Frogs, A Singer from Lesbos, and Endless Bread (More Proverbs)

Three more proverbs from the Suda

Melei: It means “it seems” and is used this way in Homer. It also appears in a proverb: “None of these things matter more to me than I do to frogs in the marshes.”

Μέλει: ἔοικεν. οὕτω τέθειται παρ’ Ὁμήρῳ. καὶ παροιμία: μέλει μοι τῶν τοιούτων οὐδὲν ἧττον ἢ τῶν ἐν τοῖς τέλμασι βατράχων.


Meta Lesbion ôdon: ‘After the Lesbian singer’. A proverb spoken for those who come in second. For the Spartans used to summon Lesbian citharodes. This is because when the city was divided in conflict their oracle instructed them to send for a singer from Lesbos. They summoned Terpander from Antissa—he was in exile for blood-crime—and listened to him in their mess-halls and were reunited. So, the Spartans, when they were divided in strife, summoned the musician Terpander from Lesbos and he brought harmony to their minds and stopped the conflict. Every time the Spartans heard any singer after that, they said he came [second] “after the Lesbian singer.”

Μετὰ Λέσβιον ᾠδόν: παροιμία λεγομένη ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ δεύτερα φερομένων· οἱ γὰρ Λακεδαιμόνιοι τοὺς Λεσβίους κιθαρῳδοὺς πρώτους προσεκαλοῦντο· ἀκαταστατούσης γὰρ τῆς πόλεως αὐτῶν χρησμὸς ἐγένετο τὸν Λέσβιον ᾠδὸν μεταπέμπεσθαι· οἱ δ’ ἐξ ᾿Αντίσσης Τέρπανδρον ἐφ’ αἵματι φεύγοντα μεταπεμψάμενοι ἤκουον αὐτοῦ ἐν τοῖς συσσιτίοις καὶ κατεστάλησαν. ὅτι οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι στασιάζοντες μετεπέμψαντο ἐκ Λέσβου τὸν μουσικὸν Τέρπανδρον, ὃς ἥρμοσεν αὐτῶν τὰς ψυχὰς καὶ τὴν στάσιν ἔπαυσεν. εἴποτε οὖν μετὰ ταῦτα μουσικοῦ τινος ἤκουον οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι, ἔλεγον μετὰ Λέσβιον ᾠδόν.


“Drinking water in moderation, but eating bread without end.”

“This line developed into a proverb from an oracle which the god delivered to the men of Sybaris. For they perished at the hands of the men of Kroton because they were sacrilegious and drunkards. This was the prophecy given to the men who fled.”

Μέτρῳ ὕδωρ πίνοντες, ἀμετρίαν δὲ μᾶζον ἔδοντες:οὗτος ὁ στίχος εἰς παροιμίαν περιέστη ἔκ τινος χρησμοῦ, ὃν ἀνεῖλεν ὁ θεὸς Συβαρίταις· ὑβρισταὶ γὰρ ὄντες καὶ ἀμετροπόται ἀπώλοντο ὑπὸ Κροτωνιατῶν. τοῖς οὖν διαφυγοῦσιν αὐτῶν οὕτως ἐχρήσθη.


Women Kneed Bread, Accompanied by Flute (Thebes, c. 5th Century BCE)

One thought on “Frogs, A Singer from Lesbos, and Endless Bread (More Proverbs)

  1. Now a bit off topic, but I had always wondered which came first, Bread or Beer? I guess the latest findings point to beer, so gives additional meanings to mead-halls, ale benches and so on in Gilgamesh and Beowulf…

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