Just a Hole in the Ground

Callimachus 13 (Gow-Page 31)

Does Charidas really lie dead beneath you?
“You mean Arimma’s son from Cyrenaica?
Then yes, he’s underneath me.”
O Charidas, what’s down there?
“Much darkness.”
But what about the ways up?
And Pluto?
Ah, nothing remains of us.
“What I’ve given you is my truthful account.
But if you want the pleasing version, here goes:
even small sums buy a big bull in Hades!”

Note: the final line of the Greek is likely corrupt, and therefore while I’ve followed Markovitch in assuming the questionable word is a reference to money (an “obol,” which I’ve freely rendered as “small sums”)–and amending the Greek to reflect that–others assume a reference to the bull’s place of origin (“Pella”).

‘Η ῥ᾽ ὑπὸ σοὶ Χαρίδας ἀναπαύεται; ‘εἰ τὸν Ἀρίμμα
τοῦ Κυρηναίου παῖδα λέγεις, ὑπ᾽ ἐμοί.’
ὦ Χαρίδα, τί τὰ νέρθε; ‘πολὺ σκότοσ᾽. αἱ δ᾽ ἄνοδοι τί;
‘ψεῦδοσ᾽. ὁ δὲ Πλούτων; ‘μῦθοσ᾽. ἀπωλόμεθα.
‘οὗτος ἐμὸς λόγος ὔμμιν ἀληθινός: εἰ δὲ τὸν ἡδύν
βούλει, <χαν> +πελανου βοῦς μέγας εἰν Ἀίδηι.


A still from Bergman’s the Seventh Seal in which our Everyman plays chess with Death. To the despair of chess fans, Bergman never reveals whether Death played a cautious opening, like the Ruy Lopez, or something daring, like the Danish Gambit.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

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