A Tranquil Life of Poverty and Seclusion

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship Vol. 1:

“Bernard of Chartres (d. c. 1126), William of Conches (d. 1154) and Adelard of Bath {fl. 1130) held a Platonism modified by Christianity, while they maintained the authority of Aristotle with regard to our knowledge of the world of sense.’ In comparison with the ancients, we stand (says Bernard, of himself and his contemporaries) like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants’. Bernard, ‘the most perfect Platonist of his age’, was a believer in the essential harmony of Plato and Aristotle. He looked on learning as the fruit of humble and patient research, pursued through a tranquil life of poverty and seclusion from public affairs’. The fame of his School of Classical Scholarship, and the story of his method, still live in the pages of John of Salisbury.”

Medea’s Magic Was Really a Spa Treatment

Yesterday we posted some varying accounts on Medea’s power over rejuvenation. Here’s another alternative account.

Palaephatus, On Unbelievable Things

Palaephatus was a Hellenistic mythographer who tried to rationalize archaic myths by attributing their fantastic aspects to exaggeration and linguistic confusion.

“People say that Medeia used to make old men young by boiling them, but she didn’t actually make anyone young. Whomever she boiled, she killed. Something like this did happen. Medeia was the first to introduce the use of a red and black flower. She used it to make old men change from gray to dark again: for she dyed their white hair and changed it to black and red. She [also] was the first to discover that a hot bath was useful for people. She used a hot bath to treat those who wanted it, but not out in the open—so that none of the doctors would learn about it—and after she gave them a bath, she made them swear not to tell anyone. The name [people gave] to this warm bath was “parboiling” [parepsêsis]. Because people who took warm baths felt lighter and healthier afterwards, those who saw her cauldron and fire, were convinced that she boiled men. But Pelias, who was an old and weak, died during his bath. This is where the myth comes from.”


῾Η Μήδεια φασὶ <μὲ>ν ὡς ἀφέψουσα τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους νέους ἐποίει, οὐδένα δὲ δείκνυται νέον ποιήσασα· ὃν δὲ ἥψησε πάντως ἀπέκτεινεν. ἐγένετο δέ τι τοιοῦτον. Μήδεια πρώτη ἐφεῦρεν ἄνθος τὸ πυρρὸν καὶ τὸ μέλαν. τοὺς οὖν γέροντας ἐκ πολιῶν μέλανας <καὶ πυρροὺς> ἐποίει φαίνεσθαι· βάπτουσα γὰρ αὐτοὺς τὰς λευκὰς τρίχας εἰς μελαίνας  καὶ πυρρὰς μετέβαλεν. *** πυρίαν πρώτη Μήδεια ἐφεῦρεν ἀνθρώποις ὄφελος. ἐπυρία οὖν τοὺς βουλομένους, οὐκ ἐν τῷ προφανεῖ, ἵνα μή τις μάθῃ τῶν ἰατρῶν, πυριῶσα δὲ ὥρκου μηδενὶ μηνύειν. ὄνομα δὲἦν τῷ πυριάματι παρέψησις. ὥσπερ οὖν καὶ κουφότεροι καὶ ὑγιεινότεροι ἐγίνοντο οἱ ἄνθρωποι πυριώμενοι. ἐκ δὴ τούτου, ὁρῶντες παρ’ αὐτῇ λέβητας καὶ πῦρ, ἐπείσθησαν ὡς ἕψει τοὺς ἀνθρώπους. ὁ δὲ Πελίας, ἄνθρωπος γέρων καὶ ἀσθενής, πυριώμενος ἀπέθανεν. ἐντεῦθεν ὁ μῦθος.

Image result for Medea Pelias

Just a bath, nothing to fear.

The Catiline of America

Alexander Hamilton to Oliver Wolcott (December 16, 1800)

“He is bankrupt beyond redemption except by the plunder of his country. His public principles have no other spring or aim than his own aggrandisement per fas et nefas. If he can, he will certainly disturb our institutions to secure to himself permanent power and with it wealth. He is truly the Cataline [sic] of America—& if I may credit Major Wilcocks, he has held very vindictive language respecting his opponents.”

Scholars and their Silly Questions

The following poems are taken from the Greek Anthology.  Both provide interesting possible origins for the phrase “bookworm”. A google search for the origin of the term is rather disappointing and points to book-eating species. But what if the species were named for scholars?

Philippos, 11.321

“Grammarians, children of hateful Blame, thorn-worms
Book-monsters, whelps of Zenodotus,
Soldiers of Kallimakhos, a man you project like a shield
But do not spare from your tongue,
Hunters of grievous conjunctions who take pleasure
In min or sphin* and in asking if the Cyclops kept dogs,
May you wear out your lives, wretches, muttering over the abuse
Of others. Come sink your arrow in me!”

Γραμματικοὶ Μώμου στυγίου τέκνα, σῆτες ἀκανθῶν,
τελχῖνες βίβλων, Ζηνοδότου σκύλακες,
Καλλιμάχου στρατιῶται, ὃν ὡς ὅπλον ἐκτανύσαντες,
οὐδ’ αὐτοῦ κείνου γλῶσσαν ἀποστρέφετε,
συνδέσμων λυγρῶν θηρήτορες, οἷς τὸ „μὶν” ἢ „σφὶν”
εὔαδε καὶ ζητεῖν, εἰ κύνας εἶχε Κύκλωψ,
τρίβοισθ’ εἰς αἰῶνα κατατρύζοντες ἀλιτροὶ
ἄλλων· ἐς δ’ ἡμᾶς ἰὸν ἀποσβέσατε.

Antiphanes, 11.322

“Useless race of grammarians, digging at the roots of
Someone else’s poetry, luckless worms who walk on thorns,
Perverters of great art, boasting over your Erinna*,
Bitter, parched watchdogs of Kallimakhos,
Rebukes to poets, death’s shade to children learning,
Go to hell, you fleas that secretly bite eloquent men.”

Γραμματικῶν περίεργα γένη, ῥιζωρύχα μούσης
ἀλλοτρίης, ἀτυχεῖς σῆτες ἀκανθοβάται,
τῶν μεγάλων κηλῖδες, ἐπ’ ᾿Ηρίννῃ δὲ κομῶντες,
πικροὶ καὶ ξηροὶ Καλλιμάχου πρόκυνες,
ποιητῶν λῶβαι, παισὶ σκότος ἀρχομένοισιν,
ἔρροιτ’, εὐφώνων λαθροδάκναι κόριες.

*An Alexandrian poet.

Philippus, 11.347

“Goodbye, men whose eyes have wandered over the universe,
And you thorn-counting worms of Aristarchus.
What’s it to me to examine which paths the Sun takes
Or whose son Proteus was or who was Pygmalion?
I would know as many works whose texts are clean. But let
The dark inquiry rot away the Mega-Kallimakheis!”

Χαίροιθ’, οἱ περὶ κόσμον ἀεὶ πεπλανηκότες ὄμμα
οἵ τ’ ἀπ’ ᾿Αριστάρχου σῆτες ἀκανθολόγοι.
ποῖ γὰρ ἐμοὶ ζητεῖν, τίνας ἔδραμεν ῞Ηλιος οἴμους
καὶ τίνος ἦν Πρωτεὺς καὶ τίς ὁ Πυγμαλίων;
γινώσκοιμ’, ὅσα λευκὸν ἔχει στίχον· ἡ δὲ μέλαινα
ἱστορίη τήκοι τοὺς Περικαλλιμάχους.


Rejuvenate This: Medea’s Marvelous Magic

The typical tale of Medea has her trick the daughter’s of Pelias–the man who deprived Jason of a kingdom–into killing their father. She cuts and boils an old goat, mixes in some drugs, and a young goat emerges. The daughters of wicked Pelias try to do the same as a surprise for their father. And, surprise, they get daddy stew.

The scholia to Euripides’ Medea record other traditions where Medea uses her magic.

Schol ad Eur. Med. Arg. 10-22

“Pherekudês reports that Mêdeia made Jason young again by boiling him. The poet of the Nostoi says about his father Aisôn:

[She] quickly made Aison a dear young man
After wiping away old age with her clever plans
By boiling him with many drugs in a golden container.

Aiskyulos in his Nurses of Dionysos recounts that she also remade Dionysos’ nurses along with their husbands by boiling them. Staphulos says that Jason was killed in a certain way by Medea. For, he says, she told him to lie beneath the prow of the Argo because the ship was about to fall apart because of time. When the prow fell upon him, Jason died.”

Φερεκύδης [frg. 74] δὲ καὶ Σιμωνίδης [frg. 204] φασὶν ὡς ἡ Μήδεια ἀνεψήσασα τὸν ᾿Ιάσονα νέον ποιήσειε. περὶ δὲ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ Αἴσονος ὁ τοὺς Νόστους ποιήσας φησὶν οὕτως [frg. 6]·

αὐτίκα δ’ Αἴσονα θῆκε φίλον κόρον ἡβώοντα
γῆρας ἀποξύσασ’ εἰδυίῃσι πραπίδεσσι
φάρμακα πόλλ’ ἕψουσ’ ἐπὶ χρυσείοισι λέβησιν.

Αἰσχύλος δ’ ἐν ταῖς Διονύσου τροφοῖς [frg. 50] ἱστορεῖ ὅτι καὶ τὰς Διονύσου τροφοὺς μετὰ τῶν ἀνδρῶν αὐτῶν ἀνεψήσασα ἐνεοποίησε. Στάφυλος [frg. 5] δέ φησι τὸν ᾿Ιάσονα τρόπον τινὰ ὑπὸ τῆς Μηδείας ἀναιρεθῆναι. ἐγκελεύσασθαι γὰρ αὐτὴν οὕτως ὑπὸ τῇ πρύμνῃ τῆς ᾿Αργοῦς αὐτὸν κατακοιμηθῆναι μελλούσης τῆς νεὼς διαλύεσθαι ὑπὸ τοῦ χρόνου. ἐπιπεσούσης γοῦν τῆς πρύμνης τῷ ᾿Ιάσονι τελευτῆσαι αὐτόν

Pottery: black-figured hydria (water-jar): Medea, Pelias and Peliad (shoulder: men and women with goat).

A hydria in the British Museum

Hungry Dogs, Old Lions: More Fables for Our Time

Phaedrus Fabulae

The Hungry Dogs, 1.20

“A foolish plan not only lacks a happy end,
But it invokes doom too for mortal men.
Some dogs saw a hide half sunk in a stream,
In order to get it and eat it with ease
They began to drink the water up: but they burst
And died before they could grab what they wanted first.”

I.20. Canes Famelici

Stultum consilium non modo effectu caret,
sed ad perniciem quoque mortalis devocat.
Corium depressum in fluvio viderunt canes.
Id ut comesse extractum possent facilius,
aquam coepere ebibere: sed rupti prius
periere quam quod petierant contingerent.

The Elderly Lion, 1.21

“Whoever has lost his ancient dignity
Is a joke to baser men in the midst of grave mistake.
A lion worn by years and deprived of his strength,
Was at last lying prone and ready to take
His last breath as a boar came foaming with bright teeth
And avenged an ancient wound with a strike.
Soon a bull gored him too with horns beneath
His enemy flesh. Even a donkey, when he knew
He could hurt him without harm, kicked his head anew.
But as he breathed out at last, the lion said:
“Without merit I endured the insults of the strong.
But, because of you, nature’s joke, I now seem twice-dead!”


I.21. Leo Senex

Quicumque amisit dignitatem pristinam,
ignavis etiam iocus est in casu gravi.
Defectus annis et desertus viribus
leo cum iaceret spiritum extremum trahens,
aper fulmineis spumans venit dentibus,
et vindicavit ictu veterem iniuriam.
Infestis taurus mox confodit cornibus
hostile corpus. Asinus, ut vidit ferum
impune laedi, calcibus frontem extudit.
At ille exspirans “Fortis indigne tuli
mihi insultare: Te, Naturae dedecus,
quod ferre certe cogor bis videor mori”.

No Day Without a Latin Motto

From The New-England Courant, February 11, 1723:

p.s. Gentle Readers, we design never to let a Paper pass without a Latin Motto if we can possibly pick one up, which carries a Charm in it to the Vulgar, and the learned admire the pleasure of Construing. We should have obliged the World with a Greek scrap or two, but the Printer has no Types, and therefore we intreat the candid Reader not to impute the defect to our Ignorance, for our Doctor can say all the Greek Letters by heart.