Horrible Things Happen to Heraclitus on the Internet

This quotation appears

page 237

It is marked as misattributed on wikiquote (where its original attestation seems to be Gabriel Suarez’s The Tactical Rifle, which assigns it to a certain Hericletus [sic]); Reddit has also marked it as a misquotation, although it assigns it to the apocryphal “Cynic Epistles” which were attributed to Heraclitus (this text is not available online as far as I can find; I have ordered it).

It is disturbing how popular this is as a meme: you can find it on quotefancy, pinterest, and way too many other places (it is of particular importance on sites that glorify firearms and snipers). Oh, it has also made the leap to popular history books, appearing in Paul B Bardunias’ and Fred Ray’s “Hoplites at War.”

To anyone who has read any of the extant fragments from Heraclitus, this is clearly not even remotely his style (here’s a cool site where you can find his fragments in Greek and translation). While it may be a bit too much to expect the internet to be familiar with Heraclitean obscurity, this passage sounds thoroughly and depressingly modern. It is not, of course, out of the character of Greek poetry to idolize a promakhos (the person who fights in front for his community), but phrasing and the “bring the others back” denouement is against the basic aesthetics of Greek martial poetry (see, for example, Callinus or Tyrtaeus). Of course, since all we have from Heraclitus is fragmentary, we are, as it were, in the dark.

Here’s one fragment that might work as inspiration:

Fr. 49 (103)

“One person is ten thousand to me, if he is the best.”

Εἷς ἐμοὶ μύριοι, ἐὰν ἄριστος ᾖ.

And here are a few more if we are looking for bellicose Pre-socratic quotations:

the best

Fr. 53 (44)

“War is father and king of everything. War proves some to be gods and others human beings; it makes some slaves and others free.”

Πόλεμος πάντων μὲν πατήρ ἐστι πάντων δὲ βασιλεύς, καὶ τοὺς μὲν θεοὺς ἔδειξε τοὺς δὲ ἀνθρώπους, τοὺς μὲν δούλους ἐποίησε τοὺς δὲ ἐλευθέρους.

Fr. 80 (72)

“One must know that war is common, that justice is strife, and that all things happen through strife by necessity”

εἰδέναι δὲ χρὴ τὸν πόλεμον ἐόντα ξυνόν, καὶ δίκην ἔριν, καὶ γινόμενα πάντα κατ’ ἔριν καὶ χρεών.

The text is problematic here, another version: Εἰδέναι χρὴ τὸν πόλεμον ἐόντα ξυνόν, καὶ δίκην ἔριν· καὶ γινόμενα πάντα κατ᾿ ἔριν καὶ †χρεώμενα†.

Fr. 48 (66)

“The bow’s name is life but its work is death.”

Τοῦ βιοῦ οὔνομα βίος, ἔργον δὲ θάνατος.

This version keeps the wordplay between biós (“bow”) and bíos (“life”). Another version obscures this punning:

βίος: τῶι οὖν τόξωι ὄνομα βίος, ἔργον δὲ θάνατος.

 

 

The [Bark] of a Dear Friend

On Xenophanes: Diog. Laert. 8.36

“What [Xenophanes] says about Pythagoras goes like this:

People say that one day, when he was passing by as a puppy was being beaten, he pitied him and uttered this line: ‘Stop, don’t beat him, in truth, his is a soul of a dear friend of mine, one I recognized when I heard him cry.”

ὃ δὲ περὶ αὐτοῦ φησιν οὕτως ἔχει·

καί ποτέ μιν στυφελιζομένου σκύλακος παριόντα φασὶν ἐποικτῖραι καὶ τόδε φάσθαι ἔπος·“παῦσαι, μηδὲ ῥάπιζ᾿,ἐπεὶ ἦ φίλου ἀνέρος ἐστὶν ψυχή, τὴν ἔγνων φθεγξαμένης ἀϊών.”

καὶ ταῦτα μὲν ὁ Ξενοφάνης.

Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 1951, Folio 20r

Political Toadies, Wrestling, and Lasting Art

Plutarch, Pericles:

“Get some flunkies for that!”:

“Of true excellence, it may be said that those things appear most noble which are most apparent, and nothing about the lives of good men is so impressive to others as their daily life among their friends. Pericles, in an effort to prevent the people from  developing an overly familiarized satiety, appeared to them only in moments of crisis, and did not speak or appear to the people on every occasion. Rather, as Critolaus says, he gave himself ‘like the Trireme of Salamis’ only to matters of the highest import, while performing his other business by enlisting his friends and some other speakers as toadies.”

τῆς ἀληθινῆς δ’ ἀρετῆς κάλλιστα φαίνεται τὰ μάλιστα φαινόμενα, καὶ τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἀνδρῶν οὐδὲν οὕτω θαυμάσιον τοῖς ἐκτὸς ὡς ὁ καθ’ ἡμέραν βίος τοῖς συνοῦσιν. ὁ δὲ καὶ τῷ δήμῳ, τὸ συνεχὲς φεύγων καὶ τὸν κόρον, οἷον ἐκ διαλειμμάτων ἐπλησίαζεν, οὐκ ἐπὶ παντὶ πράγματι λέγων οὐδ’ ἀεὶ παριὼν εἰς τὸ πλῆθος, ἀλλ’ ἑαυτὸν ὥσπερ τὴν Σαλαμινίαν τριήρη, φησὶ Κριτόλαος, πρὸς τὰς μεγάλας χρείας ἐπιδιδούς, τἆλλα δὲ φίλους καὶ ῥήτορας ἑτέρους καθιεὶς ἔπραττεν.

“Consider some alternative facts…

“An old joke of Thucydides, son of Melesias, was told of Pericles’ remarkable ability in speaking. Thucydides was a member of the ‘Good and Noble’ set, and spent much of his time in political wrangling against Pericles. When Archidamus, the king of the Lacedaemonians, asked whether Thucyidides or Pericles was the better wrestler, Thucydides said, ‘If I throw him down in a match, he argues that he never fell, and wins by persuading the very people who saw him on the ground.’”

     Διαμνημονεύεται δέ τις καὶ Θουκυδίδου τοῦ Μελησίου λόγος εἰς τὴν δεινότητα τοῦ Περικλέους μετὰ παιδιᾶς εἰρημένος. ἦν μὲν γὰρ ὁ Θουκυδίδης τῶν καλῶν καὶ ἀγαθῶν ἀνδρῶν, καὶ πλεῖστον ἀντεπολιτεύσατο τῷ Περικλεῖ χρόνον. ᾿Αρχιδάμου δὲ τοῦ Λακεδαιμονίων βασιλέως πυνθανομένου πότερον αὐτὸς ἢ Περικλῆς παλαίει βέλτιον, „ὅταν” εἶπεν „ἐγὼ καταβάλω παλαίων, ἐκεῖνος ἀντιλέγων ὡς οὐ πέπτωκε, νικᾷ καὶ μεταπείθει τοὺς ὁρῶντας.”

“F*ck your sh*tty art…”

“They say that when the painter Agatharcus was bragging about the speed and facility with which he painted his works, Zeuxis heard him and said, ‘I make mine in and for a long time.’ Indeed, facility and speed in creation do not lend a lasting weight or exactness of beauty to the work. The time paid out in labor on some creation reaps a reward in the preservation of the thing created. On that account, the works of Pericles are all the more astounding, since they were both created so fast and lasted so long.”

καίτοι ποτέ φασιν ᾿Αγαθάρχου τοῦ ζωγράφου μέγα φρονοῦντος ἐπὶ τῷ ταχὺ καὶ ῥᾳδίως τὰ ζῷα ποιεῖν ἀκούσαντα τὸν Ζεῦξιν εἰπεῖν· „ἐγὼ δ’ ἐν πολλῷ χρόνῳ.” ἡ γὰρ ἐν τῷ ποιεῖν εὐχέρεια καὶ ταχύτης οὐκ ἐντίθησι βάρος ἔργῳ μόνιμον οὐδὲ κάλλους ἀκρίβειαν, ὁ δ’ εἰς τὴν γένεσιν τῷ πόνῳ προδανεισθεὶς χρόνος ἐν τῇ σωτηρίᾳ τοῦ γενομένου τὴν ἰσχὺν ἀποδίδωσιν. ὅθεν καὶ μᾶλλον θαυμάζεται τὰ Περικλέους ἔργα, πρὸς πολὺν χρόνον ἐν ὀλίγῳ γενόμενα.

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We Can’t Keep Up With History!

Mark Pattison, Isaac Casaubon 1559-1614

Jacques Auguste de Thou was the last, and most illustrious, example of those public men who were formed to affairs upon the study of greek and roman history. Instead of composing his memoirs, like his contemporaries, in French, he chose Latin, not because it was the language of diplomacy, but because it alone was capable of classical handling. Thrust into employment against his will, dragged perpetually from the retirement he loved to undertake difficult or dangerous negotiations, his heart was in his library, and his historical work. The history of ‘Thuanus’ was long the manual of statesmen all over Europe. It is now wholly neglected, even in the country of its author.

The cause of this neglect is not merely the language, a difficulty which might have been overcome by translation. It is because it is too minute. Even in 1733, and before the revolution of ’89 had opened a new and absorbing page of history, Lord Carteret pointed to the extent of the work as fatal to its popularity. Containing the history of only sixty-four years, it has been calculated that de Thou’s folios would require twelve months, at four hours a day, for their perusal. The world has now too long a history for us to afford time to know it! Thus the very merit of de Thou’s ‘Historia,’ its completeness, is the cause of its being left unread. De Thou was a catholic, but a ‘politique,’ and would gladly have secured Casaubon for France, without attempting to convert him.”

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Tyrannical, Violent, and Greedy for Tribute

Strabo, Geography 10.4.8

“As Ephoros has claimed, Minos modeled himself after a certain ancient Rhadamanthys, a most just man who had the same name as his own brother and apparently was the first to make Crete more civilized through laws, integrations of cities, and constitutions, insisting that he was simply introducing each of these ideas to the public from Zeus himself.

In imitating him, Minos also, it seems, retreated for nine years into Zeus’ cave and, after he spent time there, came back carrying certain declarations which he composed but he was claiming were established by Zeus. This is the reason why [Homer] has said, “there, for nine years, Minos was ruling as a companion of great Zeus.”

While Ephorus records these things, ancient authors have provided different accounts about him which run against these claims. They say that Minos was tyrannical, very violent, and greedy for tribute. Some put into tragedies the stories about the Minotaur and the Labyrinth along with the events of Theseus and Daidalos. It is hard to say whether things happened that way.

But there is another account which does not agree with the rest: some claim that Minos was an immigrant to the island, while others claim he was a native. Homer certainly seems to argue for the second view when he says that “[Zeus] first fathered Minos as a protector for Crete.”

 

ὡς δ᾽ εἴρηκεν ῎Εφορος, ζηλωτὴς ὁ Μὶνως ἀρχαίου τινὸς ῾Ραδαμάνθυος, δικαιοτάτου ἀνδρός, ὁμωνύμου τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ, ὃς πρῶτος τὴν νῆσον ἐξημερῶσαι δοκεῖ νομίμοις καὶ συνοικισμοῖς πόλεων καὶ πολιτείαις, σκηψάμενος παρὰ Διὸς φέρειν ἕκαστα τῶν τιθεμένων δογμάτων εἰς μέσον. τοῦτον δὴ μιμούμενος καὶ ὁ Μίνως δι᾽ ἐννέα ἐτῶν, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἀναβαίνων ἐπὶ τὸ τοῦ Διὸς ἄντρον καὶ διατρίβων ἐνθάδε ἀπήιει συντεταγμένα ἔχων παραγγέλματά τινα, ἃ ἔφασκεν εἶναι προστάγματα τοῦ Διός. ἀφ᾽ ἧς αἰτίας καὶ τὸν ποιητὴν οὕτως εἰρηκέναι· «ἐνθάδε Μίνως ἐννέωρος βασίλευε Διὸς μεγάλου ὀαριστής». τοιαῦτα δ᾽ εἰπόντος, οἱ ἀρχαῖοι περὶ αὐτοῦ πάλιν ἄλλους εἰρήκασι λόγους ὑπεναντίους τούτοις, ὡς τυραννικός τε γένοιτο καὶ βίαιος καὶ δασμολόγος, τραγωιδοῦντες τὰ περὶ τὸν Μινώταυρον καὶ τὸν λαβύρινθον καὶ τὰ Θησεῖ συμβάντα καὶ Δαιδάλωι. ταῦτα μὲν οὖν ὁποτέρως ἔχει, χαλεπὸν εἰπεῖν. ἔστι δὲ καὶ ἄλλος λόγος οὐχ ὁμολογούμενος, τῶν μὲν ξένον τῆς νήσου τὸν Μίνων λεγόντων, τῶν δ᾽ ἐπιχώριον. ὁ μέντοι ποιητὴς τῆι δευτέραι δοκεῖ μᾶλλον συνηγορεῖν ἀποφάσει, ὅταν φῆι ὅτι «πρῶτον Μίνωα τέκε Κρήτηι ἐπίουρον».

Image result for Minos medieval manuscript
King Minos from BL Harley 4431, f. 98

 

A Reminder: A Friendly Philosopher is Useless

Plutarch, Fr. 203, recorded in Themistios’ On the Soul (From Stobaeus, iii.13. 68)

“Others will decide whether Diogenes spoke rightly about Plato “What good is a man who has practiced philosophy for a long time and pissed off no one? Perhaps it is right that the philosopher’s speech has a sweetness that wounds like honey.”

Θεμιστίου περὶ ψυχῆς·

Εἰ μὲν οὖν ὀρθῶς ἐπὶ Πλάτωνος εἶπε Διογένης, “τί δαὶ ὄφελος ἡμῖν ἀνδρὸς ὃς πολὺν ἤδη χρόνον φιλοσοφῶν οὐδένα λελύπηκεν;” ἕτεροι κρινοῦσιν. ἴσως γὰρ ὡς τὸ μέλι δεῖ καὶ τὸν λόγον τοῦ φιλοσόφου τὸ γλυκὺ δηκτικὸν ἔχειν τῶν ἡλκωμένων.

Diogenes Laertius, 10.8

“[Epicurus] used to call Nausiphanes an illiterate jellyfish, a cheat and a whore. He used to refer to Plato’s followers as the Dionysus-flatters; he called Aristotle a waste who, after he spent his interitance, fought as a mercenary and sold drugs. He maligned Protagoras as a bellboy, and called Protagoras Democritus’ secretary and a teacher from the sticks. He called Heraclitus mudman, Democritus  Lerocritus [nonsense lord].

Antidorus he called Sannidôros [servile-gifter]. He named the Cynics “Greece’s enemies”; he called the dialecticians Destructionists and, according to him, Pyrrho was unlearned and unteachable.”

πλεύμονά τε αὐτὸν ἐκάλει καὶ ἀγράμματον καὶ ἀπατεῶνα καὶ πόρνην: τούς τε περὶ Πλάτωνα Διονυσοκόλακας καὶ αὐτὸν Πλάτωνα χρυσοῦν, καὶ Ἀριστοτέλη ἄσωτον, <ὃν> καταφαγόντα τὴν πατρῴαν οὐσίαν στρατεύεσθαι καὶ φαρμακοπωλεῖν: φορμοφόρον τε Πρωταγόραν καὶ γραφέα Δημοκρίτου καὶ ἐν κώμαις γράμματα διδάσκειν: Ἡράκλειτόν τε κυκητὴν καὶ Δημόκριτον Ληρόκριτον καὶ Ἀντίδωρον Σαννίδωρον: τούς τε Κυνικοὺς ἐχθροὺς τῆς Ἑλλάδος: καὶ τοὺς διαλεκτικοὺς πολυφθόρους, Πύρρωνα δ᾽ ἀμαθῆ καὶ ἀπαίδευτον.

Cicero, Letter Fragments. Nepos to Cicero IIa

Nepos Cornelius also writes to the same Cicero thus: it is so far away from me thinking that philosophy is a teacher of life and the guardian of a happy life, that I do not believe that anyone needs teachers of living more than the many men who are dedicated to philosophical debate. I certainly see that a great number of those who rush into speeches about restraint and discipline in the classroom live amidst the desire for every kind of vice.”

Nepos quoque Cornelius ad eundem Ciceronem ita scribit: tantum abest ut ego magistram putem esse vitae philosophiam beataeque vitae perfectricem ut nullis magis existimem opus esse magistros vivendi quam plerisque qui in ea disputanda versantur. video enim magnam partem eorum qui in schola de pudore <et> continentia praecipiant argutissime eosdem in omnium libidinum cupiditatibus vivere. (Lactant. Div. inst. 3.5.10)

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On Timon, D. L. 9.12

“Antigonos says that Timon was fond of drinking; and, whenever he had free time from philosophizing, he wrote poems”

Ἦν δέ, φησὶν ὁ Ἀντίγονος, καὶ φιλοπότης καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν φιλοσόφων εἰ σχολάζοι ποιήματα συνέγραφε

Seneca, Moral Epistle 3.3

“For this is most shameful (and often brought up against us as a reproach), to deal in the words, and not the actual work, of philosophy.”

hoc enim turpissimum est, quod nobis obici solet, verba nos philosophiae, non opera tractare.

Lyric Love, Translation and Transformation

Sappho fr. 31

“That man seems like the gods
To me—the one who sits facing
You and nearby listens as you
sweetly speak—

and he hears your lovely laugh—this then
makes the heart in my breast stutter,
when I glance even briefly, it is no longer possible
for me to speak—

but my tongue sticks in silence
and immediately a slender flame runs under my skin.
I cannot see with my eyes, I hear
A rush in my ears—

A cold sweat breaks over me, a tremble
Takes hold of me. Then paler than grass,
I think that I have died
Just a little.”

φαίνεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θέοισιν
ἔμμεν’ ὤνηρ, ὄττις ἐνάντιός τοι
ἰσδάνει καὶ πλάσιον ἆδυ φωνεί-
σας ὐπακούει

καὶ γελαίσας ἰμέροεν, τό μ’ ἦ μὰν
καρδίαν ἐν στήθεσιν ἐπτόαισεν,
ὠς γὰρ ἔς σ’ ἴδω βρόχε’ ὤς με φώναι-
σ’ οὐδ’ ἒν ἔτ’ εἴκει,

ἀλλ’ ἄκαν μὲν γλῶσσα †ἔαγε λέπτον
δ’ αὔτικα χρῶι πῦρ ὐπαδεδρόμηκεν,
ὀππάτεσσι δ’ οὐδ’ ἒν ὄρημμ’, ἐπιρρόμ-
βεισι δ’ ἄκουαι,

†έκαδε μ’ ἴδρως ψῦχρος κακχέεται† τρόμος δὲ
παῖσαν ἄγρει, χλωροτέρα δὲ ποίας
ἔμμι, τεθνάκην δ’ ὀλίγω ‘πιδεύης
φαίνομ’ ἔμ’ αὔται·

As many know and many love, Catullus 51 is a ‘translation’. This poem brought my first exposure to Sappho at the tender age of 16. I can translate it almost without looking at it.

“That man seems to me equal to a gods,
that man, if it is right, surpasses the gods
as he sits opposite you
seeing and hearing you

sweetly laughing; every sense escapes
miserable me: for the same time I see you
Lesbia, nothing is left for me

my tongue grows heavy, and a tender flame
flickers under my limbs, and twin ears
ring with their own sound, my eyes
are shaded by night.

Leisure, Catullus, is your problem:
you revel in leisure and you have done too much.
Leisure has brought kings low,
and destroyed cities once rich.”

Ille mi par esse deo videtur,
ille, si fas est, superare divos,
qui sedens adversus identidem te
spectat et audit
dulce ridentem, misero quod omnis
eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te,
Lesbia, aspexi, nihil est super mi
* * * * * * * *

lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus
flamma demanat, sonitu suopte
tintinant aures gemina, teguntur
lumina nocte.

otium, Catulle, tibi molestum est:
otio exsultas nimiumque gestis:
otium et reges prius et beatas
perdidit urbes.

Sappho is pretty amazing. I also love this anecdote from Aelian:

Aelian, Fragment 187/190 (from Stobaeus 3.29.58)

“Solon the Athenian, the son of Eksêkestides, when his nephew sang some song of Sappho at a drinking party, took pleasure in it and asked the young man to teach it to him. When someone asked why he was eager to learn it, he responded: “So, once I learn it, I may die.”

Σόλων ὁ ᾿Αθηναῖος ᾿Εξηκεστίδου παρὰ πότον τοῦ ἀδελφιδοῦ αὐτοῦ μέλος τι Σαπφοῦς ᾄσαντος, ἥσθη τῷ μέλει καὶ προσέταξε τῷ μειρακίῳ διδάξει αὐτόν. ἐρωτήσαντος δέ τινος διὰ ποίαν αἰτίαν τοῦτο σπουδάσειεν, ὃ δὲ ἔφη ‘ἵνα μαθὼν αὐτὸ ἀποθάνω.’

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Boccacio, de mulieribus claris/Le livre de femmes nobles et renomées (trad. anonyme), 15-16th century, France (Cognac). Bibliothèque Nationale MS Français 599 fol. 42