When the Plow Was Not a Blessing

The following sepulchral epigram is ascribed to Antiphilus of Byzantium. He appears to have been active in the 1st century AD. Nothing else is known about him.

Antiphilus 7.176 (Greek Anthology)

It’s not that I was denied burial
And was, as a consequence, left to rot.
But here I lie, on the wheat-bearing land,
A naked corpse.
I once received a fitting burial.
Since then though, the iron blades of a plow
Have, by some plowing-man’s hands, turned me up.
Stranger, who calls death the release from ills
When the grave was not my last misfortune?

οὐχ ὅτι με φθίμενον κῆδος λίπεν, ἐνθάδε κεῖμαι
γυμνὸς ὑπὲρ γαίης πυροφόροιο νέκυς:
ταρχύθην γὰρ ἐγὼ τὸ πρίν ποτε, νῦν δ᾽ ἀροτῆρος
χερσὶ σιδηρείη μ᾽ ἐξεκύλισεν ὕνις.
ἦ ῥα κακῶν θάνατόν τις ἐρεῖ λύσιν, ὁππ
ότ᾽ ἐμεῖο,
ξεῖνε, πέλει παθέων ὕστατον οὐδὲ τάφος;

A terracotta votive tablet depicting a body surrounded by mourners. The tablet, dating from the 6th century BC, is attributed to the Gela Painter. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

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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