A Giant’s Strength for Editing Athenaeus

Mark Pattison, Diary of Casaubon:

“Those who suppose that to edit a classic is among the easiest of literary toils, and only a fit occupation for laborious dulness, can form no conception of what Casaubon accomplished. Those only who know that a perfectly good edition of a classic is among the rarest of triumphs which the literary Fasti have to record; that for the last three centuries we have been incessantly labouring at the Greek and Latin remains, and yet that the number which have been satisfactorily edited is fewer than some of the most popular of ancient authors who have been attempted the oftenest, as e.g. Horace, still awaits a competent expositor – those only can measure what a giant’s strength was required to cope with Athenaeus, in the state in which his remains existed in the time of Casaubon.”

Casaubon among minor scholars

F**king Flaccus Fears Forfeiture of Finances and Fame

Horace, Sermones 1.2:

“When she has placed her left flank to my right side she is Ilia and Egeria – I give whatever name to her. Nor do I fear that, while I’m mid-fuck, her husband will come back from the country, the door will be broken, the dog will bark, and from every corner the house will resound with a great clatter while my pale lady jumps from the bed and screams that she is wretched and fears for her legs as she grabs her ‘dowry’ as I cover myself. I would have to flee unbelted and barefoot lest I suffer the loss of my coins, or my ass, or my reputation! It’s a miserable thing to be caught: I would carry this point even if Fabius the Stoic were the judge.”

Wasn't Me GIF - Shaggy WasntMe Wasnt GIFs

haec ubi supposuit dextro corpus mihi laevom,
Ilia et Egeria est; do nomen quodlibet illi.
nec vereor, ne, dum futuo, vir rure recurrat,
ianua frangatur, latret canis, undique magno
pulsa domus strepitu resonet, vepallida lecto
desiliat mulier, miseram se conscia clamet,
cruribus haec metuat, doti deprensa, egomet mi.
discincta tunica fugiendum est et pede nudo,
ne nummi pereant aut puga aut denique fama.
deprendi miserum est: Fabio vel iudice vincam.

The Relapse into Grammar and Learned Trifles

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship (Ausonius)

“It is difficult to imagine that a man capable of writing such trifles as these (not to mention his lines on the Caesars and on celebrated cities) had some ten years previously (in 378 a.d.) filled the splendid position of praetorian praefect of the provinces of Gaul (an official whose sway extended even over Spain and the opposite coast of Africa, and over the southern part of Britain), and, in the four years between 376 and 380, had seen his father honorary praefect of lllyricum, his son and son-in-law proconsuls of Africa, and his nephew praefect of Rome. It seems as if, on his return to the scenes of his early work as a professor at Bordeaux, the praefect relapsed into the ‘ grammarian ‘, spending his time on learned trifles, which are among the least important products of scholarship, and consoling himself in his tedious task by recalling Virgil’s famous phrase: — ‘in tenui labor, at tenuis non gloria’. We may regret that Ausonius does not appear to have used his great opportunities for reforming the educational system which prevailed in the schools of the Western Empire, and thus rendering a lasting service to the cause of learning; but we may allow him the credit of having possibly inspired the memorable decree promulgated by Gratian in 376, which improved the status of public instructors by providing for the appointment of teachers of rhetoric and of Greek and Latin ‘ grammar ‘ in the principal cities of Gaul, and fixing the amount of their stipends ‘. “

The Genesis of that Immortal Lexicon

Henry L. Thompson: Henry George Liddell, A Memoir

“There is, however, a tradition that the authors were first encouraged to their task by the suggestion of William Sewell, then Fellow of Exeter and a leading Oxford Tutor, known afterwards as Founder and third Warden of Radley College. Sewell is reported to have met Liddell at a gathering of some Essay Club in Oxford, at which the subject of Greek Lexicography was discussed, and to have urged him to undertake the task of compiling a Greek-English Lexicon. Undoubtedly Sewell was well able to judge of the ability of Liddell and Scott to perform such a work, for he had but lately examined them both for their Degree: and the need of a new Lexicon was universally acknowledged. It is certain that Gaisford gave the writers constant encouragement: and his own example would have been a powerful incentive to the two young Students of Christ Church. In a letter to Vaughan Liddell writes:

‘Sewell thinks the Oxford mind is running too much to pure Theology: if you think so too, and also like him regret it, you will be glad to hear that some of us are — in all likelihood — about to close an engagement with Talboys for a Lexicon founded chiefly on Passow; indeed I dare say it will be nearly a translation. This sentence is rather arrogant, for the “some of us,” after all, is only Scott and myself. At present you need say nothing about it. The Dean encourages the project very much, and has given us a number of valuable hints.’

It is indeed a matter of surprise that such a work had not already been done. We can scarcely understand how — without some such help — the average student in those days was able to fight his way through Greek authors. Till a very few years previously, there had been no such book as a Greek-English Lexicon; Greek was interpreted to the English reader only through the medium of the Latin tongue. One can still remember Schrevelius, Hederic, and Scapula as the ultimate authorities at school; and formidable volumes they were. Some poor attempts had been recently made to provide a Greek-English Lexicon by Donnegan, Dunbar, and Giles; but none of these books was at all adequate to the requirements of scholars: they were unscientific in the treatment of words, and suffered from lack of methodical arrangement, and redundancy of English equivalents; or else from over-brevity. In Germany, however, a better type of Lexicon had been published by F. Passow, based upon the profound work of his elder colleague Schneider. Schneider, who was Professor and Chief Librarian at Breslau, had, at the beginning of the century, issued a Greek-German Lexicon, which he subsequently enlarged and improved. This became the standard work in Germany. It was a monument of industry and learning; but it suffered from lack of methodical arrangement. It was reserved for Passow, a pupil of Jacobs and Hermann, and himself a Professor at Breslau, to make use of the materials provided by Schneider, and to exhibit them in orderly and instructive arrangement.

‘His leading principle was to draw out, wherever it was possible, a kind of biographical history of each word, to give its different meanings in an almost chronological order, to cite always the earliest author in which a word is found — thus ascertaining, as nearly as may be, its original signification — and then to trace it downwards, according as it might vary in sense and construction, through subsequent writers.’

In order to carry out this plan, Passow spent his first efforts upon Homer and Hesiod, and in subsequent editions added an examination of the Ionic prose of Herodotus; but his early death in 1833, at the age of forty-six, prevented the completion of a wider undertaking.

It was upon this work of Passow that the new Oxford Lexicon was avowedly based: and in the first three editions his name appeared on the title page. But from the outset a vast amount of additional work was found necessary. The Preface to the first edition is now so little known that it may be well to quote from it the authors’ description of the task which they undertook:

‘We at first thought of a translation of Passow’s work, with additions. But a little experience showed us that this would not be sufficient. Passow indeed had done all that was necessary for Homer and Hesiod, so that his work has become a regular authority in Germany for the old Epic Greek. But he had done nothing further completely. For though in the fourth edition he professes to have done for Herodotus the same as for Homer, this is not quite the case. He had done little more than use Schweighauser’s Lexicon — which is an excellent book, and leaves little of the peculiar phraseology of Herodotus unnoticed, but is very far indeed from being a complete vocabulary of the author. One of us, accordingly, undertook to read Herodotus carefully through, adding what was lacking to the margin of his Schweighauser. The other did much the same for Thucydides. And between us we have gone through the Fragments of the early Poets, Lyric, Elegiac, &c., which were not in the Poetae Minores of Gaisford; as well as those of the early Historic and Philosophic writers; and those of the Attic, Tragic, and Comic Poets, which were dispersed through Athenaeus, Stobaeus, &c. . . . But besides all our own reading and collections, we have made unfailing use of the best Lexicons and Indexes of the great Attic writers — Wellauer’s of Aeschylus, Ellendt’s of Sophocles, Beck’s of Euripides, Caravella’s of Aristophanes, Ast’s of Plato, Sturz’s of Xenophon, with Reiske’s and Mitchell’s of the Attic Orators. The reader will see by this that we have thrown our chief strength on the phraseology of the Attic writers. We have also sedulously consulted Bockh’s Index to Pindar; and for Hippocrates, who ought to be closely joined with Herodotus, we have used Foesius’ CEconomia, with the references in the Index of the Oxford Scapitla. After the Attic writers, Greek undergoes a great change; which begins to appear strongly about the time of Alexander. Aristotle’s language strikes us at once as something quite different from that of his master Plato, though the change of styles cannot be measured quite chronologically: as, for instance, Demosthenes was contemporary with Aristotle; yet his style is the purest Attic. Here, as in painting, architecture, &c., there are transition periods — the old partly surviving, the new just appearing. But the change is complete in Polybius, with the later Historic writers, and Plutarch. We have therefore not been anxious to amass authorities from these authors, though we have endeavoured to collect their peculiar words and phrases. For Aristotle, we have used Sylburg’s Indexes, and those in the Oxford editions of the Rhetoric and Ethics ; for Theophrastus, Schneider’s Index; for Polybius (of course) Schweighauser’s Lexicon; for Plutarch, Wittenbach’s Index. Attic phraseology revives more or less in Lucian; but for that reason most of his phrases have earlier examples, though in some of his works (as the Verae Historiae, Tragopodagra, Lexiphanes, &c.), many new or rare words occur. We have taken them from Geel’s Index to the edition of Hemsterhuis and Reiz. But in these, and writers of a like stamp, we have seldom been careful to add the special reference, being usually content with giving the name of the author. Another class of writers belongs to Alexandria. We have not neglected these. The reader will find the Greek of Theocritus pretty fully handled; and he will not turn in vain to seek the unusual words introduced by the learned Epic school of that city, Callimachus, Apollonius, &c., or by that wholesale coiner Lycophron. We have also been careful to notice such words as occur first, or in any unusual sense, in the Alexandrian version of the Old Testament, and in the New Testament. We must not omit to mention, that in the first part, viz., from B to K inclusive, we have been saved much labour, and have very much enriched our Lexicon, by consulting Hase and Dindorf’s new edition of Stephani Thesaurus. We only wish we could have had their assistance for the whole.’

Such was the task undertaken by two young men, who, though at the outset fairly at leisure, soon found that they were able to devote to it only those few hours of each day which could be spared from other duties.”

Image result for henry g liddell

Demosthenes and the Price of Repentance

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 1.8

“Sotion the Peripatetic, certainly a man of decent reputation, wrote a book full of many varied investigations, which he called the ‘Horn of Amalthea,’ which has roughly the same sense as ‘Cornucopia.’ In that book we find this story written about the orator Demosthenes and the courtesan Lais. He writes: ‘Lais the Corinthian earned a great deal of money on account of the elegance and loveliness of her form, and a throng of rich and well-known men rushed to her from all of Greece, but were not admitted unless they gave her what she demanded. She was in the habit, however, of asking too much.’ Here he says that this is the origin of the old Greek adage, not every man’s vessel makes it into Corinth, because he who was unable to give to Lais what she demanded had come to her in vain.

‘Demosthenes came to her in secret and asked that she give him something of her bounty. But Lais demanded 10,000 drachmas,’ (which amounts to ten thousand denarii.) ‘Demosthenes was struck by the woman’s impudence and the greatness of the sum demanded. He was struck pale, turned away, and said as he was leaving, I would not pay so much for regret.’”



Sotion ex peripatetica disciplina haut sane ignobilis vir fuit. Is librum multae variaeque historiae refertum composuit eumque inscripsit keras Amaltheias. 2 Ea vox hoc ferme valet, tamquam si dicas “cornum Copiae”. In eo libro super Demosthene rhetore et Laide meretrice historia haec scripta est: “Lais” inquit “Corinthia ob elegantiam venustatemque formae grandem pecuniam demerebat, conventusque ad eam ditiorum hominum ex omni Graecia celebres erant, neque admittebatur, nisi qui dabat, quod poposcerat; poscebat autem illa nimium quantum.” Hinc ait natum esse illud frequens apud Graecos adagium: ou pantos andros es Korinthon esth’ho plous quod frustra iret Corinthum ad Laidem, qui non quiret dare, quod posceretur.  “Ad hanc ille Demosthenes clanculum adit et, ut sibi copiam sui faceret, petit. At Lais myrias drachmas poposcit”, hoc facit nummi nostratis denarium decem milia. “Tali petulantia mulieris atque pecuniae magnitudine ictus expavidusque Demosthenes avertitur et discedens “ego” inquit “paenitere tanti non emo”.

Editing the Classics

J.E.B. Mayor, Preface to Thirteen Satires of Juvenal:

“I often think that much of the labour spent on editing the classics is wasted; at least the same amount of time might be invested to far greater profit. For example, if one of the recent editors of Persius had devoted but three weeks to the preparation of a Lexicon Persianum, he would have produced a κτῆμα ἐς ἀεί, a permanent addition to classical learning. We sorely need lexicons e.g. to Cicero (except his speeches), Varro, Livy, the two Senecas, Quintilian’s declamations, Valerius Flaccus, Silius, the Latin anthology, Macrobius, Tertullian, Augustine, Jerome; to technical authors in general, e.g. agricultural, grammatical, mathematical, medical, military, musical, rhetorical: in Greek to the early Christian literature, Diogenes Laertius, Josephus, Philo, Galen, Stobaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origon, Chrysostom, Cyril. If every editor would choose, in addition to his author and to the books commonly read in college, one ancient author and one modern critic, as his specialty, commentaries would be far more original than they are. The universities might issue variorum editions, not on the Dutch plan, not like Halm’s Latin editions of Cicero, or Dindorf’s of Greek authors, but more concise and more comprehensive at the same time. Two or three might combine, say, to edit the commentaries on an author, as Livy, Petronius, Suetonius, or Apuleius. A commentary which takes rank as ‘classical’, e.g. Casaubon’s on Suetonius, Persius, Athenaeus, Strabo, should be given almost entire, and form the nucleus, other notes being carefully sifted, and repetitions cleared away. One colleague might he responsible for all editions of the author; while two others ransacked periodical and occasional literature, variae lectiones, adversaria cet. Madvig says, one is ashamed to be called a philologer, when one looks at the obsolete medley brought together by Moser on the Tusculans; in far narrower compass all that is valuable there, and much that is omitted, might be stored for all time. By such a process books like Rader’s Martial, now no doubt, as Prof. Friedlander says, for most of us, ‘völlig veraltet,’ would once more yield their treasures to the ordinary student; Marcile too and Harault would no longer be mere names”

Some beautiful pictures from Rick LaFleur

No photo description available.

Image may contain: one or more people

“In Sum: I Sucked at Classics”

John Ruskin, Praeterita:

“‘Collections,’ in scholastic sense, meant the college examination at the end of every term, at which the Abbot had always the worse than bad taste to be present as our inquisitor, though he had never once presided at our table as our host. Of course the collective quantity of Greek possessed by all the undergraduate heads in hall, was to him, infinitesimal. Scornful at once, and vindictive, thunderous always, more sullen and threatening as the day went on, he stalked with baleful emanation of Gorgonian cold  from dais to door, and door to dais, of the majestic torture chamber — vast as the great council hall of Venice, but degraded now by the mean terrors, swallow-like under its eaves, of doleful creatures who had no counsel in them, except how to hide their crib in time, at each fateful Abbot’s transit. Of course I never used a crib, but I believe the Dean would rather I had used fifty, than borne the puzzled and hopeless aspect which I presented towards the afternoon, over whatever I had to do. And as my Latin writing was, I suppose, the worst in the university, — as I never by any chance knew a first from a second future, or, even to the end of my Oxford career, could get into my head where the Pelasgi lived, or where the Heraclidas returned from, — it may be imagined with what sort of countenance the Dean gave me his first and second fingers to shake at our parting, or with what comfort I met the inquiries of my father and mother as to the extent to which I was, in college opinion, carrying all before me.”