Philosophy, Wickedess and the Enemy of Mankind: More Sayings from Ancient Sages

Some more sayings from the Gnomologium Vaticanum.

7
“When Antisthenes was asked by someone what he should teach his child, he said “If you want him to live with the gods, philosophy; but if you wish him to live among men, then rhetoric.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς ὑπό τινος, τί· τὸν υἱὸν διδάξει, εἶπεν· „εἰ
μὲν θεοῖς αὐτὸν συμβιοῦν ἐθέλοις, φιλόσοφον· εἰ δὲ ἀνθρώποις, ῥήτορα”.

12
“Antisthenes used to say that virtue had a short justification while the argument for wickedness was endless.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη τὴν ἀρετὴν βραχύλογον εἶναι, τὴν δὲ κακίαν ἀπέραντον.

13
“When Plato was chattering on at length about something, Antisthenes said “the one who speaks is not the measure of his audience—it is the audience who makes a limit for the speaker!”

῾Ο αὐτὸς Πλάτωνός ποτε ἐν τῇ σχολῇ μακρολογήσαντος εἶπεν·„οὐχ ὁ λέγων μέτρον ἐστὶ τοῦ ἀκούοντος, ἀλλ’ ὁ ἀκούων τοῦ λέγοντος.”

14
“Anarchasis used to say that the Greeks really messed things up because their craftsman compete and the ignorant judge them.”

᾿Ανάχαρσις ἔφη τοὺς ῞Ελληνας ἁμαρτάνειν, ὅτι παρ’ αὐτοῖς οἱ μὲν τεχνῖται ἀγωνίζονται, οἱ δ’ ἀμαθεῖς κρίνουσιν.

18
“When Anarchasis was asked by someone what was humanity’s enemy, he said “themselves”.

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς ὑπό τινος, τί ἐστι πολέμιον ἀνθρώποις, εἶπεν· „αὐτοὶ ἑαυτοῖς”.

19

“When Anacharsis was asked by someone why jealous people are always aggrieved he said “because their own troubles are not the only thing biting them: other people’s good fortune bothers them too.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς ὑπό τινος, διὰ τί οἱ φθονεροὶ ἄνθρωποι ἀεὶ λυποῦνται, ἔφη· „ὅτι οὐ μόνον τὰ ἑαυτῶν αὐτοὺς κακὰ δάκνει, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ τῶν πέλας ἀγαθὰ λυπεῖ”.

 

The website “Sharing Ancient Wisdom” is a really interesting and useful collection of proverbial sayings. Check it out.

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Can You Stomach This? Gaster-Compounds in Ancient Greek

A proverb

“A fat stomach does not bear a subtle mind”

Γαστὴρ παχεῖα λεπτὸν οὐ τίκτει νόον.  (Arsenius, 5.22a1)

Od. 18.54-56

“Friends, it is in no way good for an old man
In the clutches of sorrow to fight a younger man.
But my no-good stomach compels me, that I might fall beneath his blows.”

“ὦ φίλοι, οὔ πως ἔστι νεωτέρῳ ἀνδρὶ μάχεσθαι
ἄνδρα γέροντα δύῃ ἀρημένον· ἀλλά με γαστὴρ
ὀτρύνει κακοεργός, ἵνα πληγῇσι δαμείω.

γαστήρ, ἡ: “stomach”

γαστραία: A type of turnip

γαστρίδουλος: “slave to one’s stomach”

γαστρίον: “sausage”

γαστρίζω: “to punch someone in the belly”

γραστριμαργία: “gluttony”

γαστροβαρής: “stomach-heavy”, i.e. “heavy with child”

γαστροκνημία: lit. “shin-stomach”, so “calf”

γαστρολογία: An almanac for gourmands, so “foodie-book”

γαστρομαντεύομαι: “to divine by the stomach”

γαστροπίων: “a fat-bellied fellow”

γαστρορραφία: “sewing a stomach wound”

γαστρόρροια: “diarrhea”

γαστροτόμος: “stomach cutting”

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γαστροχάρυβδις: “having a gaping maw of a belly”

γαστρόχειρ: lit. “stomach-hand”, so “living by hand” or “hand to mouth”

γαστρώδης: “pot pellied”

Writing for Vanity, Sanity, and Perhaps the Common Good

Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (Prologue)

“To this end I write, like them, saith Lucian, that recite to trees, and declaim to pillars for want of auditors: as Paulus Aegineta ingenuously confesseth, not that anything was unknown or omitted, but to exercise myself, which course if some took, I think it would be good for their bodies, and much better for their souls; or peradventure as others do, for fame, to show myself (Scire tuum nihil est, nisi te scire hoc sciat alter). I might be of Thucydides’ opinion, to know a thing and not to express it, is all one as if he knew it not. When I first took this task in hand, et quod ait ille, impellents genio negotium suscepi, this I aimed at; vel ut lenirem animum scribendo, to ease my mind by writing; for I had gravidum cor, foetum caput, a kind of imposthume in my head, which I was very desirous to be unladen of, and could imagine no fitter evacuation than this. Besides, I might not well refrain, for ubi dolor, ibi digitus, one must needs scratch where it itches. I was not a little offended with this malady, shall I say my mistress Melancholy, my Aegeria, or my malus genius? and for that cause, as he that is stung with a scorpion, I would expel clavum clavo, comfort one sorrow with another, idleness with idleness, ut ex vipera Theriacum, make an antidote out of that which was the prime cause of my disease. Or as he did, of whom Felix Plater speaks, that thought he had some of Aristophanes’ frogs in his belly, still crying Brecececec, coax, coax, oop, oop, and for that cause studied physic seven years, and travelled over most part of Europe to ease himself. To do myself good I turned over such physicians as our libraries would afford, or my private friends impart, and have taken this pains. And why not? Cardan professeth he wrote his book, De Consolatione after his son’s death, to comfort himself; so did Tully write of the same subject with like intent after his daughter’s departure, if it be his at least, or some impostor’s put out in his name, which Lipsius probably suspects. Concerning myself, I can peradventure affirm with Marius in Sallust, that which others hear or read of, I felt and practised myself; they get their knowledge by books, I mine by melancholising. Experto crede Roberto. Something I can speak out of experience, aerumnabilis experientia me docuit; and with her in the poet, Haud ignara mali miseris succurrere disco; I would help others out of a fellow-feeling; and, as that virtuous lady did of old, being a leper herself, bestow all her portion to build an hospital for lepers, I will spend my time and knowledge, which are my greatest fortunes, for the common good of all.”

Spartan Women Once Said…[Apophthegmata Gunaikôn, Part 2]

This is the second part of the sayings attributed to women in the Gnomologium Vaticanum (568-576)

“Sayings of women and their thoughts”

᾿Αποφθέγματα γυναικῶν, ἤτοι φρονήματα.

 

“When a Spartan woman was speaking to her son who had been crippled in battle and was depressed because of that she said “don’t be sad, child—for each step recalls your private virtue”

Γυνὴ Λάκαινα τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτῆς ἐν παρατάξει χωλωθέντος καὶ δυσφοροῦντος ἐπὶ τούτῳ „τέκνον”, εἶπε, „μὴ λυποῦ· καθ’ ἕκαστον γὰρ βῆμα τῆς ἰδίας <ἀρετῆς ὑπομνησθήσῃ.”>

 

“When a Spartan woman heard that her son died in the battle line she said “Child, you paid your country back well for your upbringing.”

Γυνὴ Λάκαινα ἀκούσασα τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς ἐν παρατάξει τεθνηκέναι „τέκνον”, εἶπεν, „ὡς καλὰ τροφεῖα τῇ πατρίδι ἀπέδωκας!”

 

“The mother of Clearchus the Ramphian, after her son was slandered for betraying Greece to the Persians, wrote this kind of letter. “To Klearchus the son from his Mother: evil rumors are falling all around you. Either get rid of them or no longer be [alive? My son?]”

῾Η Κλεάρχου τοῦ ῾Ραμφίου μήτηρ ἐπειδὴ διεβλήθη ὁ υἱὸς αὐτῆς προδιδόναι τοῖς Πέρσαις τὴν ῾Ελλάδα τοιαύτην ἐπιστολὴν ἔγραψεν· „ἁ μάτηρ Κλεάρχῳ τῷ υἱῷ· κακά τευ κακκέχυται φάμα· ἢ ταύταν ἀπόθευ ἢ μὴ ἔσο.”

 

“Xanthippê, when asked what Socrates’ greatest attribute was, said “This, that he has the same face for noble and lowborn men.”

Ξανθίππη ἐρωτηθεῖσα τί μέγιστον ὑπῆρχεν τῷ Σωκράτει „τοῦτο”, ἔφη, „ὅτι καὶ ἐπὶ ἀγαθοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ φαύλοις ἡ αὐτὴ ὄψις ἦν αὐτῷ”·

 

“Theanô the Pythagorean said, “What is noble to speak about is shameful to be silent on; and what is shameful to mention, is noble to keep silent about.”

Θεανὼ ἡ Πυθαγορικὴ ἔφη· „περὶ ὧν λέγειν καλόν, περὶ τούτων σιωπᾶν αἰσχρόν, καὶ περὶ ὧν λέγειν αἰσχρόν, περὶ τούτων σιωπᾶν καλόν.”

 

“A Spartan woman said of her son who was thankful that he was the only one to survive a battle-line “why aren’t you ashamed that you’re the only one alive?”

Λάκαινα γυνὴ σεμνυνομένου τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτῆς ἐπὶ τῷ μόνον ἐκ τῆς παρατάξεως σεσῶσθαι ἔφη· „τί οὖν οὐκ αἰσχύνῃ μόνος ζῶν;”

 

“When Olympias, Alexander’s mother was asked by someone why she wasn’t adorned, she said “Alexander is sufficient decoration for me.”

᾿Ολυμπιὰς ᾿Αλεξάνδρου μήτηρ ἐρωτηθεῖσα ὑπό τινος [ὅτι] „διὰ τί οὐ κοσμῇ;” εἶπεν· „ὅτι ἀρκεῖ μοι ὁ ᾿Αλεξάνδρου κόσμος.”

 

The website “Sharing Ancient Wisdom” is a really interesting and useful collection of proverbial sayings. Check it out.

An Old Attic Woman Once Said…[Apophthegmata Gunaikôn, Part 1]

The following are apophthegmata [“sayings”] preserved in a Byzantine manuscript and attributed to ancient authorities. Many might actually come from prose composition exercises in Byzantine and late antique schools. Most of the collection are attributed to famous male sages. The collection ends with a selection of 

“Sayings of women and their thoughts”

᾿Αποφθέγματα γυναικῶν, ἤτοι φρονήματα. [Gnomologium Vaticanum, 564-567]

“After an Attic woman saw a sign over the door of someone about to get married which said “Herakles lives here, may nothing bad happen” she said “Now may no woman enter!”

᾿Αττικὴ γυνὴ ἰδοῦσα γράμμα ἐπὶ θυρῶν μέλλοντος γαμεῖν· „῾Ηρακλῆς ἐνθάδε κατοικεῖ· μηδὲν εἰσίτω κακὸν” εἶπεν· „νῦν οὖν ἡ γυνὴ οὐ μὴ εἰσελεύσεται.”

 

“When an old Attic woman was asked at a symposium whether Dionysus is mortal after she saw wine being stolen, she said “yes, he’s mortal, for I saw him carried out…”

[῾Η] ᾿Αττικὴ γραῦς ἐρωτηθεῖσα ἐν συμποσίῳ εἰ θνητὸς ὁ Διόνυσος ἰδοῦσα κλεπτόμενον οἶνον εἶπεν· „ναὶ θνητός· εἶδον γὰρ αὐτὸν ἐκφερόμενον.”

[the joke is based on part of the Greek burial process, the ekphora, which is carrying out of the body]

 

“When an old Attic woman saw a young man pouring wine she said “Boy! You turned Peleus into Oineus.”

<᾿Α>ττικὴ γραῦς ἰδοῦσα νεανίσκον οἶνον ἐκχέοντα εἶπε· „μειράκιον· τὸν Οἰνέα Πηλέα ἐποίησας.”

 

“When an old Attic woman saw an Olympic victor taking sheep out to pasture she said “Ah, he went quickly from the Olympic to the Nemean games.”

Γραῦς ᾿Αττικὴ θεασαμένη ᾿Ολυμπιονίκην ἀθλητὴν πρόβατα βόσκοντα εἶπε· „ταχέως ἀπὸ ᾿Ολυμπίων ἐπὶ Νέμεα.”

571: “When a Syracusan woman was summoned by Dionysus the tyrant because he was claiming that he wanted her and would give her whatever she wanted, she said “Let me go—since you believe that women are the same, whenever the lamp goes out.”

Γυνὴ Συρακοσία μεταπεμφθεῖσα ὑπὸ Διονυσίου τοῦ τυράννου [καὶ] φάσκοντος ἐρᾶν αὐτῆς καὶ χαριεῖσθαι ὃ ἂν ἐθέλῃ· „ἄφες τοίνυν με” εἶπε „νομίσας τὰς γυναῖκας ὁμοίας εἶναι, ὅταν ὁ λύχνος ἀποσβεσθῇ.”

 

The website “Sharing Ancient Wisdom” is a really interesting and useful collection of proverbial sayings. Check it out.

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A Greek Compound, A Gift of a Useful Concept

[Thanks to a thread from Facebook for letting me know about this one]

Suetonius Tranquillus, Peri Blasphemon 11.12

“According to Hipponax [fr. 114c] the “messêgudorpoxéstês” is one who often relieves himself during a meal so that he may fill himself up again”

<Κατὰ δὲ ῾Ιππώνακτα (fr. 114 c Masson), καὶ ὁ> μεσσηγυδορποχέστης, ὁ μεσοῦντος τοῦ δείπνου πολλάκις ἀποπατῶν, ὅπως πάλιν ἐμπίπληται ὁ αὐτός.

For the word-builders: messêgu (“in the middle of”) + dorpos (“dinner, meal”)+ khestês (a nomina agentis—agentive noun—from the Greek verb χέζω, “to shit”).

This is a real vase at the Museum of Fine Arts

 

And another from the Walters Art Museum:

 

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The Faults of Translation, and the Dangers of Italy

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship Vol. II (Roger Ascham)

“Ascham’s definition of Plato’s εὐφυής, founded mainly on a passage of Plutarch’s Moralia, is, in a certain sense, the source of the Euphues of John Lyly (1579 f), but there is a vast difference between the plain and strong style of Ascham, and the elaborately antithetical and affectedly sententious manner of Lyly, who, so far from appealing to the same circle as the Scholemaster, has himself assured us that ‘Euphues had rather lye shut in a Ladyes casket, then open in a Schollers studie’ . In opposing the opinion of the bishop, who said, ‘we have no nede now of the Greeke tong, when all things be translated into Latin’, Ascham urges that ‘even the best translation is… but an evill imped wing to flie withall, or a heavie stompe leg of wood to go withall’.

While travelling abroad, he looked back on Cambridge as a place to be preferred to Louvain, and he failed to admire a Greek lecture on the Ethics at Cologne. He spent several years at Augsburg, where he frequently met Hieronymus Wolf. During nine days in Venice, he saw ‘more liberty to sin’ than he ever heard tell of in nine years in London; he knows many whom ‘all the Siren songs of Italy could never untwine from the mast of God’s word’; but he holds that, for young men, travelling in Italy is morally dangerous. Next to Greek and Latin he ‘likes and loves’ the Italian tongue, but he maintains that to read and to obey the precepts of Castiglione’s Cortegiano for one year would do a young man more good than three years spent in Italy.”