With the beginning of the Renaissance, the amazing strength and flexibility of Cicero’s style was recognized once more. It was copied by writers of Latin prose on almost every subject. For centuries the diplomacy of the European chanceries was carried on not only in the language, but in the precise vocabulary, and word order, and cadences of Cicero’s speeches. There was a long and fierce dispute between scholars who held that Cicero was an unchallengeable ‘authority’ and that no modern writer could use Latin words or constructions not found in his works, and those, more liberal, who pointed out that Latin was still a living language which modern authors could expand and alter to their own needs. Since this was a dispute about the use of the Latin language, it does not come within the scope of our book. But it was closely connected with another dispute which does.
Many writers in the vernacular languages felt that the ‘big bow-wow’ style of speaking and writing was bogus. All style is artificial, no doubt; but they held that prose should at least give the appearance of being natural. They therefore turned away from Cicero and most of the devices he had developed, and, as models for modem prose, picked Seneca and Tacitus. Some of them went farther back, to Demosthenes and Plato. The aim of them all was to be personal, to avoid formalism. On the models of Seneca’s moral essays and Tacitus’ histories — and, to a much smaller extent, Demosthenes’ plainer speeches and Plato’s quieter dialogues — they created the prose of most modem essays and character-sketches, the prose in which some great modem sermons have been written.
“Celsus Albinovanus: Hello! I hope this finds you well.
Muse, take this message to Nero’s friend and secretary,
Should he ask how I’m doing, tell him that even though I threatened
Many fine things, I don’t live rightly or pleasantly.
And this isn’t because hail ruined my vines or heat shrank my olives
Or because my flock is getting sick in a far-away field.
No, it’s that my mind is less well than any part of my body.
I don’t want to listen or learn about anything that relieves the disease.
I start fights with doctors; I fly into a rage with friends
Over why they want to get me out of this deadly funk.
I keep stalking what hurt me, I avoid anything I suspect will help.
I flit back and forth, wanting the Tibur in Rome and in Rome the Tibur.
After that, ask him if he’s well, how he and his stuff are,
How his standing is with the young man and his crew.
If he says “well”, first, rejoice! But then
Leave this reminder in his little ears:
“As you bear fortune, Celsus, we’ll bear you.”
Celso gaudere et bene rem gerere Albinovano
Musa rogata refer, comiti scribaeque Neronis.
si quaeret quid agam, dic multa et pulchra minantem
vivere nec recte nec suaviter; haud quia grando
contuderit vitis oleamque momorderit aestus,
nec quia longinquis armentum aegrotet in agris;
sed quia mente minus validus quam corpore toto
nil audire velim, nil discere, quod levet aegrum;
fidis offendar medicis, irascar amicis,
cur me funesto properent arcere veterno;
quae nocuere sequar, fugiam quae profore credam;
Romae Tibur amem ventosus, Tibure Romam.
Post haec, ut valeat, quo pacto rem gerat et se,
ut placeat iuveni percontare utque cohorti.
si dicet, “recte,” primum gaudere, subinde
praeceptum auriculis hoc instillare memento:
“ut tu fortunam, sic nos te, Celse, feremus.”
“A poppy is boiled and consumed for insomnia. The same water is used for the face. Poppies grow best in dry conditions where it does not often rain. When the heads themselves are boiled with the leaves, the juice is called meconium and is a lot less potent than opium.”
decoquitur et bibitur contra vigilias, eademque aqua fovent ora. optimum in siccis et ubi raro pluat. cum capita ipsa et folia decocuntur, sucus meconium vocatur multum opio ignavior.
Aristotle, Historia Animalium 587a 31
“[Newborns] also discharge excrement right away, pretty soon, or at least within the same day. This material is greater than one might expect from the size of the infant and the women call it “poppy-juice” [mêkonion]. Its color is similar to blood but very dark and like pitch. Later on, it is milk-like once the baby immediately eats from the breast. Before it comes out, the newborn does not cry, even if the birth is difficult and the head sticks out while the whole body is inside.”
“Remember that Socrates’ body was thought to be orderly and in control of wisdom for this reason too. When the Athenians were suffering a pandemic and some were dying and others were near death, Socrates was the only one who was not sick. What mind do we think shared space with such a body?”
“Do these practices merely make a refinement of the senses or establish power over the greatest and most amazing forces? You need to see what I mean from different things, not the least of which were done during that epidemic in Ephesus.
When the disease was in the shape of an old beggar, I saw it and once I saw it I tackled it. I did not stop the disease but instead I destroyed it. The one I prayed to is clear as day in the temple which I built in thanks. It was for Herakles the Defender, the one I chose as a helper—because he is wise and brave, he once cleansed Elis of a plague and wiped away the waves of filth which the earth released when Augeas was tyrant.”
The following sepulchral epigram is ascribed to Antiphilus of Byzantium. He appears to have been active in the 1st century AD. Nothing else is known about him.
Antiphilus 7.176 (Greek Anthology)
It’s not that I was denied burial
And was, as a consequence, left to rot.
But here I lie, on the wheat-bearing land,
A naked corpse.
I once received a fitting burial.
Since then though, the iron blades of a plow
Have, by some plowing-man’s hands, turned me up.
Stranger, who calls death the release from ills
When the grave was not my last misfortune?
Astuanassa: A handmaid of Helen, Menelaos’ wife. She first discovered positions for intercourse and wrote On Sexual Positions. Philainis and Elephantinê rivaled her in this later—they were women who danced out these sorts of wanton acts.
As is largely unsurprising from the perspective of Greek misogyny, excessive interest in sexual behavior is projected a female quality. Expertise beyond interest is made the province of female ‘professionals’ (slaves) who may act as scapegoats and marginal figures for the corruption of both men and women. There is a combination of such interest with an excessive emphasis on eating (and eating really well) in Athenaeus where the pleasures of the body are combined.
Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 8.335c
“Dear men, even though I have great admiration for Chrysippus as the leader of the Stoa, I praise him even more because he ranks Arkhestratos, well-known for his Science of Cooking along with Philainis who is credited with a licentious screed about sexual matters—even though the iambic poet of Samos, Aiskhriôn, claims that Polycrates the sophist started this slander of her when she was really quite chaste. The lines go like this:
“I, Philainis, circulated among men
Lie here thanks to great old age.
Don’t laugh, foolish sailor, as your trace the cape
Nor make me a target of mockery or insult
For, by Zeus and his sons in Hell
I was never a slut with men nor a public whore.
Polykrates, Athenian by birth,
A bit clever with words and with a nasty tongue,
Wrote what he wrote. I don’t know anything about it.”
But the most amazing Chrysippus combines in the fifth book of his On Goodness and Pleasure that both “the books of Philianis and the Gastronomiai of Arkhestratos and forces of erotic and sexual nature, and in the same way slave-girls who are expert at these kinds of movements and positions and who are engaged in their practice.” He adds that they learn this type of material completely and then thoroughly possess what has been written on these topics by Philainis and Arkhestratos and those who have written on similar topics. Similarly, in his seventh book, he says ‘As you cannot wholly learn the works of Philianis and Arkhestratos’ Gastronomia because they do have something to offer for living better.’ “
Earlier I posted a bit from Pausanias that discuses Penelope’s gravesite in Arcadia. It also mentions a Mantinean tradition that Penelope was expelled from Ithaca on a suspicion of infidelity. This story is in part reported by Apollodorus, (Ep. 7.38-39)
“Some say that Penelope was corrupted by Antinoos and that Odysseus sent her back to her father Ikarios. When she came to Mantinea in Arcadia she had Pan with Hermes. Others allege that she was killed by Odysseus because of Amphinomos, who seduced her. There are also those who say that Odysseus was charged by the relatives of those he had killed who took Neoptolemos as judge, then king of the islands near Epirus. He handed down a judgment of exile and Odysseus went to Thoas the son of Andraimôn who married him to his daughter. When he died from old age, he left a son Leontophonos.
The detail about Amphinomos might be drawn from a passage in the Odyssey where the narrative provides some insight into Penelope’s mind (16.394-398):
Amphinomos rose and spoke among them,
The dashing son of Nisos, the son of lord Arêtiades,
Who joined the suitors from grain-rich and grassy
Doulikhos. He was especially pleasing to Penelope
For he made good use of his brains.”
It is somewhat amusing to compare this to what Telemachus says earlier when he describes the suitors.
Homer, Odyssey 15.518-524
“But I will tell you of another man you might encounter,
Eurymakhos, the shining son of sharp-minded Polyboios,
Whom the Ithakans now look upon the way they would a god.
He is by far the best man remaining and the best
To marry my mother and receive my father’s geras.
But Zeus is the one who knows these things as he rules on high”
Whether or not he will bring about a deadly day for them before a marriage.”
What to make of this difference? Telemachus’ evaluation appears to be based on Eurymakhos’ standing among the Ithakans. Penelope seems to favor someone who is not Ithakan and whose traits are like her own and her absent husband.
Lykophron in his Alexandra takes the view that Penelope was not faithful (768-773)
“For he will come, he will come to the harbor shelter of Reithron
And the cliffs of Nêritos. And he will see
His whole house upturned from its foundations
By wife-stealing adulterers. And that vixen
Will hollow out his home with shameless whoring,
Pouring out the wretch’s fortune feast by feast”.
Lykophron is positively chaste compared to the account provided in the Scholia:
“And Douris writes in his work on the lewdness of Agathokleos that Penelope had sex with all of the suitors and then gave birth to the goat-shaped Pan whom they took up to be one of the gods. He is talking nonsense about Pan, for Pan is the child of Hermes and a different Penelope. Another story is that Pan is the child of Zeus and Hubris.”
Among the many poems of the Greek Anthology in which the male speaker is predictably and distastefully “masculine,” there are those in which his love for an unresponsive woman renders him foolish, or pathetic, in the eyes of the reader. The epigrams of Asclepiades offer two such examples. Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse is eloquent and insightful on the subject of waiting (possibly in vain) for the absent beloved. Perhaps Barthes’ words open up new ways of thinking about these epigrams:
“Historically, the discourse on absence is carried on by the Woman . . . It follows that in any man who utters the other’s absence something feminine is declared: this man who waits and who suffers from his waiting is miraculously feminized. A man is not feminized because he’s inverted but because he is in love.”
Lamp, you were there when Heracleia swore
Three times she would come, and she has not come.
Lamp, if you’re a god, take revenge on her:
When the deceitful woman is sporting
With a lover she has over, go out.
Give them no more light.
“Amorous absence always functions in a single direction, expressed by the one who stays, never by the one who leaves . . .To speak this absence is from the start to propose that the subject’s place and the other’s place cannot permute; it is to say ‘I am loved less than I love.’”
Night, I call you, and not another,
To witness how Nico’s Pythias,
A deceitful woman, mistreats me:
Summoned—not uninvited—I came.
When she’s suffered the same thing,
I hope she complains to you
While still standing at my door.
There was a good deal to be said for Mr. Floyd’s system, for, when I went to school, I found I was quicker than most boys in manipulating figures in simple arithmetic. He had also taught me to sit still and be silent on occasions, a rare accomplishment in a boy of ten. He taught me more than this. He had, I think, a genuine, if somewhat eccentric, passion for literature and he made one feel, even at that early age, that the books which we read with him— even Caesar’s De Bello Gallico— had something pleasurable in them, and were not merely instruments of educational torture. I have in my time been subjected, in the name of education, to so much mental torture, particularly the torture of the boredom of being taught by bored teachers, that I am grateful to Mr. Floyd for having made me dimly aware at the age of ten that lessons— things of the mind— could be exciting and even amusing.
“Bring joy, bring day of his returning”–W.H. Auden, the Wanderer
Callimachus 59 (Wilamowitz 58)
Who are you, shipwrecked wanderer?
Leonticus found your body,
Over there, on the shore,
And buried you here, in this grave.
He wept for his own death-doomed life,
For he himself is not at peace,
Roaming the waters as he does,
Like a seagull.