Zonaras 7.9 Part I: Servius Tullius Destined for Greatness

How Servius Tullius became a Roman noble:

Tarquinius Priscus met such an end after reigning for thirty-eight years. Thereupon, Tullius became the king of the Romans with the assistance of Tarquinius’ wife, Tanaquil. His mother, a woman named Ocrisia, was the bedmate of a man named Servius Tullius. She was taken in war and brought to Tarquinius. She gave birth, either already being pregnant when still in her home city, or conceiving after its capture – both stories are told. Tullius, as he was nearing the end of childhood, fell asleep upon a seat during the day, and fire seemed to project forth from his head. When Tarquinius saw this, he took the boy up with eagerness, and when he had reached the proper age, enlisted him among the patricians and the senate.

῾Ο μὲν οὖν Ταρκύνιος τοιοῦτον ἔσχε τέλος, τριάκοντα καὶ ὀκτὼ βασιλεύσας ἐνιαυτούς, τὴν δὲ τῆς ῾Ρώμης βασιλείαν ὁ Τούλλιος διεδέξατο, συνεργίᾳ τῆς τοῦ Ταρκυνίου γυναικὸς Τανακυιλίδος. τοῦτον δὲ γυνή τις ᾿Οκρισία καλουμένη, Σερουίου Τουλλίου ἀνδρὸς Λατίνου εὐνέτειρα ἐν τῷ πολέμῳ ἁλοῦσα καὶ τῷ Ταρκυνίῳ ἐξαιρεθεῖσα, τέτοκεν, ἢ ἐγκύμων οἴκοθεν οὖσα ἢ συλλαβοῦσα μετὰ τὴν ἅλωσιν· λέγεται γὰρ ἀμφότερα. οὗτος ἐς παῖδας ἤδη τελῶν ἐπὶ δίφρου μεθ’ ἡμέραν κατέδαρθε, καὶ πῦρ ἀπὸ τῆς αὐτοῦ κεφαλῆς πολὺ ἐδόκει ἐξάλλεσθαι. ὅπερ ἰδὼν ὁ Ταρκύνιος διὰ σπουδῆς ἦγε τὸν παῖδα, καὶ εἰς ἡλικίαν ἀφιγμένον τοῖς εὐπατρίδαις καὶ τῇ γερουσίᾳ συνέταξε.

Some Servius for Saturday Morning

Comment on Aeneid, 1.22:

VOLVERE PARCAS: Either he took the word ‘volvere’ (to turn) from thread, or from a book: for one of them speaks, one of them writes, and another spins the thread. They are called ‘Parcae’ through antiphrasis, because they spare no one. Similarly so, we have lucus (a grove) from non lucendo (not shining) and bellum (war) from nulla re bella (no beautiful thing). The names of the Parcae are Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos.

VOVLVERE PARCAS aut a filo traxit ‘volvere’ aut a libro; una enim loquitur, altera scribit, alia fila deducit. et dictae sunt parcae κατὰ ἀντίφρασιν, quod nulli parcant, sicut lucus a non lucendo, bellum a nulla re bella. nomina parcarum Clotho Lachesis Atropos.

Nothing is Knowable, And More!

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 4.469-477


“In addition, if anyone thinks nothing can be known, he does not know
whether or not it can be once he confesses that he knows nothing.
Therefore, I decline to argue a case against a man
who has assigned his head to his own footsteps.
Nevertheless, should I concede that he knows at least that,
I would still ask him this: since he saw nothing true in the material world before
how could he know what there is to know or to not know in turn
or what provided him with a difference between true and false
and what matter distinguished the uncertain from the sure?”

Denique nil sciri siquis putat, id quoque nescit
an sciri possit, quoniam nil scire fatetur.
hunc igitur contra minuam contendere causam,
qui capite ipse suo in statuit vestigia sese.
et tamen hoc quoque uti concedam scire, at id ipsum
quaeram, cum in rebus veri nil viderit ante,
unde sciat quid sit scire et nescire vicissim,
notitiam veri quae res falsique crearit
et dubium certo quae res differre probarit.


Fragmentary Friday: Early Accounts of Perseus

Perseus, Andromeda, and a Sea Monster

Perseus, Andromeda, and a Sea Monster

Hesiod, Fr. 129.8-18

“And she bore both Proitos and king Akrisios
And the father of gods and men established them in different places
Akrisos ruled in well-built Argos…
[three broken lines describing the marriage of Akrisios to Eurydike, daughter of Lakedaimon]
She gave birth to fine-ankled Danae in her home
Who in turn was the mother of Perseus, the mighty master of fear.
Proitos lived in the well-built city of Tiryns
and married the daughter of the great-hearted son of Arkas
the fine-haired Stheneboia…”
Continue reading

Too Pretty To Be Loved

(Sappho to Phaon; Ovid Heroides, 15.31-40)


“If unfair nature denied beauty to me,
Take in exchange for appearance my wit.
I am short, but my name stretches across all lands:
I am the measure of my fame not my height.
If I am not pale enough, well, Cepheian Andromeda,
Dark with the color of her country, pleased Perseus!
White doves often mate with different colors:
The dark turtle-dove has a love dressed in green.
If no one who cannot be worthy of you in beauty alone
will be yours, then no one will ever be yours.”

si mihi difficilis formam natura negavit,
ingenio formae damna repende meae.
sum brevis. at nomen, quod terras impleat omnes,
est mihi: mensuram nominis ipsa fero.
candida si non sum, placuit Cepheia Perseo
Andromede patriae fusca colore suae.
et variis albae iunguntur saepe columbae
et niger a viridi turtur amatur ave.
si nisi quae facie poterit te digna videri,
nulla futura tua est, nulla futura tua est!

Guns on Campus? Here’s ‘Dildo’ in Ancient Greek

In a long-running response to guns on campus and after a federal judge denied faculty arguments to keep guns from classrooms, students at UT Austin today are protesting the recently enacted ‘Campus Carry’ law by carrying dildos strapped to their backpacks (because, according to obscenity laws, dildos are forbidden).

In support of these efforts in my former state, here’s how to say ‘dildo’ in Ancient Greek.

From the Suda

Olisbos: Genitals made from leather which the Milesian women used to use as tribades(!) and shameful people do. Widowed women also use them. Aristophanes writes “I did not see an eight-fingered dildo*/ which might be our leathered aid.”** This second part is drawn from the proverb “fig-wood aid” applied to weak people.

῎Ολισβος: αἰδοῖον δερμάτινον, ᾧ ἐχρῶντο αἱ Μιλήσιαι γυναῖκες, ὡς τριβάδες καὶ αἰσχρουργοί· ἐχρῶντο δὲ αὐτοῖς καὶ αἱ χῆραι γυναῖκες. ᾿Αριστοφάνης· οὐκ εἶδον οὐδ’ ὄλισβον ὀκταδάκτυλον, ὃς ἂν ἡμῖν σκυτίνη ‘πικουρία. παρὰ τὴν παροιμίαν, συκίνη ἐπικουρία. ἐπὶ τῶν ἀσθενῶν.

Another proverb from the Suda, s.v. misêtê:

“And Kratinus said somewhere: “hated women use dildoes.”

καὶ ὁ Κρατῖνός που τοῦτο ἔφη: μισῆται δὲ γυναῖκες ὀλίσβωσι χρήσονται

(!) tribades: see the Suda again s.v. Hetairistai:

“Courtesanizers: The women who are called ‘rubbers'” [or ‘grinders’? i.e. Lesbians] Ἑταιρίστριαι: αἱ καλούμεναι τριβάδες. See also Hesychius s.v. dietaristriai: “Women who rub themselves against girls in intercourse the way men do. For example, tribades.”

διεταρίστριαι· γυναῖκες αἱ τετραμμέναι πρὸς τὰς ἑταίρας ἐπὶ συνουσίᾳ, ὡς οἱ ἄνδρες. οἷον τριβάδες (Plat. conv. 191 e).

*this is not an eight-shafted instrument but may instead point to the instrument’s length. See the note on the Suda-online.

**Lysistrata 109-110.


The Lexicographer Photius repeats only the following definition:

Olisboi: Leather dicks

῎Ολισβοι: δερμάτινα αἰδοῖα.

The Scholia to Aristophanes’ Lysistrata 109-110 basically presents the same information:

Olisbon: A leather penis. And that is for the Milesian women. He is joking that they use dildos. The next part, “leathery aid” plays upon the proverb “fig-tree aid”, used for the weak. He has changed it to “leathery” because dildos are made of leather. They are leather-made penises which widowed women use.”

ὄλισβον: Αἰδοῖον δερμάτινον. καὶ τοῦτο εἰς τὰς Μιλησίας. παίζει δὲ ὡς τοῖς ὀλίσβοις χρωμέναις. σκυτίνη ἐπικουρία: Παρὰ τὴν παροιμίαν, συκίνη ἐπικουρία, ἐπὶ τῶν ἀσθενῶν. ὁ δὲ εἰς τὴν σκυτίνην μετέβαλε. σκύτινοι γὰρ οἱ ὄλισβοι. εἰσὶ δὲ δερμάτινα αἰδοῖα, οἷς χρῶνται αἱ χῆραι γυναῖκες.

And, the chaste H. Liddell could do no better than give this a Latin name:

ὄλισβος , ὁ, A.penis coriaceus, Cratin.316, Ar.Lys.109, Fr.320.13.