Korinna’s Song: A Poetic Competition Between Mountains

The following fragment is from a poem whose central conceit is a singing contest between Mt. Kithairon and Mt. Helikon. The former wins; the latter loses. Mountains leave happy and sad….

Korinna, Fr. 654. 15-34 [P. Berol. 284, prim. ed. Wilamowitz, B.K.T. v 2 (1907)]

“…the Kouretes
Sheltered the sacred offspring
Of the goddess in secret
From crooked-monded Kronos
When blessed Rhea stole him
And earned great honor among
The immortal gods….”
He sang those things.
Immediately the Muses told
The gods to cast their secret
Votes into the gold-gleaming urns.
They all rose up at once.

Then Kithairôn took the greater number.
Hermes quickly announced
By shouting that he had won
His longed-for victory
And the gods decorated him
With garlands[…]
And his mind filled with joy.

But the other, Helikon,
Overcome by hard griefs,
Ripped out a smooth rock
and the mountain [shook].
He broke it from on high
Painfully into ten thousand stones…”

τες ἔκρου]ψ̣αν δάθιο̣[ν θι]ᾶς
βρέφο]ς ἄντροι, λαθρά[δα]ν ἀγ-
κο]υλομείταο Κρόνω, τα-
()νίκά νιν κλέψε μάκηρα ῾Ρεία
μεγ]άλαν τ’ [ἀ]θανάτων ἔσ-
ς] ἕλε τιμάν· τάδ’ ἔμελψεμ·
μάκαρας δ’ αὐτίκα Μώση
φ]ερέμεν ψᾶφον ἔ[τ]αττον
κρ]ουφίαν κάλπιδας ἐν χρου-
()σοφαῖς· τὺ δ’ ἅμα πάντε[ς] ὦρθεν·
πλίονας δ’ εἷλε Κιθηρών·
τάχα δ’ ῾Ερμᾶς ἀνέφαν[έν
νι]ν ἀούσας ἐρατὰν ὡς
ἕ]λε νίκαν στεφ[ά]νυσιν
()μάκα]ρες· τῶ δὲ νόος γεγάθι·
ὁ δὲ λο]ύπησι κά[θ]εκτος
χαλεπ]ῆσιν vελι[κ]ὼν ἐ-
…..] λιττάδα [π]έτραν
…..]κ̣εν δ’ ὄ[ρο]ς· ὐκτρῶς
…..]ων οὑψ[ό]θεν εἴρι-
()σέ νιν ἐ]μ μου[ρι]άδεσσι λάυς·

It is a little known fact that this fragment was the inspiration for the following animated short [*this is speculation. Ok, this is pure fiction].

This song was also not inspired by Korinna’s fragment

Mountains can sing at a great distance. They sing lower and at a slower pace than Ents.

Image result for Mt. Cithaeron map


I like this article about the fragment: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/664026?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents


Vergados, A. (2012). Corinna’s Poetic Mountains: PMG 654 col. i 1–34 and Hesiodic Reception. Classical Philology, 107(2), 101-118


Popular Speech and Philosophy

Seneca, Moral Epistle 40.5-8

“This popular form of speech possesses no truth: it wishes only to move the crowd, to grab ahold of uninformed ears through speed–it does not offer itself for conversation, but discourages it. How can speech like that govern people when it is ungovernable itself? Shouldn’t any kind of speech, moreover, that tries to heal our minds, be able to sink down into them? They cannot offer remedies if they do not linger in our thoughts.

That kind of speech also contains an excess of nonsense and silliness, it makes more noise than impact. The things that scare me should be soothed; the things that irritate, softened; the desires that deceive me, should be inhibited; my greed should be curbed. What of these can be treated quickly? What kind of doctor rushes through a visit with the sick? On top of that, how can such a hodgepodge of poorly chosen sounds bring any kind of pleasure?

It is the same as you find some delight in witnessing tricks you thought were impossible to complete, so too it is possible to hear these word acrobats perform only once. What can someone want to learn or imitate in these people? What could you think of their minds, when their speech rushes out in complete chaos, impossible to keep in control?

Just as when someone is running down the hill, it is impossible to stop where they wanted too, and their steps roll along with the force of their body and are carried beyond where they wanted to stop, so too does speed of speaking operate beyond its own control. It is not right for philosophy, since philosophy should compose words with care, not throwing them around, but moving carefully, step by step.

Haec popularis nihil habet veri; movere vult turbam et inconsultas aures inpetu rapere, tractandam se non praebet, aufertur. Quomodo autem regere potest, quae regi non potest? Quid, quod haec oratio, quae sanandis mentibus adhibetur, descendere in nos debet? Remedia non prosunt, nisi inmorantur.

Multum praeterea habet inanitatis et vani, plus sonat quam valet. Lenienda sunt, quae me exterrent, conpescenda, quae inritant, discutienda, quae fallunt, inhibenda luxuria, corripienda avaritia; quid horum raptim potest fieri? Quis medicus aegros in transitu curat? Quid, quod ne voluptatem quidem ullam habet talis verborum sine dilectu ruentium strepitus? Sed ut pleraque, quae fieri posse non crederes, cognovisse satis est, ita istos, qui verba exercuerunt, abunde est semel audisse. Quid enim quis discere, quid imitari velit? Quid de eorum animo iudicet, quorum oratio perturbata et inmissa est nec potest reprimi? Quemadmodum per proclive currentium non ubi visum est, gradus sistitur, sed incitato corporis pondere se rapit1 ac longius quam voluit effertur; sic ista dicendi celeritas nec in sua potestate est nec satis decora philosophiae, quae ponere debet verba, non proicere, et pedetemptim procedere.

Person sitting at a desk outside debate me meme with Latin on his sign saying "Haec popularis nihil habet veri" the popular kind of speech possesses no truth."

To the Nymphs of the River: Two Poems from Moero

Moero (Moirô) of Byzantium is from the Hellenistic period.

Greek Anthology, 6.119

“You lie there beneath Aphrodite’s golden ceiling,
Grapes, full with Dionysus’ drink.
Your mother, the vine, will no longer wrap her love branch around you
And protect your head beneath her sweet leaf.”

Κεῖσαι δὴ χρυσέαν ὑπὸ παστάδα τὰν Ἀφροδίτας,
βότρυ, Διωνύσου πληθόμενος σταγόνι·
οὐδ᾿ ἔτι τοι μάτηρ ἐρατὸν περὶ κλῆμα βαλοῦσα
φύσει ὑπὲρ κρατὸς νεκτάρεον πέταλον.


“Anigrian Nymphs, daughters of the river, you ambrosial
Creatures who always step on the depths with rosy feet.
Say hello to and preserve Kleonymos who set out for you goddesses
These wooden images beneath the pines.”

Νύμφαι Ἀνιγριάδες, ποταμοῦ κόραι, αἳ τάδε βένθη
ἀμβρόσιαι ῥοδέοις στείβετε ποσσὶν ἀεί,
χαίρετε καὶ σώζοιτε Κλεώνυμον, ὃς τάδε καλὰ
εἵσαθ᾿ ὑπαὶ πιτύων ὔμμι, θεαί, ξόανα.

Image result for ancient greek grapes on vase

“Greetings to My Sister”: A Letter Home

This is from the Loeb collection of private papyri. Hhere’s a link to the text on line

B.G.U. 7.1680 (CE 2nd Century?=Trismegistos 30955)

“Isis sends her mother the most greetings. I make a prayer for you each day before lord Sarapis and the gods who are with him.

I want to tell you that I made it safely and well to Alexandria in four days. I send greetings to my sister and her children, and Elouath and his wife, as well as Diokorous and her husband and son and Tamalis and her husband and son, and Hêron and Ammonarion and her children and her husband and Sanpat and her children. If Aiôn wants to join the army, have him come. For everyone is joining the army.

I pray for you and everyone in the house to be well.

Your daughter, Isis

Ἶσεις Θερμουθίῳ τῇ μητρὶ πλεῖστα χαίρειν. τὸ προσκύνημά σου ποιῶ καθ᾿ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν παρὰ τῷ κυρίῳ [Σ]αράπιδι καὶ τοῖς συννάοις θεοῖς. γεινώσκειν σε θέλω ὅτι εὖ καὶ καλῶς γέγονα εἰς Ἀλεξάνδρειαν ἐν τέσσαρσι ἡμέραις. ἀσπάζομαι τὴν ἀδε[λ]φήν μο[υ] καὶ τὰ παιδία καὶ Ἐλουᾶθ καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ καὶ Διοσκοροῦν καὶ τὸν ἄνδρα αὐτῆς καὶ τὰ παιδία καὶ Τ[ά]μαλιν καὶ τὸν 7ἄνδρα αὐτῆς καὶ τὸν υἱὸν καὶ Ἥρωνα καὶ Ἀμμωνάριον καὶ τὰ παιδία αὐτῆς καὶ τὸν ἄνδρα καὶ Σανπὰτ καὶ τὰ παιδία αὐτῆς. καὶ ἐὰν θελήσῃ Ἀΐων στρατεύσασθαι, ἐρχέσθω· στρατεύονται γὰρ πάντες. ἐρρῶσθαι ⟦σε⟧ ὑμᾶς εὔχομαι πανοικί.
Verso: – – – π](αρὰ) Ἴσειτος θυγατρός.

Here’s a picture of the letter (again, thanks to @graham_claytor)

papyrus page with legible writing; tattered bottom edge
This is a different letter.

A Soul Awake! Or, Seneca is Asked Notes

Seneca, Moral Epistle 39.1.-2

“I will prepare the notes you ask for, carefully ordered and effectively brief. But think about whether the regular way of doing things is better than this thing now called the abstract, which once in Latin was called a ‘summary’. A longer course is required for someone who is learned while the other is for someone who knows. I will give you plenty of both. You should not ask me for this idea or for that. Whoever provides a stand-in remains unknown.

I will write what you want, but I’ll do it my way. In the meantime, you have many authors whose writings provide enough direction. Take into your hand a list of philosophers. This act itself will wake you up, once you see how many have worked hard for you. You will want to become one of these yourself. For the noble soul exhibits this best quality in its self: it can be incited to purse admirable things.”

Commentarios, quos desideras, diligenter ordinatos et in angustum coactos ego vero conponam. Sed vide, ne plus profutura sit ratio ordinaria quam haec, quae nunc vulgo breviarium dicitur, olim cum latine loqueremur, summarium vocabatur. Illa res discenti magis necessaria est, haec scienti. Illa enim docet, haec admonet. Sed utriusque rei tibi copiam faciam. Tu a me non est quod illum aut illum exigas; qui notorem dat, ignotus est. Scribam ergo quod vis,

sed meo more; interim multos habes, quorum scripta nescio an satis ordinent. Sume in manus indicem philosophorum; haec ipsa res expergisci te coget, si videris, quam multi tibi laboraverint. Concupisces et ipse ex illis unus esse. Habet enim hoc optimum in se generosus animus, quod concitatur ad honesta.

modified "for dummies" book with indicem philosophorum (list of philosophers) as a title and Lucius Annaeus Seneca as the author

Cicero, Always Chirping about the Ides of March

Previously we have posted about Cicero’s comments about the Ides of March to Brutus. Here is a letter from Brutus complaining about Cicero.

Letters: Brutus to Atticus, I.17

“You write to me that Cicero is amazed that I say nothing about his deeds. Since you are hassling me, I will write you what I think thanks to your coaxing.

I know that Cicero has done everything with the best intention. What could be more proved to me than his love for the republic? But certain things seem to me, what can I say, that the most prudent man has acted as if inexperienced or ambitiously, this man who was not reluctant to take on Antony as an enemy when he was strongest?

I don’t know what to write to you except a single thing: the boy’s desire and weakness have been increased rather than repressed by Cicero and that he grinds on so far in his indulgence that he does not refrain from invectives that rebound in two ways. For he too has killed many and he must admit that he is an assassin before what he objects to Casca—in which case he acts the part of Bestia to Casca—

Or because we are not tossing about every hour the Ides of March the way he always has the Nones of December in his mouth, will Cicero find fault in the most noble deed from a better vantage point than Bestia and Clodius were accustomed to insult his consulship?

Our toga-clad friend Cicero brags that he has stood up to Antony’s war. How does it profit me if the cost of Antony defeated is the resumption of Antony’s place?  Or if our avenger of this evil has turned out to be the author of another—an evil which has a foundation and deeper roots, even if we concede <whether it is true or not> those things which he does come from the fact that he either fears tyranny or Antony as a tyrant?

 But I don’t have gratitude for anyone who does not protest the situation itself provided only that he serves one who is not raging at him. Triumphs, stipends, encouragement with every kind of degree so that it does not shame him to desire the fortune of the man whose name he has taken—is that a mark of a Consular man, of a Cicero?

1Scribis mihi mirari Ciceronem quod nihil significem umquam de suis actis; quoniam me flagitas, coactu tuo scribam quae sentio.

Omnia fecisse Ciceronem optimo animo scio. quid enim mihi exploratius esse potest quam illius animus in rem publicam? sed quaedam mihi videtur—quid dicam? imperite vir omnium prudentissimus an ambitiose fecisse, qui valentissimum Antonium suscipere pro re publica non dubitarit inimicum? nescio quid scribam tibi nisi unum: pueri et cupiditatem et licentiam potius esse irritatam quam repressam a Cicerone, tantumque eum tribuere huic indulgentiae ut se maledictis non abstineat iis quidem quae in ipsum dupliciter recidunt, quod et pluris occidit uno seque prius oportet fateatur sicarium quam obiciat Cascae quod obicit et imitetur in Casca Bestiam. an quia non omnibus horis iactamus Idus Martias similiter atque ille Nonas Decembris suas in ore habet, eo meliore condicione Cicero pulcherrimum factum vituperabit quam Bestia et Clodius reprehendere illius consulatum soliti sunt?

Sustinuisse mihi gloriatur bellum Antoni togatus Cicero noster. quid hoc mihi prodest, si merces Antoni oppressi poscitur in Antoni locum successio et si vindex illius mali auctor exstitit alterius fundamentum et radices habituri altiores, si patiamur, ut iam <dubium sit utrum>ista quae facit dominationem an dominum [an] Antonium timentis sint? ego autem gratiam non habeo si quis, dum ne irato serviat, rem ipsam non deprecatur. immo triumphus et stipendium et omnibus decretis hortatio ne eius pudeat concupiscere fortunam cuius nomen susceperit, consularis aut Ciceronis est?

Image result for Ancient Roman Cicero


Cicero on the “Unforgettable Ides of March”

Cicero, Letters to Atticus (14.4) 10 April 44

“But should all these things befall us, the Ides of March may console. Our heroes too accomplished most gloriously and magnificently everything it was in their power to do. For the rest, we need money and troops, neither of which we have.”

Sed omnia licet concurrant, Idus Martiae consolantur. nostri autem ἥρωες quod per ipsos confici potuit gloriosissime et magnificentissime confecerunt; reliquae res opes et copias desiderant, quas nullas habemus


Cicero, Letters to Brutus  I.15 (23) 14 July 43

“Therefore, come here, by the gods, as fast as possible; Convince yourself that it would do your country no greater good if you come quickly than you did on the Ides of March when you freed your fellow citizens from slavery.”

subveni igitur, per deos, idque quam primum, tibique persuade non te Idibus Martiis, quibus servitutem a tuis civibus depulisti, plus profuisse patriae quam, si mature veneris, profuturum.


Cicero, Letters to Brutus, 1.15 (23) July 43

“After the death of Caesar and your unforgettable Ides of March, Brutus, you will not have lost sight of the the fact that I said that one thing was overlooked by you—how much a storm loomed over the Republic. The greatest disease was warded off thanks to you—a great blight was cleansed from the Roman people—and you won immortal fame for your part. But the mechanism of monarchy fell then to Lepidus and Antonius—one of whom is more erratic, while the other is rather unclean—both fearing peace and ill-fit to idle time.”

Post interitum Caesaris et vestras memorabilis Idus Martias, Brute, quid ego praetermissum a vobis quantamque impendere rei publicae tempestatem dixerim non es oblitus. magna pestis erat depulsa per vos, magna populi Romani macula deleta, vobis vero parta divina gloria, sed instrumentum regni delatum ad Lepidum et Antonium, quorum alter inconstantior, alter impurior, uterque pacem metuens, inimicus otio.

Image result for Ancient Roman death of caesar
The death of Julius Caesar in the Roman Senate by Vincenzo Camuccini


The Problem with the Ides of March: Not Enough Cicero, Not Enough MURDER

Cicero, Epistulae Familiares 10.28.1 (To Trebonius)

“How I wish that you had invited me to that most sumptuous feast on the Ides of March! We would now have no little scraps if you had. But now you have with them such difficulty in preventing that divine benefit which you bestowed upon the Republic from exciting some complaint. But, though it is hardly right, I am on occasion angry with you, because it was by you – a noble man indeed – it was by you and by your good service that this pest [Marc Antony] was led away and still lives. Now you have left behind more trouble for me alone than for everyone else.”

Image result for ides of march cicero

Quam vellem ad illas pulcherrimas epulas me Idibus Martiis invitasses! reliquiarum nihil haberemus. at nunc cum iis tantum negoti est ut vestrum illud divinum <in> rem publicam beneficium non nullam habeat querelam. quod vero a te, viro optimo, seductus est tuoque beneficio adhuc vivit haec pestis, interdum, quod mihi vix fas est, tibi subirascor; mihi enim negoti plus reliquisti uni quam praeter me omnibus.

Obligatory Ides of March Post: Caesar Wanted to Go Out With A Bang, Not A Whimper

Suetonius, Divus Julius Caesar 86-7

“Caesar left certain of his friends the impression that he did not want or desire to live longer because  of his worsening health. This is why he ignored what the omens warned and what his friends revealed. Others believe that he dismissed the Spanish guards who accompanied him with swords because he was confident in the Senate’s recent decree and their sworn oath. Others report that he preferred to face the plots that threatened him at once rather than cower before them. There are those who assert that he used to say that his safety should be of more importance to the state than to himself: he had acquired an abundance of power and glory already, but the state, should anything happen to him, would have no rest and would suffer civil war in a worse condition than before.

The following is generally held to be the case, however: his manner of death was scarcely against his desire. For, when he read Xenophon’s account of how in the final days of illness Cyrus gave the plans for his own funeral, Caesar expressed disdain for so slow a death and wished that his own would be sudden and fast. And on the day before he died during dinner conversation at the home of Marcus Lepidus on the topic of the most agreeable end to life, Caesar said he preferred one that was sudden and unexpected.”


Suspicionem Caesar quibusdam suorum reliquit neque uoluisse se diutius uiuere neque curasse quod ualitudine minus prospera uteretur, ideoque et quae religiones monerent et quae renuntiarent amici neglexisse. sunt qui putent, confisum eum nouissimo illo senatus consulto ac iure iurando etiam custodias Hispanorum cum gladiis †adinspectantium se remouisse. [2] alii e diuerso opinantur insidias undique imminentis subire semel quam cauere … solitum ferunt: non tam sua quam rei publicae interesse, uti saluus esset: se iam pridem potentiae gloriaeque abunde adeptum; rem publicam, si quid sibi eueniret, neque quietam fore et aliquanto deteriore condicione ciuilia bella subituram.

illud plane inter omnes fere constitit, talem ei mortem paene ex sententia obtigisse. nam et quondam, cum apud Xenophontem legisset Cyrum ultima ualitudine mandasse quaedam de funere suo, aspernatus tam lentum mortis genus subitam sibi celeremque optauerat; et pridie quam occideretur, in sermone nato super cenam apud Marcum Lepidum, quisnam esset finis uitae commodissimus, repentinum inopinatumque praetulerat.

By Vincenzo Camuccini – Own work, user:Rlbberlin, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77355355

Words, Seeds, and Fertile Minds

Seneca, Moral Epistle 38

“You rightly urge that we increase the frequency of our letters. Conversation, however, is the most helpful because it seeps into the mind bit by bit. Prepared lectures delivered while a crowd listens provide more opportunity for noise than familiarity.

Philosophy is good counsel, yet no one gives counsel by shouting. We need to use these verbal assaults, as I call them, at times, when someone who doubts needs to be pushed. But to make someone learn,–not just to want to learn, that’s when we shouldn’t lecture but turn to quieter conversation instead. Such words enter people more easily and stick with them. You don’t need a lot of words, just the right ones.

Words ought to be spread around like seeds–however small a seed might be, once it finds a fertile place, it expands its own strength and grows to its full power from the smallest size. Reason works the same way: it does not look large from the outside, but it grows in application.

There may be few words uttered, but if a mind receives them well, they grow stronger and surge to the surface. Advice and seeds, I think, have the same characteristics: they create much, though they start small. Provided, as I said, a fertile mind accepts them and welcomes them into itself. Then, the mind itself will create much in turn and return in kind more than it received. Goodbye.”

Merito exigis, ut hoc inter nos epistularum commercium frequentemus. Plurimum proficit sermo, quia minutatim inrepit animo. Disputationes praeparatae et effusae audiente populo plus habent strepitus, minus familiaritatis. Philosophia bonum consilium est; consilium nemo clare dat. Aliquando utendum est et illis, ut ita dicam, contionibus, ubi qui dubitat, impellendus est; ubi vero non hoc agendum est, ut velit discere, sed ut discat, ad haec submissiora verba veniendum est. Facilius intrant et haerent; nec enim multis opus est, sed efficacibus.

Seminis modo spargenda sunt, quod quamvis sit exiguum, cum occupavit idoneum locum, vires suas explicat et ex minimo in maximos auctus diffunditur. Idem facit ratio; non late patet, si aspicias; in opere crescit. Pauca sunt, quae dicuntur, sed si illa animus bene excepit, convalescunt et exurgunt. Eadem est, inquam, praeceptorum condicio quae seminum; multum efficiunt, et angusta sunt. Tantum, ut dixi, idonea mens capiat illa et in se trahat. Multa invicem et ipsa generabit et plus reddet quam acceperit. Vale.

John Denver, The Garden Song

Inch by inch, row by rowGonna make this garden growAll it takes is a rake and a hoeAnd a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by rowSomeone bless these seeds I sowSomeone warm them from belowTill the rain comes tumblin’ down
Pullin’ weeds and pickin’ stonesMan is made of dreams and bonesFeel the need to grow my own‘Cause the time is close at hand
Rainful rain, sun and rainFind my way in nature’s chainTune my body and my brainTo the music from the land
Plant your rows straight and longTemper them with prayer and songMother Earth will make you strong
If you give her love and care
Old crow watchin’ hungrilyFrom his perch in yonder treeIn my garden I’m as freeAs that feathered thief up there
Inch by inch, row by rowGonna make this garden growAll it takes is a rake and a hoeAnd a piece of fertile ground
An inch by inch, row by rowSomeone bless these seeds I sowSomeone warm them from belowTill the rain comes tumblin’ down