#DeadClassics Party: A Wonderful, Terrible Idea

P. Oxy. 1485.

“The Exegete would love for you to dine today, the ninth day, at the temple of Demeter at the seventh hour”

Ἐρωτᾷ σαι διπν[ῆ-]σαι ὁ ἐξηγητὴ[ς] ἐν τῷ Δημητρίῳ σήμερον ἥτις ἐσ-τὶν θ ἀπὸ ὥρ(ας) ζ.

Today we started something a little silly (after being serious for a few hours this morning). I think I was hungry, but I tweeted the following:

As you can probably imagine, the responses were fast coming, erudite and funny. I probably should have not been surprised by the eagerness of the responses. Unlike the other classics game which requires and even prizes a knowledge of the obscure–where people talk about the lost texts from antiquity–this one is fair game for almost anyone.

And it also has the imprint of antiquity: think of all the banquets that are settings for the remains of ancient literature, the Symposia of Xenophon and Plato, Petronius’ absurd feast, the imagined, endless meals of Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists and Plutarch’s Dinner of the Seven Wise Men. Who doesn’t fantasize about a perfect, endless, raucous meal?

Seneca, Contr. 9.11

“A man was killed so that this asshole might dine more pleasantly with his girlfriend?”

Ut iste cum amica cenaret iucundius homo occisus est.

Martial, 2.18

“Eh, I am ashamed, but I’m looking, I’m looking for a your dinner invitation, Maximus.
And you’re looking for a different one. Now, for once, we are equal.”

Capto tuam, pudet heu, sed capto, Maxime, cenam.
tu captas aliam: iam sumus ergo pares.

Image result for Ancient dinner party

Here are just a few below. I storified the first few hours’ worth

Here are just a few tweets, to get you going.


Everyone knows that Catullus made the best dinner invitation ever. Here’s a post about Simonides’ memory and a disastrous dinner.

Tawdry Tuesday: Suetonius and His Defamatory Words

Antiquity has bequeathed to us On Defamatory Words and Where they Come from (ΠΕΡΙ ΒΛΑΣΦΗΜΙΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΠΟΘΕΝ ΕΚΑΣΤΗ) attributed to Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus. Yes, that Suetonius. It seems rather fragmentary, but it produces some gems. A large section include insults about women, but here’s a nice one for a man:

nôthouros: I guess is one who has a bastard ‘tail’ for intercourse. For they use this in respect to male genitals. The kind of man described this way is also called impotent [astutos] and his household is called impotent. For example in Xenarkhos, “the impotent house of the Pelopides”. And there is also “fruitless” [akarpos] and “childless” [agonos] “the house perishes because it experiences the flaccid fates of its masters”.

Νώθουρος, <ἤγουν ὁ νωθὴν ἔχων τὴν οὐρὰν ἐν τῷ συγγίνεσθαι·οὕτω γὰρ ἔλεγον τὸ κατ’ ἄνδρας αἰδοῖον. ῾Ο δὲ τοιοῦτος ἀνὴρ καὶ ἄστυτος ἐλέγετο, καθὰ καὶ οἶκος ἄστυτος>—<οἷον παρὰ Ξενάρχῳ (fr. 1 Kock)·«Πελοπιδῶν ἄστυτος οἶκος», ἤγουν ἄκαρπος, ἄγονος, καί (id. ibid.)· «φθίνει δόμος ἀστύτοισι δεσποτῶν κεχρημένος τύχαις«>—

Astutus, literally “without an erection”. I covered this last week….

Hesychius agrees with the definition

Nôthouros: one who is incapable of having intercourse. Or a donkey.

νώθουρος· ὁ ἀδύνατος συγγίνεσθαι (Com. ad. 1367). ἢ ὄνος

note: συγγιγνώσκω means “agree with”: συγγίγνομαι can mean “talk with” or “communicate with” but also to “have sex with”. Don’t confuse them.

LSJ is just too precious on this:


I think that nôthouros might be the equivalent of “limp-dick”, although I would like to suggest “fake-dick” or “counterfeit-cock” vel sim. (but that comes from a fake etymology with the short vowel omicron for “bastard” (νόθος). This, of course, is impossible. Tell me, Beekes:


Image result for Ancient Greek Sculpture penis


Five Guys Named Thales

As I have written before, I like the Classics thought game of trading some extant piece of literature for something we have allegedly lost (of roughly the same length, importance, or genre). Playing this game well, of course, requires knowing what is lost. Sometimes, I read Diogenes Laertius just for the names of the lost works. There is an elegant beauty in them. I suppose the work mentioned in this passage would probably be boring, but I would still read it.

Vita Philosophorum: Thales 1.38

“There were other people named Thales, as Demetrius the Magnesian writes in his On People with the Same Name, five of them: the orator from Kallatia, who had a difficult style; a painter from Sikyon who was quite talented. The third was really old, from around the time of Hesiod and Homer. Duris mentions the fourth in his On Painting. The fifth was more recent and not well known, but he is mentioned by Dionysus in his Criticisms.

Γεγόνασι δὲ καὶ ἄλλοι Θαλαῖ, καθά φησι Δημήτριος ὁ Μάγνης ἐν τοῖς Ὁμωνύμοις, πέντε· ῥήτωρ Καλλατιανός, κακόζηλος·ζωγράφος Σικυώνιος, μεγαλοφυής·τρίτος ἀρχαῖος πάνυ, κατὰ Ἡσίοδον καὶ Ὅμηρον καὶ Λυκοῦργον· τέταρτος οὗ μέμνηται Δοῦρις ἐν τῷ Περὶζωγραφίας· πέμπτος νεώτερος, ἄδοξος, οὗ μνημονεύει Διονύσιος ἐν Κριτικοῖς.


Image result for Ancient Greek lost books

True Wealth: Happiness in Poverty

Seneca, Epistulae ad Lucilium 1.4:

“Do you know what limits the law of nature would fix for us? Not to feel hunger, thirst, or pain. To dispel hunger and thirst, it is not necessary to sit at the thresholds of fat-cats, not to suffer a weighty brow or even the insulting mass of humanity; nor is it necessary to try your luck on the sea or enlist as a soldier. What Nature wants is easily gotten and ready to hand. All of the sweating in life is over unnecessary trifles – those things which wear out a toga, which compel us to grow old under a tent, which push us to foreign shores. There lies at our fingertips what is enough. The one who finds poverty agreeable is rich indeed.”

Lex autem illa naturae scis quos nobis terminos statuat? Non esurire, non sitire, non algere. Ut famem sitimque depellas non est necesse superbis assidere liminibus nec supercilium grave et contumeliosam etiam humanitatem pati, non est necesse maria temptare nec sequi castra: parabile est quod natura desiderat et appositum. [11] Ad supervacua sudatur; illa sunt quae togam conterunt, quae nos senescere sub tentorio cogunt, quae in aliena litora impingunt: ad manum est quod sat est. Cui cum paupertate bene convenit dives est. Vale.


“This is One of Those Speeches”: Isocrates on Good Advice and the Common Enemy

Isocrates, Panegyricus 1-6

“I have often been surprised at those who called together the assemblies and established the athletic contests, particularly at the fact that, while they considered the successes of the body to be worthy of prizes so great, they apportioned no kind of honor to those who had toiled for the commons with their private effort and who had prepared their minds so that they might be able to help others. It is appropriate to make a greater consideration for these men—for, although athletes obtain twice the amount of their strength, they provide nothing more for everyone else; but should one man offer good advice, everyone who wants to share in his opinion would profit.

And, truly, I do not choose to take it easy because I have been dispirited by this things—no, because I think that I will have as a sufficient prize the reputation that will come from this speech, I have come for the purpose of counseling you about both the war against the barbarians and your harmony with one another. And I do this even though I am not ignorant that many of those who pretend to be wise have rushed to this subject before, but because at the same time I expect that I will take this so far that nothing will seem to have ever been spoken before on this matters, and, because I think that these are the most noble words, ones that happen to be about the most important matters and which illuminate those who speak them the best and most help those who hear them. This is one of those speeches.

Furthermore, the opportunity to act has not yet passed us by—so it is not pointless to speak about these matters. For it is right to stope speaking about something when an end has overtaken affairs and it is no longer necessary to advise about them, or when one sees that the argument has such an end that nothing is left for others to say. But as long as these are similar to how they were before, and what was previously said happens to be insufficient, how is it not right to examine and weigh this argument philosophically when the correct plan will free us from this war against one another, our present turmoil, and the greatest evils we face?”

Πολλάκις ἐθαύμασα τῶν τὰς πανηγύρεις συναγαγόντων καὶ τοὺς γυμνικοὺς ἀγῶνας καταστησάντων, ὅτι τὰς μὲν τῶν σωμάτων εὐτυχίας οὕτω μεγάλων δωρεῶν ἠξίωσαν, τοῖς δ᾿ ὑπὲρ τῶν κοινῶν ἰδίᾳ πονήσασι καὶ τὰς ἑαυτῶν ψυχὰς οὕτω παρασκευάσασιν ὥστε καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ὠφελεῖν δύνασθαι, τούτοις δ᾿ οὐδεμίαν τιμὴν ἀπένειμαν· ὧν εἰκὸς ἦν αὐτοὺς μᾶλλον ποιήσασθαι πρόνοιαν· τῶν μὲν γὰρ ἀθλητῶν δὶς τοσαύτην ῥώμην λαβόντων οὐδὲν ἂν πλέον γένοιτο τοῖς ἄλλοις, ἑνὸς δὲ ἀνδρὸς εὖ φρονήσαντος ἅπαντες ἂν ἀπολαύσειαν οἱ βουλόμενοι κοινωνεῖν τῆς ἐκείνου διανοίας.

Οὐ μὴν ἐπὶ τούτοις ἀθυμήσας εἱλόμην ῥᾳθυμεῖν, ἀλλ᾿ ἱκανὸν νομίσας ἆθλον ἔσεσθαί μοι τὴν δόξαν τὴν ἀπ᾿ αὐτοῦ τοῦ λόγου γενησομένην ἥκω συμβουλεύσων περί τε τοῦ πολέμου τοῦ πρὸς τοὺς βαρβάρους καὶ τῆς ὁμονοίας τῆς πρὸς ἡμᾶς αὐτούς, οὐκ ἀγνοῶν ὅτι πολλοὶ τῶν προσποιησαμένων εἶναι σοφιστῶν ἐπὶ τοῦτον τὸν λόγον ὥρμησαν, ἀλλ᾿ ἅμα μὲν ἐλπίζων τοσοῦτον διοίσειν ὥστε τοῖς ἄλλοις μηδὲν πώποτε δοκεῖν εἰρῆσθαι περὶ αὐτῶν, ἅμα δὲ προκρίνας τούτους καλλίστους εἶναι τῶν λόγων, οἵτινες περὶ μεγίστων τυγχάνουσιν ὄντες καὶ τούς τε λέγοντας μάλιστ᾿ ἐπιδεικνύουσι καὶ τοὺς ἀκούοντας πλεῖστ᾿ ὠφελοῦσιν, ὧν εἷς οὗτός ἐστιν. ἔπειτ᾿ οὐδ᾿ οἱ καιροί πω παρεληλύθασιν, ὥστ᾿ ἤδη μάτην εἶναι τὸ μεμνῆσθαι περὶ τούτων. τότε γὰρ χρὴ παύεσθαι λέγοντας, ὅταν ἢ τὰ πράγματα λάβῃ τέλος καὶ μηκέτι δέῃ βουλεύεσθαι περὶ αὐτῶν, ἢ τὸν λόγον ἴδῃ τις ἔχοντα πέρας, ὥστε μηδεμίαν λελεῖφθαι τοῖς ἄλλοις ὑπερβολήν. ἕως δ᾿ ἂν τὰ μὲν ὁμοίως ὥσπερ πρότερον φέρηται, τὰ δ᾿ εἰρημένα φαύλως ἔχοντα τυγχάνῃ, πῶς οὐ χρὴ σκοπεῖν καὶ φιλοσοφεῖν τοῦτον τὸν λόγον, ὃς ἢν κατορθωθῇ, καὶ τοῦ πολέμου τοῦ πρὸς ἀλλήλους καὶ τῆς ταραχῆς τῆς παρούσης καὶ τῶν μεγίστων κακῶν ἡμᾶς ἀπαλλάξει;


Image result for Ancient Greek Isocrates

Greek: Just Beauty and Perfection

Basil Gildersleeve, Hellas and Hesperia

“No lover can avoid the catalogue of the charms of his mistress. Petrarch is eloquent in sonnet and canzone on the subject of Laura’s eyes. Shall our mistress lack eyes? Again, your true lover is sublimely indifferent to the fact that the audience is utterly unacquainted with the object of his adoration, and so even after many years of close communion with Greek, I was capable in 1869 of holding forth ecstatically on its physical charms, for I am enough of a heathen to recognize in physical beauty the only true incentive of love. It is the physical beauty of Greek that constitutes its intimate attraction, that redeems, for instance, the tedious obviousnesses of the old man eloquent, and I could still rhapsodize, as I did forty years ago, on the sequences of vowels and the combinations of consonants, the concert of mute and liquid, the clear-cut outline of every word in Greek, clear and sharp as the sky-line of the mountains of Greece, as the effigies on Greek coins. I could still wax lyrical about the paradigm of the Greek verb. The Greek verb is, indeed, a marvel.

‘Flexible and exact, simple in its means, abundant in its applications, with varying tones for colorless statement, for eager wish, for purpose, for command, now despatching the past with impatient haste, now unrolling it in panoramic procession, but bringing forth its treasure of vowels and diphthongs to mark the striving of the will, the thought, the desire, toward the future,’ and so on and so on. Perhaps discourse like this might rouse the curiosity of the student and win here and there a friend for Greek. The teacher can never know whether shall prosper either this or that. I remember to have read in Gogol’s ‘Dead Souls’ a eulogy of Russian that would have Inspired me, if I had been endowed with ample leisure, to attempt the acquisition of that difficult idiom. But I am not quite sure that this unverifiable laudation Is the right way to lend vitality to the study. ‘The king’s daughter is all glorious within.’ But he that is without remains cold as a rule. The love of a language from this point of view is a matter of individual experience, a business to be transacted under four eyes only, and as much of the physical beauty of a language depends on the pronunciation, it may be well to relegate the whole thing to the realm of ‘fancy,’ that admirable old word for love. I will, therefore, waive the whole subject of the perfection of the Greek language, both in Its form and Its function, the wealth of its vocabulary, and the flexibility of its syntax, and limit myself to a few remarks on the relation of Greek to our daily life.”


Cicero, Opportunist or Hypocrite

This is the rhetorical climax of a fragmentary speech, the beginning of which I posted last month.

Pseudo-Sallust, Against Cicero

“I ask you, Arpinian Romulus, you who have outpaced all the Pauli, Fabii and Scipios with your exceptional virtue, what place then do you possess in this state? What faction of the republic pleases you? Who is your friend, who is your enemy? The one against whom you intrigued in the state, now you’re his errand boy. You attack the man who demanded that you come back from exile in Dyrrachium. The men you used to call tyrants, now you uphold their power; those who seemed optimates to you before you now call rash psychopaths. You argue cases for Vatinius; you think poorly of Sestius. You assail Bibulus with the most childish words while you praise Caesar. You most sedulously serve the man you hate most! You stand believing one thing and then sit thinking something different about the republic. You slander some, you hate others. You move lightly, keeping your promise neither here nor there.”

Oro te, Romule Arpinas, qui egregia tua virtute omnis Paulos, Fabios, Scipiones superasti, quem tandem locum in hac civitate obtines? quae tibi partes rei publicae placent? quem amicum, quem inimicum habes? cui in civitate insidias fecisti, <ei>17 ancillaris. quo auctore18 de exsilio tuo Dyrrachio redisti, eum <in>sequeris. quos tyrannos appellabas, eorum potentiae faves; qui tibi ante optimates videbantur, eosdem dementes ac furiosos vocas. Vatini causam agis, de Sestio male existimas. Bibulum petulantissimis verbis laedis, laudas Caesarem. quem maxime odisti, ei maxime obsequeris. aliud stans, aliud sedens sentis de re publica. his male dicis, illos odisti, levissime transfuga, neque in hac neque in illa parte fidem

Image result for Cicero