Show Us Your Books: Compounds for Dystopian Travel

Recent reports allege that TSA agents will be asking travelers to show them their books starting this summer.

From the Etymologicum Magnum

Biblos: [“book”] comes from “throwing [ballesthai] lives [bious] in to the same place, or, from buô [“to pack full”], which means the same as sphalizô.”

Βίβλος: Διὰ τὸ τοὺς βίους βάλλεσθαι ἐν αὐτῇ·  ἢ παρὰ τὸ βύω, τὸ σφαλίζω.


Some Useful Book compounds for summer travel

[N.B.: I made up three of the following. Can you guess which?]

βιβλιογράφος: “writer of books”

βιβλιοδέτης: “Book-binder”

βιβλιοθήκη: “Book-case”

βιβλιοκλέπτης: “book thief”

βιβλιολάθας: “Forgetter of books”

βιβλιοπόπτης: “book-peeper’

βιβλιοπώλης: “book-seller

βιβλιοπωλεῖον: “book-store”

βιβλιοφυλάκιον: “safe-place for books”

βιβλιοφύλαξ: “book guard”

φιλοβίβλος: “book-lover”

κενοβιβλία: “bereavement of books”

Some other useful words

ἀναγιγνώσκω: “to read”

ἀναγεύω: “to give someone a taste”

ἀναγώρισις: “recognition”

ἀνάγνωσμα: “a passage read aloud”

ἀναγνώστης: “a reader”


From the Etymologicum Magnum:

Biblioaigisthos: Andreas the Doctor was called this by Eratosthenes because he wrote his books in secret.*

Βιβλιαίγισθος ᾿Ανδρέας ὁ ἰατρὸς ἐκλήθη ὑπὸ ᾿Ερατοσθένους, ὅτι λάθρᾳ αὐτοῦ τὰ βιβλία ἔγραφεν.

*Likely based on the mythological figure who plotted against his cousin Agamemnon while the latter was at Troy

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Scholarly Loathing and Self-Loathing

(Scholars hating scholars. And themselves)

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1.22

“You know that somewhere Timo the Philasian calls the Museum a birdcage as he mocks the scholars who are supported there because they were fed like the priciest birds in a big cage:

Many are fed in many-peopled Egypt,
The paper-pushers closed up waging endless war
in the bird-cage of the Muses.

ὅτι τὸ Μουσεῖον ὁ Φιλιάσιος Τίμων ὁ σιλλογράφος (fr. 60 W) τάλαρόν πού φησιν ἐπισκώπτων τοὺς ἐν αὐτῷ τρεφομένους φιλοσόφους, ὅτι ὥσπερ ἐν  πανάγρῳ τινὶ σιτοῦνται καθάπερ οἱ πολυτιμότατοι ὄρνιθες·

πολλοὶ μὲν βόσκονται ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ πολυφύλῳ
βιβλιακοὶ χαρακῖται ἀπείριτα δηριόωντες
Μουσέων ἐν ταλάρῳ.

 Pausanias, 9.30.3

“It would not be sweet for me to write about the relative age of Homer and Hesiod, even though I have worked on the problem as closely as possible. This is because I am familiar with the fault-finding character of others and not the least of those who dominate the study of epic poetry in my time.”

περὶ δὲ ῾Ησιόδου τε ἡλικίας καὶ ῾Ομήρου πολυπραγμονήσαντι ἐς τὸ ἀκριβέστατον οὔ μοι γράφειν ἡδὺ ἦν, ἐπισταμένῳ τὸ φιλαίτιον ἄλλων τε καὶ οὐχ ἥκιστα ὅσοι κατ’ ἐμὲ ἐπὶ ποιήσει τῶν ἐπῶν καθεστήκεσαν.

From Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists, Book 5 222a-b

“And, you, my grammarians who do not inquire into these sorts of things, I quote from Herodicus the Babylonian:

Flee, Aristarcheans, over the wide back of the sea
Flee Greece, men more frightened than the brown deer,
Corner-buzzers, monosyllabists, men who care about
Sphin and sphoin and whether its min or nin*.
This is what I would have for you storm-drowned men:
But may Greece and God-born Babylon always wait for Herodicus.

And, to add another, the words of the comic poet Anaxandrides:

…It brings pleasure
Whenever someone discovers some new notion,
To share it with everyone. But those wise men who first
have no judge of their skill are later despised.
For it is right to offer the mob
Everything anyone might think is brand-new.

The majority of them departed at these words and slowly the party disbanded.”

‘ὑμεῖς οὖν, ὦ γραμματικοί, κατὰ τὸν Βαβυλώνιον ῾Ηρόδικον, μηδὲν τῶν τοιού-
των ἱστοροῦντες,

φεύγετ’, ᾿Αριστάρχειοι, ἐπ’ εὐρέα νῶτα θαλάττης
῾Ελλάδα, τῆς ξουθῆς δειλότεροι κεμάδος,
γωνιοβόμβυκες, μονοσύλλαβοι, οἷσι μέμηλε
τὸ σφὶν καὶ σφῶιν καὶ τὸ μὶν ἠδὲ τὸ νίν.
τοῦθ’ ὑμῖν εἴη δυσπέμφελον· ῾Ηροδίκῳ δὲ
῾Ελλὰς ἀεὶ μίμνοι καὶ θεόπαις Βαβυλών.’
κατὰ γὰρ τὸν κωμῳδιοποιὸν ᾿Αναξανδρίδην (II 159 K)·

ἡδονὴν ἔχει,
ὅταν τις εὕρῃ καινὸν ἐνθύμημά τι,
δηλοῦν ἅπασιν· οἱ δ’ ἑαυτοῖσιν σοφοὶ
πρῶτον μὲν οὐκ ἔχουσι τῆς τέχνης κριτήν,
εἶτα φθονοῦνται. χρὴ γὰρ εἰς ὄχλον φέρειν
ἅπανθ’ ὅσ’ ἄν τις καινότητ’ ἔχειν δοκῇ.

ἐπὶ τούτοις τοῖς λόγοις ἀναχωροῦντες οἱ πολλοὶ λεληθότως διέλυσαν τὴν συνουσίαν.

*Alternative pronoun forms found in manuscripts.

Seneca, of course, gets in on the game:

Seneca, De Brevitate Vitae 13

“It would be annoying to list all the people who spent their lives pursuing board games, ball games, or sunbathing. Men whose pleasures are so busy are not at leisure. For example, no one will be surprised that those occupied by useless literary studies work strenuously—and there is great band of these in Rome now too. This sickness used to just afflict the Greeks, to discover the number of oars Odysseus possessed, whether the Iliad was written before the Odyssey, whether the poems belong to the same author, and other matters like this which, if you keep them to yourself, cannot please your private mind; but if you publish them, you seem less learned than annoying.”

Persequi singulos longum est, quorum aut latrunculi aut pila aut excoquendi in sole corporis cura consumpsere vitam. Non sunt otiosi, quorum voluptates multum negotii habent. Nam de illis nemo dubitabit, quin operose nihil agant, qui litterarum inutilium studiis detinentur, quae iam apud Romanos quoque magna manus est. Graecorum iste morbus fuit quaerere, quem numerum Ulixes remigum habuisset, prior scripta esset Ilias an Odyssia, praeterea an eiusdem essent auctoris, alia deinceps huius notae, quae sive contineas, nihil tacitam conscientiam iuvant sive proferas, non doctior videaris sed molestior.

And self loathing eventually takes over.

Palladas of Alexandria, Greek Anthology 9.169

“The wrath of Achilles has become for me, as a grammarian, the cause of my destructive poverty. I wish that that wrath would have killed me along with the Danaans, before the bitter poverty of scholarship put me to death. But instead, so that Agamemnon could take Briseis and Paris make off with Helen, I have become a beggar.”

Μῆνις ᾿Αχιλλῆος καὶ ἐμοὶ πρόφασις γεγένηται
οὐλομένης πενίης γραμματικευσαμένῳ.
εἴθε δὲ σὺν Δαναοῖς με κατέκτανε μῆνις ἐκείνη,
πρὶν χαλεπὸς λιμὸς γραμματικῆς ὀλέσει.
ἀλλ’ ἵν’ ἀφαρπάξῃ Βρισηίδα πρὶν ᾿Αγαμέμνων,
τὴν ῾Ελένην δ’ ὁ Πάρις, πτωχὸς ἐγὼ γενόμην.

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The Greatest Good: Some Ancient Words on Health

Plato, Gorgias 452b

“What greater good is there for people than health?”

τί δ᾿ ἐστὶ μεῖζον ἀγαθὸν ἀνθρώποις ὑγιείας·


Plato, Republic 333d (book 9)

“There is nothing sweeter than being healthy; but its sweetness evades our notice until we are sick”

Ὡς οὐδὲν ἄρα ἐστὶν ἥδιον τοῦ ὑγιαίνειν, ἀλλὰ σφᾶς ἐλελήθει, πρὶν κάμνειν, ἥδιστον ὄν.

Aristotle, Magna Moralia 1.18 (1190a)

“We all agree on these things, for example that health is a good.

(ταῦτα μὲν γὰρ ἅπαντες ὁμογνωμονοῦσιν, οἷον τὴν ὑγίειαν ὅτι ἀγαθόν)

Plutarch, To an Uneducated Ruler 789f

“Philosophy is a partner to a ruler and reason has been established as a guard just as a doctor removes what harms a person but leaves the healthy part intact”

 ὁ δ᾿ ἐκ φιλοσοφίας τῷ ἄρχοντι πάρεδρος καὶ φύλαξ ἐγκατοικισθεὶς λόγος, ὥσπερ εὐεξίας τῆς δυνάμεως τὸ ἐπισφαλὲς ἀφαιρῶν, ἀπολείπει τὸ ὑγιαῖνον.

Carmen Convivialia 890

“The best thing for a mortal man is to be healthy
And second, to be pretty.
Third, is to be wealthy without deceit.
And, fourth, is to be young with friends.”

ὑγιαίνειν μὲν ἄριστον ἀνδρὶ θνητῷ,
δεύτερον δὲ φυὰν καλὸν γενέσθαι,
τὸ δὲ τρίτον πλουτεῖν ἀδόλως,
τέταρτον δὲ ἡβᾶν μετὰ τῶν φίλων.

From the Suda, a proverb:

“Healthier than a tick”: A proverb used for people who are entirely healthy. It comes from the animal, the tick which is completely smooth and has neither blemish nor injury.”

Ὑγιέστερος Κρότωνος: ἐπὶ τῶν πάνυ ὑγιαινόντων ἡ παροιμία. ἀπὸ τοῦ ζῴου τοῦ κρότωνος: λεῖον γάρ ἐστιν ὅλον καὶ χωρὶς ἀμυχῆς καὶ μηδὲν ἔχον σίνος.


Athena Hygeia (“Health”; “Cleansing”), A cult-name

Euripides, Hippolytus 261-6

“In life, they say, strict and unrelenting occupation is more likely to ruin than please us, and it wages war with our health. Therefore, I am more inclined to praise moderation than excessive strain; and wise people agree with me.”

βιότου δ᾽ ἀτρεκεῖς ἐπιτηδεύσεις
φασὶ σφάλλειν πλέον ἢ τέρπειν
τῇ θ᾽ ὑγιείᾳ μᾶλλον πολεμεῖν
οὕτω τὸ λίαν ἧσσον ἐπαινῶ
τοῦ μηδὲν ἄγαν:
καὶ ξυμφήσουσι σοφοί μοι.

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Selling Wheat in a Barley Market: The Wit of Bion the Philosopher

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers 4.47–49 (On Bion)

“To speak truly concerning other matters, Bion was a shifty guy, a diverse-minded sophist, and someone who gave many avenues of attack to those who wanted to harm philosophy. In some manners, he was puffed up and capable of great arrogance. He left a great many commentaries and sayings which can be very useful. For example, when he was reproached for not hunting after a young man he said “it’s not possible to grab soft cheese with a hook.”

When someone asked who suffers more from worry, he said “whoever wants to prosper the most”. When he was asked if someone should get married—for this story is also reported about Bion—he said if you marry an ugly woman, you will have a burden; if she is pretty, you will have her in common.” He said that old age is a harbor for all evils: at least, they all retreat into the same place. He called fame the mother of virtues, beauty a foreign good, and wealth the tendons of business. To someone who had eaten up his inheritance, he said “The land consumed Amphiarus, but you ate your land.” To be incapable of enduring an evil is a great evil. He used to condemn those who burned men as if they could not feel but cauterize them as if they do.

He always used to say that it was preferable to give favor to another than to take it. For this harms the body and the soul. And he used to slander Socrates, saying that if he had a desire for Alcibiades and resisted, he was stupid. But if he did not desire him, he did nothing impressive. He also used to say that the road to Hades was easy: at least because people get there with their eyes closed. He used to mock Alcibiades by saying that when he was young he separated men husbands from their wives; but when he was older, he stole wives from their husbands.

When the Athenians were obsessed with rhetoric, he taught philosophical subjects in Rhodes. To someone who criticized him for this, he said, “I brought wheat, can I sell barely?”

Καὶ ἦν ὡς ἀληθῶς ὁ Βίων τὰ μὲν ἄλλα πολύτροπος καὶ σοφιστὴς ποικίλος καὶ πλείστας ἀφορμὰς δεδωκὼς τοῖς βουλομένοις καθιππάζεσθαι φιλοσοφίας: ἔν τισι δὲ καὶ πομπικὸς καὶ ἀπολαῦσαι τύφου δυνάμενος. πλεῖστά τε καταλέλοιπεν ὑπομνήματα, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀποφθέγματα χρειώ δη πραγματείαν περιέχοντα. οἷον ὀνειδιζόμενος ἐπὶ τῷ μὴ θηρᾶσαι μειράκιον, “οὐχ οἷόντε,” εἶπεν, “ἁπαλὸν τυρὸν ἀγκίστρῳ ἐπισπᾶσθαι.”

[48] ἐρωτηθείς ποτε τίς μᾶλλον ἀγωνιᾷ, ἔφη, “ὁ τὰ μέγιστα βουλόμενος εὐημερεῖν.” ἐρωτηθεὶς εἰ γήμαι–ἀναφέρεται γὰρ καὶ εἰς τοῦτον–ἔφη, “ἐὰν μὲν γήμῃς αἰσχράν, ἕξεις ποινήν: ἂν δὲ καλήν, ἕξεις κοινήν.” τὸ γῆρας ἔλεγεν ὅρμον εἶναι τῶν κακῶν: εἰς αὐτὸ γοῦν πάντα καταφεύγειν. τὴν δόξαν <ἀρ>ετῶν μητέρα εἶναι: τὸ κάλλος ἀλλότριον ἀγαθόν: τὸν πλοῦτον νεῦρα πραγμάτων. πρὸς τὸν τὰ χωρία κατεδηδοκότα, “τὸν μὲν Ἀμφιάραον,” ἔφη, “ἡ γῆ κατέπιε, σὺ δὲ τὴν γῆν.” μέγα κακὸν τὸ μὴ δύνασθαι φέρειν κακόν. κατεγίνωσκε δὲ καὶ τῶν τοὺς ἀνθρώπους κατακαόντων μὲν ὡς ἀναισθήτους, παρακαόντων δὲ ὡς αἰσθανομένους. 5

[49] ἔλεγε δὲ συνεχὲς ὅτι αἱρετώτερόν ἐστι τὴν ὥραν ἄλλῳ χαρίζεσθαι ἢ ἀλλοτρίας ἀποδρέπεσθαι: καὶ γὰρ εἰς σῶμα βλάπτεσθαι καὶ εἰς ψυχήν. διέβαλε δὲ καὶ τὸν Σωκράτην, λέγων ὡς εἰ μὲν εἶχεν Ἀλκιβιάδου χρείαν καὶ ἀπείχετο, μάταιος ἦν: εἰ δὲ μὴ εἶχεν, οὐδὲν ἐποίει παράδοξον. εὔκολον ἔφασκε τὴν εἰς ᾄδου ὁδόν: καταμύοντας γοῦν ἀπιέναι. τὸν Ἀλκιβιάδην μεμφόμενος ἔλεγεν ὡς νέος μὲν ὢν τοὺς ἄνδρας ἀπαγάγοι τῶν γυναικῶν, νεανίσκος δὲ γενόμενος τὰς γυναῖκας τῶν ἀνδρῶν. ἐν Ῥόδῳ τὰ ῥητορικὰ διασκούντων τῶν Ἀθηναίων τὰ φιλοσοφούμενα ἐδίδασκε: πρὸς οὖν τὸν αἰτιασάμενον ἔφη, “πυροὺς ἐκόμισα καὶ κριθὰς πιπράσκω;”

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“An Ass with a Crown” – Advice for Future Rulers

Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Liberorum Educatione IV:

“The study of literature offers a great aid to attaining virtue, and this befits no one more than a king. With this understanding, the Roman Emperor sent a letter to the king of the Franks, with whom he was then joined in friendship, in which he urged him to have his children brought up in the study of letters, and in which he claimed that an illiterate king was no more than an ass with a crown. I find that the Roman emperors were themselves not uneducated when the empire was at its height; then, learning prevailed in both the senate and the army. Yet it is obvious to all that, once learning was abandoned, all virtues fell into decay, because the strength of the military and the imperial office were weakened as though cut at the root. Indeed, Socrates – as is related by Boethius – used to think that republics were fortunate if it should chance that their rulers were caught up in the pursuit of wisdom, because only those people are perfect, who wish to mix civil business with philosophy and who earn themselves a double good; for, their lives serve the public interest, and is spent in the greatest tranquillity, disturbed by no troubles, engaged in the pursuit of wisdom. Therefore, princes and all those who are to reign should strive with the utmost effort that they both perform their public duties and engage in philosophy, as much as will seem fitting for the times.”

Ad virtutem autem capessendam litterarum studia plurimum adiumenti praebent, nec cuiquam magis quam regi doctrina congruit. Quod intelligens Romanus imperator Francorum regi, quocum tunc amicitia iunctus erat, per epistulam magnopere suadebat, liberos uti suos litteris erudiri curaret, illiteratumque regem quasi coronatum asinum esse dicebat. Nec ego Romanorum principes, dum res publica floruit, illiteratos esse comperi, sed domi atque militiae, et in senatu et in exercitu dominatam esse doctrinam; manifestumque omnibus est, postquam exclusae sunt litterae, omnes elanguisse virtutes. Nam et armatae quoque militiae infirmata est manus et ipsius principatus quasi praecisa radix. Socrates quidem, ut est a Boethio relatum, fortunatas esse res publicas opinabatur, si rectores earum studere sapientiae contigisset. Soli namque perfecti sunt homines, qui civiles cum philosophia partes quaerunt immiscere sibique gemina vendicant bona, nam et eorum vita communi servit utilitati et summa cum tranquillitate nullis obiecta fluctibus per sapientiae studia versatur. Principibus igitur et qui regnaturi sunt experiundum est totis viribus, ut et publica conficiantur negotia et philosophia vendicetur, quemadmodum pro temporibus attinere videbitur.


The Complete Pedant, The Finest Teacher

Alston Hurd Chase, Time Remembered: Part I, Veritas:

“The course which determined my entire future was that in Beginning Greek, given by the gifted eccentric, Carl Newell Jackson. No one was ever more superbly endowed to teach the first principles of a language with both discipline and inspiration. I shall speak more of his teaching methods when I come to discuss my own in which I played, to quote Stevenson, the sedulous ape.

A tall, handsome man, with the frown we often associate with near-sightedness, he suffered from an agonizing shyness which may have accounted for his lifelong celibacy. His natural presence was glacial, lightened by almost no trace of humor. On those very infrequent occasions when he did smile the process was apparently so agonizing that it resulted in what appeared to be a grimace of pain. In many ways he was the complete pedant, yet he was unfailingly interesting in the classroom. He would enter, seat himself at his desk, remove from his waistcoat a large, old-fashioned watch and chain, place it before him, clear his throat with a rafter-shattering roar, and begin the lesson, never during all these preliminaries looking up at the class. One of his most fascinating procedures was his explanation of the vocabulary for the next day’s lesson. Each word suggested a comment, sometimes upon its linguistic peculiarities, sometimes upon its cognates or derivatives in the modern languages, but most often it served as a springboard for some anecdote or curious bit of information in history, biography, philosophy, or literary criticism. Under his teaching, Greek was a magic casement, a peak in Darien, from which we gazed upon the whole expanse of human knowledge and experience. Professor Jackson indeed made the Classics deserve the name of Humanities. And, whether consciously or not, each of these brief comments served as points in memory to which to attach the word in question by association.”

Madness, Flies, and Domitian’s Pen

de ingenuis moribus et liberalibus adulescentiae studiis, XXXII & XXXIII:

“At these times, when we are unable to employ our leisure outside, reading and books come to our aid. That is, unless we wish to indulge in sleep or to waste away in idle leisure, or even to imitate the custom of the Roman emperor Domitian, who on some days, at certain hours, would withdraw from the company of the world and hunt flies with his iron pen.”


“One of the imperial domestic servants once commented upon the madness of Domitian with a witty joke. At one time, when he was asked whether anyone was in the room with Domitian, the servant responded, ‘Not even a fly,’ as though the emperor had managed to kill them all with his pen.”

in hoc igitur tempus, cum nihil nobis per otium agere foris licebit, lectio librique succurrent. Nisi prorsus somno indulgere aut inerti otio tabescere volemus aut morem imitari Domitiani principis qui singulis diebus, certis horis, secretus ab omnibus stilo ferreo muscas insectabatur.


… eius ipsius Domitiani dementiam e cubiculariis unus urbano scommate notavit. Aliquando enim interrogatus, essetne quisquam cum Domitiano intus, respondit, ‘Ne musco quidem,’ quasi ille stilo suo omnes sustulisset.