Longing for Something Known

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 2.349–356

“Offspring are able to recognize their mother by no other way
And neither may a mother know her children—a thing which we can see
No less than people may clearly be known among themselves.

For often before the sacred shrines of the gods a calf falls
Slaughtered alongside the incense-fuming altars,
Breathing out a warm river of blood from her chest.
The mother wanders in grief through the green thickets
And recognizes the prints pressed into the ground by cloven feet
As she examines every place open to her eyes if she can see
Anywhere her lost child, only stopping in the thick woods
To fill the world with her mourning. How often she returns
To the stable, broken with longing for her child.
Tender shoots of willow and new-grown grass soft with due
Are not able to relieve her spirit or lighten anxiety’s burden.
And the sight of other calves amid the happy fields
Can neither distract her spirit nor touch her worries—
This is how much she longs for something her own and known.”

nec ratione alia proles cognoscere matrem
nec mater posset prolem; quod posse videmus
nec minus atque homines inter se nota cluere.
nam saepe ante deum vitulus delubra decora
turicremas propter mactatus concidit aras
sanguinis expirans calidum de pectore flumen;
at mater viridis saltus orbata peragrans
novit humi pedibus vestigia pressa bisulcis,
omnia convisens oculis loca, si queat usquam
conspicere amissum fetum, completque querellis
frondiferum nemus adsistens et crebra revisit
ad stabulum desiderio perfixa iuvenci,
nec tenerae salices atque herbae rore vigentes
fluminaque ulla queunt summis labentia ripis
oblectare animum subitamque avertere curam,
nec vitulorum aliae species per pabula laeta
derivare queunt animum curaque levare
usque adeo quiddam proprium notumque requirit.

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All in the Head: The Cyclops is Part of Odysseus

From Porphyry’s essay, On the Cave of the Nymphs 35

“In Plato, the water, the sea and the storm are material matter. For this reason, I think, Homer named the harbor “Phorkus’” (“and this is the harbor of Phorkus”) after the sea-god whose daughter, Thoôsa, he genealogized in the first book of the Odyssey. The Kyklôps is her son whose eye Odysseus blinded. [Homer named the harbor thus] so that right before his home [Odysseus] would receive a reminder of his mistakes. For this reason, the location under the olive tree is also fitting for Odysseus as a suppliant of the god who might win over his native deity through suppliancy.

For it would not be easy for one who has blinded [the spirit] and rushed to quell his energy to escape this life of the senses; no, the rage of the sea and the material gods pursues anyone who has dared these things. It is right first to appease these gods with sacrifices, the labors of a beggar, and endurance followed by battling through sufferings, deploying spells and enchantments and changing oneself through them in every way in order that, once he has been stripped of the rags he might restore everything. And thus one may not escape from his toils, but when he has emerged from the sea altogether that his thoughts are so untouched of the sea and material matters, that he believes that an oar is a winnowing fan because of his total inexperience of the tools and affairs of the sea.”

πόντος δὲ καὶ θάλασσα καὶ κλύδων καὶ παρὰ Πλάτωνι ἡ ὑλικὴ σύστασις. διὰ τοῦτ’, οἶμαι, καὶ τοῦ Φόρκυνος ἐπωνόμασε τὸν λιμένα·

                    ‘Φόρκυνος δέ τίς ἐστι λιμήν,’

ἐναλίου θεοῦ, οὗ δὴ καὶ θυγατέρα ἐν ἀρχῇ τῆς ᾿Οδυσσείας τὴν Θόωσαν ἐγενεαλόγησεν, ἀφ’ ἧς ὁ Κύκλωψ, ὃν ὀφθαλμοῦ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ἀλάωσεν, ἵνα καὶ ἄχρι τῆς πατρίδος ὑπῇ τι τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων μνημόσυνον. ἔνθεν αὐτῷ καὶ ἡ ὑπὸ τὴν ἐλαίαν καθέδρα οἰκεία ὡς ἱκέτῃ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ὑπὸ τὴν ἱκετηρίαν ἀπομειλισσομένῳ τὸν γενέθλιον δαίμονα. οὐ γὰρ ἦν ἁπλῶς τῆς αἰσθητικῆς ταύτης ἀπαλλαγῆναι ζωῆς τυφλώσαντα αὐτὴν καὶ καταργῆσαι συντόμως σπουδάσαντα, ἀλλ’ εἵπετο τῷ

ταῦτα τολμήσαντι μῆνις ἁλίων καὶ ὑλικῶν θεῶν, οὓς χρὴ πρότερον ἀπομειλίξασθαι θυσίαις τε καὶ πτωχοῦ πόνοις καὶ καρτερίαις, ποτὲ μὲν διαμαχόμενον τοῖς πάθεσι, ποτὲ δὲ γοητεύοντα καὶ ἀπατῶντα καὶ παντοίως πρὸς αὐτὰ μεταβαλλόμενον, ἵνα γυμνωθεὶς τῶν ῥακέων καθέλῃ πάντα καὶ οὐδ’ οὕτως ἀπαλλαγῇ τῶν πόνων, ἀλλ’ ὅταν παντελῶς ἔξαλος γένηται καὶ ἐν ψυχαῖς ἀπείροις θαλασσίων καὶ ἐνύλων ἔργων, ὡς πτύον εἶναι ἡγεῖσθαι τὴν κώπην διὰ τὴν τῶν ἐναλίων ὀργάνων καὶ ἔργων παντελῆ ἀπειρίαν.

Robert Lamberton 1986, 131 [Homer the Theologian]: “The bungling, dimwitted, sensual giant of book 9 is, then, a projection into the myth of the life of the senses—specifically Odysseus’ own life in this physical universe. The blinding of Polyphemus is a metaphor for suicide…The cyclops becomes a part of Odysseus—a part he wants desperately to escape—but his ineptitude in handling his escape at that early point in his career involves him in an arduous spiritual journey.”

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Plotinus on That Guy in Your Philosophy Seminar

Plotinus, Ennead 6.7

And the following cannot be dismissed, what some super-cranky man might say, that “you people, why do you puff yourselves up and down with words, claiming that life is good, saying that thought is good, and that there is something beyond these things? Why should thought be good? Or what that is good can the thinker of the ideal forms derive while he hunts for each of them? If he is deceived and feels pleasure in them, well then he might soon say that it is god and that life is because it is pleasant.

But what if he remains in a state free of pleasure, why would he call them good? Is it just because this exists? What difference could there be in existing or totally not existing, unless someone establishes affinity for these things as the cause for it? Then, he would have to concede that the good of these things is posited because of this natural kind of deception and fear of the loss of these things.”

κἀκεῖνο δὲ οὐκ ἀφετέον, ὃ τάχ᾿ ἄν τις δυσχεραντικὸς ἀνὴρ εἴποι, ὡς “ὑμεῖς, ὦ οὗτοι, τί δὴ ἀποσεμνύνετε τοῖς ὀνόμασιν ἄνω καὶ κάτω ζωὴν20ἀγαθὸν λέγοντες καὶ νοῦν ἀγαθὸν λέγοντες καί τι ἐπέκεινα τούτων; τί γὰρ ἂν καὶ ὁ νοῦς ἀγαθὸν εἴη; ἢ τί ὁ νοῶν τὰ εἴδη αὐτὰ ἀγαθὸν ἔχοι αὐτὸ ἕκαστον θερῶν; ἠπατημένος μὲν γὰρ ἂν καὶ ἡδόμενος ἐπὶ τούτοις τάχα ἂν ἀγαθὸν λέγοι καὶ τὴν ζωὴν ἡδεῖαν οὖσαν· στὰς δ᾿ ἐν 25τῷ ἀνήδονος εἶναι διὰ τί ἂν φήσειν ἀγαθά; ἢ τὸ αὐτὸν εἶναι; τί γαρ ἂν ἐκ τοῦ εἶναι καρπώσαιτο; ἢ τί ἂν διαφέροι ἐν τῷ εἶναι ἢ ὅλως μὴ εἶναι, εἰ μή τις τὴν πρὸς αὑτὸν φιλίαν αἰτίαν τούτων θεῖτο; ὥστε διὰ ταύτην τὴν ἀπάτην φυσικὴν οὖσαν καὶ τὸν φόβον τῆς φθορᾶς τὴν 30τῶν ἀγαθῶν νομισθῆναι θέσιν.”

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From this website.

Our Ghosts Are Mirrors of What We Were

From Porphyry’s on Styx [Fragments preserved in Stobaeus 1.49.50]

“The notion explored is that the souls [of the dead] are like images which appear in mirrors or those on the surface of water which appear to resemble us completely and imitate our movements but have no solid matter for grasping or touching. This is why he calls them “images of exhausted men” (11.476).”

῾Υποτίθεται γὰρ τὰς ψυχὰς τοῖς εἰδώλοις τοῖς ἐν τοῖς κατόπτροις φαινομένοις ὁμοίας καὶ τοῖς διὰ τῶν ὑδάτων συνισταμένοις, ἃ καθάπαξ ἡμῖν ἐξείκασται καὶ τὰς κινήσεις μιμεῖται, στερεμνιώδη δ’ ὑπόστασιν οὐδεμίαν ἔχει εἰς ἀντίληψιν καὶ ἁφήν· ὅθεν αὐτὰς ‘βροτῶν εἴδωλα καμόντων’ (λ 476) λέγει.”

From Porphyry’s comments on Kirkê and the transformation of the soul (Stobaeus, 1.49.60.48):

“These things are no longer myth and poetry, but the truth and an account of nature.”

Καὶ οὐκέτι ταῦτα μῦθος οὐδὲ ποίησις, ἀλλὰ ἀλήθεια καὶ φυσικὸς λόγος.

This makes me think of stories as ghosts of deeds:

Euripides, fr. 532

“Do good while people are alive; when each man dies
He is earth and shadow. What is nothing changes nothing.”

τοὺς ζῶντας εὖ δρᾶν· κατθανὼν δὲ πᾶς ἀνὴρ
γῆ καὶ σκιά· τὸ μηδὲν εἰς οὐδὲν ῥέπει.

fr. 509

“What else? An old man is voice and shadow.”

τί δ’ ἄλλο; φωνὴ καὶ σκιὰ γέρων ἀνήρ.

Tragic Adesp. Fr. 95

“I want to advise all mortals
To live our temporary life sweetly. For after you die,
You are nothing more than a shadow over the earth.”

πᾶσιν δὲ θνητοῖς βούλομαι παραινέσαι
τοὐφήμερον ζῆν ἡδέως· ὁ γὰρ θανὼν
τὸ μηδέν ἐστι καὶ σκιὰ κατὰ χθονός·

This connects to a repeated idea from classical Greek poetry:

Aeschylus, fr. 399.1-2

“Humanity thinks only about temporary seeds,
Its pledge is nothing more than the shadow of smoke”

τὸ γὰρ βρότειον σπέρμ’ ἐφήμερα φρονεῖ,
καὶ πιστὸν οὐδὲν μᾶλλον ἢ καπνοῦ σκιά

Sophocles, fr. 13.

“Man is only breath and shadow.”

ἄνθρωπός ἐστι πνεῦμα καὶ σκιὰ μόνον

Pindar, Pythian 8.95

“Alive for a day: What is a person? What is not a person? Man is a dream of a shadow”

ἐπάμεροι· τί δέ τις; τί δ’ οὔ τις; σκιᾶς ὄναρ

 

Democritus, fr. B145

“A story is the shadow of the deed”

λόγος ἔργου σκιή

 

Arsenius, 6.33a

“The shadow of Doiduks”: A proverb applied to nothing.”

Δοίδυκος σκιά: ἐπὶ τοῦ μηδενός.

 

Michael Apostolios, 5.74

“Shadow instead of a body”: A Proverb applied to those who seem strong but have no power.”

Σκιὰ ἀντὶ τοῦ σώματος: ἐπὶ τῶν δοκούντων κρα-
τεῖν τι, οὐδὲν δ’ ὅμως κρατούντων.

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What’s Special about the Number Seven?

Theodoros of Samothrace, fr. 1 (FGrH 62; Photius, Bibl. 190, 152b26)

“In the seventh book [Ptolemy Chennos reports that] Theodôros of Samothrace says that after Zeus was born he laughed without stopping for seven days. This is why the number seven is thought to be “final” [or whole, complete”]

ἐν δὲ τῶι ζ̄ περιέχεται ὡς Θεόδωρος ὁ Σαμοθρὰιξ τὸν Δία φησὶ γεννηθέντα ἐπὶ ἑπτὰ ἡμέρας ἀκατάπαυστον γελάσαι· καὶ διὰ τοῦτο τέλειος ἐνομίσθη ὁ ἑπτὰ ἀριθμός.

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Alexander of Aphrodisias, Probl. 2.47:

“The number seven, as Pythagoras insists, is complete in nature. The mathematicians and musicians agree too. But eight is incomplete.”

ὁ ἑπτὰ ἀριθμὸς τέλειός ἐστι τῇ φύσει, ὡς μαρτυρεῖ Πυθαγόρας καὶ οἱ ἀριθμητικοὶ καὶ οἱ μουσικοί• ὁ δὲ ὀκτὼ ἀτελής

 

These references come from Ken Dowden’s entry in Brill’s New Jacoby (62 F1). The following does not:

Banning Even the Freedom of the Eyes: The Moral Tale of the Tyrant of Troezen

Aelian Varia Historia 14.22

“There’s a story of the tyrant of Troezen. Because he wanted to get rid of any plots and conspiracies against him, he ordered that no one could talk to anyone else in public or private. This was an impossible and harsh matter. But the people circumvented the tyrant’s command: they were nodding to each other and using hand gestures too. They also used angry, calm, or bright facial expressions. Each person was clear to all in his emotions, showing the suffering in his spirit on his face by grimacing at bad news or implacable conditions.

These actions caused the tyrant annoyance too—for he was believing that even silence accompanied by plentiful gestures was contriving something bad for him. So, he stopped this too.

One of those who was burdened and troubled by this absurdity was longing to end the monarchy. A group rose up with him and stood together sharing their tears. A report came to the tyrant that no one was using gestures any longer, because, instead, they were trafficking in tears. Because he was eager to stop this, he was proclaiming not only slavery of the tongue and gestures, but he was even trying to ban the freedom of the eyes we get from nature. So he went there without delay with his bodyguards to stop the tears. But as soon as the people saw him they took away his bodyguards’ weapons and killed the tyrant.”

Ὅτι Τροιζήνιός τις τύραννος βουλόμενος ἐξελεῖν τὰς συνωμοσίας καὶ τὰς κατ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐπιβουλὰς ἔταξε τοῖς ἐπιχωρίοις μηδένα μηδενὶ διαλέγεσθαι μήτε κοινῇ μήτε ἰδίᾳ. καὶ ἦν τὸ πρᾶγμα ἀμήχανον καὶ χαλεπόν. ἐσοφίσαντο οὖν τὸ τοῦ τυράννου πρόσταγμα, καὶ ἀλλήλοις ἔνευον καὶ ἐχειρονόμουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους, καὶ ἐνεώρων δριμὺ καὶ αὖ πάλιν γαληναῖον καὶ βλέμμα φαιδρόν· καὶ ἐπὶ τοῖς σκυθρωποῖς καὶ ἀνηκέστοις ἕκαστος αὐτῶν συνωφρυωμένος ἦν δῆλος, τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς πάθος ἐκ τοῦ προσώπου τῷ πλησίον διαδεικνύς. ἐλύπει τὸν τύραννον καὶ ταῦτα, καὶ ἐπίστευε τέξεσθαί τι αὐτῷ πάντως κακὸν καὶ τὴν σιωπὴν διὰ τὸ τῶν σχημάτων ποικίλον. ἀλλ᾿ οὖν ἐκεῖνος καὶ τοῦτο κατέπαυσε. τῶν τις οὖν ἀχθομένων τῇ ἀμηχανίᾳ καὶ δυσφορούντων καὶ τὴν μοναρχίαν καταλῦσαι διψώντων. περιέστησαν οὖν αὐτὸν καὶ περιῆλθον τὸ πλῆθος καὶ ὀδυρμῷ κἀκεῖνοι συνείχοντο. ἧκεν ἀγγελία παρὰ τὸν τύραννον ὡς οὐδεὶς αὐτῶν χρῆται νεύματι οὐκέτι, δάκρυα δὲ αὐτοῖς ἐπιχωριάζει. ὁ δὲ ἐπειγόμενος καὶ τοῦτο παῦσαι, μὴ μόνον τῆς γλώττης καταγινώσκων δουλείαν μηδὲ μόνον τῶν νευμάτων ἀλλ᾿ ἤδη καὶ τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς τὴν ἐκ φύσεως ἀποκλείων ἐλευθερίαν, ᾗ ποδῶν εἶχεν ἀφίκετο σὺν τοῖς δορυφόροις, ἵνα ἀναστείλῃ τὰ δάκρυα. οἱ δὲ οὐκ ἔφθασαν ἰδόντες αὐτὸν καὶ τὰ ὅπλα τῶν δορυφόρων ἁρπάσαντες τὸν τύραννον ἀπέκτειναν.

YatesThompson47_f54rDetail
John Lydgate, Life of St Edmund and St Fremund, England (Bury St Edmunds?), 1461-c. 1475, Yates Thompson MS 47, f. 54r

And now for the audience participation part of the show:

An inspiration for a limerick:

or

But the reigning monarch of this game is Andrea:

But this is good:

other proposed lines:

Rebirth From the Fire

Philo, The Eternity of the World 85-86 (504)

“And this is also not unworthy of consideration: what will be the way of rebirth when everything has been destroyed by fire? For, when substance is completely burned up, then it is necessary that the fire burns out because it no longer has anything to feed it.

If the fire remains, then the essential logic of an orderly creation is preserved; but if fire is removed, then that disappears too. This is a double sacrifice and sacrilege—not only to ask for the destruction of the world but also to eradicate rebirth as if god took joy in disorder, lethargy, and all kinds of error.”

Ἐκεῖνο δ᾿ οὐκ ἀνάξιον διαπορῆσαι, τίνα τρόπον ἔσται παλιγγενεσία, πάντων εἰς πῦρ ἀναλυθέντων· ἐξαναλωθείσης γὰρ τῆς οὐσίας ὑπὸ πυρός, ἀνάγκη καὶ τὸ πῦρ οὐκέτ᾿ ἔχον τροφὴν ἀποσβεσθῆναι. μένοντος μὲν οὖν, ὁ σπερματικὸς τῆς διακοσμήσεως ἐσῴζετ᾿ <ἂν> λόγος, ἀναιρεθέντος δὲ συνανῄρηται. τὸ δ᾿ ἐστὶν ἔκθεσμον καὶ ἀσέβημα ἤδη διπλοῦν, μὴ μόνον φθορὰν τοῦ κόσμου κατηγορεῖν ἀλλὰ καὶ παλιγγενεσίαν ἀναιρεῖν, ὥσπερ ἐν ἀκοσμίᾳ καὶ ἀπραξίᾳ καὶ τοῖς πλημμελέσι πᾶσι χαίροντος θεοῦ.

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Medieval Wheel of Fortune