How Not to Remember the Dead

The Greek Anthology records fifty-one poems by the versatile Crinagoras of Mytilene (c. 1st century BC – 1st century AD). Here are 2 uncharitable epigrams of his regarding the tomb and decaying remains of one Eunicides:

7.380 (Greek Anthology)

Though the tomb’s been cut from a block of white marble,
And it’s been made fine with a mason’s straight rule,
It does not belong to a good man.
Do not appraise the dead, my friend, based on stone.
Stone is witless: this is how it covers
Even a corpse already turned black.
Here lies that limp rag, Eunicides,
Rotting away under the ashes.

7.401 (Greek Anthology)

The tomb atop his odious head
Crushes the bones of the reprobate
Who lies beneath the accursed dirt:
It crushes his jutting chest,
His foul-smelling row of teeth,
His legs bandaged like a slave’s,
And his hairless head as well.
Eunicides’ half-burnt remains, these,
And they’re still full of greenish pus.
Earth, you’ve made an unfortunate marriage;
Don’t now lie lightly, or even slightly,
On this misshapen man’s ashes.


εἰ καὶ τὸ σῆμα λυγδίνης ἀπὸ πλακὸς
καὶ ξεστὸν ὀρθῇ λαοτέκτονος στάθμῃ,
οὐκ ἀνδρὸς ἐσθλοῦ. μὴ λίθῳ τεκμαίρεο,
ὦ λῷστε, τὸν θανόντα. κωφὸν ἡ λίθος,
τῇ καὶ ζοφώδης ἀμφιέννυται νέκυς.
κεῖται δὲ τῇδε τὠλιγηπελὲς ῥάκος
Εὐνικίδαο, σήπεται δ᾽ ὑπὸ σποδῷ


τήνδ᾽ ὑπὸ δύσβωλον θλίβει χθόνα φωτὸς ἀλιτροῦ
ὀστέα μισητῆς τύμβος ὑπὲρ κεφαλῆς,
στέρνα τ᾽ ἐποκριόεντα, καὶ οὐκ εὔοδμον ὀδόντων
πρίονα, καὶ κώλων δούλιον οἰοπέδην,
ἄτριχα καὶ κόρσην, Εὐνικίδου ἡμιπύρωτα
λείψαν᾽, ἔτι χλωρῆς ἔμπλεα τηκεδόνος.
χθὼν ὦ δυσνύμφευτε, κακοσκήνευς ἐπὶ τέφρης
ἀνδρὸς μὴ κούφη κέκλισο, μηδ᾽ ὀλίγη.

This is an image by the surrealist photographer Hans Bellmer (1902-1975). It depicts the life-like (or rather, death-like) doll he built and set in poses before his camera.

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

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