The Problem With Too Much

Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 1211-1223

The man who jettisons moderation
And desires more life than is his right
Is tending an absurdity.
That’s quite clear to me.

Long days gather up much,
Drawing pain closer in the process.
Nowhere will you see pleasure
When a man falls into more life than is right.

But, relief comes to one and all in the end
When, without wedding song, lyre, or dance,
Hades’ dispensation at last appears:

ὅστις τοῦ πλέονος μέρους
χρῄζει τοῦ μετρίου παρεὶς
ζώειν, σκαιοσύναν φυλάσσων
ἐν ἐμοὶ κατάδηλος ἔσται.
ἐπεὶ πολλὰ μὲν αἱ μακραὶ
ἁμέραι κατέθεντο δὴ
λύπας ἐγγυτέρω, τὰ τέρποντα
δ᾽ οὐκ ἂν ἴδοις ὅπου,
ὅταν τις ἐς πλέον πέσῃ
τοῦ δέοντος: ὁ δ᾽ ἐπίκουρος ἰσοτέλεστος,
Ἄϊδος ὅτε μοῖρ᾽ ἀνυμέναιος
ἄλυρος ἄχορος ἀναπέφηνε,
θάνατος ἐς τελευτάν.

Scholia on line 1211 (The man who desires more life than his right):

“The chorus is clear . . . about the greed of men, and what the chorus says is like what Hesiod says: ‘Fools don’t know how much half is more than the whole.’ This gets to Oedipus’s misfortune.”

ὅστις τοῦ πλέονος μέρους: κατάδηλός ἐστιν ὁ χορὸς ἐν ταὐτῷ ἀναφωνῶν καὶ ἀλληγορῶν περὶ τῆς τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀπληστίας καὶ ἔοικε τῷ παρʼ Ἡσιόδῳ νήπιοι οὐδὲ ἴσασιν ὅσῳ πλέον ἥμισυ παντός” τείνει δὲ ταῦτα εἰς τὴν δυσποτμίαν Οἰδίπου”

Black and white picture of a marble sculpture of an old man, partly shirtless, holding a lamb in one hand and a walking stick in another
c.180 B.C. Marble sculpture.
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome

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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