a smaller bit of land.
He does not understand that all things deteriorate over time
in the approach to the journey’s end, worn out by the ancient span of years.”

 

iamque caput quassans grandis suspirat arator
crebrius, in cassum magnos cecidisse labores,               
1165
et cum tempora temporibus praesentia confert
praeteritis, laudat fortunas saepe parentis.
tristis item vetulae vitis sator atque <vietae>
temporis incusat momen saeclumque fatigat,
et crepat, antiquum genus ut pietate repletum               
1170
perfacile angustis tolerarit finibus aevom,
cum minor esset agri multo modus ante viritim;
nec tenet omnia paulatim tabescere et ire
ad capulum spatio aetatis defessa vetusto.

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