Death’s Decade: Two Poets on When to Die

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers: Solon 61

Look at this: People say that Mimnermus wrote: [fr. 20 Bergk]

“I wish that my allotted death would come at 60
Without sicknesses or painful worries.”

But [Solon] rebuked him in saying [fr. 42 Bergk]

“If you listened to me already, you’d cut that line.
But don’t get angry that I advise better than you.
Change your wish, Liguastades, and sing this tune
May my allotted death come at eighty.”

ἰδοῦ. φασὶ δ᾿ αὐτὸν καὶ Μιμνέρμου γράψαντος,

αἲ γὰρ ἄτερ νούσων τε καὶ ἀργαλέων μελεδωνέων
ἑξηκονταέτη μοῖρα κίχοι θανάτου,

ἐπιτιμῶντα αὐτῷ εἰπεῖν·

ἀλλ᾿ εἴ μοι κἂν νῦν ἔτι πείσεαι, ἔξελε τοῦτον·
μηδὲ μέγαιρ᾿ ὅτι σεῦ λῷον ἐπεφρασάμην·
καὶ μεταποίησον, Λιγυαστάδη, ὧδε δ᾿ ἄειδε·
ὀγδωκονταέτη μοῖρα κίχοι θανάτου.

Red figure on black background. Old greek man with white hair holding staff and looking to right, the viewer's left.
Athens National Archaeological Museum 1301 – bibliography: Beazley Archive Pottery Database 19896; c. 450 BCE

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