Don’t Mix a Fire With a Knife: Some Pythagorean Sayings

Diogenes Laertius, Pythagoras 17–18

“These are the sayings attributed to Pythagoras: don’t mix a fire with a knife; don’t step over a balance beam; don’t sit on a bushel; don’t eat your heart; don’t help with a burden but put it on; always make your bed; don’t put a god’s image on a ring; don’t leave the outline of a pan in ashes; don’t wipe up a mess with a torch; don’t piss towards the sun; don’t walk on the highway; don’t offer your right hand too easily; don’t share your roof with swallows; don’t keep clawed birds; don’t piss or stand on your cut nails and hair; turn sharp blades away from you; when abroad, don’t turn back at the border

This is what these sayings mean: “don’t mix a fire with a knife” means not inciting the rage or swollen anger of people in power. “Don’t step over a balance beam” means don’t transgress equality and justice. “Don’t sit on a bushel” means keep both today and the future in mind since a bushel is a daily ration. “Don’t eat your heart” clearly means not wearing away your mind with troubles and grief. By saying “Don’t turn around when going abroad” Pythagoras advises people when they are leaving life not to cling to it desperately nor to be overcome by its pleasures. The logic of the rest of the sayings are similar to this and would take a while to go through.”

Ἦν δ᾿ αὐτῷ τὰ σύμβολα τάδε· πῦρ μαχαίρᾳ μὴ σκαλεύειν, ζυγὸν μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν, ἐπὶ χοίνικος μὴ καθίζειν, καρδίην μὴ ἐσθίειν, φορτίον μὴ συγκαθαιρεῖν, ουνεπιτιθέναι δέ, τὰ στρώματα ἀεὶ συνδεδεμένα ἔχειν, ἐν δακτυλίῳ εἰκόνα θεοῦ μὴ περιφέρειν, χύτρας ἴχνος συγχεῖν ἐν τῇ τέφρᾳ, δᾳδίῳ θᾶκον μὴ ὀμόργνυσθαι, πρὸς ἥλιον τετραμμένον μὴ ὀμίχειν, τὰς λεωφόρους μὴ βαδίζειν, μὴ ῥᾳδίως δεξιὰν ἐμβάλλειν, ὁμωροφίους χελιδόνας μὴ ἔχειν, γαμψώνυχα μὴ τρέφειν, ἀπονυχίσμασι καὶ κουραῖς μὴ ἐπουρεῖν μηδὲ ἐφίστασθαι, ὀξεῖαν μάχαιραν ἀποστρέφειν, ἀποδημοῦντα ἐπὶ τοῖς ὅροις ἀνεπιστρεπτεῖν.

Ἤθελε δ᾿ αὐτῷ τὸ μὲν πῦρ μαχαίρᾳ μὴ σκαλεύειν δυναστῶν ὀργὴν καὶ οἰδοῦντα θυμὸν μὴ κινεῖν. τὸ δὲ ζυγὸν μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν, τουτέστι τὸ ἴσον καὶ δίκαιον μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν. ἐπί τε χοίνικος μὴ καθίζειν ἐν ἴσῳ τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος φροντίδα ποιεῖσθαι καὶ τοῦ μέλλοντος· ἡ γὰρ χοῖνιξ ἡμερησία τροφή. διὰ δὲ τοῦ καρδίαν μὴ ἐσθίειν ἐδήλου μὴ τὴν ψυχὴν ἀνίαις καὶ λύπαις κατατήκειν. διὰ δὲ τοῦ εἰς ἀποδημίαν βαδίζοντα μὴ ἐπιστρέφεσθαι παρῄνει τοῖς ἀπαλλαττομένοις τοῦ βίου μὴ ἐπιθυμητικῶς ἔχειν τοῦ ζῆν μηδ᾿ ὑπὸ τῶν ἐνταῦθα ἡδονῶν ἐπάγεσθαι. καὶ τὰ ἄλλα πρὸς ταῦτα λοιπόν ἐστιν ἐκλαμβάνειν, ἵνα μὴ παρέλκωμεν.

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From Raphael’s School of Athens

Affirming Beliefs by Using Them

Plutarch, Progress in Virtue 79f

“People report these kinds of stories about Aeschylus too and of similar men. When Aeschylus was watching a boxing match at the Isthmian games, one of the boxers was hit and the crowd shouted out. Aeschylus elbowed Ion the Chian and said, “See how training works: the man says nothing when he is struck, but the spectators yell!”

When Brasidas caught some mouse in dried figs and it bit him, he let it got. Then, he said to himself, “By Herakles, there is nothing small or weak enough that it won’t try to live when it’s brave enough to defend itself.

Diogenes, once he witnessed a man drinking with his hands, threw his cup out of his bag. In this way, paying attention and observation make people ready to perceive anything which helps in the pursuit of virtue. This works better when people mix theories with actions, not merely, as Thucydides used to put it, “trying super hard when in peril” but also when facing pleasures and conflicts, when occupied with lawsuits and politics, in this way providing proof to themselves of their beliefs, or, perhaps, affirming their beliefs by using them.”

οἷα καὶ περὶ Αἰσχύλου λέγουσι καὶ περὶ ἄλλων ὁμοίων. Αἰσχύλος μὲν γὰρ Ἰσθμοῖ θεώμενος ἀγῶνα πυκτῶν, ἐπεὶ πληγέντος τοῦ ἑτέρου τὸ θέατρον ἐξέκραγε, νύξας Ἴωνα τὸν Χῖον “ὁρᾷς,” ἔφη, “οἷον ἡ ἄσκησίς ἐστιν1; ὁ πεπληγὼς σιωπᾷ, οἱ δὲ θεώμενοι βοῶσιν.” Βρασίδας δὲ μῦν τινα συλλαβὼν ἐν ἰσχάσι καὶ δηχθεὶς ἀφῆκεν· εἶτα πρὸς ἑαυτόν “ὦ Ἡράκλεις,” ἔφη, “ὡς οὐδέν ἐστι μικρὸν οὐδ᾿ ἀσθενές, ὃ μὴ ζήσεται τολμῶν ἀμύνεσθαι.” Διογένης δὲ τὸν πίνοντα ταῖς χερσὶ θεασάμενος τῆς πήρας ἐξέβαλε τὸ ποτήριον. οὕτω τὸ προσέχειν καὶ τετάσθαι τὴν ἄσκησιν αἰσθητικοὺς καὶ δεκτικοὺς ποιεῖ τῶν πρὸς ἀρετὴν φερόντων ἁπανταχόθεν. γίγνεται δὲ τοῦτο μᾶλλον ἂν τοὺς λόγους ταῖς πράξεσι μιγνύωσι, μὴ μόνον, ὡς Θουκυδίδης ἔλεγε, “μετὰ κινδύνων ποιούμενοι τὰς μελέτας,” ἀλλὰ καὶ πρὸς ἡδονὰς καὶ πρὸς ἔριδας καὶ περὶ κρίσεις καὶ συνηγορίας καὶ ἀρχάς, οἷον ἀπόδειξιν αὑτοῖς τῶν δογμάτων διδόντες, μᾶλλον δὲ τῷ χρῆσθαι ποιοῦντες τὰ δόγματα.

Black-figured ceramic depicting two boxers and a referee, Greek, 7th-5th centuries BCE

For Term Paper Season, Some Random Thoughts on Quotation

Plutarch, Table-Talk 9, (736e)

“Then he included an argument about the apt quotation of poetry, that the one which was most potent was not only charming but also useful.”

ἔπειτα περὶ στίχων εὐκαιρίας ἐνέβαλεν λόγον, ὡς μὴ μόνον χάριν ἀλλὰ καὶ χρείαν ἔστιν ὅτε μεγάλην ἐχούσης. #Plutarch

Athenaeus, 3.107a

“since the whole excerpt is useful for many reasons, but you don’t control it in your memory right now, I will go through the whole thing.”

πᾶσα δ᾿ ἡ ἐκλογὴ χρησίμη οὖσα εἰς πολλά, ἐπεὶ τὰ | νῦν διὰ μνήμης οὐ κρατεῖς, αὐτὸς ἐγὼ διεξελεύσομαι.

Libanius, Letters 3, to Entrechius

“You and I and each man of good intention will quote many passages from tragedy now that this kind of a person has left us.”

ἀλλ᾿ ἐκ τραγῳδίας μὲν πολλὰ μὲν ἐγώ, πολλὰ δὲ σύ, πολλὰ δὲ τῶν εὖ φρονούντων ἕκαστος φθεγξόμεθα τοιαύτης οἰχομένης κεφαλῆς·

Seneca, De Tranquillitate Animi  8

“Quoting the good words of a bad author will never shame me.”

Numquam me in voce bona mali pudebit auctoris

Image result for medieval manuscript man yelling
Ah, the wheel of fortune. British Library Harley MS 4431, f. 129.

Bad Signs, Worse Decisions

Plutarch, Moralia 168f-169a

“Superstitions make many moderate sufferings deadly. That ancient Midas, as it seems, was so disturbed and troubled by some dreams that he became upset enough to kill himself by drinking the blood of a bull. And the king of the Messenian, Aristodêmos, in that war against the Spartans, when the dogs were howling like wolves, the grass began to grow up over his ancestral hearth and some of the seers were frightened by the signs, was completely disheartened and extinguished all hopes when he took his own life.

It might have been best for Nikias the general of the Athenians to free himself of his superstition following Midas and Aristodêmos. Since he was afraid of the shadow of a moon in eclipse, rather than to sit there while he was walled in by the enemy only to get captured by them with forty thousand men who were slaughtered or taken alive and then die in infamy.”

Πολλὰ τῶν μετρίων κακῶν ὀλέθρια ποιοῦσιν αἱ δεισιδαιμονίαι. Μίδας ὁ παλαιός, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἔκ τινων ἐνυπνίων ἀθυμῶν καὶ ταραττόμενος οὕτω κακῶς ἔσχε τὴν ψυχήν, ὥσθ᾿ ἑκουσίως ἀποθανεῖν αἷμα ταύρου πιών. ὁ δὲ τῶν Μεσσηνίων βασιλεὺς Ἀριστόδημος ἐν τῷ πρὸς Λακεδαιμονίους  πολέμῳ, κυνῶν λύκοις ὠρυομένων ὅμοια καὶ περὶ τὴν ἑστίαν αὐτοῦ τὴν πατρῴαν ἀγρώστεως ἀναβλαστανούσης καὶ τῶν μάντεων τὰ σημεῖα φοβουμένων, ἐξαθυμήσας καὶ κατασβεσθεὶς ταῖς ἐλπίσιν αὐτὸς ἑαυτὸν ἀπέσφαξεν. ἦν δ᾿ ἴσως καὶ Νικίᾳ τῷ Ἀθηναίων στρατηγῷ κράτιστον οὕτως ἀπαλλαγῆναι τῆς δεισιδαιμονίας ὡς Μίδας ἢ Ἀριστόδημος ἢ φοβηθέντι τὴν σκιὰν ἐκλιπούσης τῆς σελήνης καθῆσθαι περιτειχιζόμενον ὑπὸ τῶν πολεμίων, εἶθ᾿ ὁμοῦ τέτταρσι μυριάσιν ἀνθρώπων φονευθέντων τε καὶ ζώντων ἁλόντων ὑποχείριον γενέσθαι καὶ δυσκλεῶς ἀποθανεῖν.

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How to Live from Ashurbanipal

In the midst of a nearly endless discussion of fish in the 8th book of his Deipnosophistai, Athenaeus has his banqueters bandy about epigrammatic advice about the nature of human life. One of his speakers quotes Chrysippus who alleges that Sardanapallos (the Greek name for the Syrian king Ashurbanipal) had the following as an epitaph:

“Know well that you are mortal: fill your heart
By delighting in the feasts: nothing is useful to you when you’re dead.
I am ash, though I ruled great Ninevah as king.
I keep whatever I ate, the insults I made, and the joy
I took from sex. My wealth and many blessings are gone.
[This is wise advice for life: I will never forget it.
Let anyone who wants to accumulate limitless gold.]

εὖ εἰδὼς ὅτι θνητὸς ἔφυς σὸν θυμὸν ἄεξε,
τερπόμενος θαλίῃσι· θανόντι σοι οὔτις ὄνησις.
καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ σποδός εἰμι, Νίνου μεγάλης βασιλεύσας·
κεῖν’ ἔχω ὅσσ’ ἔφαγον καὶ ἐφύβρισα καὶ σὺν ἔρωτι
τέρπν’ ἔπαθον· τὰ δὲ πολλὰ καὶ ὄλβια πάντα λέλυνται.
[ἥδε σοφὴ βιότοιο παραίνεσις, οὐδέ ποτ’ αὐτῆς
λήσομαι· ἐκτήσθω δ’ ὁ θέλων τὸν ἀπείρονα χρυσόν.]

The speakers critique the dead king’s sentiments and propose that the epitaph could be emended with more elevated aims.

“Know well that you are mortal: fill your heart
By delighting in words: nothing is useful once eaten.
For even I am now but rages though I ate and took as much pleasure as possible.
I keep whatever I learned and the thoughts I had and the fine things
I experienced with them. Everything else, however pleasing, is gone.”

εὖ εἰδὼς ὅτι θνητὸς ἔφυς σὸν θυμὸν ἄεξε,
τερπόμενος μύθοισι· φαγόντι σοι οὔτις ὄνησις.
καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ ῥάκος εἰμί, φαγὼν ὡς πλεῖστα καὶ ἡσθείς.
ταῦτ’ ἔχω ὅσσ’ ἔμαθον καὶ ἐφρόντισα καὶ μετὰ τούτων
ἔσθλ’ ἔπαθον· τὰ δὲ λοιπὰ καὶ ἡδέα πάντα λέλειπται.

Some other epitaphs (fictional or not) are included:

“Drink. Play. Your life is mortal and time on earth is but short.
Death itself is everlasting once a man has died.”

πῖνε, παῖζε· θνητὸς ὁ βίος, ὀλίγος οὑπὶ γῇ χρόνος·
ὁ θάνατος δ’ ἀθάνατός ἐστιν, ἂν ἅπαξ τις ἀποθάνῃ.

“Drink. Eat. Yield everything to your soul.
For I am the stone that stands in place of Bachidas.”

πιέν, φαγὲν καὶ πάντα τᾷ ψυχᾷ δόμεν·
κἠγὼ γὰρ ἕστακ’ ἀντὶ Βακχίδα λίθος.

Strabo combines the two, 14.5.9

“Next is Zephurion which has the same name as a place near Kalydnos.  Nearby, not far from the sea, is Ankhialê, founded by Sardanapallos according to Aristoboulos. There he claims is a monument of Sardanapallos, a stone sculpture that shows the fingers of his right hand as if they are snapping. Beneath is an epigraph in Assyrian letters reading: “Sardanapallos the son of Anakundaraxes / founded Ankhialê and Tarsos in a single day. / Eat. Drink. Play, because no other things are worthy of this”, indicating the snapping fingers.

Khoirilos also mentions these things–and the following verses are known everywhere. “Everything I have eaten, the insults I have made, and the delights I have taken in love are mine. These numerous blessings I leave behind.”

Εἶτα Ζεφύριον ὁμώνυμον τῷ πρὸς Καλύδνῳ· εἶτ’ ᾿Αγχιάλη μικρὸν ὑπὲρ τῆς θαλάττης, κτίσμα Σαρδαναπάλλου, φησὶν ᾿Αριστόβουλος· ἐνταῦθα δ’ εἶναι μνῆμα τοῦ Σαρδαναπάλλου καὶ τύπον λίθινον συμβάλλοντα τοὺς τῆς δεξιᾶς χειρὸς δακτύλους ὡς ἂν ἀποκροτοῦντα, καὶ ἐπιγραφὴν εἶναι ᾿Ασσυρίοις γράμμασι τοιάνδε „Σαρδανάπαλλος ὁ ᾿Ανακυνδαράξεω παῖς „᾿Αγχιάλην καὶ Ταρσὸν ἔδειμεν ἡμέρῃ μιῇ. ἔσθιε πῖνε „παῖζε, ὡς τἆλλα τούτου οὐκ ἄξια,” τοῦ ἀποκροτήματος. μέμνηται δὲ καὶ Χοιρίλος τούτων· καὶ δὴ καὶ περιφέρεται τὰ ἔπη ταυτί „ταῦτ’ ἔχω, ὅσσ’ ἔφαγον καὶ „ἀφύβρισα, καὶ μετ’ ἔρωτος τέρπν’ ἔπαθον, τὰ δὲ „πολλὰ καὶ ὄλβια κεῖνα λέλειπται.”

The Man. The Myth.

Among certain Greek writers (starting as early as Aristophanes: Birds 1021) Sardanapallus was proverbially a glutton


“Sardanapallos: Nearly everyone writes that this guy was a slave to every kind of excess and delicacy. They say that this is recorded on his on monument in Assyrian letters in Ninevah, Assyria.”

Σαρδανάπαλ(λ)ος· πάντες σχεδὸν ἁπάσης ἀκολασίας καὶ τρυφῆς
δοῦλον τοῦτον ἀναγράφουσι γεγονέναι. καὶ ἐπὶ τῷ μνήματι αὐτοῦ ἐν
τῇ ᾿Ασσυρίᾳ ἐν Νίνῳ φασὶν ἐπιγεγράφθαι ᾿Ασσυρίοις γράμμασι·

Suda S.v. Sardanapolous

“Kallisthenes claims in the second book of his Persian Histories that there were two men named Sardapapalos [Assurbanipal], one was active and well-born, but the other was a dandy. In Ninevah, his memorial bears the inscription

“The son of Anakundaraxes built Tarsos and Ankhialê in a single day.
Eat, drink, screw because other things are not worthy of this.”

That is, [worthy of] a snap of his fingers. For when he set up the statue in his memory it was made with its hands over its head, as if it were snapping its fingers. The same thing is inscribed in Ankhialê and Tarsos, which is called Zephurion now.

There is also a proverb: “May you grow older than Tithonos, wealthier than Kinyras, and more industrious than Sardanopalos. Then you can prove the proverb: Old men are children twice.”  This is used for the very old, since Tithonos avoided aging with a prayer and became a cicada. Kinyras was a descendant of king Pharakes of the Cypriots and he was distinguished for his wealth. And Sardanapalos, king of the Assyrians, destroyed his own kingdom while he lived in luxury and immoderation. He was the son of Anakyndarakes, the king of Ninevah which falls within Persian lands. The story is that he founded Tarsos and Ankhilaê in a single day. And that, shamefully, he was too proud to be seen by his servants unless they were girls or eunuchs. He rotted himself with wine and was found after he died indoors.”

Σαρδαναπάλους ἐν β′ Περσικῶν δύο φησὶ γεγονέναι Καλλισθένης, ἕνα μὲν δραστήριον καὶ γενναῖον, ἄλλον δὲ μαλακόν. ἐν Νίνῳ δ’ ἐπὶ τοῦ μνήματος αὐτοῦ τοῦτ’ ἐπιγέγραπται· ᾿Ανακυνδαράξου παῖς Ταρσόν τε καὶ ᾿Αγχιάλην ἔδειμεν ἡμέρῃ μιῇ. ἔσθιε, πίνε, ὄχευε, ὡς τά γε ἄλλα οὐδὲ τούτου ἐστὶν ἄξια. τουτέστι τοῦ τῶν δακτύλων ἀποκροτήματος· τὸ γὰρ ἐφεστὼς τῷ μνήματι ἄγαλμα ὑπὲρ τῆς κεφαλῆςἔχον τὰς χεῖρας πεποίηται, ὥστ’ ἂν ἀποληκοῦν τοῖς δακτύλοις. ταυτὸ καὶ ἐν ᾿Αγχιάλῳ τῇ πρὸς Ταρσῷ ἐπιγέγραπται, ἥτις νῦν καλεῖται Ζεφύριον. καὶ παροιμία· καταγηράσαις Τιθωνοῦ βαθύτερον, Κινύρου πλουσιώτερος καὶ Σαρδαναπάλου τρυφηλότερος, ὅπως τὸ τῆς παροιμίας ἐπὶ σοὶ πληρωθῇ, δὶς παῖδες οἱ γέροντες. ἐπὶ τῶν ὑπεργήρων· ὁ γὰρ Τιθωνὸς κατ’ εὐχὴν τὸ γῆρας ἀποθέμενος εἰς τέττιγα μετέβαλε· Κινύρας δέ, ἀπόγονος Φαρνάκου βασιλέως Κυπρίων, πλούτῳ διαφέρων· Σαρδανάπαλος δέ, ᾿Ασσυρίων βασιλεύς, ὃς ἐπ’ ἀκολασίᾳ καὶ τρυφῇ διαβιοὺς

κατέλυσε τὴν ἰδίαν ἀρχήν. ὁ δὲ Σαρδανάπαλος οὗτος υἱὸς ἦν ᾿Ανακυνδαράξου, βασιλέως Νίνου, Περσικῆς χώρας· ὃς ἐν μιᾷ ἡμέρᾳ Ταρσὸν καὶ ᾿Αγχιάλην ἔκτισε. φασὶ δὲ αὐτὸν αἰσχρῶς καλλωπίζεσθαι τοῖς τε  οἰκείοις μὴ ὁρᾶσθαι, εἰ μὴ εὐνούχοις καὶ κόραις. πεπυρπολημένος δὲ τῷ οἴνῳ, ἔνδον εὑρεθεὶς ἀπέθανε.


Perhaps someone should write a song about him….

Nature’s Judgment

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers Anaxagoras 2.3

“There are different accounts about the trial of Anaxagoras. Sotion claims in his Succession of the Philosophers that he was taken to court for impiety because he claimed that the sun was molten metal. When his student Perikles made his defense, he was penalized five talents and sent into exile.

But Satyros in his Lives says that he was prosecuted by Thucydides who was working against Perikles and that in addition to impiety he was charged with treason with Persia. He was sentenced to death in absentia. When it was announced to him both that his sons were dead and he was sentenced, he said concerning the judgment that, “nature condemned me and my judges to death long ago” and on his sons, “well, I knew they they were born mortal.” But there are those who attribute this story to Solon while others say it was Xenophon.

Demetrius of Phalerum, in his On Old Age, says that Anaxagoras buried his sons with his own hands. Hermippos in his Lives says that he was locked up before he was about to die and that Perikles came forward and asked if they could accuse him of anything in his life. When they said nothing, he said, “Well, I am his student. Do not be overwhelmed by slanders and kill this person, but listen to me and let him go.” And he was freed. But because he could not endure the outrage, he killed himself.”

Περὶ δὲ τῆς δίκης αὐτοῦ διάφορα λέγεται. Σωτίων μὲν γάρ φησιν ἐν τῇ Διαδοχῇ τῶν φιλοσόφων ὑπὸ Κλέωνος αὐτὸν ἀσεβείας κριθῆναι, διότι τὸν ἥλιον μύδρον ἔλεγε διάπυρον· ἀπολογησαμένου δὲ ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ Περικλέους τοῦ μαθητοῦ, πέντε ταλάντοις ζημιωθῆναι καὶ φυγαδευθῆναι. Σάτυρος δ᾿ ἐν τοῖς Βίοις ὑπὸ Θουκυδίδου φησὶν εἰσαχθῆναι τὴν δίκην, ἀντιπολιτευομένου τῷ Περικλεῖ· καὶ οὐ μόνον ἀσεβείας, ἀλλὰ καὶ μηδισμοῦ· καὶ ἀπόντα καταδικασθῆναι θανάτῳ. ὅτε καὶ ἀμφοτέρων αὐτῷ προσαγγελέντων, τῆς τε καταδίκης καὶ τῆς τῶν παίδων τελευτῆς, εἰπεῖν περὶ μὲν τῆς καταδίκης, ὅτι ἄρα “κἀκείνων κἀμοῦ πάλαι ἡ φύσις κατεψηφίσατο,” περὶ δὲ τῶν παίδων, ὅτι “ᾔδειν αὐτοὺς θνητοὺς γεννήσας.” οἱ δ᾿ εἰς Σόλωνα τοῦτ᾿ ἀναφέρουσιν, ἄλλοι εἰς Ξενοφῶντα. τοῦτον δὲ καὶ θάψαι ταῖς ἰδίαις χερσὶν αὐτοὺς Δημήτριός φησιν ὁ Φαληρεὺς ἐν τῷ Περὶ γήρως. Ἕρμιππος δ᾿ ἐν τοῖς Βίοις φησὶν ὅτι καθείρχθη ἐν τῷ δεσμωτηρίῳ τεθνηξόμενος. Περικλῆς δὲ παρελθὼν εἶπεν εἴ τι ἔχουσιν ἐγκαλεῖν αὑτῷ κατὰ τὸν βίον· οὐδὲν δὲ εἰπόντων, “καὶ μὴν ἐγώ,” ἔφη, “τούτου μαθητής εἰμι· μὴ οὖν διαβολαῖς ἐπαρθέντες ἀποκτείνητε τὸν ἄνθρωπον, ἀλλ᾿ ἐμοὶ πεισθέντες ἄφετε.” καὶ ἀφείθη· οὐκ ἐνεγκὼν δὲ τὴν ὕβριν ἑαυτὸν ἐξήγαγεν.

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Anaxagoras and Perikles by Augustin-Louis Belle

A Talking Head (Prophetic Zombie Corpses)

Psst…this is the worst story you will read this year….

Phlegon of Tralles, On Marvels 3

“Antisthenes, the peripatetic philosopher, also records that the consul Acilius Glabrio with the ambassadors Porcius Cato and Lucius Valerius Flaccus was stationed in war against Antiochus at Thermopylae and, after fighting well, compelled those on Antiochus’ side to throw down their weapons and the man himself to flee to Elataia with five hundred hypastists. From there, they compelled him to turn again to Thessaly. Acilius then sent Cato to Rome so he might announce the victory while he led the army himself against the Aitolians in Herakleia, which he took with ease.

In the action against Antiochus at Thermopylae, the Romans witnessed some shocking signs. After Antiochus turned and fled, on the next day the Romans turned to the gathering of those who died on the battle and a selection of weapons, war-spoils, and prisoners.

There was some man from the Syrian cavalry, named Bouplagos, who was honored by Antiochus but fell in battle even as he fought nobly. While the Romans were gathering up all the arms at midday, Bouplagos rose from the corpses even though he had twelve wounds. As he appeared to the army, he spoke the following verses in a soft voice:

Stop gathering booty from an army which has marched to Hades’ land—
For Kronos’ Son Zeus already feels anger as he watches your deeds.
He is raging at the murder of the army and your acts,
And he will send a bold-hearted race into your country
Who will end your empire and make you pay for what you’ve done.

Because they were troubled by these verses, the generals swiftly gathered the army in assembly and discussed the meaning of the omen. They thought it best to cremate and bury Bouplagos who had died right after he uttered these words. Then they performed a cleansing of the camp, made sacrifices to Zeus Apotropaios and sent a group to Delphi to ask the god what they should do.”

῾Ιστορεῖ δὲ καὶ ᾿Αντισθένης, ὁ περιπατητικὸς φιλόσοφος, ᾿Ακείλιον Γλαβρίωνα τὸν ὕπατον μετὰ πρεσβευτῶν Πορκίου Κάτωνος καὶ Λουκίου Οὐαλερίου Φλάκκου παραταξάμενον ᾿Αντιόχῳ ἐν Θερμοπύλαις γενναίως τε ἀγωνισάμενον βιάσασθαι ῥίψαι μὲν τὰ ὅπλα τοὺς μετ’ ᾿Αντιόχου, αὐτὸν δὲ τὰ μὲν πρῶτα εἰς ᾿Ελάτειαν μετὰ πεντακοσίων ὑπασπιστῶν φυγεῖν, ἐκεῖθεν δὲ πάλιν εἰς ῎Εφεσον ἀναγκάσαι ὑπεξελθεῖν. ὁ δὲ ᾿Ακείλιος Κάτωνα μὲν εἰς ῾Ρώμην ἀπέστειλεν ἀπαγγελοῦντα τὴν νίκην, αὐτὸς δὲ ἐπ’ Αἰτωλοὺς καθ’ ῾Ηράκλειαν ἐστράτευσεν, ἣν ἐξ εὐμαροῦς ἔλαβεν.

ἐν δὲ τῇ παρατάξει τῇ γενομένῃ πρὸς ᾿Αντίοχον ἐν Θερμοπύλαις ἐπιφανέστατα σημεῖα ἐγένετο ῾Ρωμαίοις. ἀποσφαλέντος γὰρ ᾿Αντιόχου καὶ φυγόντος τῇ ἐπιούσῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐγίνοντο οἱ ῾Ρωμαῖοι περὶ ἀναίρεσιν τῶν ἐκ τῆς σφετέρας δυνάμεως πεπτωκότων καὶ περὶ συλλογὴν λαφύρων τε καὶ σκύλων καὶ αἰχμαλώτων.

Βούπλαγος δέ τις, τῶν ἀπὸ Συρίας ἱππάρχης, τιμώμενος παρὰ τῷ βασιλεῖ ᾿Αντιόχῳ, ἔπεσε καὶ αὐτὸς γενναίως ἀγωνισάμενος. ἀναιρουμένων δὲ τῶν ῾Ρωμαίων πάντα τὰ σκῦλα καὶ μεσούσης τῆς ἡμέρας ἀνέστη ὁ Βούπλαγος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, ἔχων τραύματα δέκα δύο, καὶ παραγενόμενος εἰς τὸ στρατόπεδον αὐτῶν ἀνεῖπε λεπτῇ τῇ φωνῇ τούσδε τοὺς στίχους·

παῦσαι σκυλεύων στρατὸν ῎Αιδος εἰς χθόνα βάντα·
ἤδη γὰρ Κρονίδης νεμεσᾷ Ζεὺς μέρμερα λεύσσων,
μηνίει δὲ φόνῳ στρατιᾶς καὶ σοῖσιν ἐπ’ ἔργοις,
καὶ πέμψει φῦλον θρασυκάρδιον εἰς χθόνα τὴν σήν,
οἵ σ’ ἀρχῆς παύσουσιν, ἀμείψῃ δ’ οἷά γ’ ἔρεξας.

ταραχθέντες δὲ οἱ στρατηγοὶ ἐπὶ τοῖς ῥηθεῖσιν διὰ ταχέων συνήγαγον τὸ πλῆθος εἰς ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἐβουλεύοντο περὶ τοῦ γεγονότος φάσματος. ἔδοξεν οὖν τὸν μὲν Βούπλαγον παραχρῆμα μετὰ τὰ λεχθέντα ἔπη ἀποπνεύσαντα κατακαύ-σαντας θάψαι, καθαρμὸν δὲ ποιήσαντας τοῦ στρατοπέδου θῦσαι Διὶ ᾿Αποτροπαίῳ καὶ πέμψαι εἰς Δελφοὺς ἐρωτήσοντας τὸν θεόν τί χρὴ ποιεῖν.

The story continues and only gets stranger. Part 2.

Walking corpses, from a marginalia depiction of ‘The Three Living and the Three Dead’. The Taymouth Hours (C14th), British Library, Yates Thompson MS 13, fol. 180r.
 The Taymouth Hours (C14th), British Library, Yates Thompson MS 13, fol. 180r.