Sinister Letters and Sore Feet

Anonymous Parodic Epic fr. 3-7 (Brandt)

Poverty, be brave and endure the foolish talkers.
For a multitude of sweets and pleasureless hunger overwhelm you.
Whomever the Muses taught their letters backward
Walked having chilblains under his feet
Hermokaikoxanthos prayed to father Zeus:
“Oh man-slayer: how many mortals have you assigned to Hell?”

τέτλαθι δὴ πενίη καὶ ἀνάσχεο μωρολογούντων·
ὄψων γὰρ πλῆθός σε δαμᾷ καὶ λιμὸς ἀτερπής.
οὓς ἐδίδαξαν ἀριστερὰ γράμματα Μοῦσαι
ἔστειχε δ’ ἔχων ὑπὸ ποσσὶ χίμεθλα
῾Ερμοκαϊκόξανθος ἐπευξάμενος Διὶ πατρί·
ὦ βροτολοιγέ, πόσους σὺ <βρο>τῶν ῎Αιδι προΐαψας;

The “backward letters” above (ἐδίδαξαν ἀριστερὰ γράμματα) is more precisely “left-side letters”, with either the pejorative sense of Latin sinister or just a general notion of wrongness. I took the comic lines below as inspiration.

Theognetus, fr. 1.7-8

“Wretch, you learned your letters backwards.
Your books have turned your life upside down.”

ἐπαρίστερ’ ἔμαθες, ὦ πόνηρε, γράμματα·
ἀνέστροφέν σου τὸν βίον τὰ βιβλία.

Suda

“Right-hand of the lord”: this phrase means influence coming from on high and good action in the holy writings. For the ancients used to call right-hand things prudent but left-hand things foolish. Sophocles writes: “You never walked to the left because of your mind, son of Telamôn.”

Δεξιὰ κυρίου: ἡ ἄνωθεν ῥοπὴ καὶ ἡ ἀγαθὴ ἐνέργεια παρὰ τῇ θείᾳ γραφῇ. Δεξιὰ ἔλεγον οἱ παλαιοὶ τὰ συνετά, ἀριστερὰ δὲ τὰ μωρά. Σοφοκλῆς· οὔποτε γὰρ φρένοθέν γ’ ἐπ’ ἀριστερά, παῖ Τελαμῶνος ἔβης.

Image result for ancient greek boustrophedon writing

Boustrophedon Style from the 5th Century BCE

Sleep, Pregnancy, and Head Wounds: Some Hippocratic Aphorisms

Hippocrates of Cos, Aphorisms

The aphorisms attributed to Hippocrates of Cos contain a range of medical ‘wisdom’. There are hundreds. Here are a handful.

2.3 “Sleep, or sleeplessness, should either come beyond moderation, can be bad.”

III. Ὕπνος, ἀγρυπνίη, ἀμφότερα μᾶλλον τοῦ μετρίου γινόμενα, κακόν.

2.7 “Bodies that have wasted away over a long amount of time should be healed slowly. Those that have declined quickly, should be healed quickly.”

VII. Τὰ ἐν πολλῷ χρόνῳ λεπτυνόμενα σώματα νωθρῶς ἐπανατρέφειν, τὰ δὲ ἐν ὀλίγῳ, ὀλίγως.

2.44 “People who are naturally rather fat die more quickly than the thin.”

XLIV. Οἱ παχέες σφόδρα κατὰ φύσιν, ταχυθάνατοιγίνονται μᾶλλον τῶν ἰσχνῶν.

5.38 “When a woman is pregnant and carrying twins, should either breast become thin, she loses one child. If the right breast thins, she loses the male child; if the left one does, the female.”

XXXVIII. Γυναικὶ ἐν γαστρὶ ἐχούσῃ ἢν ὁ ἕτερος μασθὸς ἰσχνὸς γένηται, δίδυμα ἐχούσῃ, θάτερον ἐκτιτρώσκει· καὶ ἢν μὲν ὁ δεξιὸς ἰσχνὸς γένηται, τὸ ἄρσεν· ἢν δὲ ὁ ἀριστερός, τὸ θῆλυ.

6.18 “A serious wound striking either the bladder, the head, the heard, the brain, some part of the smaller intestine, the stomach or the liver, is mortal.”

XVIII. Κυστιν διακοπέντι, ἢ ἐγκέφαλον, ἢ καρδίην, ἢ φρένας, ἢ τῶν ἐντέρων τι τῶν λεπτῶν, ἢ κοιλίην, ἢ ἧπαρ, θανατῶδες.

7.58 “Whenever the brain is concussed for any reason, people immediately become speechless.”

LVIII. Ὁκόσοισιν ἂν ὁ ἐγκέφαλος σεισθῇ ὑπό τινος προφάσιος, ἀνάγκη ἀφώνους γενέσθαι παραχρῆμα.

Image result for ancient greek medical practice

Physician treating a patient (Attic red-figurearyballos, 480–470 BC). Image taken from Wikipedia.

%d bloggers like this: