Dulce et Decorum Est To Live to Drink Another Day

Herodotus, Histories 5.95

“When they were waging war and many different kinds of things were happening in the battles, then indeed among them when the Athenians were winning, the poet Alcaeus went running and fled, but the Athenians captured his armor and dedicated it in the temple of Athena at Sigeion. Alcaeus wrote a poem about this and sent it to Mytilene where he explained his suffering to his best friend Melanippos. Peirander, Kypselos’ son, made peace between the Athenians and Mytileneans after they entrusted the affair to his judgment. He resolved it so that each side would keep what they previously possessed.”

Πολεμεόντων δὲ σφέων παντοῖα καὶ ἄλλα ἐγένετο ἐν τῇσι μάχῃσι, ἐν δὲ δὴ καὶ Ἀλκαῖος ὁ ποιητὴς συμβολῆς γενομένης καὶ νικώντων Ἀθηναίων αὐτὸς μὲν φεύγων ἐκφεύγει, τὰ δέ οἱ ὅπλα ἴσχουσι Ἀθηναῖοι, καί σφεα ἀνεκρέμασαν πρὸς τὸ Ἀθήναιον τὸ ἐν Σιγείῳ. ταῦτα δὲ Ἀλκαῖος ἐν μέλεϊ ποιήσας ἐπιτιθεῖ ἐς Μυτιλήνην, ἐξαγγελλόμενος τὸ ἑωυτοῦ πάθος Μελανίππῳ ἀνδρὶ ἑταίρῳ. Μυτιληναίους δὲ καὶ Ἀθηναίους κατήλλαξε Περίανδρος ὁ Κυψέλου· τούτῳ γὰρ διαιτητῇ ἐπετράποντο· κατήλλαξε δὲ ὧδε, νέμεσθαι ἑκατέρους τὴν ἔχουσι.

Plutarch, On the Malice of Herodotus 858ab

“What does Herodotus say about what happened at [the battle between the Athenians and Mytileneans]? Instead of mentioning the excellence of Pittakos, he narrates the flight of the poet Alkaios from battle, how he dropped his weapons. By not describing great deeds and by not passing over the shameful ones, he has taken the side of those who claim that envy and joy at someone else’s misfortune comes from the same weakness.”

 τί οὖν ὁ Ἡρόδοτος, κατὰ τὸν τόπον γενόμενος τοῦτον; ἀντὶ τῆς Πιττακοῦ ἀριστείας τὴν Ἀλκαίου διηγήσατο τοῦ ποιητοῦ φυγὴν ἐκ τῆς μάχης, τὰ ὅπλα ῥίψαντος, τῷ τὰ μὲν χρηστὰ μὴ γράψαι τὰ δ᾿ αἰσχρὰ μὴ παραλιπεῖν μαρτυρήσας τοῖς ἀπὸ μιᾶς κακίας καὶ τὸν φθόνον φύεσθαι καὶ τὴν ἐπιχαιρεκακίαν λέγουσαι.

Alcaeus, Fr. 38A (P. Oxy. 1233 fr. 1 ii 8–20 + 2166(b)1)

“Drink and get drunk with me, Melanippos.
Why would you say that once you cross the great eddying
River of Acheron you will see the pure light of the sun again?
Come on, don’t hope for great things.

For even the son of Aiolos, Sisyphos used to claim
He was better than death because he knew the most of men.
Even though he was so very wise, he crossed
The eddying river Acheron twice thanks to fate
And Kronos’ son granted that he would have toil
Beneath the dark earth. So don’t hope for these things.

As long as we are young, now is the time we must
Endure whatever of these things the god soon grants us to suffer.”

πῶνε [καὶ μέθυ᾿ ὦ] Μελάνιππ᾿ ἄμ᾿ ἔμοι· τί [φαῖς †
ὄταμε[. . . .]διννάεντ᾿ † Ἀχέροντα μέγ[αν πόρον
ζάβαι[ς ἀ]ελίω κόθαρον φάος [ἄψερον
ὄψεσθ᾿; ἀλλ᾿ ἄγι μὴ μεγάλων ἐπ[ιβάλλεο·
καὶ γὰρ Σίσυφος Αἰολίδαις βασίλευς [ἔφα
ἄνδρων πλεῖστα νοησάμενος [θανάτω κρέτην·
ἀλλὰ καὶ πολύιδρις ἔων ὐπὰ κᾶρι [δὶς
δ̣ιννάεντ᾿ Ἀχέροντ᾿ ἐπέραισε, μ[έμηδε δ᾿ ὦν
αὔτῳ μόχθον ἔχην Κρονίδαις βα [σίλευς κάτω
ελαίνας χθόνος· ἀλλ᾿ ἄγι μὴ τά[δ᾿ ἐπέλπεο·
θᾶς] τ᾿ ἀβάσομεν αἴ ποτα κἄλλοτα ν [ῦν χρέων
φέρ]ην ὄττινα τῶνδε πάθην τά[χα δῷ θέος.

Image result for medieval manuscript acheron
Dante Being rowed across Acheron, 5th c, Yates Thompson MS 36, f. 6r. B.L.

Some of us can’t say this any more…

Leave a Reply