A Kharak-ter from Pergamon

Suda, s.v. Kharaks

Kharaks, from Pergamon, a priest and a philosopher. In an old book I found an epigram that goes like this:

“I am Kharaks, a priest from the ancient citadel of Pergamon
where Telephos, the blameless son of blameless Herakles,
once warred with city-sacking Achilles”.

Kharaks is the most recent of those poets after Augustus by far. Or, at least he makes mention of Augustus, who at that point was already Caesar for a long time in his second book. And in is seventh, he talks about Nero and those who ruled after him. He composed a Hellenika and Histories of forty books.”

Χάραξ Περγαμηνός, ἱερεὺς καὶ φιλόσοφος, ὡς εὗρον ἐν ἀρχαίωι βιβλίωι ἐπίγραμμα οὔτως ἔχον·

εἰμὶ Χάραξ ἱερεὺς γεραρῆς ἀπὸ Περγάμου ἄκρης,
ἔνθα ποτὲ πτολέμιξεν ᾽Αχιλλῆι πτολιπόρθωι Τήλεφος,
῾Ηρακλῆος ἀμύμονος υἱὸς ἀμύμων…

ἔστι δὲ τῶν μετὰ Αὔγουστον πολλῶι νεώτερος· μέμνηται γοῦν ἐν τῶι β̄ τῶν βιβλίων Αὐγούστου ὡς πάλαι γενομένου Καίσαρος, καὶ ἐν τῶι ζ̄ Νέρωνος καὶ τῶν μετ᾽ αὐτὸν βασιλευσάντων. ἔγραψεν ῾Ελληνικῶν τε καὶ ** ῾Ιστοριῶν βιβλία μ̄..

Acropolis - Bergama (Pergamon) - Turkey - 04 (5747168893).jpg
From Wikimedia Commons, Acropolis of Pergamon By Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada04, CC BY-SA 2.0, 

Prometheus, Philosopher King and the Invention of Marriage

Suda Pi 2506

“Prometheus: Know that during the period of the Judean Judges, Prometheus was known among the Greeks as the one who invented academic philosophy. People say that he crafted human beings because he rendered those who were idiots capable of understanding philosophy.

And there was also Epimetheus, who invented the art of music and, in addition, Atlas, who first interpreted astronomy which is why they claim he “holds up the sky”. There is also Argos of many eyes because he was seen by many people, when he was really the one who first established technical knowledge. Then there was also a prophetess named the Sibyl.

When Pharaoh, who is also called Parakhô, was king in Egypt, then Kekrops was king in Athens among the Greeks. He was called Diphyes [“double-formed”] due to the size or because he established a law that women who were still virgins should be given in marriage to a single man, after he named them brides. Previously women of the land had sex like animals. For a woman was no man’s, but gave herself like a prostitute to anyone.  No one knew whose son or daughter a child was—instead the mother used to claim and give the child to which ever man it seemed best to her to claim.

Kekrops did this because he came from Egypt and was ignorant of the law which Hephaestus had made when he ruled there before. For he claimed that it was because of this sinful intercourse that Athens was destroyed by the flood. After that point, the people who lived in Greece lived more prudently. Kekrops ruled for 40 years.”

Προμηθεύς· ὅτι ἐπὶ τῶν Κριτῶν τῶν ᾿Ιουδαίων παρ’ ῞Ελλησιν ἐγνωρίζετο Προμηθεύς, ὃς εὗρε πρῶτος τὴν γραμματικὴν φιλοσοφίαν. περὶ οὗ λέγουσιν, ὅτι ἀνθρώπους ἔπλασε, καθό τινας ἰδιώτας ὄντας ἐποίησεν ἐπιγινώσκειν σοφίαν. καὶ ᾿Επιμηθεύς, ὃς ἐξεῦρε τὴν μουσικήν· καὶ ῎Ατλας, ὃς τὴν ἀστρονομίαν ἡρμήνευσε· διὸ λέγουσιν, ὅτι τὸν οὐρανὸν βαστάζει. καὶ ὁ πολυόμματος ῎Αργος, διὸ περίβλεπτος ἦν, καθότι τὴν τεχνικὴν ἐπιστήμην αὐτὸς ἐπενόησε πρῶτος. ἦν δὲ τότε

καὶ μάντις Σιβύλλα. βασιλεύοντος παρ’ Αἰγυπτίοις Φαραὼ τοῦ καὶ Παραχώ, παρ’ ῞Ελλησιν ἐν ᾿Αθήναις ἐβασίλευε Κέκροψ, ὃς ἐκλήθη Διφυὴς διὰ τὸ τοῦ σώματος μέγεθος, ἢ ὅτι νόμον ἐξέθετο, ὥστε τὰς γυναῖκας παρθένους ἔτι οὔσας ἑνὶ ἐκδίδοσθαι ἀνδρί, καλέσας αὐτὰς νύμφας· πρότερον γὰρ αἱ τῆς χώρας ἐκείνης γυναῖκες θηριώδη μίξιν ἐμίγνυντο· οὐδενὸς γὰρ ἦν γυνή, ἀλλὰ ἐδίδου ἑαυτὴν εἰς πορνείαν ἑκάστῳ. οὐδεὶς οὖν ᾔδει, τίνος ἦν υἱὸς ἢ θυγάτηρ, ἀλλ’ ὡς ἂν ἔδοξε

τῇ μητρί, ἔλεγε καὶ ἐδίδου τὸ τεχθὲν ᾧ ἐβούλετο ἀνδρί. τοῦτο δὲ ἐποίησεν ὁ Κέκροψ, ὡς ἐξ Αἰγύπτου καταγόμενος καὶ τὴν νομοθεσίαν ῾Ηφαίστου τοῦ βασιλεύσαντος ἐκεῖ οὐκ ἀγνοήσας. ἔλεγε γάρ, ὅτι διὰ τὴν τοιαύτην τῆς ἀσελγείας συνήθειαν κατεκλύσθη ἡ ᾿Αττική. ἀπὸ τότε οὖν ἐσωφρονίσθησαν οἱ κατοικοῦντες τὴν τῶν ῾Ελλήνων χώραν. ἐβασίλευσε δὲ Κέκροψ ἔτη ν′.

Related image
Black Figure vase with Promethus, from Pinterest

Tawdry Tuesday: Proctological Proverb Edition

Arsenius, 34a1

“May you fall into Hades’ asshole”: [a curse]: may you die.

῞Αιδου πρωκτῷ περιπέσῃς: ἤγουν τελευτήσῃς.

Note: Even though Ancient Greek prôktos can merely mean “rear end” (as in butt), it most often means ‘anus’ in comedy and insults. Also, I wanted to use something profane and given the British/American divide on arse/ass, I decided just to go with “asshole” because it is funnier. In addition, I know that dative + peri for in the first example is not properly fall into, but “fall around, trace around, linger in” does not have the same ‘punch’.

Diogenianus (v.1 e cod. Marz. 2.42)

“I wish you’d fall into Hades’ asshole”: this is clear

῞Αιδου πρωκτῷ περιπέσοις: δῆλον.

Diogenianus (v.2 e cod. Vindob. 133, 1.97 )

“I wish you’d fall into Hades’ asshole”: Used for cursing someone

Αἵδου πρωκτῷ περιπέσοις: ἐπὶ τῶν καταρωμένων τινί.

Diogenianus, 3.58

“The asshole survives the bath” [or, “Ass surpasses the bath”]. Whenever someone is not able to wash himself, but his bowels still assail him. This is a proverb used for things done uselessly.

Πρωκτὸς λουτροῦ περιγίνεται: ὅταν τις μὴ δύνηται ἀπονίψασθαι, ἀλλ’ ἡ κοιλία αὐτῷ ἐπιφέρηται. λέγεται ἡ παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνωφελῶς πραττομένων.

Michael Apostolius, 14.78

“The asshole survives the bath”: This proverb is used for things done uselessly and done for show. For people with thick asses and potbellies are not able to wash themselves off easily.”

Πρωκτὸς λουτροῦ περιγίνεται: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνωφελῶν καὶ εἰκῇ πραττομένων ἐλέγετο· οἱ γὰρ παχύπρωκτοι καὶ προγάστορες οὐ δύνανται ἑαυτοὺς ἀπονίψασθαι εὐπετῶς.

Zenobius, Vulg. 1.52

“It was cured by Akesias”: this is a proverb for when things are healed for the worse. Aristophanes provides the proverb in tetrameters: “Akesias healed his asshole.”

Ἀκεσίας ἰάσατο· ἐπὶ τῶν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον ἰωμένων. ὅλην δὲ Ἀριστοφάνης ἐν τετραμέτροις τὴν παροιμίαν ἐκφέρει, λέγων· Ἀκεσίας τὸν πρωκτὸν ἰάσατο.

Suda, s.v. Ἀφευθεὶς

“Singed around the asshole:” Aristophanes has this instead of being “all burned up”

Ἀφευθεὶς τὸν πρωκτόν: Ἀριστοφάνης ἀντὶ τοῦ φλογισθείς.

Balneum Tripergulae – particolare da miniatura del Codice Angelico del “De Balneis Puteolanis� di Pietro da Eboli.

Bonus: Suda on defecation (And there is more of this)

Apopatêma: this is the same as ‘dung’ Eupolis has in his Golden Age: “What is that man? Shit of a fox.” And Kratinus has in Runaway Slaves: I knocked Kerkyon out at dawn when I found him shitting in the vegetables.” We also find the participle apopatêsomenoi (“they are about to shit”) which means they are going to evacuate the feces from their bodies. But patos also means path.

Aristophanes writes “No one sacrifices the old way any more or even enters the temple except for the more than ten thousand who want to shit. So, apopatos is really the voiding of the bowels. Aristophanes also says about Kleonymous: “He went off to shit after he got he army and shat for ten months in the golden mountains? For how long was he closing his asshole? A whole turn of the moon?”

Ἀποπάτημα: αὐτὸ τὸ σκύβαλον. Εὔπολις Χρυσῷ γένει: τί γάρ ἐστ’ ἐκεῖνος; ἀποπάτημ’ ἀλώπεκος. Κρατῖνος Δραπέτισι: τὸν Κερκύονά τε ἕωθεν ἀποπατοῦντ’ ἐπὶ τοῖς λαχάνοις εὑρὼν ἀπέπνιξα. καὶ Ἀποπατησόμενοι, τὴν κόπρον κενώσοντες. πάτος δὲ ἡ ὁδός. Ἀριστοφάνης: οὐδεὶς θύει τοπαράπαν οὐδ’ εἰσέρχεται, πλὴν ἀποπατησόμενοί γε πλεῖν ἢ μύριοι. Ἀπόπατος γὰρ ἡ κένωσις τῆς γαστρός. καὶ Ἀριστοφάνης περὶ Κλεωνύμου φησίν: εἰς ἀπόπατον ᾤχετο στρατιὰν λαβὼν κἄχεζεν ὀκτὼ μῆνας ἐπὶ χρυσῶν ὄρων. πόσου δὲ τὸν πρωκτὸν χρόνου ξυνήγαγε; τῇ πανσελήνῳ.

From Henderson’s Maculate Muse


Eubulus, fr. 106

“This is an asshole and you are always full of nonsense.
For the asshole is tongueless and chatty at the same time.

(A.) πρωκτὸς μὲν οὖν οὗτός <γε>· σὺ δὲ ληρεῖς ἔχων.
οὗτος γὰρ αὑτός ἐστιν ἄγλωττος λάλος,

Breakfast of Champions (NSFW)?

This is probably not safe for work.

Aristophanes, Wealth 295

“You’re following with your dicks out; and you will eat breakfast [like] goats”

ἕπεσθ’ ἀπεψωλημένοι· τράγοι δ’ ἀκρατιεῖσθε.

From the Suda

“You will breakfast”: Aristophanes in Wealth has “You will breakfast like goats”. This means you will breakfast with an exposed penis: you will do wild things like goats, since after sex, goats lick the penis. [So this means] you will lick the end of a dick like a goat.”

Ἀκρατιεῖσθε: Ἀριστοφάνης Πλούτῳ: τράγοι δ’ ἀκρατιεῖσθε. τουτέστιν ἀπεψωλημένοι ἀκρατιεῖσθε: ἀντὶ τοῦ ὡς τράγοι ἀκρατῆ πράξετε, ἐπεὶ μετὰ τὴν συνουσίαν οἱ τράγοι λείχουσι τὸ αἰδοῖον. τὸ ἄκρον λείξετε ὡς τράγοι.

The scholia to this passage have a few different interpretations:
Scholia ad. Arist. Plut.

“[They used to thing it means] “You are licking your balls like goats”. Clearly, this means: you are licking genitals.”

ἤγουν δίκην τράγων τοὺς ὄρχεις λείχετε. P. λείχετε τὰ αἰδοῖα δηλονότι. Br.

Scholia recentiora Tzetzae

“akratieisthe” stands in for “you would eat”. For akratismos means eating first thing in the morning. Or, “you will do wild things”, since after intercourse, goats lick their own genitals.”

τὸ δ’ “ἀκρατιεῖσθε” ἀντὶ τοῦ “φάγοιτε”· ἀκρατισμὸς γὰρ λέγεται τὸ πρωϊνὸν φαγεῖν. ἢ “ἀκρατῆ πράσσετε”, ἐπειδὴ μετὰ συνουσίαν οἱ τράγοι λείχουσι τὰ αἰδοῖα ἑαυτῶν.

Image result for Ancient Greek goat

Scholarship and Superfluous Detail

Ah, pedantry. I may have had some thoughts about it….

Artemon of Pergamon (New Jacoby: BNJ 569 F 3 [=Schol. on Pind., Pyth. 1, inscr. a])

“Golden Lyre”: The poem has been written for Hieron; Pindar allegedly said this according to the historian Artemon because Hieron promised him a golden lyre. But these kinds of things are full of superfluous detail”

Χρυσέα φόρμιγξ] γέγραπται μὲν ὁ ἐπίνικος ῾Ιέρωνι, λέγεται δὲ ὁ Πίνδαρος οὕτως ἐπιβεβλῆσθαι κατὰ ᾽Αρτέμωνα τὸν ἱστορικόν, ὅτι δὴ αὐτῶι ὁ ῾Ιέρων χρυσῆν ὑπέσχετο κιθάραν . τὰ δὲ τοιαῦτα περιεργίας πεπλήρωται.

From LSJ 1902

περιεργαζόμαι, “to take more pains than enough about a thing, to waste one’s labor” 2. “to be a busybody”

περιεργία: “over-exactness” II. “officiousness” III. “curious arts”

περίεργος: “careful overmuch” II. “done with especial care”; “overwrought, too elaborate, superfluous”

περιεργοπένητες: “poor scholars”

Suda, Kappa 504

Kataglôttismata: “tonguing-down”: all sorts of kisses. Fabrications. All kinds of massages with sweet oils. Also, superfluous words. Or the “tonguing-down” is a rather excessive kiss. Or, it is flattery”

Καταγλωττίσματα: περίεργα φιλήματα. καταπλάσματα, παντοῖαι μυραλοιφίαι, ἢ περιλαλήματα. ἢ εἶδος φιλήματος περιεργότερον τὸ καταγλώττισμα: ἢ κολάκευμα.

Breviary of Renaud de Bar, France, 1302-1303: http://www.lazerhorse.org/2015/05/17/medieval-art-weird-manuscript/

A Mother’s Day Reminder: We Have Two Ears, but one Mouth

In honor of mother’s day and missed parents everywhere, a repost inspired by Paul’s Mom. 

“To a youth talking nonsense, he said “We have two ears, but one mouth so that we may hear more but speak less.”

πρὸς τὸ φλυαροῦν μειράκιον, “διὰ τοῦτο,” εἶπε, “δύο ὦτα ἔχομεν, στόμα δὲ ἕν, ἵνα πλείονα μὲν ἀκούωμεν, ἥττονα δὲ λέγωμεν.”

A few years ago now I noticed the Paul Holdengraber‘s 7-word autobiography from brainpickings.org.: “Mother always said: Two Ears, One mouth.” The phrase bounced around in my head a bit–it has that aphoristic perfection of brevity and familiarity. So, I reached out to Paul over twitter and told him it sounded like something from a Greek philosopher like Heraclitus.

Proverbs have a special place in language and society cross-culturally–they strike a promise of insight that demands  contemplation or explanation. They also have an air of authority and antiquity, even when they actually possess neither. And, unlike longer, less anonymized forms of language, they are repeated, borrowed, and stolen without end.

My late father was a great aphorist–perhaps missing him is part of why Paul’s tweet stuck with me. Most of my father’s words, however, were far more Archie Bunker than Aristotle. Those I can repeat were likely taken from his own father, a Master Sargent in WW2 who died a decade before I was born. The tendency to inherit and pass down proverbs is something I only really noticed when I had children and found myself ‘quoting’ (or becoming?) my father (“if you take care of your equipment it will take care of you”) or my grandmother (cribbing Oscar Wilde: “Only boring people get bored”).

So, when Paul thought it would be a gas if we actually translated his mother’s words into ancient Greek (and eventually Latin), I was ready. I got help from some great Classicists too. We came up with a few versions.

First, I went with classical rhetoric, a close antithesis: μήτηρ ἀεὶ ἔφη ὦτα μὲν δύο, ἕν δὲ στόμα. But our friend the Fantastic Festus argued that Heraclitus or Hesiod would not use use μὲν and δὲ so, so he suggested losing them for something like this:

μήτηρ ἀεὶ ἔφη ὦτα δύο, ἕν στόμα [“mother always used to say two ears, one mouth”]

This gave us Paul’s mother’s advice in seven Greek words and his mother’s advice. But this didn’t get us out of trouble. The critic, author and Classicist Daniel Mendelsohn suggested hexameters and from across the Atlantic the extraordinary Armand D’Angour obliged with a composition of his own:

ῥᾴδιόν ἐστι Λόγον τε νοεῖν ξυνετόν τε ποιῆσαι·
τοῦτο γάρ ἐστι βροτῶν, ἓν στόμα τ᾽, ὦτα δύο.

[Literally, this is “it is easy to know the Logos and make it understood: Mortals have this [character]: one mouth and two ears” Go to the full post for all the compositional glory and an appearance from Salman Rushdie].

At this point, I felt like I had entertained myself on a Saturday morning, involved my internet friends in a silly, though somewhat academic caper, and done a favor for a new friend to please the spirits of parents no longer with us. But the world wide web had a a plot twist I should have thought of.

Ancient Greek and Roman authors and scholars loved proverbs. Writers like Zenobius and Photius made collections and interpretations of them. The Byzantine Encyclopedia, the Suda, uses the word for proverb (in Greek paroimia) over 600 times and presents nearly as many distinct proverbs. (Many of which are wonderful.) And in the modern world, we have an entire academic field dedicated to the study of proverbial sayings: paroemiology. Let me tell you, we could have used en expert last fall.

While we were playing around with translations, one of our ‘players’, the grand Gerrit Kloss, let us know we were, to use a proverbial saying, reinventing the wheel. Zeno, the Cynic philosopher, was credited with this saying over two thousand years ago:

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Cheesy Positions: The Shameful Lioness on a Kitchen Knife

Suda, Tau 1197

“Turoknêstis: a cheesegrater. A type of knife. There is also a proverb: “I will not position myself like a lioness on a cheese-grater”* This means “in the way a lioness would”, and it is a shameful and whorish sexual position.

A cheese-grater is a knife. On the hilts of some kitchen knives lionesses used to be carved out of ivory, in a squatting position, so that their feet might not be broken off as they might be if they were made standing up. So, the speaker is saying I will not position myself like a prostitute awaiting a man, the way a lioness is positioned on a cheese-grater.”

Τυρόκνηστις: ἡ μάχαιρα. καὶ παροιμία: οὐ στήσομαι λέαιν’ ἐπὶ τυροκνήστιδος. ἀντὶ τοῦ ὡς λέαινα. σχῆμα δέ ἐστιν ἀκόλαστον καὶ ἑταιρικόν. τυρόκνηστις δὲ ἡ μάχαιρα. ἐπὶ δὲ ταῖς λαβαῖς τῶν μαχαιρῶν ἐλέφαντες λέοντες ἐγλύφοντο ὀκλάζοντες, ὅπως μὴ ἀποθραύοιντο αὐτῶν οἱ πόδες, εἰ ὀρθοὶ ἑστῶτες γλύφοιντο. λέγει οὖν ὅτι οὐκ ἐπ’ ἀνδρὶ στήσομαι πορνεύουσα, ὡς λέαινα ἐπὶ τυροκνήστιδος.

*Aristophanes, Lysistrata 231


From Henderson, The Maculate Muse

bent over 1

bent over 2

Image result for lioness ready for sex