Epitaphioi: Teaching the Living By Praise of the Dead

Epitaphios: A speech performed annually in honor of those who have died in war. The most famous that remains is Thucydides’ version of Perikles’ funeral oration (2.35-46).

Thucydides, 2.35

“Many of those who have spoken here already praised the one who made this speech law, that it is a noble thing to speak over the burials of those who died in war.  But honors paid in deeds for deeds performed by good men would seem to be sufficient to me—the acts which you see performed now by the public at this burial. The virtues of many should not be risked by entrusting them to the good or poor speaking of one man alone. For it is hard to speak reasonably on something upon which faith in the truth is only partly firm.

For the one who knows the story and is a well-informed listener may take it rather harshly compared to what he wants, knows and believes should be said. Someone inexperienced of the events may find fault because of envy if he hears anything behind his own nature. For praise spoken of others is endurable only to the point that each person believes that he is capable of achieving what he has heard. People envy and disbelieve those who surpass them.

But since it was believed noble to do these things by our forefathers, it is right that I follow the law and try as much as possible to fulfill each of your desire and expectation.”

‘Οἱ μὲν πολλοὶ τῶν ἐνθάδε ἤδη εἰρηκότων ἐπαινοῦσι τὸν προσθέντα τῷ νόμῳ τὸν λόγον τόνδε, ὡς καλὸν ἐπὶ τοῖς ἐκ τῶν πολέμων θαπτομένοις ἀγορεύεσθαι αὐτόν. ἐμοὶ δὲ ἀρκοῦν ἂν ἐδόκει εἶναι ἀνδρῶν ἀγαθῶν ἔργῳ γενομένων ἔργῳ καὶ δηλοῦσθαι τὰς τιμάς, οἷα καὶ νῦν περὶ τὸν τάφον τόνδε δημοσίᾳ παρασκευασθέντα ὁρᾶτε, καὶ μὴ ἐν ἑνὶ ἀνδρὶ πολλῶν ἀρετὰς κινδυνεύεσθαι εὖ τε καὶ χεῖρον εἰπόντι πιστευθῆναι. χαλεπὸν γὰρ τὸ μετρίως εἰπεῖν ἐν ᾧ μόλις καὶ ἡ δόκησις τῆς ἀληθείας βεβαιοῦται. ὅ τε γὰρ ξυνειδὼς καὶ εὔνους ἀκροατὴς τάχ’ ἄν τι ἐνδεεστέρως πρὸς ἃ βούλεταί τε καὶ ἐπίσταται νομίσειε δηλοῦσθαι, ὅ τε ἄπειρος ἔστιν ἃ καὶ  πλεονάζεσθαι, διὰ φθόνον, εἴ τι ὑπὲρ τὴν αὑτοῦ φύσιν ἀκούοι. μέχρι γὰρ τοῦδε   ἀνεκτοὶ οἱ ἔπαινοί εἰσι περὶ ἑτέρων λεγόμενοι, ἐς ὅσον ἂν καὶ αὐτὸς ἕκαστος οἴηται ἱκανὸς εἶναι δρᾶσαί τι ὧν ἤκουσεν· τῷ δὲ ὑπερβάλλοντι αὐτῶν φθονοῦντες ἤδη καὶ ἀπιστοῦσιν. ἐπειδὴ δὲ τοῖς πάλαι οὕτως ἐδοκιμάσθη ταῦτα καλῶς ἔχειν, χρὴ καὶ ἐμὲ ἑπόμενον τῷ νόμῳ πειρᾶσθαι ὑμῶν τῆς ἑκάστου βουλήσεώς τε καὶ δόξης τυχεῖν ὡς ἐπὶ πλεῖστον.

Lysias, Epitaphios 1-3

“If I believed it were possible, men in attendance, to make clear in this speech the virtue of the men who lie buried here, I would complain to those who summoned me to speak with only a few days’ notice. But since the whole of time would not be enough for all men together to prepare a speech worthy of these deeds, for this reason the city seems to take pity on those who speak here in making their assignment late–since it knows that the speakers will have the pardon of their audiences.

Yet, though my speech is about those men, my struggle is not with their deeds but with those who have spoken for them before. For their virtue has provided such an abundance both in those able to compose poetry and those who are selected to speak, that even though many fine things have been said about them by my predecessors and many other things have been omitted by them, it is still the case that enough remains for those who follow them to say. For there is no land or sea unknown by these men; and in every direction among all peoples even those who suffered at their hands sing their praises.

First, therefore, I will recite the ancient trials of our forefathers, procuring for us a reminder from their fame. For it is right for all men to remember them, praising them in songs and recalling their names in the praise of good men, honoring them on occasions such as this, and teaching the living through the deeds of the dead.

Εἰ μὲν ἡγούμην οἷόν τε εἶναι, ὦ ἄνδρες οἱ παρόντες ἐπὶ τῷδε τῷ τάφῳ, λόγῳ δηλῶσαι τὴν τῶν ἐνθάδε κειμένων [ἀνδρῶν] ἀρετήν, ἐμεμψάμην ἂν τοῖς ἐπαγγείλασιν ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς ἐξ ὀλίγων ἡμερῶν λέγειν· ἐπειδὴ δὲ πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις ὁ πᾶς χρόνος οὐχ ἱκανὸς λόγον ἴσον παρασκευάσαι τοῖς τούτων ἔργοις, διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡ πόλις μοι δοκεῖ, προνοουμένη τῶν ἐνθάδε λεγόντων, ἐξ ὀλίγου τὴν πρόσταξιν ποιεῖσθαι, ἡγουμένη οὕτως ἂν μάλιστα συγγνώμης αὐτοὺς παρὰ τῶν ἀκουσάντων τυγχάνειν. ὅμως δὲ ὁ μὲν λόγος μοι περὶ τούτων, ὁ δ’ ἀγὼν οὐ πρὸς τὰ τούτων ἔργα ἀλλὰ πρὸς τοὺς πρότερον ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς εἰρηκότας. τοσαύτην γὰρ ἀφθονίαν παρεσκεύασεν ἡ τούτων ἀρετὴ καὶ τοῖς ποιεῖν δυναμένοις καὶ τοῖς εἰπεῖν βουληθεῖσιν, ὥστε καλὰ μὲν πολλὰ τοῖς προτέροις περὶ αὐτῶν εἰρῆσθαι, πολλὰ δὲ καὶ ἐκείνοις παραλελεῖφθαι, ἱκανὰ δὲ καὶ τοῖς ἐπιγιγνομένοις ἐξεῖναι εἰπεῖν·οὔτε γὰρ γῆς ἄπειροι οὔτε θαλάττης οὐδεμιᾶς, πανταχῇ δὲ καὶ παρὰ πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις οἱ τὰ αὑτῶν πενθοῦντες κακὰ τὰς τούτων ἀρετὰς ὑμνοῦσι.

Πρῶτον μὲν οὖν τοὺς παλαιοὺς κινδύνους τῶν προγόνων δίειμι, μνήμην παρὰ τῆς φήμης λαβών· ἄξιον γὰρ πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις κἀκείνων μεμνῆσθαι, ὑμνοῦντας μὲν ἐν ταῖς ᾠδαῖς, λέγοντας δ’ ἐν τοῖς τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἐγκωμίοις, τιμῶντας δ’ ἐν τοῖς καιροῖς τοῖς τοιούτοις, παιδεύοντας δ’ ἐν τοῖς τῶν τεθνεώτων ἔργοις τοὺς ζῶντας.

In Plato’s Menexenus (236dff), Socrates recites an epitaphios given by Aspasia:

“In deed, these men have what is required for them materially—now that they have obtained it, they proceed along the fated path: they have been carried out in common by the city and in private by their families.  But in speech it is necessary to pay out the remaining rite which custom assigns us. For, when deeds have been performed well, memory and glory come from the audience through a speech nobly spoken. Whoever will praise the dead rightly and advise the living favorably needs this type of speech: calling upon progeny and brothers to imitate their virtue and assuaging their parents and any elders they have left behind.

What sort of speech would this seem like for us? Should we begin correctly by praising them as good men who while alive impressed their friends with their virtue and who exchanged their death for the safety of the survivors? It seems right to me to praise them in the order of nature, how they became good men. They were good men because they came from good men. So first, let us praise their families, then the way they were raised and trained. And then we will show the character of their deeds, how they proved themselves to be noble and worthy.”

῎Εργῳ μὲν ἡμῖν οἵδε ἔχουσιν τὰ προσήκοντα σφίσιν αὐτοῖς, ὧν τυχόντες πορεύονται τὴν εἱμαρμένην πορείαν, προπεμφθέντες κοινῇ μὲν ὑπὸ τῆς πόλεως, ἰδίᾳ δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν οἰκείων· λόγῳ δὲ δὴ τὸν λειπόμενον κόσμον ὅ τε νόμος προστάττει ἀποδοῦναι τοῖς ἀνδράσιν καὶ χρή. ἔργων γὰρ εὖ πραχθέντων λόγῳ καλῶς ῥηθέντι μνήμη καὶ κόσμος τοῖς πράξασι γίγνεται παρὰ τῶν ἀκουσάντων· δεῖ δὴ τοιούτου τινὸς λόγου ὅστις τοὺς μὲν τετελευτηκότας ἱκανῶς ἐπαινέσεται, τοῖς δὲ ζῶσιν εὐμενῶς παραινέσεται, ἐκγόνοις μὲν καὶ ἀδελφοῖς μιμεῖσθαι τὴν τῶνδε ἀρετὴν παρακελευόμενος, πατέρας δὲ καὶ μητέρας καὶ εἴ τινες τῶν ἄνωθεν ἔτι προγόνων λείπονται, τούτους δὲ  παραμυθούμενος.

τίς οὖν ἂν ἡμῖν τοιοῦτος λόγος φανείη; ἢ πόθεν ἂν ὀρθῶς ἀρξαίμεθα ἄνδρας ἀγαθοὺς ἐπαινοῦντες, οἳ ζῶντές τε τοὺς ἑαυτῶν ηὔφραινον δι’ ἀρετήν, καὶ τὴν τελευτὴν ἀντὶ τῆς τῶν ζώντων σωτηρίας ἠλλάξαντο; δοκεῖ μοι χρῆναι κατὰ φύσιν, ὥσπερ ἀγαθοὶ ἐγένοντο, οὕτω καὶ ἐπαινεῖν αὐτούς. ἀγαθοὶ δὲ ἐγένοντο διὰ τὸ φῦναι ἐξ ἀγαθῶν. τὴν εὐγένειαν οὖν πρῶτον αὐτῶν ἐγκωμιάζωμεν, δεύτερον δὲ τροφήν τε καὶ παιδείαν· ἐπὶ δὲ τούτοις τὴν τῶν ἔργων πρᾶξιν ἐπιδείξωμεν, ὡς καλὴν καὶ ἀξίαν τούτων ἀπεφήναντο.

Demosthenes, Epitaphios (speech 60)

“Since it seems right to the state to bury those lying in this grave publicly because they proved themselves noble in war and it has been assigned to me to deliver the customary speech on their behalf, I immediately began to examine how others have crafted the appropriate praise. But while I was considering and examining this, I realized that speaking worthily of the dead is one of those things that is impossible for men. For because they have abandoned that desire to live that is natural to all men and they have decided to die well rather than continue living and watch Greece fare badly, how have they not left behind an accomplishment beyond the expression of any speech?

But, nevertheless, it seems right to me to speak the way those who have spoken here before. How serious our city is about those who have died in war is can be seen from other affairs and especially from this law by which someone is selected who will speak over the public burial. For, since we know that among noble men the possession of money and the acquisition of pleasures in life are dismissed and that they have a great desire for virtue and praise, so that they might gain these things especially, we have thought it right to honor them so that what good repute they acquired while living, might also be granted to them even now that they are dead.

If I saw that courage alone was sufficient of those traits that lead to virtue, I would praise that and forget the rest of my speech. But because it is true that they were born nobly, educated prudently, and lived honorably—all reasons they were eager to act rightly—I would be ashamed if I moved on without saying something about these things. So I will start from the beginning of their ancestry.”

᾿Επειδὴ τοὺς ἐν τῷδε τῷ τάφῳ κειμένους, ἄνδρας ἀγαθοὺς ἐν τῷ πολέμῳ γεγονότας, ἔδοξεν τῇ πόλει δημοσίᾳ θάπτειν καὶ προσέταξεν ἐμοὶ τὸν νομιζόμενον λόγον εἰπεῖν ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς, ἐσκόπουν μὲν εὐθὺς ὅπως τοῦ προσήκοντος ἐπαίνου τεύξονται, ἐξετάζων δὲ καὶ σκοπῶν ἀξίως εἰπεῖν τῶν τετελευτηκότων ἕν τι τῶν ἀδυνάτων ηὕρισκον ὄν. οἳ γὰρ τὴν ὑπάρχουσαν πᾶσιν ἔμφυτον τοῦ ζῆν ὑπερεῖδον ἐπιθυμίαν, καὶ τελευτῆσαι καλῶς μᾶλλον ἠβουλήθησαν ἢ ζῶντες τὴν ῾Ελλάδ’ ἰδεῖν ἀτυχοῦσαν, πῶς οὐκ ἀνυπέρβλητον παντὶ λόγῳ τὴν αὑτῶν ἀρετὴν καταλελοίπασιν;

ὁμοίως μέντοι διαλεχθῆναι τοῖς πρότερόν ποτ’ εἰρηκόσιν ἐνθάδ’ εἶναι μοι δοκεῖ. ὡς μὲν οὖν ἡ πόλις σπουδάζει περὶ τοὺς ἐν τῷ πολέμῳ τελευτῶντας, ἔκ τε τῶν ἄλλων ἔστιν ἰδεῖν καὶ μάλιστ’ ἐκ τοῦδε τοῦ νόμου, καθ’ ὃν αἱρεῖται τὸν ἐροῦντ’ ἐπὶ ταῖς δημοσίαις ταφαῖς· εἰδυῖα γὰρ παρὰ τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς ἀνδράσιν τὰς μὲν τῶν χρημάτων κτήσεις καὶ τῶν κατὰ τὸν βίον ἡδονῶν ἀπολαύσεις ὑπερεωραμένας, τῆς δ’ ἀρετῆς καὶ τῶν ἐπαίνων πᾶσαν τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν οὖσαν, ἐξ ὧν ταῦτ’ ἂν αὐτοῖς μάλιστα γένοιτο λόγων, τούτοις ᾠήθησαν δεῖν αὐτοὺς τιμᾶν, ἵν’ ἣν ζῶντες ἐκτήσαντ’ εὐδοξίαν, αὕτη καὶ τετελευτηκόσιν αὐτοῖς ἀποδοθείη.

εἰ μὲν οὖν τὴν ἀνδρείαν μόνον αὐτοῖς τῶν εἰς ἀρετὴν ἀνηκόντων ὑπάρχουσαν ἑώρων, ταύτην ἂν ἐπαινέσας ἀπηλλαττόμην τῶν λοιπῶν· ἐπειδὴ δὲ  καὶ γεγενῆσθαι καλῶς καὶ πεπαιδεῦσθαι σωφρόνως καὶ βεβιωκέναι φιλοτίμως συμβέβηκεν αὐτοῖς, ἐξ ὧν εἰκότως ἦσαν σπουδαῖοι, αἰσχυνοίμην ἂν εἴ τι τούτων φανείην παραλιπών. ἄρξομαι δ’ ἀπὸ τῆς τοῦ γένους αὐτῶν ἀρχῆς.

Image result for Ancient Greek burial vase

The Wings of Daidalos: Procrastination in Greek and Latin

Our word ‘procrastination’ is pretty much a direct borrowing from Latin (first attested in English in 1548, according to the OED–we really delayed in adopting it!). There was also a brief-lived adaptation of Latin cunctatio (delay) in English cunctation, cunctatory, cunctatious (etc.) but, thankfully, that fell into disuse. Eventually.

Here are some Greek and Roman thoughts on delay:

From the Suda:

Ἀμβολία: ἡ ὑπέρθεσις: Hesitation: postponement
Ἀναβάλλειν: To Delay
Ἀνάθεσις: ἡ ὑπέρθεσις: A delay: postponement
Διαμέλλει: ἀναβολῇ χρῆται: He/she put something off: to employ procrastination.

A few proverbs from the Suda

“The wings of Daidalos”: used of those who employ delay because they lack a prosthetic.

Δαιδάλου πτερά: ἐπὶ τῶν δι’ ἀπορίαν προσθήκης χρωμένων παρελκύσει.

“The hedgehog would put off childbirth.” This proverb is applied to situations that become worse with delay”

Ἐχῖνος τὸν τόκον ἀναβάλλῃ: λέγεται ἐφ’ ὧν τὸ ἀναβάλλεσθαι πρὸς χείρονος γίνεται.

Image result for Medieval manuscript hedgehog

Terence, Andria 206

“Dave, this is no place for sluggishness or procrastination.”

Dave, nil locist segnitiae neque socordiae,

Propertius, 1.12

“Why can’t you stop flinging a charge of laziness at me—
The claim that Rome, Ponticus, is making me procrastinate?”

Quid mihi desidiae non cessas fingere crimen,
quod faciat nobis, Pontice, Roma moram?

Achilles Tatius, Leucippe and Clitophon 18

“For when beauty, wealth and sex converge upon you, you better not sit or procrastinate!”

κάλλος γὰρ καὶ πλοῦτος καὶ ἔρως εἰ συνῆλθον ἐπὶ σέ, οὐχ ἕδρας οὐδὲ ἀναβολῆς

Cicero, Letters (to Atticus) 10.9

“Fearing this, I fell into this delay. But I might achieve everything if I hurry—if I procrastinate, I lose.”

hoc verens in hanc tarditatem incidi. sed adsequar omnia si propero: si cunctor, amitto.

Thucydides, 2.18

“The Peloponnesians believed that when they arrived they would have captured everything outside still immediately, except for his procrastination…”

καὶ ἐδόκουν οἱ Πελοποννήσιοι ἐπελθόντες ἂν διὰ τάχους πάντα ἔτι ἔξω καταλαβεῖν, εἰ μὴ διὰ τὴν ἐκείνου μέλλησιν

Demosthenes, Second Olynthiac 23

“It is no surprise that Philip, when he goes on campaign himself, toiling and present at every event, overlooking no opportunity or season, outstrips us as we procrastinate, vote on things, and make official inquiries.”

οὐ δὴ θαυμαστόν ἐστιν, εἰ στρατευόμενος καὶ πονῶν ἐκεῖνος αὐτὸς καὶ παρὼν ἐφ᾿ ἅπασι καὶ μήτε καιρὸν μήθ᾿ ὥραν παραλείπων ἡμῶν μελλόντων καὶ ψηφιζομένων καὶ πυνθανομένων περιγίγνεται.

Plato, Critias 108d

“I need to do this already, I can’t procrastinate anymore!”

τοῦτ᾿ οὖν αὐτὸ ἤδη δραστέον, καὶ μελλητέον οὐδὲν ἔτι.

Minucius Felix, Octavius 13

“Shouldn’t everyone should respect and imitate the procrastination of the Simonides, the lyric poet? When he was asked by the tyrant Hiero what he thought about the nature of the gods, first he asked for a day to think about it. On the next day, he asked for two more days. And he requested another two when reminded again! Finally, when the tyrant asked the cause of so much delay, he responded that to him “the truth became as much more obscure as the time spent pursuing it”. To my taste, matters that are uncertain should be let as they are. When so many impressive minds disagree, decisions should not be made rashly or speedily for either side to avoid entertaining an old woman’s superstition or the loss of all religion.”

Simonidis Melici nonne admiranda omnibus et sectanda cunctatio? Qui Simonides, cum de eo, quid et quales arbitraretur deos, ab Hierone tyranno quaereretur, primo deliberationi diem petiit, postridie biduum prorogavit, mox alterum tantum admonitus adiunxit. Postremo, cum causas tantae morae tyrannus inquireret, respondit ille ‘quod sibi, quanto inquisitio tardior pergeret, tanto veritas fieret obscurior.’Mea quoque opinione quae sunt dubia, ut sunt, relinquenda sunt, nec, tot ac tantis viris deliberantibus, temere et audaciter in alteram partem ferenda sententia est, ne aut anilis inducatur superstitio aut omnis religio destruatur.”

Martial, 5.58

“Postumus, you always say that you will live tomorrow, tomorrow!
But that ‘tomorrow’ of yours – when does it ever come?
How far off is that ‘tomorrow’! Where is it, or where should it be sought?
Does it lie hidden among the Parthians, or the Armenians?
That ‘tomorrow’ is as old as Priam or Nestor.
For how much can ‘tomorrow’ be purchased?
You will live tomorrow, you say?
Postumus, even living today is too late;
he is the wise man, who lived yesterday.

Cras te uicturum, cras dicis, Postume, semper:
dic mihi, cras istud, Postume, quando uenit?
Quam longe cras istud! ubi est? aut unde petendum?
Numquid apud Parthos Armeniosque latet?
Iam cras istud habet Priami uel Nestoris annos.              5
Cras istud quanti, dic mihi, possit emi?
Cras uiues? Hodie iam uiuere, Postume, serum est:
ille sapit quisquis, Postume, uixit heri.

Persuasion Without Cicero

Laurence Stern, Tristram Shandy 1.XIX:

“I never knew a man able to answer this argument.—But, indeed, to speak of my father as he was;—he was certainly irresistible;—both in his orations and disputations;—he was born an orator;— Theodidaktos —Persuasion hung upon his lips, and the elements of Logick and Rhetorick were so blended up in him,—and, withal, he had so shrewd a guess at the weaknesses and passions of his respondent,—that Nature might have stood up and said,—’This man is eloquent.’—In short, whether he was on the weak or the strong side of the question, ’twas hazardous in either case to attack him.—And yet, ’tis strange, he had never read Cicero, nor Quintilian de Oratore, nor Isocrates, nor Aristotle, nor Longinus, amongst the antients;—nor Vossius, nor Skioppius, nor Ramus, nor Farnaby, amongst the moderns;—and what is more astonishing, he had never in his whole life the least light or spark of subtilty struck into his mind, by one single lecture upon Crackenthorp or Burgersdicius or any Dutch logician or commentator;—he knew not so much as in what the difference of an argument ad ignorantiam, and an argument ad hominem consisted; so that I well remember, when he went up along with me to enter my name at Jesus College in…,—it was a matter of just wonder with my worthy tutor, and two or three fellows of that learned society,—that a man who knew not so much as the names of his tools, should be able to work after that fashion with them.”

What Good is a Friendly Philosopher?

Plutarch, Fr. 203

Recorded in Themistios’ On the Soul (From Stobaeus, iii.13. 68)

“Others will decide whether Diogenes spoke rightly about Plato “What good is a man who has practiced philosophy for a long time and pissed off no one? Perhaps it is right that the philosopher’s speech has a sweetness that wounds like honey.”

Θεμιστίου περὶ ψυχῆς·

Εἰ μὲν οὖν ὀρθῶς ἐπὶ Πλάτωνος εἶπε Διογένης, “τί δαὶ ὄφελος ἡμῖν ἀνδρὸς ὃς πολὺν ἤδη χρόνον φιλοσοφῶν οὐδένα λελύπηκεν;” ἕτεροι κρινοῦσιν. ἴσως γὰρ ὡς τὸ μέλι δεῖ καὶ τὸν λόγον τοῦ φιλοσόφου τὸ γλυκὺ δηκτικὸν ἔχειν τῶν ἡλκωμένων.

Image result for Ancient Greek Plato

Circe’s Island Is Really about Reincarnation: An Allegorical Reading of Odyssey 10

Here is another allegorical interpretation of the Odyssey attributed to Porphyry.

from Stobaeus, i. 44. 60 

Τοῦ αὐτοῦ (sc. Πορφυρίου)·

“The things that Homer says about Kirkê contain a wonderful theory about the soul. The interpretation runs as follows:

Some have the heads, voice, head and skin of swine, but the mind remains constant as it was before. This myth is similar to the riddle about the soul presented by Pythagoras and Plato, that it is indestructible in nature and unseen but that it is not safe from harm or unchangeable. In what is called its destruction or death, it undergoes a change and then a transference into different kinds of bodies pursuing an appearance and fit according to pleasure, by similarity and practice to how it lived life. In this, each person draws a great advantage from education and philosophy, since the soul has a memory of noble things, judges the shameful harshly, and is able to overcome the unnatural pleasures. This soul can pay attention to itself, and guard that it might not accidentally become a beast because it has grown attracted to an hideously shaped, unclean body regarding virtue, a body that excites and nourishes uncultured and unreasoning nature rather than increasing and nourishing thought.

Τὰ δὲ παρ᾿ Ὁμήρῳ περὶ τῆς Κίρκης λεγόμενα θαυμαστὴν ἔχει τὴν περὶ ψυχὴν θεωρίαν. λέγεται γὰρ οὕτως,

οἱ δὲ συῶν μὲν ἔχον κεφαλὰς φωνήν τε τρίχας τε καὶ δέμας· αὐτὰρ νοῦς ἦν ἔμπεδος ὡς τὸ πάρος περ. ἔστι τοίνυν ὁ μῦθος αἴνιγμα τῶν περὶ ψυχῆς ὑπό τε Πυθαγόρου λεγομένων καὶ Πλάτωνος, ὡς ἄφθαρτος οὖσα τὴν φύσιν καὶ ἀίδιος, οὔ τι μὴν ἀπαθὴς οὐδ᾿ ἀμετάβλητος, ἐν ταῖς λεγομέναις φθοραῖς καὶ τελευταῖς μεταβολὴν ἴσχει καὶ μετακόσμησιν εἰς ἕτερα σωμάτων εἴδη, καθ᾿ ἡδονὴν διώκουσα τὸ πρόσφορον καὶ οἰκεῖον ὁμοιότητι καὶ συνηθείᾳ βίου διαίτης· ἔνθα δὴ τὸ μέγα παιδείας ἑκάστῳ καὶ φιλοσοφίας ὄφελος, ἂν μνημονεύουσα τῶν καλῶν ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ δυσχεραίνουσα τὰς αἰσχρὰς καὶ παρανόμους ἡδονὰς δύνηται κρατεῖν καὶ προσέχειν αὑτῇ καὶ φυλάττειν μὴ λάθῃ θηρίον γενομένη καὶ στέρξασα σώματος οὐκ εὐφυοῦς οὐδὲ καθαροῦ πρὸς ἀρετὴν φύσιν ἄμουσον καὶ ἄλογον καὶ τὸ ἐπιθυμοῦν καὶ θυμούμενον μᾶλλον ἢ τὸ φρόνιμον αὐξάνοντος καὶ τρέφοντος.

“Once the soul is translated, that which is fated and nature, which Empedocles named the divine force that “wraps us in a foreign robe of flesh”, also re-fits the soul.  Homer has named this circular journey and return of rebirth Kirkê, the child of the sun because the sun binds every destruction to birth and every birth in turn to destruction, always weaving them together. The Island Aiaia is also that place allotted to receive one who dies—where the souls first arrive as they wander, and suffer alienation as they mourn and they do not know which way is west nor “where the sun which brings mortals light comes upon the earth”. As they long for their habits of pleasure—their shared life in the flesh and their way of life with the flesh—they provide the draught with its character again: it is the drink where birth is mixed and stirs together what is truly immortal and mortal, the thoughts and sufferings, the ethereal and the earthbound. The souls are enchanted and weakened by the pleasures that will lead them back to birth again. At this time, souls require great luck and great wisdom in order to avoid pursuing their worst aspects or passions and dedicate themselves to a cursed and beastly life”.

Αὐτῆς γὰρ τῆς μετακοσμήσεως εἱμαρμένη καὶ φύσις ὑπὸ Ἐμπεδοκλέους δαίμων ἀνηγόρευται “σαρκῶν ἀλλογνῶτι περιστέλλουσα χιτῶνι”καὶ μεταμπίσχουσα τὰς ψυχάς, Ὅμηρος δὲ τὴν ἐν κύκλῳ περίοδον καὶ περιφορὰν παλιγγενεσίας Κίρκην προσηγόρευκεν, Ἡλίου παῖδα τοῦ πᾶσαν φθορὰν γενέσει καὶ γένεσιν αὖ πάλιν φθορᾷ συνάπτοντος ἀεὶ καὶ συνείροντος. Αἰαίη δὲ νῆσος ἡ δεχομένη τὸν ἀποθνήσκοντα μοῖρα καὶ χώρα τοῦ περιέχοντος, εἰς ἣν ἐμπεσοῦσαι πρῶτον αἱ ψυχαὶ πλανῶνται καὶ ξενοπαθοῦσι καὶ ὀλοφύρονται καὶ οὐκ ἴσασιν ὅπῃ ζόφος “οὐδ᾿ ὅπῃ ἠέλιος φαεσίμβροτος εἶσ᾿ ὑπὸ γαῖαν” ποθοῦσαι δὲ καθ᾿ ἡδονὰς τὴν συνήθη καὶ σύντροφον ἐν σαρκὶ καὶ μετὰ σαρκὸς δίαιταν ἐμπίπτουσιν αὖθις εἰς τὸν κυκεῶνα, τῆς γενέσεως μιγνύσης εἰς ταὐτὸ καὶ κυκώσης ὡς ἀληθῶς ἀίδια καὶ θνητὰ καὶ φρόνιμα καὶ παθητὰ καὶ ὀλύμπια καὶ γηγενῆ, θελγόμεναι καὶ μαλασσόμεναι ταῖς ἀγούσαις αὖθις ἐπὶ τὴν γένεσιν ἡδοναῖς, ἐν ᾧ δὴ μάλιστα πολλῆς μὲν εὐτυχίας αἱ ψυχαὶ δέονται πολλῆς δὲ σωφροσύνης, ὅπως μὴ τοῖς κακίστοις ἐπισπόμεναι καὶ συνενδοῦσαι μέρεσιν ἢ πάθεσιν αὑτῶν κακοδαίμονα καὶ θηριώδη βίον ἀμείψωσιν.

For it is right that it is called and considered a crossroad in the underworld around which the parts of the soul split: the rational, the emotional, and the desirous. Each of these produces a force or an inducement to the life appropriate to itself. This is no longer myth or poetry but truth and a story of nature. In this transformation and rebirth, when the aspect of desire overpowers and takes control, [Homer] is claiming that because of the dominance of pleasure and gluttony, they transform into the bodies of donkeys and pigs and receive unclean lives on the ground. The interpretation runs as follows. Whenever a soul has an emotional component that has grown completely savage because of harsh rivalries or murderous savagery developing from some disagreement or vendetta, that soul finds a second birth which is full of bitterness and angry thoughts and falls into the shape of a wolf or a lion, embracing this body as if it were a tool of vengeance for his controlling passion. For this reason, one must keep clean when near death as if for a religious rite and restrain from every kind of base pleasure, put every harsh emotion to bed, and to withdraw from the body by suppressing envies, enmities, and rages down deep. This “Hermes of the golden-staff” happens to be that very reasoning which indicates clearly the good and either wholly restrains or saves it from the deadly draught should it drink—it preserves the soul in a human life and character for as long a time as is possible.”

 

ἡ γὰρ λεγομένη καὶ νομιζομένη τῶν ἐν Ἅιδου τρίοδος ἐνταῦθά που τέτακται περὶ τὰ τῆς ψυχῆς σχιζομένη μέρη, τὸ λογιστικὸν καὶ θυμοειδὲς καὶ ἐπιθυμητικόν, ὧν ἕκαστον ἀρχὴν ἐξ αὑτοῦ καὶ ῥοπὴν ἐπὶ τὸν οἰκεῖον βίον ἐνδίδωσι. καὶ οὐκέτι ταῦτα μῦθος οὐδὲ ποίησις ἀλλ᾿ ἀλήθεια καὶ φυσικὸς λόγος. ὧν μὲν γὰρ ἐν τῇ μεταβολῇ καὶ γενέσει τὸ ἐπιθυμητικὸν ἐξανθοῦν ἐπικρατεῖ καὶ δυναστεύει, τούτοις εἰς ὀνώδη καὶ ὑώδη σώματα καὶ βίους θολεροὺς καὶ ἀκαθάρτους ὑπὸ φιληδονίας καὶ γαστριμαργίας φησὶ γίνεσθαι τὴν μεταβολήν. ὅταν δὲ φιλονεικίαις σκληραῖς καὶ φονικαῖς ὠμότησιν ἔκ τινος διαφορᾶς ἢ δυσμενείας ἐξηγριωμένον ἔχουσα παντάπασιν ἡ ψυχὴ τὸ θυμοειδὲς εἰς δευτέραν γένεσιν ἀφίκηται, πλήρης οὖσα προσφάτου πικρίας καὶ βαρυφροσύνης ἔρριψεν ἑαυτὴν εἰς λύκου φύσιν ἢ λέοντος, ὥσπερ ὄργανον ἀμυντικὸν τὸ σῶμα τῷ κρατοῦντι προσιεμένη πάθει καὶ περιαρμόσασα. διὸ δεῖ μάλιστα περὶ τὸν θάνατον ὥσπερ ἐν τελετῇ καθαρεύοντα παντὸς ἀπέχειν πάθους φαύλου τὴν ψυχὴν καὶ πᾶσαν ἐπιθυμίαν χαλεπὴν κοιμήσαντα καὶ φθόνους καὶ δυσμενείας καὶ ὀργὰς ἀπωτάτω τιθέμενον τοῦ φρονοῦντος ἐκβαίνειν τοῦ σώματος. οὗτος ὁ χρυσόρραπις Ἑρμῆς ἀληθῶς ὁ λόγος ἐντυγχάνων καὶ δεικνύων ἐναργῶς τὸ καλὸν ἢ παντάπασιν εἴργει καὶ ἀπέχει τοῦ κυκεῶνος, ἢ πιοῦσαν2 ἐν ἀνθρωπίνῳ βίῳ καὶ ἤθει διαφυλάσσει πλεῖστον χρόνον, ὡς ἀνυστόν ἐστι.

 

Circe & Odysseus | Pseudo-Chalcidian back figure vase painting

 

 

Suffering Condensed Into One Letter

Epistles of Phalaris, VIII: To Sameas

“Since I am well acquainted with the simplicity of your life and your abundant philanthropy to all, and because you benignly consider the good fortunes of your friends while sympathizing with their private pains and misfortunes, I have decided to write to you in brief that I have conquered in court, on the sea, on land, and on horse. I have done this so that, when you hear it (as befits a good and noble man), you will grieve incessantly, as you take up from your nature these tortures so worthy and befitting such a bad character.”

Σαμέᾳ.
Εἰδώς σου τὴν χρηστότητα τοῦ τρόπου καὶ τὴν ὑπερφυᾶ πρὸς ἅπαντας φιλανθρωπίαν, καὶ ὅτι τὰς τῶν πλησίον εὐτυχίας ἡμέρως καὶ συμπαθῶς ἰδίας ἀλγηδόνας καὶ συμφορὰς ἡγῇ, γέγραφά σοι συντόμως, ὅτι καὶ τὴν δίκην καὶ τὴν ναυμαχίαν καὶ τὴν παράταξιν καὶ τὸ τελευταῖον τὸν ἱππικὸν ἀγῶνα νενικήκαμεν, ἵν’ ἀκούσας, ὡς προσήκει καλῷ κἀγαθῷ, στένῃς ἀδιαλείπτως, λαμβάνων παρὰ τῆς σεαυτοῦ φύσεως τὰς ἀξίας καὶ πρεπούσας τοσαύτῃ κακοηθείᾳ βασάνους.

Fire Increases Life: Plutarch, Against Water

Plutarch, On Whether Fire or Water is Better, 958

“Since we have come to this point in the argument: what is more profitable to life than art? Fire exposed every art and preserves them. This is the reason poets have made Hephaistos the first craftsman. Since humans have been given only a little bit of life and—as Ariston puts it—sleep claims half of life like a tax-collector, I would say that darkness is important: even if it were possible to stay awake through the night, this vigil would be useless if fire did not provide the advantages of day to us and strip away the difference between day and night. If there is nothing more important to people than life and fire increases life considerably, how could fire not be the most beneficial thing of all?”

Ἐπεὶ δὲ κατὰ τοῦτο τοῦ λόγου γεγόναμεν, τί τέχνης τῷ βίῳ λυσιτελέστερον; τέχνας δὲ πάσας καὶ ἀνεῦρε τὸ πῦρ καὶ σῴζει· διὸ καὶ τὸν Ἥφαιστον ἀρχηγὸν αὐτῶν ποιοῦσι. καὶ μὴν ὀλίγου χρόνου καὶ βίου τοῖς ἀνθρώποις δεδομένου, ὁ μὲν Ἀρίστων φησὶν ὅτι ὁ ὕπνος οἷον τελώνης τὸ ἥμισυ ἀφαιρεῖ τούτου· ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἂν εἴποιμ᾿ ὅτι σκότος· ἐγρηγορέναι ἂν εἴη διὰ νυκτός, ἀλλ᾿ οὐδὲν ἦν ὄφελος τῆς ἐγρηγόρσεως, εἰ μὴ τὸ πῦρ τὰ τῆς ἡμέρας ἡμῖν παρεῖχεν ἀγαθά, καὶ τὴν ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς ἐξῄρει διαφοράν. εἰ τοίνυν τοῦ ζῆν οὐδὲν ἀνθρώποις λυσιτελέστερον καὶ τοῦτο πολλαπλασιάζει τὸ πῦρ, πῶς οὐκ ἂν εἴη πάντων ὠφελιμώτατον;

Image result for Ancient Greek fire