Knowledge, Cooperation, and the Common Good

Manilius, Astronomica 67-84

“Humanity waited, thunderstruck by the new light in the sky,
First grieving as it disappeared, then overjoyed at its return.
The human race was incapable of understanding the reasons
Why the sun rose so frequently once it sent the stars
In flight, why the length of days and nights was uncertain
And why the shadows changed too as the sun moved farther away.

Stubborn obsession had not yet taught humankind knowledge and skill
And the land was resting open at the hands of untrained farmers.
At that time gold was resting in untouched mountains
And the untroubled sea hid strange worlds—
For the human race did not dare to risk life
In the waves or wind—people believed that they did not know enough.

But the passage of long days sharpened mortal thought
And hard work produced invention for the miserable
Just as each person’s luck compelled him to turn to himself to make life better.
Then, they competed with each other once their interests were divided
And whatever wisdom practice found through testing,
They happily shared for the common good.”

et stupefacta novo pendebat lumine mundi,
tum velut amisso maerens, tum laeta renato,
surgentem neque enim totiens Titana fugatis
sideribus, variosque dies incertaque noctis
tempora nec similis umbras, iam sole regresso
iam propiore, suis poterat discernere causis.
necdum etiam doctas sollertia fecerat artes,
terraque sub rudibus cessabat vasta colonis;
tumque in desertis habitabat montibus aurum,
immotusque novos pontus subduxerat orbes,
nec vitam pelago nec ventis credere vota
audebant; se quisque satis novisse putabant.
sed cum longa dies acuit mortalia corda
et labor ingenium miseris dedit et sua quemque
advigilare sibi iussit fortuna premendo,
seducta in varias certarunt pectora curas
et, quodcumque sagax temptando repperit usus,
in commune bonum commentum laeta dederunt.

17th-century chart of the universe, with zodiac signs and the earth at the center
From Wikipedia. 17th-century depiction in Andreas Cellarius‘s Harmonia Macrocosmica.

If Only Everyone Were Like Me

Menander, Dyskolos 742-746

“I would like to tell you a few things about me and my character.
If everyone were like me, there wouldn’t be any courts at all,
They wouldn’t take each other to prison.
There would be no war and everyone would be happy because they had enough.
Ah, maybe the way things are is more pleasing. Act as you will.
This old cranky grump will be out of your way.”

πὲρ ἐ]μοῦ γὰρ βούλομ᾿ εἰπεῖν ὀλίγα σοι καὶ τοῦ τρόπου.
εἰ τοιοῦτ]οι πάντες ἦσαν, οὔτε τὰ δικαστήρια
ἦν ἄν, ο]ὔθ᾿ αὑτοὺς ἀπῆγον εἰς τὰ δεσμωτήρια,
οὔτε π]όλεμος ἦν, ἔχων δ᾿ ἂν μέτρι᾿ ἕκαστος ἠγάπα.
ἀ[λ]λ᾿ ἴσως ταῦτ᾿ ἔστ᾿ ἀρεστὰ μᾶλλον· οὕτω πράττετε.
ἐκποδὼν ὑμῖν ὁ χαλεπὸς δύσκολός τ᾿ ἔσται γέρων.

Image result for medieval old fool
“The Fool and His Double”, José Frappa

Grammar is Bread, Ignorance is Gruel

Lorenzo Valla, Ars Grammatica 15-29

It is a bad teacher who does not exemplify their own rules, and there were several of these in centuries gone by, because they did not flip through the learned books of the ancients. So come on kids, sing with me in Latin, and consider this learning as something like bread, which is good by itself and also enhances other dishes. Every art is in need of Grammar, but it needs none of them, and those who don’t know Grammar are definitely just eating gruel. So come on kids, take this bread from my lips, which will make your bodies robust and minister strength to you. For you will read many things written in no books except in ours, although Bostar and Aspar dare to transfer them into their own pamphlets – I mean, what a disgrace! Laugh at them with me, as though they were little crows wearing the peacock’s tail or geese strutting around like swans.

Doctor enim malus est in quo sua non radiat lex,

quales iam seclis aliquot plerique fuere

quod libros veterum non evolvere disertos.

Quare agite, o pueri, mecum cantate latine,

assimilem pani doctrinam hanc esse putantes

que per se valet et reliquas corroborat escas;

indiga grammatice queque ars est, nullius illa,

quam qui non norunt vescuntur pulte profecto.

Hunc, pueri, nostra de voce capessite panem

qui corpus solidum reddat viresque ministret;

namque legetis adhuc in nullis scripta libellis

multa nisi in nostris quamvis ea Bostar et Aspar

in chartas transferre suas, o dedecus, audent!

quos mecum ridete, velut cornicula pavi

si gestet caudam vel se ferat anser olorem.

He Wrote a Bad Latin Theme

James Joyce, The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man:

“Father Arnall came in and the Latin lesson began and he remained still leaning on the desk with his arms folded. Father Arnall gave out the themebooks and he said that they were scandalous and that they were all to be written out again with the corrections at once. But the worst of all was Fleming’s theme because the pages were stuck together by a blot: and Father Arnall held it up by a corner and said it was an insult to any master to send him up such a theme. Then he asked Jack Lawton to decline the noun mare and Jack Lawton stopped at the ablative singular and could not go on with the plural.

—You should be ashamed of yourself, said Father Arnall sternly. You, the leader of the class!

Then he asked the next boy and the next and the next. Nobody knew. Father Arnall became very quiet, more and more quiet as each boy tried to answer it and could not. But his face was blacklooking and his eyes were staring though his voice was so quiet. Then he asked Fleming and Fleming said that the word had no plural. Father Arnall suddenly shut the book and shouted at him:

—Kneel out there in the middle of the class. You are one of the idlest boys I ever met. Copy out your themes again the rest of you.

Fleming moved heavily out of his place and knelt between the two last benches. The other boys bent over their themebooks and began to write. A silence filled the classroom and Stephen, glancing timidly at Father Arnall’s dark face, saw that it was a little red from the wax he was in.

Was that a sin for Father Arnall to be in a wax or was he allowed to get into a wax when the boys were idle because that made them study better or was he only letting on to be in a wax? It was because he was allowed because a priest would know what a sin was and would not do it. But if he did it one time by mistake what would he do to go to confession? Perhaps he would go to confession to the minister. And if the minister did it he would go to the rector: and the rector to the provincial: and the provincial to the general of the jesuits. That was called the order: and he had heard his father say that they were all clever men. They could all have become high-up people in the world if they had not become jesuits. And he wondered what Father Arnall and Paddy Barrett would have become and what Mr McGlade and Mr Gleeson would have become if they had not become jesuits. It was hard to think what because you would have to think of them in a different way with different coloured coats and trousers and with beards and moustaches and different kinds of hats.

The door opened quietly and closed. A quick whisper ran through the class: the prefect of studies. There was an instant of dead silence and then the loud crack of a pandybat on the last desk. Stephen’s heart leapt up in fear.

—Any boys want flogging here, Father Arnall? cried the prefect of studies. Any lazy idle loafers that want flogging in this class?

He came to the middle of the class and saw Fleming on his knees.

—Hoho! he cried. Who is this boy? Why is he on his knees? What is your name, boy?

—Fleming, sir.

—Hoho, Fleming! An idler of course. I can see it in your eye. Why is he on his knees, Father Arnall?

—He wrote a bad Latin theme, Father Arnall said, and he missed all the questions in grammar.

—Of course he did! cried the prefect of studies, of course he did! A born idler! I can see it in the corner of his eye.

He banged his pandybat down on the desk and cried:

—Up, Fleming! Up, my boy!

Fleming stood up slowly.

—Hold out! cried the prefect of studies.

Fleming held out his hand. The pandybat came down on it with a loud smacking sound: one, two, three, four, five, six.

—Other hand!

The pandybat came down again in six loud quick smacks.

—Kneel down! cried the prefect of studies.

Fleming knelt down, squeezing his hands under his armpits, his face contorted with pain, but Stephen knew how hard his hands were because Fleming was always rubbing rosin into them. But perhaps he was in great pain for the noise of the pandybat was terrible. Stephen’s heart was beating and fluttering.

—At your work, all of you! shouted the prefect of studies. We want no lazy idle loafers here, lazy idle little schemers. At your work, I tell you. Father Dolan will be in to see you every day. Father Dolan will be in tomorrow.

He poked one of the boys in the side with his pandybat, saying:

—You, boy! When will Father Dolan be in again?

—Tomorrow, sir, said Tom Furlong’s voice.

—Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, said the prefect of studies. Make up your minds for that. Every day Father Dolan. Write away.”

Image result for james joyce

Brekekekeks, the Frogs, the Frogs!

Aristophanes, Frogs 1-2

“Hey boss, should I say one of those typical things,
That audiences always laugh at?”

εἴπω τι τῶν εἰωθότων, ὦ δέσποτα,
ἐφ᾿ οἷς ἀεὶ γελῶσιν οἱ θεώμενοι;

Not this frog!

Aristophanes, Frogs 76-77

“If you need to bring someone back to life,
Why not Sophocles, since he’s better than Euripides?”

εἶτ᾿ οὐ Σοφοκλέα πρότερον ὄντ᾿ Εὐριπίδου
μέλλεις ἀναγαγεῖν, εἴπερ γ᾿ ἐκεῖθεν δεῖ σ᾿ ἄγειν;

Since March 2020, The Center for Hellenic Studies, the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ with an occasional foray in to epic and comedy. As our director Paul O’Mahony has put it, since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.” For our final performance of the year, we turn to that most absurd and poignant of literary philosophy, Aristophanes’ Frogs.

Aristophanes’, Frogs .172

“Dude, want to carry some bags to Hades?”

ἄνθρωπε, βούλει σκευάρι᾿ εἰς Ἅιδου φέρειν;

Aristophanes, Frogs 80-83

“Euripides, since he’s a bit of a rascal,
Will probably try to help me get him free.
Sophocles will be well-behaved there since he was well-behaved here.”

κἄλλως ὁ μέν γ᾿ Εὐριπίδης πανοῦργος ὢν
κἂν ξυναποδρᾶναι δεῦρ᾿ ἐπιχειρήσειέ μοι·
ὁ δ᾿ εὔκολος μὲν ἐνθάδ᾿, εὔκολος δ᾿ ἐκεῖ

There will be time aplenty in the new year to reflect on what Reading Greek Tragedy Online meant to those of us who were engaged with it every week. It suffices to say for the moment that it gave us structure, a sense of community, and a reason to drag ourselves out of bed a few times a week. it also gave us the opportunity to think and talking about performing Greek theater in a sustained way that none of us could have imagined a year ago today.

Back in April, when Paul and I were outlining the rest of the year with Lanah, we thought this play would be a nice way to end the series on something of an absurdist but reflective turn. Aristophanes’ Frogs stands as one of the earliest pieces of literary criticism in the Athenian tradition. Even if it is bawdy and hyperbolic, it provides critical comments and cultural frameworks for the three tragedians we moderns know best. As a comedy, it ranges from sophisticated engagement with literary motifs and styles right back down to fart jokes and the regrettable but by no means atypical repeated play with abusing an enslaved person.

But the Frogs also has a sense of coming near the end of things: it starts with the assertion that all the good poets are dead (in a year following the passing of both Euripides and Sophocles). Not only does it come at the end of an artistic era, but it was also composed and performed near the end of the Peloponnesian War and the high point of Athenian influence. Rarely does any play stand at the intersection of so many charged themes; it is even rarer that such a play is a comedy.

So, to end this, our most recent annus horribilis and this series which has meant so much to us, we turn to a new version of the Frogs. Who’s ready for some koaks koaks?

Aristophanes, Frogs 237-239

“I am developing blisters,
My rectum has been oozing for a while,
And soon it will jump out and say…

Brekekekeks koaks koaks

ἐγὼ δὲ φλυκταίνας γ᾿ ἔχω,
χὠ πρωκτὸς ἰδίει πάλαι,
κᾆτ᾿ αὐτίκ᾿ ἐκκύψας ἐρεῖ—
ΒΑΤΡΑΧΟΙ
βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ.

Scenes

Most of George Theodoridis’ Translation

Cast

Narrator (v/o) – Rhys Rusbatch
Xanthias – Ursula Lansley-Early
Dionysus – Tony Jayawardena
Heracles – René Thornton Jr
Corpse – Hannah Barrie
Charon – Eli Pauley
Chorus of Frogs – Rob Castell and EVERYONE
Chorus of Initiates – Minnie Gale, Bettina Joy de Guzman, Marietta Hedges, Lanah Koelle, Lily Ling, T Lynn Mikeska
Pluto – Toph Marshall
Euripides – Paul Hurley
Aeschylus – Tabatha Gayle
Joel Christensen – Joel Christensen
Clytemnestra – Eunice Roberts
Medea – Evelyn Miller
Messenger – Sara Valentine
Artemis – Noree Victoria
Xerxes – Martin K Lewis
Hecuba chorus – Tamieka Chavis
Tutor – Robert Matney
Orestes – Tim Delap
Pylades – Paul O’Mahony

Aristophanes, Frogs 389-392

“Let me say a lot of funny things
And many serious ones too
As I joke and mock and win the crown
Worthy of your festival.”

καὶ πολλὰ μὲν γέλοιά μ᾿ εἰπεῖν,
πολλὰ δὲ σπουδαῖα, καὶ
τῆς σῆς ἑορτῆς ἀξίως
παίσαντα καὶ σκώψαντα νικήσαντα
ταινιοῦσθαι.

Crew

Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Associate Director: Liz Fisher
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Dramaturg: Emma Pauly
Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Poster Artist: John Koelle
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)

Aristophanes, Frogs  538

“Whoever gets drunk but stays home is wise.”

ὃς δ᾿ ἂν μεθυσθείς γ᾿ ἐν δόμοις μείνῃ σοφός.

Upcoming Episodes (Go to CHS Project Page for more information)

Aristophanes, Frogs 533-539

“This is the sign of a man
Who has some brains
And has traveled much:
To always move himself
To whichever side is doing well
And not to stand in one place, taking one stance,
Like a painted statue…”

ταῦτα μὲν πρὸς ἀνδρός ἐστι
νοῦν ἔχοντος καὶ φρένας
καὶ πολλὰ περιπεπλευκότος,
μετακυλίνδειν αὑτὸν ἀεὶ
aπρὸς τὸν εὖ πράττοντα τοῖχον
μᾶλλον ἢ γεγραμμένην
εἰκόν᾿ ἑστάναι, λαβόνθ᾿ ἓν
σχῆμα·

Aristophanes, Frogs 805-6

“This is hard
They’ve found a shortage of smart people”

τοῦτ᾿ ἦν δύσκολον·
σοφῶν γὰρ ἀνδρῶν ἀπορίαν ηὑρισκέτην.

Read Collections of Miscellany!

Battista Guarino, de ordine docendi et studendi XXX: 

“When they first start to study on their own, they should make an effort to read those books which are composed of miscellaneous things, such as Gellius, the Saturnalia of Macrobius, the Natural History of Pliny, which is no less various than history itself; I would add to these Augustine’s City of God, which is a book crammed full of history, as well as matters on ancient ritual and religion. They should always hold to that practice of trying to make excerpts from everything which they read; they should also persuade themselves of the truth of Pliny’s maxim, that ‘no book is so bad that it is not good in some part.’”

Ubi primum per se studere incipient, operam dabunt ut eos videant qui variis ex rebus compositi sunt, quo in genere est Gellius, Macrobius Saturnalium, Plinii Naturalis Historia, quae non minus est varia quam ipsa natura; his addimus Augustinus De civitate Dei, qui liber historiis et tam ritu veterum quam religione refertus est. Sed omnino illud teneant, ut semper ex iis quae legunt conentur excerpere, sibique persuadeant, quod Plinius dictitare solebat, ‘nullum esse librum tam malum ut non in aliqua parte prosit.’

The Dangers of Epitomes and Commonplace Books

Roger Ascham: The Scholemaster

“This is a way of studie, belonging, rather to matter, than to wordes: to memorie, than to vtterance: to those that be learned alreadie, and hath small place at all amonges yong scholers in Grammer scholes. It may proffet priuately some learned men, but it hath hurt generallie learning it selfe, very moch. For by it haue we lost whole Trogus, the best part of T. Liuius, the goodlie Dictionarie of Pompeius festus, a great deale of the Ciuill lawe, and other many notable bookes, for the which cause, I do the more mislike this exercise, both in old and yong.

Epitome, is good priuatelie for himselfe that doth worke it, but ill commonlie for all other that vse other mens labor therein: a silie poore kinde of studie, not vnlike to the doing of those poore folke, which neyther till, nor sowe, nor reape themselues, but gleane by stelth, vpon other mens growndes. Soch, haue emptie barnes, for deare yeares. Grammer scholes haue fewe Epitomes to hurt them, except Epitheta Textoris, and such beggarlie gatheringes, as Horman, whittington, and other like vulgares for making of latines: yea I do wishe, that all rules for yong scholers, were shorter than they be. For without doute, Grammatica it selfe, is sooner and surer learned by examples of good authors, than by the naked rewles of Grammarians. Epitome hurteth more, in the vniuersities and studie of Philosophie: but most of all, in diuinitie it selfe.

In deede bookes of common places be verie necessarie, to induce a man, into an orderlie generall knowledge, how to referre orderlie all that he readeth, ad certa rerum Capita, and not wander in studie. And to that end did P. Lombardus the master of sentences and Ph. Melancthon in our daies, write two notable bookes of common places.

But to dwell in Epitomes and bookes of common places, and not to binde himselfe dailie by orderlie studie, to reade with all diligence, principallie the holyest scripture and withall, the best Doctors, and so to learne to make trewe difference betwixt, the authoritie of the one, and the Counsell of the other, maketh so many seeming, and sonburnt ministers as we haue, whose learning is gotten in a sommer heat, and washed away, with a Christmas snow againe: who neuerthelesse, are lesse to be blamed, than those blind bussardes, who in late yeares, of wilfull maliciousnes, would neyther learne themselues, nor could teach others, any thing at all.”

“We weren’t learning anyway!”

 

I Always Preferred ‘Cum’

Winston Churchill, My Early Life:

“Dr. Welldon took a friendly interest in me, and knowing that I was weak in the Classics, determined to help me himself. His daily routine was heavy; but he added three times a week a quarter of an hour before evening prayers in which to give me personal tuition. This was a great condescension for the Headmaster, who of course never taught anyone but the monitors and the highest scholars. I was proud of the honour: I shrank from the ordeal. If the reader has ever learned any Latin prose he will know that at quite an early stage one comes across the Ablative Absolute with its apparently somewhat despised alternative ‘Quum with the pluperfect subjunctive.’ I always preferred ‘Quum.’ True he was a little longer to write, thus lacking the much admired terseness and pith of the Latin language. On the other hand he avoided a number of pitfalls. I was often uncertain whether the Ablative Absolute should end in ‘e’ or ‘i’ or ‘o’ or ‘is’ or ‘ibus’? to the correct selection of which great importance was attached. Dr. Welldon seemed to be physically pained by a mistake being made in any of these letters. I remember that later on Mr. Asquith used to have just the same sort of look on his face when I sometimes adorned a Cabinet discussion by bringing out one of my few but faithful Latin quotations. It was more than annoyance, it was a pang. Moreover Headmasters have powers at their disposal with which Prime Ministers have never yet been invested. So these evening quarters of an hour with Dr. Welldon added considerably to the anxieties of my life. I was much relieved when after nearly a whole term of patient endeavour he desisted from his well-meant but unavailing efforts.”

“Hello Stranger!” Rocking out with the Cyclops Online

Euripides, Cyclops 8

“Come, let me look at this: did I see this in a dream?”

φέρ᾿ ἴδω, τοῦτ᾿ ἰδὼν ὄναρ λέγω;

 

Euripides, Cyclops 63-67

“There’s no Dionysus here, no choruses,
No Bacchic revels, no wand-bearing,
No explosion of drums
By the fresh-flowing springs,
Or young drops of wine.”

οὐ τάδε Βρόμιος, οὐ τάδε χοροὶ
βακχεῖαί τε θυρσοφόροι,
οὐ τυμπάνων ἀλαλαγ-
μοὶ κρήναις παρ᾿ ὑδροχύτοις,
οὐκ οἴνου χλωραὶ σταγόνες·

The Center for Hellenic Studies, the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ since the beginning of the US lockdown in March. As our director Paul O’Mahony has put it, since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.

Euripides, Cyclops 102-105

Silenos: Hello, stranger. Tell me who you are and your country
Odysseus: Odysseus from Ithaka, lord of the land of the Kephallenians
Silenos: I know that guy, a sharp conman, a descendent of Sisyphus.
Odysseus: I am that man. Don’t mock me.

ΣΙΛΗΝΟΣ
χαῖρ᾿, ὦ ξέν᾿· ὅστις δ᾿ εἶ φράσον πάτραν τε σήν.
ΟΔΥΣΣΕΥΣ
Ἴθακος Ὀδυσσεύς, γῆς Κεφαλλήνων ἄναξ.
ΣΙΛΗΝΟΣ
οἶδ᾿ ἄνδρα, κρόταλον δριμύ, Σισύφου γένος.
ΟΔΥΣΣΕΥΣ
ἐκεῖνος αὐτός εἰμι· λοιδόρει δὲ μή.

This week, we arrive at the only surviving full Satyr play from Ancient Athens, Euripides’ Cyclops. During the tragic competition, poets would stage a trilogy followed by a satyr play, some kind of vaudevillian satire on tragedy itself. We don’t know as much about satyr plays as we’d like, but from this surviving example we can see some of the extreme bodily humor of comedy combined with tragedy’s mythical figures and themes.

Of course, comedy is about excess and in this reading of the story of Odysseus’ encounter with Polyphemos we are adding our own excess by adding in words and music from from “Cyclops, a Rock Opera” by J. Landon Marcus, Benjamin Sherman, and Chas LiBretto.  The small screen may not hold all this energy, but that won’t stop us from trying.

Euripides, Cyclops 334-338

“I don’t sacrifice to anyone but myself, none of the gods,
And to the greatest divinity, my belly!
To drink and eat all day and have no pain
That is Zeus for wise people.”

ἁγὼ οὔτινι θύω πλὴν ἐμοί, θεοῖσι δ᾿ οὔ,
καὶ τῇ μεγίστῃ, γαστρὶ τῇδε, δαιμόνων.
ὡς τοὐμπιεῖν γε καὶ φαγεῖν τοὐφ᾿ ἡμέραν,
Ζεὺς οὗτος ἀνθρώποισι τοῖσι σώφροσιν,
λυπεῖν δὲ μηδὲν αὑτόν.

Cast: Rob Castell, Chas Libretto, J. Landon Marcus, Paul O’ Mahony

Euripides, Cyclops 487-491

“Shh, Shut up! He’s drunk
Singing a tuneless song
Coming out of the stony cave
An incompetent singer about to cry.”

σίγα σίγα. καὶ δὴ μεθύων
ἄχαριν κέλαδον μουσιζόμενος
490σκαιὸς ἀπῳδὸς καὶ κλαυσόμενος
χωρεῖ πετρίνων ἔξω μελάθρων.

Crew

Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Associate Director: Liz Fisher
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Dramaturg: Emma Pauly
Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Poster Artist: John Koelle
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)

Euripides, Cyclops 538

“Whoever gets drunk but stays home is wise.”

ὃς δ᾿ ἂν μεθυσθείς γ᾿ ἐν δόμοις μείνῃ σοφός.

Upcoming Episodes (Go to CHS Project Page for more information)

December 23 Series Finale: Frogs, Aristophanes

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Euripides, Cyclops 694-695

“I would have burned down Troy badly
If I didn’t punish you for the slaughter of my companions.”

κακῶς γὰρ ἂν Τροίαν γε διεπυρώσαμεν
εἰ μή σ᾿ ἑταίρων φόνον ἐτιμωρησάμην.

Adventures in Greek & Latin Composition

Alston Hurd Chase, 

Time Remembered, Part I: Veritas

“I had Jackson in two courses that year, the History of Greek Literature and Advanced Greek Prose Composition. His lectures in the former were written out carefully and read to the class. They were packed with erudition, showing an Herculean task of preparation. Perhaps this accounted for his breakdown which necessitated his absence for most of the winter. His place in Greek 12 was filled rather perfunctorily by Professor Harmon of Yale, who journeyed to Cambridge twice a week to lecture to us. Greek Composition was overtaken by Professor E.E. Sykes of St. John’s College, Cambridge, a beaming, snowy-haired little man, who must have found our Greek prose a sad decline from the English standard. Intrigued by what I had read of verse composition in England and spurred on by an assignment to write some Latin hexameters, a task which greatly increased my respect for the Latin poets, I tried my hand at some Greek verse. Bad as the result was it astonished Professor Sykes, who said that I had disabused him of a lifelong belief that Americans never essayed verse composition in Greek or Latin.

During my work with Professor Jackson in that composition course he taught me another of many valuable lessons. On one examination, unable to decide which of two Greek versions of a phrase was correct I put down both. Jackson called me up after he had returned the papers and pointed out that this practice amounted to offering two versions and asking him to choose the correct one and credit me with having done so. The justice of this comment struck me at once and I have never forgotten it; I could wish that many of our politicians had had Professor Jackson.”