Lucretius: DIY Experiments in Atomic Motion

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 112-124

“As I remember, a remnant and a mirror of this thing
Turns always and stands before our eyes.
Only consider this, whenever the sun’s gleam
Pours its light over the shadows of a closed room:
You will see many motes mixing much in the emptiness,
Bodies swirling in the very light of the rays—
Something like an eternal conflict spawning
Battles, skirmishes, one after another without pause
Roiling on with increasing collisions and divisions.
You can predict from this what the first elements of matter
Were like as they were endlessly churning in the great emptiness.
To some extent, then, a small matter can offer a model
Of great affairs and trace out the tracks of their passing.”

Cuius, uti memoro, rei simulacrum et imago
ante oculos semper nobis versatur et instat.
contemplator enim, cum solis lumina cumque
inserti fundunt radii per opaca domorum:
multa minuta modis multis per inane videbis
corpora misceri radiorum lumine in ipso
et vel ut aeterno certamine proelia pugnas
edere turmatim certantia nec dare pausam,
conciliis et discidiis exercita crebris;
conicere ut possis ex hoc, primordia rerum
quale sit in magno iactari semper inani.

dum taxat, rerum magnarum parva potest res
exemplare dare et vestigia notitiai.

Atomic motion



“Atom: Instead of atmêton [“uncuttable”]. It signifies that a thing is [sufficient] on its own.”

῎Ατομον· ἀντὶ τοῦ ἄτμητον. σημαίνει δὲ καὶ τὸ καθ’ ἕκαστον.


“Atom: A refined thing. Objects which cannot admit [further] division.”

*ἄτομα· λεπτά. τομὴν μὴ δυνάμενα λαβεῖν

From the Suda

Atoma: “The most refined things. Things which cannot be [further] refined [lit. “cut”] because of their extreme irreducibility. The Greeks also call bodies uncuttable [atoma] or without subsection [lit, “limbless”, amerê] because they are resistant to harm or really small and are thus incapable of submitting to cutting or division. For this reason they call the most refined and smallest bodies [atoms] those which the sun shows emitting through its rays and in itself moving up and down.”

Ἄτομα: λεπτότατα. τὰ μὴ δυνάμενα διὰ τὴν ἄκραν λεπτότητα τέμνεσθαι. ὅτι ἄτομα ὠνόμασαν οἱ Ἕλληνες καὶ ἀμερῆ σώματα διὰ τὸ ἀπαθὲς ἢ σμικρὸν ἄγαν, ἅτε μὴ τομὴν ἢ διαίρεσιν δέξασθαι δυνάμενα. οὕτω δὲ καλοῦσι τὰ λεπτότατα καὶ σμικρότατα σώματα, ἃ διὰ τῶν φωταγωγῶν εἰσβαλλόμενα ὁ ἥλιος δείκνυσιν ἐν ἑαυτῷ ἄνω καὶ κάτω παλλόμενα.

Zonaras 7.5 Part II – Numa Pompilius, The Reluctant King

The Romans and Sabines are united in their choice of Numa Pompilius as king, but he is not eager to accept the crown:

Nevertheless, tumults arose from the suspicion that the patricians were converting the state to an oligarchy and did not wish for a king. The people revolted from this. When all agreed that a ruler should be selected, the Sabines gave the first choice to the Romans, who selected from among the Sabines a certain Numa Pompilius, a man who was well known by all for his virtue. Ambassadors from Rome were therefore sent to him. Numa did not live in Rome, but stayed among the Sabines and and inhabited the city of the Quirites. His father was a well-renowned man named Pomponius, who was adorned by every virtue which can be bestowed by either nature or education. For this reason, he has a great name and a certain amount of fame, such that Tatius, when he ruled with Romulus, married Numa to his only daughter, Tatia. She remained married to Numa for three years before she departed from this life. Numa then left behind his occupations in the city so that he could live for the most part in the open, where he wished to spend his time in the meadows and glades.

Therefore, the ambassadors came from Rome to call him to the throne as he was finishing his fortieth year of life. He declined their offer. The ambassadors, however, pressed hard upon him, having contrived every way to persuade him, and fearing lest the city should again fall into rebellion and civil war, since there was no other man to whom both parts of the state would readily grant their assent. In private, even, Numa’s father urged his son to accept the throne as a divine gift and a form of service of god, as well the sort of thing which would be the source of noble and great deeds for a wise man; moreover, it would serve as a pledge of goodwill and friendship between the entire Sabine race and a powerful, thriving city.

᾿Αλλὰ καὶ οὕτως ἐξ ὑπονοίας ἐφύοντο θόρυβοι, ὑποπτευομένων τῶν πατρικίων εἰς ὀλιγαρχίαν τὴν πολιτείαν περιιστᾶν καὶ μὴ βούλεσθαι βασιλεύεσθαι· ἐκ δὲ τούτου κατεστασίαζον. ὁμονοησάντων δὲ πάντων αἱρεθῆναι τὸν βασιλεύσοντα, οἱ Σαβῖνοι τοῖς ῾Ρωμαίοις προτέροις τὴν αἵρεσιν ἔδοσαν· οἱ δ’ ἐκ Σαβίνων εἵλοντο Νόμαν Πομπίλιον, ὄντα ἄνδρα γνώριμον πᾶσι δι’ ἀρετήν. στέλλονται γοῦν πρὸς ἐκεῖνον ἐκ ῾Ρώμης πρέσβεις· οὐ γὰρ ἐν τῇ ῾Ρώμῃ μετῴκιστο, ἀλλ’ ἐν Σαβίνοις ἦν καὶ πόλιν ᾤκει τὴν Κυριτῶν, πατρὸς ὢν Πομπωνίου ἀνδρὸς εὐδοκίμου, πᾶσαν ἀρετὴν φύσει τε καὶ παιδείᾳ ἐξησκημένος. ὅθεν καὶ ὄνομα μέγα καὶ δόξαν εἶχεν, ὡς καὶ Τάτιον τὸν τῷ ῾Ρωμύλῳ συμβασιλεύσαντα κηδεστὴν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ Τατίᾳ θέσθαι τῇ θυγατρί, ἣν μίαν ἐκεῖνος ἐγείνατο· ἣ δέκα ἐπὶ τρισὶν ἐνιαυτοὺς τῷ Νόμᾳ συνοικήσασα μετήλλαξε τὴν ζωήν. ὁ δὲ Νόμας ἐκλιπὼν τὰς ἐν ἄστει διατριβὰς ἀγραυλεῖν τὰ πολλὰ καὶ διατρίβειν ἤθελεν ἐν λειμῶσι καὶ ἄλσεσιν.

῟Ηκον οὖν ἀπὸ ῾Ρώμης οἱ πρέσβεις καλοῦντες ἐπὶ τὴν βασιλείαν αὐτὸν ἤδη τεσσαρακοστὸν ἔτος ἀνύοντα· ὁ δὲ ἀπείπατο. οἱ πρέσβεις δ’ ἐνέκειντο, πάντα τρόπον πείσειν αὐτὸν μηχανώμενοι, καὶ δεόμενοι μὴ τὴν πόλιν αὖθις εἰς στάσιν ἐμβαλεῖν καὶ ἐμφύλιον πόλεμον, οὐκ ὄντος ἑτέρου πρὸς ὃν ἄμφω τὰ μέρη συννεύσουσιν. ἰδίᾳ μέντοι καὶ ὁ πατὴρ παρεκίνει τὸν Νόμαν δέξασθαι τὴν ἀρχὴν ὡς θεῖον δῶρον καὶ ὑπηρεσίαν θεοῦ καὶ πράξεων καλῶν καὶ μεγάλων ἀνδρὶ φρονίμῳ τε καὶ χρηστῷ ἐσομένην αἰτίαν, σύνδεσμόν τε τῇ πατρίδι καὶ παντὶ τῷ Σαβίνων ἔθνει εὐνοίας τε καὶ φιλίας πρὸς πόλιν δυνατὴν καὶ ἀκμάζουσαν.

A Different, More Disturbing Tale of Medusa

(from Pausanias, 2.21.6)

“A mound of earth is not far from a building in the Argive marketplace.  People claim the head of the Gorgon Medusa lies here.  Leaving aside the myth, here are the other things said about her. She was a daughter of Phorkos and, after her father died, she ruled those who lived near Lake Tritôn, going forth to hunt and leading the Libyans in war.  When she was in camp with the army against Perseus who was followed by selected troops from the Peloponnese, she was deviously murdered at night.  Perseus, who was amazed at her beauty, even in a corpse, cut off her head and took it to display to the Greeks.”


τοῦ δὲ ἐν τῇ ἀγορᾷ τῶν ᾿Αργείων οἰκοδομήματος οὐ μακρὰν χῶμα γῆς ἐστιν· ἐν δὲ αὐτῷ κεῖσθαι τὴν Μεδούσης λέγουσι τῆς Γοργόνος κεφαλήν. ἀπόντος δὲ τοῦ μύθου τάδε ἄλλα ἐς αὐτήν ἐστιν εἰρημένα· Φόρκου μὲν θυγατέρα εἶναι, τελευτήσαντος δέ οἱ τοῦ πατρὸς βασιλεύειν τῶν περὶ τὴν λίμνην τὴν Τριτωνίδα οἰκούντων καὶ ἐπὶ θήραν τε ἐξιέναι καὶ ἐς τὰς μάχας ἡγεῖσθαι τοῖς Λίβυσι καὶ δὴ καὶ τότε ἀντικαθημένην στρατῷ πρὸς τὴν Περσέως δύναμιν—ἕπεσθαι γὰρ καὶ τῷ Περσεῖ λογάδας ἐκ Πελοποννήσου—δολοφονηθῆναι νύκτωρ, καὶ τὸν Περσέα τὸ κάλλος ἔτι καὶ ἐπὶ νεκρῷ θαυμάζοντα οὕτω τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀποτεμόντα αὐτῆς ἄγειν τοῖς ῞Ελλησιν ἐς ἐπίδειξιν.

The Byzantine Suda has its own take on the legend.  It is not less misogynistic:

“Medousa: She is also called Gorgonê. Perseus, the son of Danae and Pêkos, after learning every kind of magical display, because he wanted to establish his own kingdom, made plans against the realm of the Medes. And so, after he travelled over much land, he saw a maiden who was intelligent and ugly and, as he looked away from her, he asked “who are you” and she said, “Medousa”. He cut off her head and prepared it as he had been taught and held it up. He made everyone panic and killed those who witnessed it.  He called this head the Gorgonê because of the sharpness of its power.

From there, he went to the land ruled by Kêpheus and found a virgin girl in a temple who was named Andromeda and whom he married. He founded a city in this country called Amandra and set up a pillar which held the Gorgonê. This was called the Ikonion and, because of the object, the Gorgonê. He then made war against the Isaurians, the Kilikians and he founded a city which he called Tarsos, which before was called Andrasos. He had received a prophecy that after the victory he should found a city and name it Tarsos in thanks for the victory in the place where he put the flat of his foot [tarsos] in when he got off his horse.

After conquering the Medes, he changed the name of their country and called it Persis. He taught some of the Persians whom he named Magi the mystery rite which he had performed with the Gorgonê. At that time, a ball of fire whirled from the heaven. Perseus took some of it and gave it to some of the tribe to guard and honor because it had been hurled from heaven.

Then he waged war on Kêpheus, whom old age left blind and dull in the dead, because he thought the Gorgonê was now useless But when Perseus campaigned against him and saw [Medousa’s head] he died. Later on, Merros, Perseus’ son, burned the head.”

Μέδουσα: ἡ καὶ Γοργόνη κληθεῖσα. Περσεύς, ὁ Δανάης καὶ Πήκου υἱός, διδαχθεὶς πάσας τὰς μυστικὰς φαντασίας, ἰδίαν βουλόμενος ἑαυτῷ καταστῆσαι βασιλείαν κατεφρόνησε τῆς τῶν Μήδων· καὶ διὰ πολλῆς ἐρχόμενος γῆς εἶδε παρθένον κόρην αὐχμηράν τε καὶ δυσειδῆ, καὶ ἀποβλέψας εἰς αὐτὴν ἐρωτᾷ, τίς καλεῖται· ἡ δὲ εἶπε, Μέδουσα, καὶ ἀποτεμὼν αὐτῆς τὴν κεφαλὴν ἐτέλεσεν αὐτὴν ὡς ἐδιδάχθη, καὶ ἐβάσταζε, καταπλήττων πάντας καὶ ἀναιρῶν τοὺς ὁρῶντας· ἥν τινα κεφαλὴν ἐκάλεσε Γοργόνην, διὰ τὴν ὀξύτητα τῆς ἐνεργείας.

ἐκεῖθεν δὲ ἐλθὼν εἰς χώραν βασιλευομένην ὑπὸ Κηφέως εὗρεν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ παρθένον κόρην, τὴν λεγομένην ᾿Ανδρομέδαν, ἣν ἔγημε· καὶ κτίζει πόλιν εἰς κώμην, λεγομένην ῎Αμανδραν, στήσας καὶ στήλην βαστάζουσαν τὴν Γοργόνην. αὕτη μετεκλήθη ᾿Ικόνιον, διὰ τὸ ἀπεικόνισμα τῆς Γοργόνης. ἐπολέμησε δὲ καὶ ᾿Ισαύροις καὶ Κίλιξι καὶ κτίζει πόλιν, ἣν ἐκάλεσε Ταρσόν, το πρὶν λεγομένην ᾿Ανδρασόν. χρηματισθεὶς δέ, ὅτι μετὰ τὴν νίκην ἐν ᾧ τόπῳ ἀποβὰς ἀπὸ τοῦ ἵππου τὸν ταρσὸν τοῦ ποδὸς ἀπόθηται, ἐκεῖ ὑπὲρ τῶν νικητηρίων κτίσαι πόλιν,ταύτην οὖν ἐκάλεσε Ταρσόν.

νικήσας δὲ καὶ τοὺς Μήδους ἤμειψε τὸ ὄνομα τῆς χώρας καὶ ἐκάλεσεν αὐτὴν Περσίδα. ἐδίδαξε δὲ καὶ τὴν μυσαρὰν τελετὴν τὴν ἐπὶ τῇ Γοργόνῃ τινὰς τῶν Περσῶν, οὓς ἐκάλεσε μάγους. καθ’ οὓς χρόνους καὶ σφαῖρα πυρὸς κατηνέχθη ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, ἐξ ἧς ἔλαβε πῦρ ὁ Περσεὺς καὶ παρέδωκε τοῖς τοῦ ἔθνους φυλάττειν καὶ τιμᾶν, ὡς ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατενεχθέν. συμβαλὼν δὲ πόλεμον τῷ Κηφεῖ, τοῦ δὲ διὰ τὸ γῆρας μὴ βλέποντος καὶ τῆς κεφαλῆςμὴ ἐνεργούσης, δοκῶν αὐτὴν ἀνωφελῆ εἶναι, ἐπιστρέψας πρὸς ἑαυτὸν ὁ Περσεὺς καὶ ταύτην θεασάμενος ἀποθνήσκει. ταύτην ὕστερον ἔκαυσεν ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ Μέρρος.

Chameleon Tales from Pliny

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 10.12

12 Concerning the miraculous tales which Pliny the Elder ascribes most unworthily to the philosopher Democritus; and also about the image of a flying dove

In the twenty-eighth book of his Natural Histories, Pliny the Elder reports that there was a book by the most noble Philosopher Democritus On the Power and Nature of the Chameleon and that he had read it himself. He ascribes to it many silly and ridiculous things, allegedly written by Democritus—a few of which I remember, unwillingly, since they are so repulsive. For instance, that Democritus claimed that a hawk, the fastest of all birds, if he flies over a chameleon by chance, is suddenly dragged to the ground by a chameleon crawling below it and that after it comes down by some force offers itself willingly on the ground to be taken and torn to pieces by other birds!

Another thing that is beyond all human belief: if the head and neck of a chameleon is burned with the wood which we call oak, rain and thunder occur suddenly; the same thing, allegedly, happens if that animal is burned on the top of a house. There is still another tale which, by Hercules, I doubted that I should include since it is so absurd. But I have decided clearly that it is necessary that we speak what we think about the false incitements that come from this type of wonder—the types of things by which many sharp minds—indeed, those which are most desirous of knowledge—are often possessed and which lead them especially to ruin. But I return to Pliny. He says to roast the chameleon’s left foot with iron heated in a fire along with a herb  which bears the same name (“chameleon”), and to mix both into an ointment and to rub it into paste and place it in a wooden container. Whoever carries that, even if he is in the middle of a crowd, can be seen by no one.”


12De portentis fabularum, quae Plinius Secundus indignissime in Democritum philosophum confert; ibidem de simulacro volucri columbae.

1 Librum esse Democriti, nobilissimi philosophorum, de vi et natura chamaeleontis eumque se legisse Plinius Secundus in naturalis historiae vicesimo octavo refert multaque vana atque intoleranda auribus deinde quasi a Democrito scripta tradit, ex quibus pauca haec inviti meminimus, quia pertaesum est: 2 accipitrem avium rapidissimum a chamaeleonte humi reptante, si eum forte supervolet, detrahi et cadere vi quadam in terram ceterisque avibus laniandum sponte sua obicere sese et dedere. 3 Item aliud ultra humanam fidem: caput et collum chamaeleontis si uratur ligno, quod appellatur “robur”, imbres et tonitrus fieri derepente, idque ipsum usu venire, si iecur eiusdem animalis in summis tegulis uratur. 4 Item aliud, quod hercle an ponerem dubitavi, – ita est deridiculae vanitatis – nisi idcirco plane posui, quod oportuit nos dicere, quid de istiusmodi admirationum fallaci inlecebra sentiremus, qua plerumque capiuntur et ad perniciem elabuntur ingenia maxime sollertia eaque potissimum, quae discendi cupidiora sunt. 5 Sed redeo ad Plinium. Sinistrum pedem ait chamaeleontis ferro ex igni calefacto torreri cum herba, quae appellatur eodem nomine chamaeleontis, et utrumque macerari unguento conligique in modum pastilli atque in vas mitti ligneum et eum, qui id vas ferat, etiamsi is in medio palam versetur, a nullo videri posse.

Zonaras 7.5 Part I – Interregnum

After the death of Romulus, Rome struggles to find a new king:

Once all of this had happened regarding Romulus, it seemed right to everyone that there should continue to be a monarchy, but strife and discord arose among those in Rome not just about who, individually, should be the king, but about whether he should be Roman or Sabine. To those first men who founded the city with Romulus, it seemed unbearable that the Sabines, who had come to the city after them, should take it in hand to rule. The Sabines thought, on the contrary, that since Romulus ruled by himself after the death of Titus Tatius, it was right that the new king should be selected from among themselves.

Both parties thus contended against each other. Since the state was thus held in suspense on this matter, the Patricians, being then 150 in number, established that each one of them would, in turns, dress himself in the royal outfit and both sacrifice to the gods and give orders to the state for six hours of the night and six hours of the day. This apportionment of parts equally among each patrician seemed to hold up well, even to the citizens who were ruled by the system. The rapid exchange of power tended to dispel enmity, since even subjects could see that the same day and night elevated a man from a private station to regal dignity, and then returned him to private life. I know some other things which are said about this sort of rule, but I myself have trusted the most plausible account. This scheme of rule is called by the Romans mesobasileia.

Τούτων δὲ περὶ τὸν ῾Ρωμύλον συμβεβηκότων βασιλεύεσθαι μὲν ἐδόκει πᾶσιν, ἔρις δέ τις καὶ στάσις ἐφύετο τοῖς ἐν ῾Ρώμῃ οὐχ ὑπὲρ ἀνδρὸς μόνον ἡγεμονεύσοντος, ἀλλὰ καὶ πότερον τῶν γενῶν παρέξει τὸν ἄρξοντα. τοῖς τε γὰρ μετὰ ῾Ρωμύλου πρώτοις συνοικίσασι τὴν πόλιν οὐκ ἀνεκτὸν ἐδόκει παρ’ αὐτῶν προσληφθέντας τοὺς Σαβίνους εἰς πολιτείαν ἄρχειν τῶν δεξαμένων βιάζεσθαι· οἱ Σαβῖνοι δὲ ἑτέρωθεν, ὅτι τοῦ Τατίου θανόντος μόνον εἴασαν τὸν ῾Ρωμύλον ἄρχειν, ἐξ ἑαυτῶν ἠξίουν αἱρεθῆναι τὸν ἄρξοντα.

῎Ηριζον μὲν οὖν οὕτω τὰ μέρη ἑκάτερα, μετεώρου δ’ ἐπὶ τούτοις ὄντος τοῦ πολιτεύματος οἱ πατρίκιοι πεντήκοντα καὶ ἑκατὸν ὄντες ἔταξαν ἕκαστον ἐν μέρει τοῖς βασιλικοῖς παρασήμοις κοσμούμενον θύειν τε τοῖς θεοῖς καὶ χρηματίζειν, ἓξ μὲν τῆς νυκτὸς ὥρας, ἓξ δὲ τῆς ἡμέρας. ἡ γὰρ διανομὴ τῶν καιρῶν κατὰ τὸ ἴσον ἑκάστου καὶ πρὸς τοὺς ἄρχοντας καλῶς ἔχειν ἐδόκει καὶ πρὸς τοὺς ἀρχομένους αὐτούς· ἀφῄρει γὰρ τὸν φθόνον ἡ ταχίστη τῆς ἐξουσίας ἀπόθεσις, ὁρώντων τῶν ἀρχομένων τῆς αὐτῆς ἡμέρας τε καὶ νυκτὸς τὸν αὐτὸν ἰδιώτην ἐκ βασιλέως γινόμενον. οἶδα μὲν οὖν καὶ ἕτερά τινα περὶ τῆς τοιαύτης εἰρημένα ἀρχῆς, ἀλλ’ αὐτὸς τῷ πιθανωτέρῳ ἐθέμην. τὸ δὲ σχῆμα τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦτο μεσοβασιλεία ῾Ρωμαίοις ὠνόμαστο.

Tau is for Tuesday: Tattoos, Talents and Tithonos

Three more proverbs from the Suda:

“You’re expecting the Samians’ fate.” This proverb is used for those who are fearing insurmountable betrayals of evil.  It developed from the terrible things the Samians suffered at the Athenians’ hands. When the Athenians captured them, they killed some and tattooed a sign called the “Samê” on the others. This is itself a type of Samian suffering. Later, the Samians tattooed the Athenians they captured in vengeance.

Τὰ Σαμίων ὑποπτεύεις: παροιμία αὕτη λέγεται ἐπὶ τῶν δεδιότων τινὰς ἀνηκέστους κακῶν προδοσίας. παρῆλθε δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν γενομένων ὑπὸ Ἀθηναίων εἰς Σαμίους αἰκισμῶν: ἑλόντες γὰρ αὐτοὺς οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι τοὺς μὲν ἀπέκτειναν, τοὺς δὲ ἔστιξαν τῇ καλουμένῃ σάμῃ, ἥ ἐστιν εἶδος πάθους Σαμιακοῦ: ἀνθ’ ὧν καὶ οἱ Σάμιοι τοὺς ἁλόντας μετὰ ταῦτα Ἀθηναίων ἔστιξαν.

“He tilts the talents of Tantalus”: Tantalos had so much wealth that it became proverbial. For this wealthy Phrygian was famous for his talents* and was rumored to be a son of Plouto and Zeus.  Anacreon uses this proverb in his third book. This plays on the word talent and is used as well by the comic poet: “he touts the talents of Tantalus”. People compose these words, toying in this way with the sound and the form of talent in the same way as a “good deal of goodies” or “wiser than wise” in Epicharmus.”

*talent is a term for a weight of gold or silver, a large amount of money.

Τὰ Ταντάλου τάλαντα ταλαντίζεται: διεβεβόητο ὁ Τάνταλος ἐπὶ πλούτῳ, ὡς καὶ εἰς παροιμίαν διαδοθῆναι. οὗτος γὰρ πλούσιος Φρὺξ ἐπὶ ταλάντοις διεβεβόητο, Πλουτοῦς καὶ Διὸς λεγόμενος. κέχρηται δὲ τῇ παροιμίᾳ καὶ Ἀνακρέων ἐν τρίτῳ. γέγονε δὲ παρὰ τὸ ὄνομα τάλαντα, ὡς καὶ παρὰ τῷ κωμικῷ εἴρηται: Ταντάλου τάλαντα τανταλίζεται. αὕτη οὖν ἡ παροιμία παρὰ τὴν ὁμοιότητα τῶν ὀνομάτων εἴρηται: ἐπείπερ παίζοντες πολλὰ τοιαῦτα καὶ ἄλλα πεποιήκασιν, οἷον ἀγαθῶν ἀγαθίδες, καὶ σοφώτερος σοφοῦ παρ’ Ἐπιχάρμῳ.

“The old age of Tithonos”: A proverb applied for people who live a long time and are extremely old. The myth is that Tithonos, led by a desire to escape his old age, changed shape into a cicada. Aristophanes has: “ripping, hassling, and disturbing a Tithonos-man.”

Τιθωνοῦ γῆρας: παροιμία. ἐπὶ τῶν πολυχρονίων καὶ ὑπεργήρων τάσσεται. ἱστορεῖται δὲ ὅτι ὁ Τιθωνὸς ἐπιθυμίᾳ τοῦ τὸ γῆρας ἐκδύσασθαι εἰς τέττιγα μετέβαλεν. Ἀριστοφάνης: ἄνδρα Τιθωνὸν σπαράττων καὶ ταράττων καὶ κυκῶν.


Eos and (a young) Tithonos

Hercules and Odysseus in Germany

Tacitus (Germania, 3) relates how the Greek heroes wandered to Germany and influenced German culture:

“They say that Hercules once stopped among them, and those who are about to enter a battle always sing his name before those of all other brave men. They also make use of songs, the recital of which (called the ‘barditus’ or ‘war cry’ by the Germans) inflames the spirits of the soldiers and foretells the fortune of the battle to come by its sound. They either instill terror, or shake with fear as the battle-line has sounded, and it sounds less like the sound of a voice than of manly ardor itself. A broken murmur and harshness of sound are also produced when their shields are lifted to their mouths, so that the voice can sound more fully and gravely by the reverberation.

Moreover, some speculate that Ulysses, driven on that long and fantastic journey to this Ocean, had himself come to the lands of Germany, and that Asciburgium, which was located on the bank of the Rhine and is inhabited even today, was founded and named by him. Nay, even more, they say that there was found in that same place an altar consecrated to Ulysses, which bears also the name of his father Laeertes; further, there are monuments and tombs bearing inscriptions in Greek letters which are still extant today on the borders of Germany and Raetia. I have no intention either of confirming or refuting these speculations: everyone may either add or withdraw his belief according to the inclination of his own mind.”

Fuisse apud eos et Herculem memorant, primumque omnium virorum fortium ituri in proelia canunt. Sunt illis haec quoque carmina, quorum relatu, quem barditum vocant, accendunt animos futuraeque pugnae fortunam ipso cantu augurantur. Terrent enim trepidantve, prout sonuit acies, nec tam vocis ille quam virtutis concentus videtur. Adfectatur praecipue asperitas soni et fractum murmur, obiectis ad os scutis, quo plenior et gravior vox repercussu intumescat. Ceterum et Ulixen quidam opinantur longo illo et fabuloso errore in hunc Oceanum delatum adisse Germaniae terras, Asciburgiumque, quod in ripa Rheni situm hodieque incolitur, ab illo constitutum nominatumque; aram quin etiam Ulixi consecratam, adiecto Laertae patris nomine, eodem loco olim repertam, monumentaque et tumulos quosdam Graecis litteris inscriptos in confinio Germaniae Raetiaeque adhuc exstare. Quae neque confirmare argumentis neque refellere in animo est: ex ingenio suo quisque demat vel addat fidem.