Wandering for Answers

Plato, Hippias Minor 376c

Hippias: “I can’t really agree with you on these things, Socrates.”

Socrates: “Huh, I can’t agree with myself either. But it seems like our current discussion must go there, at least.

This is what I haven been saying for a long time—I wander back and forth on these topics and they never seem the same to me. Really, it is not a surprise at all that I or any other normal person find ourselves adrift. But if you and the other experts get lost too, then it is pretty frightening for us since we can’t stop our wandering even after coming to you.”

ΙΠ. Οὐκ ἔχω ὅπως σοι συγχωρήσω, ὦ Σώκρατες, ταῦτα.

ΣΩ. Οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐγὼ ἐμοί, ὦ Ἱππία· ἀλλ᾿ ἀναγκαῖον οὕτω φαίνεσθαι νῦν γε ἡμῖν ἐκ τοῦ λόγου. ὅπερ μέντοι πάλαι ἔλεγον, ἐγὼ περὶ ταῦτα ἄνω καὶ κάτω πλανῶμαι καὶ οὐδέποτε ταὐτά μοι δοκεῖ· καὶ ἐμὲ μὲν οὐδὲν θαυμαστὸν πλανᾶσθαι οὐδὲ ἄλλον ἰδιώτην· εἰ δὲ καὶ ὑμεῖς πλανήσεσθε οἱ σοφοί, τοῦτο ἤδη καὶ ἡμῖν δεινόν, εἰ μηδὲ παρ᾿ ὑμᾶς ἀφικόμενοι παυσόμεθα τῆς πλάνης.

Indigo Girls, Closer to Fine

“And I went to see the doctor of philosophy
With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee
He never did marry or see a B-grade movie
He graded my performance, he said he could see through me
I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind
Got my paper and I was free”

For Those In the Know

Anonymous Epigram (Greek Anthology 7.128)

I am Heraclitus. Why do you buffoons
Wrestle with me? It was not for you
I labored, but for those in the know.
To me, one man is worth thirty thousand,
And an infinite number not worth one man.
This I would say even in Persephone’s house.

For those in the know, here are some fragments of Heraclitus to wrestle with:

Fr.7
If all that exists should become smoke, nostrils would pick out one thing from the other.

Fr.26
A man in the night kindles a light in himself after his sight is extinguished. A living man, but he engages with a dead man when he sleeps. And when he wakes, he understands sleeping man.

Fr.36
For souls, it’s death to become water, and for water, it’s death to become earth. But from earth water is born, and from water, a soul.

Fr.48
In any event, the name of the bow is life but its work is death

Fr.90
The exchange: all things for fire and fire for all things; and in like manner, goods for gold and gold for goods.

Epigram 7.128
Ἡράκλειτος ἐγώ: τί μ᾽ ἄνω κάτω ἕλκετ᾽ ἄμουσοι;
οὐχ ὑμῖν ἐπόνουν, τοῖς δ᾽ ἔμ᾽ ἐπισταμένοις.
εἷς ἐμοὶ ἄνθρωπος τρισμύριοι, οἱ δ᾽ ἀνάριθμοι
οὐδείς. ταῦτ᾽ αὐδῶ καὶ παρὰ Περσεφόνῃ.

Heraclitus:
Fr.7
εἰ πάντα τὰ ὄντα καπνὸς γένοιτο, ῥῖνες ἂν διαγνοῖεν

Fr.26
ἄνθρωπος ἐν εὐφρόνῃ φάος ἅπτεται ἑαυτῷ ἀποσβεσθείς ὄψεις, ζῶν δὲ ἅπτεται τεθνεῶτος εὕδων, ἐγρηγορὼς ἅπτεται εὕδοντος.

Fr.36
ψυχῇσιν θάνατος ὕδωρ γενέσθαι, ὕδατι δὲ θάνατος γῆν γενέσθαι, ἐκ γῆς δὲ ὕδωρ γίνεται, ἐξ ὕδατος δὲ ψυχή

Fr.48
τῷ οὖν τόξῳ ὄνομα βίος, ἔργον δὲ θάνατος

Fr.90
πυρός τε ἀνταμοιβὴ τὰ πάντα καὶ πῦρ ἁπάντων ὅκωσπερ χρυσοῦ χρήματα καὶ χρημάτων χρυσός.

Between Skepticism and Eclecticism

J.E. Sandys, A Companion to Latin Studies (§ 1047)

Philosophy, on its first introduction into Rome in the wake of Greek literature, art, and science, encountered fierce opposition, but the personal influence of the younger Scipio and his friends procured the new learning a hearing; and the teachers, notably Panaetius, had the tact to keep abstruse speculation out of sight and present their subject to their Roman pupils on its practical and literary side.

Each of the three Schools most prominent at the time, the Stoic, the Epicurean, and the New Academy, gained some adherents, but the influence of the first was undoubtedly the greatest and the most permanent. It has been well said that the heroes of the early Republic were unconscious Stoics, and no sooner was this system of moral philosophy made intelligible to cultivated Romans than it exercised an irresistible attraction. In a time when religious belief was decaying, the best intellects welcomed in its place a doctrine which had so strong an affinity with the national character: there was a sort of informal alliance between the public policy and the philosophic convictions of such a man as Cato.

But, though philosophy had its triumphs at Rome, it never quite shook off the national prejudice. Having been committed to the Republican cause by Cato, the Stoics were generally in opposition during the early Empire, and more than once the government, as a precautionary measure, banished philosophers from Rome. The educational value of philosophic study was, indeed, recognised, and its wide influence is attested by much of the best literature. But zeal on the part of the pupils never supplied the lack of initiative; they had no ambition to found new schools of thought, originality was confined either to the choice of a system (thus Varro selected the Old Academy out of 288 possible systems), or to the arbitrary fitting together of various parts from different systems, according to the individual’s own caprice.

In confining their attention to popular philosophy and to practical questions, the Roman students conformed to, and by their adhesion strengthened, a tendency already powerful in the later Greek schools, where the controversies of centuries had led to scepticism on one hand and eclecticism on the other.

Stoicism? That Sh*t’s Not What I’m About!

Bruce Duffy, The World as I Found It (pp. 116-117, NYRB edition):

Wittgenstein continued. I eat simply. Vegetables, mainly. Meat disagrees with my digestion.

A misstep, this; his mother carefully daubed her lips with her napkin, leaving it to his father to ask, There is something wrong with your digestion?

Wittgenstein waited three beats, then replied, Not if I eat as I should.

And the food here? asked his father pointedly. It is too rich for your digestion?

A pleasant change, replied the son agreeably, though he felt his smile curdle.

Resumed his father helpfully, A change before you go back to your bland fare, you mean – so you will know the difference. Barbishly, his father then quipped for the benefit of the table, Ever the philosopher – our latter-day Epictetus. Then, seeing his son’s withholding look, Karl Wittgenstein asked, You have not read the Stoics?

Wittgenstein froze, as if it were natural to expect that, as a student of philosophy, he must be conversant with every facet of the subject. Gathering his forces, Wittgenstein replied, I understand the basic outlines of the Stoic creed. That is enough.

His father stared at him. They don’t teach the Stoics at Cambridge? he asked, as if to say, The English are so debased?

They teach the Stoics, replied the son patiently. If one is reading philosophy in the Tripos or studying the classics. But that is not what I’m about.

When This is All Over, It Will Happen Again

Nemesius, De natura Hominis 37

“The stoics say that once the planets return into the same sign and location where each one was at the beginning when the universe first arose, in that appointed circuit of time there is a burning and purging of existence and everything returns necessarily to the same order. Each of the stars that travels again ends up indistinguishable from how they were in the previous cycle.

They say that Socrates will be there again along with Plato and each of the people with them and their friends, and their fellow citizens. They will experience the same things, do the same things, and try their hand at the same things; and every city, village, and field will be the same. This re-creation of everything happens not once but often

In the boundless space, the things turn out the same without this completion. The gods, because they do not submit to that destruction and have become away from just one cycle, know everything that is going to happen in subsequent eras from a single turn. There’s nothing different in what happens from before but everything is indistinguishable down to the smallest detail.”

 

οἱ δὲ Στωϊκοί φασιν ἀποκαθισταμένους τοὺς πλανήτας εἰς τὸ αὐτὸ σημεῖον κατά τε μῆκος καὶ πλάτος ἔνθα τὴν ἀρχὴν ἕκαστος ἦν ὅτε τὸ πρῶτον ὁ κόσμος συνέστη, ἐν ῥηταῖς χρόνων περιόδοις ἐκπύρωσιν καὶ φθορὰν τῶν ὄντων ἀπεργάζεσθαι, καὶ πάλιν ἐξ ὑπαρχῆς εἰς τὸ αὐτὸ τὸν κόσμον ἀποκαθίστασθαι, καὶ τῶν ἀστέρων ὁμοίως πάλιν φερομένων ἕκαστα τῶν ἐν τῇ προτέρᾳ περιόδῳ γενομένων ἀπαραλλάκτως ἀποτελεῖσθαι.

ἔσεσθαι γὰρ πάλιν Σωκράτην καὶ Πλάτωνα καὶ ἕκαστον τῶν ἀνθρώπων σὺν τοῖς αὐτοῖς καὶ φίλοις καὶ πολίταις, καὶ τὰ αὐτὰ πείσεσθαι, καὶ τοῖς αὐτοῖς συντεύξεσθαι καὶ τὰ αὐτὰ μεταχειριεῖσθαι, καὶ πᾶσαν πόλιν καὶ κώμην καὶ ἀγρὸν ὁμοίως ἀποκαθίστασθαι· γίνεσθαι δὲ τὴν ἀποκατάστασιν τοῦ παντὸς οὐχ ἅπαξ ἀλλὰ πολλάκις·

μᾶλλον δὲ εἰς ἄπειρον, καὶ ἀτελευτήτως τὰ αὐτὰ ἀποκαθίστασθαι· τοὺς δὲ θεοὺς τοὺς μὴ ὑποκειμένους τῇ φθορᾷ ταύτῃ, παρακολουθήσαντας μιᾷ περιόδῳ γινώσκειν ἐκ ταύ- πάντα τὰ μέλλοντα ἔσεσθαι ἐν ταῖς ἑξῆς περιόδοις·  οὐδὲν γὰρ ξένον ἔσεσθαι παρὰ τὰ γενόμενα πρότερον, ἀλλὰ πάντα ὡσαύτως ἀπαραλλάκτως ἄχρι καὶ τῶν ἐλαχίστων.

or

Even Gods Need Vacations

Cicero Academica (Lucullus) 121

“You deny that anything is possible without god. Look, here Strato from Lampascus interrupts to grant immunity to that god of yours, however big the task. And, since the gods’ priests get a vacation, it is so much fairer that the gods do too!

Anyway, Strato denies that he needs to use divine actions to create the universe: whatever exists—he teaches—comes from natural causes. He does not, however, follow the one who argues that [the world] was put together out of rough and smooth, hook-shaped or crooked atoms separated by void. He believes that these are dreams of Democritus not as he teaches but as he imagines things. Strato himself, as he outlines the components of the universe in order, insists that whatever is or develops emerges from or was made by natural means, through gravity and motion.

Thus he frees the god of great labor and me of fear. For, once they imagine that some deity is worrying about them, who wouldn’t shudder at divine power day and night and, when anything bad happens—for who avoids such things?—wouldn’t fear that it happened because of some negative judgment? Still, I don’t agree with Strato nor, to be honest, with you. Sometimes his idea seems more likely, at other times yours does.”

 

[121] Negas sine deo posse quicquam: ecce tibi e transverso Lampsacenus Strato, qui det isti deo inmunitatem — magni quidem muneris; sed cum sacerdotes deorum vacationem habeant, quanto est aequius habere ipsos deos —: negat  opera deorum se uti ad fabricandum mundum, quaecumque sint docet omnia effecta esse natura, nec ut ille qui asperis et levibus et hamatis uncinatisque corporibus concreta haec esse dicat interiecto inani: somnia censet haec esse Democriti non docentis sed optantis, ipse autem singulas mundi partes persequens quidquid aut sit aut fiat naturalibus fieri aut factum esse docet ponderibus et motibus. ne ille et deum opere magno liberat et me timore. quis enim potest, cum existimet curari se a deo, non et dies et noctes divinum numen horrere et si quid adversi acciderit, quod cui non accidit, extimescere ne id iure evenerit? nee Stratoni tamen adsentior nec vero tibi; modo hoc modo illud probabilius videtur.’

The Creation of Adam, Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel (Vatican City) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Creaci%C3%B3n_de_Ad%C3%A1n.jpg

Feeling Sad? Just Think of All the Famous Dead People

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.47

“Always keep in mind that all sorts of people from all kinds of occupations and from every country on earth have died. And take this thought to Philistion and Phoibos and Origanion. Turn to the rest of the peoples on earth too.

We have to cross over to the same place where all those clever speakers and so many serious philosophers have gone—Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Socrates—and where those great heroes of old, the brave generals and tyrants have gone too. Among them are Eudoxos, Hipparchus, Archimedes,  and other sharp natures, big minds, tireless men, bold men, and those who mock the temporary and disposable nature of life itself, like Menippus and the rest.

Think about all these people, that they have been dead for a long time. Why is this terrible for them? Why worry about those who are no longer named? This one thing is worth much: to keep on living with truth and justice and in good will even among liars and unjust men.”

Ἐννόει συνεχῶς παντοίους ἀνθρώπους καὶ παντοίων μὲν ἐπιτηδευμάτων, παντοδαπῶν δὲ ἐθνῶν, τεθνεῶτας· ὥστε κατιέναι τοῦτο μέχρι Φιλιστίωνος καὶ Φοίβου καὶ Ὀριγανίωνος. μέτιθι νῦν ἐπὶ τὰ ἄλλα φῦλα. ἐκεῖ δὴ μεταβαλεῖν ἡμᾶς δεῖ, ὅπου τοσοῦτοι μὲν δεινοὶ ῥήτορες, τοσοῦτοι δὲ σεμνοὶ φιλόσοφοι, Ἡράκλειτος, Πυθαγόρας, Σωκράτης· τοσοῦτοι δὲ ἥρωες πρότερον, τοσοῦτοι δὲ ὕστερον στρατηγοί, τύραννοι· ἐπὶ τούτοις δὲ Εὔδοξος, Ἵππαρχος, Ἀρχιμήδης, ἄλλαι φύσεις ὀξεῖαι, μεγαλόφρονες, φιλόπονοι, πανοῦργοι, αὐθάδεις, αὐτῆς τῆς ἐπικήρου καὶ ἐφημέρου τῶν ἀνθρώπων ζωῆς χλευασταί, οἶον Μένιππος καὶ ὅσοι τοιοῦτοι. περὶ πάντων τούτων ἐννόει, ὅτι πάλαι κεῖνται. τί οὖν τοῦτο δεινὸν αὐτοῖς; τί δαὶ τοῖς μηδ᾿ ὀνομαζομένοις ὅλως; Ἓν ὧδε πολλοῦ ἄξιον, τὸ μετ᾿ ἀληθείας καὶ δικαιοσύνης εὐμενῆ τοῖς ψεύσταις καὶ ἀδίκοις διαβιοῦν.

File:David - The Death of Socrates.jpg

Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Socrates 1787

Chance, Virtue, and Evil Deeds

Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy 4 145-155

“It does often turn out that the conduct of the most important affairs is entrusted to good people, that overwhelming corruption may be restrained. Chance apportions a proper mix of bad and good luck to some people based on the quality of their souls so they don’t exult in excess thanks to prolonged happiness. It lets other people suffer more, so that their minds’ virtues gain strength from the use and habit of patience.

Some people fear more than they need to about how much they can take while others are not serious enough about what they cannot. No few purchase a name the world honors at the price of a glorious death; others provide in their tortures an example to the rest of human kind that virtue cannot be conquered by evil deeds.”

Fit autem saepe, uti bonis summa rerum regenda deferatur, ut exuberans retundatur improbitas. Aliis mixta quaedam pro animorum qualitate distribuit; quosdam remordet ne longa felicitate luxurient, alios duris agitari ut virtutes animi patientiae usu atque exercitatione confirment. Alii plus aequo metuunt quod ferre possunt, alii plus aequo despiciunt quod ferre non possunt; hos in experimentum sui tristibus ducit. Nonnulli venerandum saeculi nomen gloriosae pretio mortis emerunt: quidam suppliciis inexpugnabiles exemplum ceteris praetulerunt invictam malis

Boethius Imprisoned

Being Good: Action Trumps Intent

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1105

“Knowledge has little or no impact on [acquiring virtues] while the other conditions are not of limited importance but are critical since virtue emerges from doing just and wise things. So, acts are called just and wise when there are the sorts of thing which a just or wise person might do but the just and wise person is not the one who does these things but who does them as wise and just people do.

So, it is well said that a person becomes just and wise from doing just and wise acts and that no one could become good without doing them. But the majority of people don’t do these things, instead they take refuge in talk, thinking that this is philosophy and that they will become good people in this way. They act like injured people who listen carefully to doctors but then do nothing of what they’re told to do.”

πρὸς δὲ τὸ τὰς ἀρετὰς τὸ μὲν εἰδέναι μικρὸν ἢ οὐδὲν ἰσχύει, τὰ δ᾿ ἄλλα οὐ μικρὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ πᾶν δύναται, εἴπερ ἐκ τοῦ πολλάκις πράττειν τὰ δίκαια καὶ σώφρονα περιγίνεται. τὰ μὲν οὖν πράγματα δίκαια καὶ σώφρονα λέγεται, ὅταν ᾖ τοιαῦτα οἷα ἂν ὁ δίκαιος ἢ ὁ σώφρων πράξειεν· δίκαιος δὲ καὶ σώφρων ἐστὶν οὐχ ὁ ταῦτα πράττων, ἀλλὰ καὶ [ὁ]1 οὕτω πράττων ὡς οἱ δίκαιοι καὶ οἱ σώφρονες πράττουσιν. εὖ οὖν λέγεται ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ τὰ δίκαια πράττειν ὁ δίκαιος γίνεται καὶ ἐκ τοῦ τὰ σώφρονα ὁ σώφρων· ἐκ δὲ τοῦ μὴ πράττειν ταῦτα 6οὐδεὶς ἂν οὐδὲ μελλήσειε γίνεσθαι ἀγαθός. ἀλλ᾿ οἱ πολλοὶ ταῦτα μὲν οὐ πράττουσιν, ἐπὶ δὲ τὸν λόγον καταφεύγοντες οἴονται φιλοσοφεῖν καὶ οὕτως ἔσεσθαι σπουδαῖοι, ὅμοιόν τι ποιοῦντες τοῖς κάμνουσιν, οἳ τῶν ἰατρῶν ἀκούουσι μὲν ἐπιμελῶς, ποιοῦσι δ᾿ οὐθὲν τῶν προσταττομένων.

From wikimedia commons

May Our Lives Be Luckier Than These! Reading Euripides’ “Phoenician Women” Online

Euripides, Phoenician Women 1582-1583 (Full text on the Scaife Viewer)

“Today has begun many troubles for Oedipus’ house.
May our lives be luckier!”

πολλῶν κακῶν κατῆρξεν Οἰδίπου δόμοις
τόδ᾿ ἦμαρ· εἴη δ᾿ εὐτυχέστερος βίος.

Euripides, Phoenician Women 504

“Would you rather be a tyrant or save your country?”

πότερα τυραννεῖν ἢ πόλιν σῶσαι θέλεις,

 

Euripides, Phoenician Women 357-360

“Mother, I have come with good intentions among enemy men
Even though it is a bad plan. Still, everyone loves their country
By necessity. Anyone who claims otherwise is just playing with words—
Keeping their true thought deep inside.”

μῆτερ, φρονῶν εὖ κοὐ φρονῶν ἀφικόμην
ἐχθροὺς ἐς ἄνδρας· ἀλλ᾿ ἀναγκαίως ἔχει
πατρίδος ἐρᾶν ἅπαντας· ὃς δ᾿ ἄλλως λέγει,
λόγοισι χαίρει, τὸν δὲ νοῦν ἐκεῖσ᾿ ἔχει.

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, Phoenician Women 429-439

“What is it like to lose your country? Is it a great evil?”
τί τὸ στέρεσθαι πατρίδος; ἦ κακὸν μέγα;

Euripides, Phoenician Women 439-440

“People value money most of all:
It has the greatest power of everything humans possess.”

τὰ χρήματ᾿ ἀνθρώποισι τιμιώτατα
δύναμίν τε πλείστην τῶν ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἔχει.

Scenes (Cecelia Luschnig’s Translation)

216-637:  Polynices, Eteocles, Jocasta, Chorus
833-1018: Creon, Tiresias, Menoeceus, Chorus
1356-1477: Messenger
1584-1724: Creon, Oedipus, Antigone
 

Euripides, Phoenician Women 460-464

“I want to offer some bit of wisdom to you:
Whenever a friend is angry with a friend
And comes together to look them in the eyes,
One must examine on those things they are discussing
And make no reminder of troubles they had before.”

παραινέσαι δὲ σφῷν τι βούλομαι σοφόν·
ὅταν φίλος τις ἀνδρὶ θυμωθεὶς φίλῳ
ἐς ἓν συνελθὼν ὄμματ᾿ ὄμμασιν διδῷ,
ἐφ᾿ οἷσιν ἥκει, ταῦτα χρὴ μόνον σκοπεῖν,
κακῶν δὲ τῶν πρὶν μηδενὸς μνείαν ἔχειν.

Actors
 
Tamieka Chavis – Jocasta/Tiresias
Tabatha Gayle – Antigone/Eteocles
Richard Klautsch – Creon
Sara Valentine – Menoeceus/Messenger
Noree Victoria – Chorus
Argyris Xafis – Polynices/Oedipus
 

Special Guest: Anna Lamari

Euripides, Phoenician Women 469-472

“The story of truth is simple.
It does not require sophisticated interpretations.
Its very character is the occasion! But unjust speech
Is sick and needs clever medicines to work.”

ἁπλοῦς ὁ μῦθος τῆς ἀληθείας ἔφυ,
κοὐ ποικίλων δεῖ τἄνδιχ᾿ ἑρμηνευμάτων·
ἔχει γὰρ αὐτὰ καιρόν· ὁ δ᾿ ἄδικος λόγος
νοσῶν ἐν αὑτῷ φαρμάκων δεῖται σοφῶν.

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)

Upcoming Episodes

Performing Epic 1, Homer’s Iliad, October 7th

Euripides, Rhesus, October 14th

Aeschylus, Agamemnon, October 21

Euripides, Phoenician Women 889-890

“Since the wicked part is stronger than the good,
There is one other strategy for salvation.”

ἐπεὶ δὲ κρεῖσσον τὸ κακόν ἐστι τἀγαθοῦ,
μί᾿ ἔστιν ἄλλη μηχανὴ σωτηρίας.

For earlier performances see the project home page or the full playlist on YouTube.

Euripides, Phoenician Women 1013-1014/b>

“I am leaving. By giving the unshameful gift of my death
To the state, I will free this land of disease.”

στείχω δέ, θανάτου δῶρον οὐκ αἰσχρὸν πόλει
δώσων, νόσου δὲ τήνδ᾿ ἀπαλλάξω χθόνα.

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