The Loss of a Son and a Daughter

“My child’s death has affected me so greatly that I feel the loss as bitterly as on the first day. My wife is also completely broken down.”

—Letter from Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels, 1856

Callimachus 37 (Gow-Page edition)

At dawn we laid to rest Melanippus.
At sunset the unwed girl, Basilo,
Died by her own hand.
To live, when her brother’s on the pyre,
That she could not bear.
The house of their father, Aristippus,
Has seen a two-fold evil.
All Cyrene grieved at the sight of a home
Once blessed with children now barren.

Ἠῶιοι Μελάνιππον ἐθάπτομεν, ἠελίου δέ
δυομένου Βασιλὼ κάτθανε παρθενική
αὐτοχερί: ζώειν γὰρ ἀδελφεὸν ἐν πυρὶ θεῖσα
οὐκ ἔτλη. δίδυμον δ᾽ οἶκος ἐπεῖδε κακόν
5πατρὸς Ἀριστίπποιο, κατήφησεν δὲ Κυρήνη
πᾶσα τὸν εὔτεκνον χῆρον ἰδοῦσα δόμον.

Marble grave stele of a little girl.
Circa 450-440 BC.
Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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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