“Superstitions make many moderate sufferings deadly. That ancient Midas, as it seems, was so disturbed and troubled by some dreams that he became upset enough to kill himself by drinking the blood of a bull. And the king of the Messenian, Aristodêmos, in that war against the Spartans, when the dogs were howling like wolves, the grass began to grow up over his ancestral hearth and some of the seers were frightened by the signs, was completely disheartened and extinguished all hopes when he took his own life.
It might have been best for Nikias the general of the Athenians to free himself of his superstition following Midas and Aristodêmos. Since he was afraid of the shadow of a moon in eclipse, rather than to sit there while he was walled in by the enemy only to get captured by them with forty thousand men who were slaughtered or taken alive and then die in infamy.”
“The person who sends rather weighty gifts causes no less grief than the one who throws the ball too hard to his teammate or offers a big cup to his fellow drinker in toast. For the latter seems to toast not for pleasure but for getting drunk. Just as in wise drinking parties we see that the wine is mixed with a little pure alcohol and a lot of water, so too are gifts mixed best with a lot of thought and a little expenditure.
For who should we say gets the benefit from expensive gifts? Is it the poor? They are not capable of giving them. The rich? They don’t need to get them. In addition, it is not possible to constantly give expensive gifts—there will be a failure of resources if someone should often send out immense gifts. It is possible, however, to give small gifts endlessly and without regret—since someone owes only small thanks to the one who gave a small gift.”
“Let’s imagine what might be worth the greatest pleasure after it has been given—what would greet the recipient’s eye frequently and make him think of us whenever he sees it. Each time let us be wary not to send useless gifts, such as hunting implements to a woman or an old man, books to a simpleton or fishing nets to someone dedicated to literature. However, we should be equally mindful that, although we want to send welcome gifts, we do not send things which will reprove someone for a failing, such as sending wine to a drunk or medicine to a healthy man. For something which uncovers a fault in the recipient turns out to be an insult not a gift.
If the choice of the gift is our choice, we should think especially of things which will endure, that the gift may last as long as possible. For there are truly few people so grateful that they will think about what they have received when they do not see it. But memory revives for the ungrateful with the gift itself when it is in front of them and it will not allow them to be forgetful. And we should seek gifts which endure even more for the fact that we ought not to ever remind people: let the things themselves prompt a fading memory.
I will give silver which is sculpted rather than money and I give statues more freely than clothing or things which will deteriorate after brief use. Gratitude lasts among few longer than the objects themselves. Greater is the number among whom gifts remain in mind no longer than they are in use. So I, if it is possible, do not want my gift to be used up. Let it last, let it stick fast to my friend. Let it live alongside him.”
Videamus, quid oblatum maxime voluptati futurum sit, quid frequenter occursurum habenti, ut totiens nobiscum quotiens cum illo sit. Utique cavebimus, ne munera supervacua mittamus, ut feminae aut seni arma venatoria, ut rustico libros, ut studiis ac litteris dedito retia. Aeque ex contrario circumspiciemus,ne, dum grata mittere volumus, suum cuique morbum exprobratura mittamus, sicut ebrioso vina et valetudinario medicamenta. Maledictum enim incipit esse, non munus, in quo vitium accipientis adgnoscitur.
Si arbitrium dandi penes nos est, praecipue mansura quaeremus, ut quam minime mortale munus sit. Pauci enim sunt tam grati, ut, quid acceperint, etiam si non vident, cogitent. Ingratos quoque memoria cum ipso munere incurrit, ubi ante oculos est et oblivisci sui non sinit, sed auctorem suum ingerit et inculcat. Eo quidem magis duratura quaeramus, quia numquam admonere debemus; ipsa res evanescentem memoriam excitet. Libentius donabo argentum factum quam signatum; libentius statuas quam vestem et quod usus brevis deterat. Apud paucos post rem manet gratia; plures sunt, apud quos non diutius in animo sunt donata, quam in usu. Ego, si fieri potest, consumi munus meum nolo; extet, haereat amico meo, convivat.
It’s worth observing that the lyric pairs its nouns with adjectives marking them as attractive: Eros’ ball is “bright” (in the sense of “brightly colored”). Eros himself is “golden-haired,” as befits a god. The young girl has “richly spangled sandals” (a closer approximation of the Greek adjective is perhaps “sandaled in a richly spangled fashion”). Her city, Lesbos, is “fancy” (literally “well built” or “well established”).
The pairing of adjectives and nouns should, in retrospect, mark the bareness of the first line’s unmodified “me” as important. It’s 5 lines later that the speaker’s hair, by synecdoche, stands in for his person, and an adjective finally attaches to him: “white[-haired].” Only the speaker is marked as unattractive in a lyric fixed on desirability.
With that, what becomes easier to see is the lyric’s fundamental contrasts. Eros has golden hair, but the man has white hair. The girl is young (Anacreon calls her “a youth”), but the man is old. In both pairings, the man represents a falling off: both from the god and the girl, and from our expectation of desirability.
The lyric turns out to be a clever rehearsing of an overworked trope in Archaic lyric: Eros humiliates old men. When we realize the man is old, we also realize it’s grotesque he’d been compelled “to play like a child” (the literal meaning of the Greek verb) with a young girl.
But in a sense, we should have known what was coming: “yet once more” (δηὖτέ) at the lyric’s opening is a conventional signal of (1) amorous defeat and (2) the would-be lover’s age-unsuitability for the amorous undertaking.
There is a lot to be had from the lyric–the careful construction of surprise–without fixating on the seeming titillation of same-sex attraction in the final line (i.e., the girl turning her attention to another girl). I hope to have shown that the center of the poem might well be the revelation about the man, and not a revelation about the girl. After all, male anxiety about age, and aging out of desirability, is well attested in Archaic sympotic song; same-sex female desire is not.
“Apollodorus the Athenian in his Summary of Beliefs, because he wants to demonstrate that the works of Epicurus were written with personal force and were prepared with far fewer quotations than the books of Chrysippos, says in this very wording: “if the books of [Chrysippos] were scrubbed of all the superfluous quotations, only empty paper would be left to him.”
So much for Apollodorus. The old women who used to sit next to [Chrysippos], according to Diocles, used to claim that he wrote 500 lines each day. Hekatôn reports that he turned to philosophy because the property left to him by his father was confiscated to the royal treasury.”
“If you desire to be free of this and freedom seems truly attractive to you, and if you seek help for this reason alone—that it might be allowed for you to do this without constant trouble—how would the whole gang of Stoics fail to approve it? Every Zeno and Chrysippus will advise you about your moderation and honor. But if you keep turning your back so you can try to see how much you carry with you and how much money you need for leisure you will never find an end to it.
No one can swim to safety with their bags. Emerge to a better life with divine favor but let it not be in that way in which they are favorable to those people to whom they grant great evils with pleasant and pleasing glances—and they are excused for doing so because those things which burn and torture are given to those who beg for them.
I was already closing this letter with a seal, but it had to be opened again so that it may come to you with the dutiful contribution and bring some great saying to you. And look, here is something that comes to my mind which I don’t know if it is truer or more well-put. “Whose saying?” you ask? It is Epicurus, for I am still sewing my quilt from other people’s fragments. “Everyone leaves from life just as if they just had entered it”.
Grab anyone suddenly—a youth, an old man, someone in the middle—and you will find them equally afraid of death and without understanding of life. No one has finished anything, because we keep postponing everything we do to tomorrow. Nothing makes me happier in that quotation than the fact that it calls old men out for being babies.
“No one”, he says, “leaves the world differently from the way in which they were born.” This is false! We are worse when we die than when we are born. This is our fault, not nature’s. Nature ought to criticize us, saying, “What is this? I produced you without desires, without fear, without superstition, without treachery and these diseases! Leave as you were when you got here!”
Sed si deponere illam in animo est et libertas bona fide placuit, in hoc autem unum advocationem petis, ut sine perpetua sollicitudine id tibi facere contingat, quidni tota te cohors Stoicorum probatura sit? Omnes Zenones et Chrysippi moderata, honesta, tua suadebunt. Sed si propter hoc tergiversaris, ut circumspicias, quantum feras tecum et quam magna pecunia instruas otium, numquam exitum invenies. Nemo cum sarcinis enatat. Emerge ad meliorem vitam propitiis dis, sed non sic, quomodo istis propitii sunt, quibus bono ac benigno vultu mala magnifica tribuerunt, ad hoc unum excusati, quod ista, quae urunt, quae excruciant, optantibus data sunt.
13Iam inprimebam epistulae signum; resolvenda est, ut cum sollemni ad te munusculo veniat et aliquam magnificam vocem ferat secum, et occurrit mihi ecce nescio utrum verior an eloquentior. “Cuius?” inquis; Epicuri, adhuc enim alienas sarcinas adsero; “Nemo non ita exit e vita, tamquam modo intraverit.” Quemcumque vis occupa, adulescentem senem medium; invenies aeque timidum mortis, aeque inscium vitae. Nemo quicquam habet facti, in futurum enim nostra distulimus. Nihil me magis in ista voce delectat quam quod exprobratur senibus infantia. “Nemo,” inquit, “aliter quam qui modo natus est exit e vita.” Falsum est; peiores morimur quam nascimur. Nostrum istud, non naturae vitium est. Illa nobiscum queri debet et dicere: “Quid hoc est? Sine cupiditatibus vos genui, sine timoribus, sine superstitione, sine perfidia ceterisque pestibus; quales intrastis exite.”
7.2 “When [Mary] was twelve years old, the priests held a council where they were saying: “Look, Mary is twelve years old in the Temple of the Lord. What shall we do about her, since we don’t want her to defile the Temple of the Lord when women’s matters come to her.” And they said to the chief-priest: “you, you preside over the sacred place of the god—go there and pray about her and let us do whatever the Lord God reveals to you.
So the priest entered, once he took the twelve-belled cloak, the clothing of a priest, into the Most Holy of Holy Places and he prayed about her. And, look, an angel of the lord appeared, saying to him: “Zacharias, Zacharias, go out and hold an assembly of the people’s widowers and have every man carry a staff. To whomever the lord shows a sign, she will be his husband.” So, the heralds went throughout the land of Judea and the Lord’s trumpet sounded, and every one ran there.
Joseph dropped his sickle and hurried to the assembly too. And when they were all gathered, they approached the priest. The priest took all of their staves, went into the temple and prayed. Once he finished the prayer, he came out and gave each man his staff back. There was no sign upon any of them. But when Joseph received his staff last, look!, a dove came out if it and alighted upon Joseph’s head.
Then the priest said, “It is your fate to take the Lord’s virgin. Take her and keep her as your own.” Joseph responded, “I have two sons and I am an old man; she is a young girl. Should I become a joke among the sons of Israel?” Then the priest said to him, “Joseph, fear the Lord God and the things he did to Datham and Koreh and Abêrôm—how the earth opened in two and they were all drowned inside because of their refusals.You should fear too, now, Joseph, that these things will happen in your house too.” So, because he was afraid, Joseph took her into his own care. And he said to her, “Mary, look, I took you from the Temple of the Lord, My God, and now I will leave you in my home. I am leaving to build some of my buildings. And I will come back to you in turn. May the Lord keep you safe.”
This is reflected in the iconography for Nativity (Christmas.) Joseph is lower left (being tempted by Satan in the guise of an old man.) Even though the gospel of James as a whole isn’t “canon” there are elements that both Orthodox and Catholics believe. pic.twitter.com/0ny8U32vPf
Laodameia is the name of Protesilaus’ wife, according to the Euripidean tradition. Other traditions have him married to Polydora, a child of Meleager. IN the non-Homeric tradition, Protesilaus was permitted to leave the underworld to meet his wife for a single day. The action of the play seems to have centered around this event, following Laodameia’s grief and the reactions of her near and dear.
Chas Libretto brings us a new interpretation of this story, rooted in the fragments that have survived and imagining the pieces we have lost. In a way, this is as true to the theme of the tale as humanly possible, arranging the remains of the lives we lead around the absence of the people we’ve lost.
Performers and Scenes
Music performed by Bettina Joy de Guzman
Damian Jermaine Thompson
Rene Thornton Jr.
Laodamia – Female, 20s
Iolaus/Protesilaos/Podarces, her husband and his brother – Male, 20s
Acastus, her father – Male, 50s – 60s
Chorus – Male/Female, 30s – 60s
Odysseus – Male, 30s
Euripides, Protesilaus fr. 650
“Illogical hopes deceive mortals”
πόλλ᾿ ἐλπίδες ψεύδουσιν ἅλογοι βροτούς.
Euripides, Protesilaus fr. 654
“When two are speaking and one is enraged
the one who resists fighting with words is the wiser.”
Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre) Host and Faculty Consultant: Joel Christensen (Brandeis University) Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (Center for Hellenic Studies) Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society) Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University) Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies) Poster Illustration Artist: John Koelle
Euripides, Protesilaus fr. 655
“I won’t betray someone I love even when they’re dead.”
οὐκ ἂν προδοίην καίπερ ἄψυχον φίλον.
All start times are 3pm ET unless otherwise noted. Live stream available at chs.harvard.edu and on YouTube.
December 15An Ancient Cabaret
Euripides, Protesilaus fr. 657
“Anyone who lumps all women together in slander
Is unsubtle and unwise
For among the many women you will find one wicked
And another with a spirit as noble as this one”
“I stood on a high mountain and I saw one tall person and another short one. And I heard something like a thunder’s sound and I went closer to hear it. He addressed me and said: “I am you and you are me and wherever you are I am there; and I am implanted in all things. So you can gather me from wherever you want. And when you harvest me, you harvest yourself.”