Porphyry on Odysseus and His Companions, Part 2

For part 1, go here

Schol. H ad Od. 1.8 ex. Porphyry

“Because he saved himself from every threat of death rushing upon him, he was also only skilled enough to save his companions from the dangers looming over him, if they would accept their own responsibility, not an excuse. But wisdom is not able to make men immortal nor can a wise man preserve them from every kind of death, but only that which is selected due to our own responsibility, if those who are with him might obey him. Nor again is the wise man able to persuade in every situation.

“He suffered much as he tried to preserve his life and the homecoming of his companions” in those deeds which safeguard against dangers, but not in those which do not occur by our own agency. And similarly in events that occur through our own choice, he would have saved them as he trusted in his own virtue if they had been capable of not dying thanks to some preordained external fortune, and from their own responsibility, even though he was especially eager, “because they perished from their own recklessness: when they went and disrespected Helios independently.

This shows that some events occur according to fortune and from external causes, over which a wise man has power, while others occur because of us and our own drive, over which a serious man may have power. But the serious man is not in control of death which is motivated externally and according to fortune, either for himself or for another, even as he will foresee from every angle the danger caused by our own fault for both himself and those who differ from him. The same man will be conspicuous in trying many things for himself and others when they do not have the same ability of thought as him. This is how to understand “he suffered many things in his heart as he tried to save his life and the homecoming of his companions.”

[This refers] to in those moments we are capable and responsible for death for ourselves, and certainly does not apply to the situations where it is not our fault. For the serious man is desirous only of things under our control and because of this he is on guard against the death that comes due to our own responsibility. But he has neither for those events motivated by external fate. For there is no control over everything subject to external fate nor even everything under our power: some of the external events overpower those things that are under our control. Some deaths issue from external causes, but others come from our own mistakes—and these especially are connected to our stupidity, because most of those who are compelled because of wickedness to chastisement by the law are condemned by their own voluntary transgressions.”


ὡς γὰρ ἑαυτὸν σώζει ἐκ παντὸς τοῦ παρ’ ἑαυτὸν ῥυόμενος θανάτου, οὕτως καὶ τοὺς ἑταίρους ἐκ τοῦ παρ’ ἑαυτὸν δύναται μόνος σοφὸς ῥύεσθαι θανάτου, εἰ τὸπαρ’ ἑαυτοὺς αἴτιον μὴ πρόφασιν ἐνδοῦναι πείσειεν· ἀθανάτους δὲ οὔτε σοφία ποιῆσαι ἐπαγγέλλεται οὔθ’ ὁ σοφὸς σώσειεν ἂν ἐκ παντὸς θανάτου, ἀλλ’ ἐκ μόνου ἄρα τοῦ παρὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν αἰτίαν ὑφισταμένου, εἰ πεισθεῖεν αὐτῷ οἱ συνόντες· οὐδὲ γὰρ οὐδὲ τοῦ πεῖσαι ἐκ παντὸς κύριος  ὁ σοφός. πολλὰ ὁ μὲν ἔπαθεν ἀρνύμενος ἥν τε ψυχὴν καὶ νόστον ἑταίρων ἐν τοῖς παρ’ ἑαυτῷ σωστικοῖς ἔργοις τῶν κινδύνων, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν τοῖς μὴ παρ’ ἡμᾶς ἀποβαινόντων. καὶ ὁμοίως ἐν τοῖς παρ’ ἡμᾶς αὐτὸς μὲν ἔσωσεν ἀρετῇ πειθόμενος τοὺς δυνηθέντας ἂν μὴ διὰ τύχην

ἔξωθέν τινα καθ’ εἱμαρμένην ἀποθανεῖν, ἐκ δὲ τῆς παρ’ ἑαυτῶν αἰτίας, καίπερ πολλὰ προθυμηθεὶς, οὐκ ἔσωσεν· αὐτοὶ γὰρ σφετέρῃσιν …. ….. ἦσαν εἰς τὸν ῞Ηλιον μόνοι ἀσεβήσαντες. ἔδειξεν οὖν ὅτι τῶν συμβαινόντων τὰ μὲν παρὰ τύχην καὶ τὴν ἔξωθεν αἰτίαν, ὧν ὁ σοφὸς οὐ κύριος, τὰ δὲ παρ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ τὴν ἡμετέραν ὁρμὴν, ὧν κρατεῖν οἷός τε ὁ σπουδαῖος. καὶ θανάτου οὖν τοῦ μὲν ἔξωθεν καὶ παρὰ τὴν τύχην οὔτ’ ἐφ’ ἑαυτοῦ οὔτ’ ἐπ’ ἄλλου ὁ σπουδαῖος κύριος, τοῦ δὲ παρὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν αἰτίαν ἐκ παντὸς προνοήσεται ὁ σπουδαῖος καὶ ἐφ’ ἑαυτοῦ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν αὐτῷ διαφερόντων· καὶ περιγενόμενος ἐφ’ ἑαυτοῦ ἀποτακτήσει τὰ πολλὰ ἐπὶ ἄλλων, ὅταν μὴ τὴν αὐτὴν αὐτῷ τῆς φρονήσεως ἔχωσιν ἕξιν. ἀκουστέον οὖν τὸ

πολλὰ δ’ ὅγ’ ἐν πόντῳ πάθεν ἄλγεα ὃν κατὰ θυμὸν,

ἀρνύμενος ἥν τε ψυχὴν καὶ νόστον ἑταίρων

ἐν τοῖς δυνατοῖς καὶ παρ’ ἡμᾶς τοῦ θανάτου αἰτίοις,,  ἀλλ’ οὐ μέντοι τοῖς μὴ παρ’ ἡμᾶς αἰτίοις· τῶν γὰρ ἐφ’ ἡμῖν μόνων ὀρεκτικὸς ὁ σπουδαῖος, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο τῶν ἐξ ἡμῶν αἰτίων θανάτου φυλακτικὸς, ἀλλ’ οὐ τῶν ἔξωθεν κατὰ τὴν εἱμαρμένην αἰτίαν ἀποβαινόντων. οὔτε γὰρ πάντων ἁπαξαπλῶς τῶν ἔξωθεν αἴτια, οὔτε πάλιν τὸ ἐφ’ ἡμῶν πάντων κύριον, ἀλλ’ ὧν μὲν τὸ ἐφ’ ἡμῖν, ὧν δὲ κρατεῖ τὰ ἔξωθεν. καὶ τῶν θανάτων οἱ μὲν δι’ αἰτίας ἔξωθεν γίνονται, οἱ δὲ δι’ ἡμετέρας ἁμαρτίας, καὶ ἐκ τῆς ἀνοίας τῆς ἡμετέρας ἤρτηνται, ὡς οἵ γε πλεῖστοι τῶν διὰ κακίας εἰς κόλασιν ὑπὸ τοῦ νόμου ἐπαγομένων ἠρτημένοι ἀπ’ αἰτίας τῆς ἐκ τῶν ἑκουσίων ἁμαρτημάτων. H.

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