An Epitaph for Aristophanes

Greek Anthology, Antipater of Thessaloniki 9. 186

“The books of Aristophanes—divine labor—over which
Archanean ivy dangled its massive green hair.
See how much of Dionysus a page holds, how the stories
Echo, full of frightening charms.
Comic poet, best of heart, equal to the characters of Greece,
You both hated and mocked things that deserved it.”

Βίβλοι Ἀριστοφάνευς, θεῖος πόνος, αἷσιν Ἀχαρνεὺς
κισσὸς ἐπὶ χλοερὴν πουλὺς ἔσεισε κόμην.
ἠνίδ᾿ ὅσον Διόνυσον ἔχει σελίς, οἷα δὲ μῦθοι
ἠχεῦσιν, φοβερῶν πληθόμενοι χαρίτων.
ὦ καὶ θυμὸν ἄριστε, καὶ Ἑλλάδος ἤθεσιν ἶσα,
κωμικέ, καὶ στύξας ἄξια καὶ γελάσας.

Image result for Aristophanes

Rhapsody and Murder: A Few Epigrams from the Greek Anthology

Greek Anthology, 9.369 (Attributed to Kyrillos)

“An epigram of two lines is beautiful and complete
But more lines than three are not an epigram but a rhapsody”

Πάγκαλόν ἐστ᾿ ἐπίγραμμα τὸ δίστιχον· ἢν δὲ παρέλθῃς
τοὺς τρεῖς, ῥαψῳδεῖς, κοὐκ ἐπίγραμμα λέγεις

Greek Anthology, 11.187 (Leonidas of Alexandria)

“Simylos the lyre player murdered his neighbors
Playing all night long. But not Origines:
Nature made him deaf and thus
Gave him a longer life instead of hearing.”

Σιμύλος ὁ ψάλτης τοὺς γείτονας ἔκτανε πάντας
νυκτὸς ὅλης ψάλλων, πλὴν ἑνὸς Ὠριγένους·
κωφὸν γὰρ φύσις αὐτὸν ἐθήκατο· τοὔνεκεν αὐτῷ
ζωὴν ἀντ᾿ ἀκοῆς δῶκε περισσοτέρην.

Image result for ancient greek lyre player
Lyre player Met 06.1021.188.jpg

My Sirens, My Words: Two Poems by Erinna

Some accounts make Erinna a contemporary of Sappho

Greek Anthology 7.710

“Columns, and my Sirens, and you, sorrowful urn
Who holds Hades’ small portion of ash—
Say “hello” to those who walk by my grave,
Whether they happen to be citizens or from another town.

Tell them this too so they may know it:
this grave covered me when I was a bride,
My father used to call me Baukis and Tenos was my land
Tell them also that Erinna, my friend,
Etched this poem on my Tomb.”

Στᾶλαι, καὶ Σειρῆνες ἐμαί, καὶ πένθιμε κρωσσέ,
ὅστις ἔχεις Ἀΐδα τὰν ὀλίγαν σποδιάν,
τοῖς ἐμὸν ἐρχομένοισι παρ᾿ ἠρίον εἴπατε χαίρειν,
αἴτ᾿ ἀστοὶ τελέθωντ᾿, αἴθ᾿ ἑτέρας πόλιος·
χὤτι με νύμφαν εὖσαν ἔχει τάφος, εἴπατε καὶ τό·
χὤτι πατήρ μ᾿ ἐκάλει Βαυκίδα, χὤτι γένος
Τηνία, ὡς εἰδῶντι· καὶ ὅττι μοι ἁ συνεταιρὶς
Ἤρινν᾿ ἐν τύμβῳ γράμμ᾿ ἐχάραξε τόδε.

Greek Anthology 6.352

“These outlines come from tender hands: noble Prometheus
There are people whose talent is near to yours!
Whoever drew this girl so truly
If he added a voice, she would be Agatharkhis entirely.”

Ἐξ ἁπαλᾶν χειρῶν τάδε γράμματα· λῷστε Προμαθεῦ,
ἔντι καὶ ἄνθρωποι τὶν ὁμαλοὶ σοφίαν.
ταύταν γοῦν ἐτύμως τὰν παρθένον ὅστις ἔγραψεν,
αἰ καὐδὰν ποτέθηκ᾿, ἦς κ᾿ Ἀγαθαρχὶς ὅλα.

Image result for erinna greek poet
Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene by Simeon Solomon

Sappho’s Equal? Some Epigrams Assigned to the Poet Nossis

Nossis is one of the best attested woman poets from the ancient world. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of her.

Greek Anthology, 6.353

“Melinna herself is here. Look how her pure face
Seems to glance gently at me.
How faithfully she looks like her mother in every way.
Whenever children equal their parents it is beautiful.”

Αὐτομέλιννα τέτυκται· ἴδ᾿ ὡς ἀγανὸν τὸ πρόσωπον
ἁμὲ ποτοπτάζειν μειλιχίως δοκέει·
ὡς ἐτύμως θυγάτηρ τᾷ ματέρι πάντα ποτῴκει.
ἦ καλὸν ὅκκα πέλῃ τέκνα γονεῦσιν ἴσα.

7.718

“Stranger, if you sail to the city of beautiful dances, Mytilene,
The city which fed Sappho, the flower of the muses,
Tell them that the land of Lokris bore for the Muses
A woman her equal, by the name of Nossis. Go!”

Ὦ ξεῖν᾿, εἰ τύ γε πλεῖς ποτὶ καλλίχορον Μυτιλάναν,
τὰν Σαπφὼ χαρίτων ἄνθος ἐναυσαμέναν,
εἰπεῖν, ὡς Μούσαισι φίλαν τήνᾳ τε Λοκρὶς γᾶ
τίκτεν ἴσαν ὅτι θ᾿ οἱ τοὔνομα Νοσσίς· ἴθι.

6.275

“I expect that Aphrodite will be pleased to receive
As an offering from Samutha, the band that held her hair.
For it is well made and smells sweetly of nektar,
That very nektar she uses to anoint beautiful Adonis.”

Χαίροισάν τοι ἔοικε κομᾶν ἄπο τὰν Ἀφροδίταν
ἄνθεμα κεκρύφαλον τόνδε λαβεῖν Σαμύθας·
δαιδαλέος τε γάρ ἐστι, καὶ ἁδύ τι νέκταρος ὄσδει,
τοῦ, τῷ καὶ τήνα καλὸν Ἄδωνα χρίει.

9.332

“Let’s leave for the temple and go to see Aphrodite’s
Sculpture—how it is made so finely in gold.
Polyarkhis dedicated it after she earned great
wealth from the native glory of her body.”

Ἐλθοῖσαι ποτὶ ναὸν ἰδώμεθα τᾶς Ἀφροδίτας
τὸ βρέτας, ὡς χρυσῷ διαδαλόεν τελέθει.
εἵσατό μιν Πολυαρχίς, ἐπαυρομένα μάλα πολλὰν
κτῆσιν ἀπ᾿ οἰκείου σώματος ἀγλαΐας.

Nossis.jpg
Bust by Francesco Jerace

Tawdry Tuesday: An Erectile Dysfunction Epigram From Ancient Greece (NSFW)

From the Greek Anthology, 11.29 (Automedon)

“Send, Call for her—everything is ready for you. But when she arrives,
What will you do? Give that some thought, Automedon.
For this, which was tireless before, is now squishier than
A boiled carrot and it has retreated back between your thighs.
They will laugh at you a lot when you set out unarmed
Trying to sail your ship without an oar.”

Πέμπε, κάλει· πάντ’ ἐστὶν ἕτοιμά σοι. ἢν δέ τις ἔλθῃ,
τί πρήξεις; σαυτῷ δὸς λόγον, Αὐτόμεδον.
αὕτη γὰρ λαχάνου σαθρωτέρη ἡ πρὶν ἀκαμπὴς
ζῶσα νεκρὰ μηρῶν πᾶσα δέδυκεν ἔσω.
πόλλ’ ἐπὶ σοὶ γελάσουσιν, ἀνάρμενος ἂν παραβάλλῃ
πλώειν τὴν κώπην μηκέτ’ ἔχων ἐρέτου.

small-bronze
I named this picture “small bronze”, because it is a small picture of a bronze statue

I don’t know of many erectile dysfunction poems from the Ancient World. A reader emailed me reference to another [Warning: it gets pretty bad after this.]

Straton, 12.240

“The hair is already gray on my temples
And my dick hangs slack between my thighs.
My balls are useless: age overcomes me hard.
Alas, I know how to fuck but I can’t.”

῎Ηδη μοι πολιαὶ μὲν ἐπὶ κροτάφοισιν ἔθειραι,
καὶ πέος ἐν μηροῖς ἀργὸν ἀποκρέμαται·
ὄρχεις δ’ ἄπρηκτοι, χαλεπὸν δέ με γῆρας ἱκάνει.
οἴμοι, πυγίζειν οἶδα καὶ οὐ δύναμαι.

πυγίζειν: I have selected the generally vulgar “fuck” for this verb which is likely a denominative from πυγή (variously, “ass”, “anus”, “buttocks”). The loeb translates this as “sodomize”, which is probably more to the point but misses the inventiveness (“analize” might work).
Here is a perfectly wretched poem by the same author, using some of the same words.

12.245

“All the unthinking animals fuck only; those who think
Have something more than the rest of the animals in this:
We discovered ass-fucking. All the men who are ruled by women
Have nothing more than the rest of the living beasts.”

Πᾶν ἄλογον ζῷον βινεῖ μόνον· οἱ λογικοὶ δὲ
τῶν ἄλλων ζῴων τοῦτ’ ἔχομεν τὸ πλέον
πυγίζειν εὑρόντες. ὅσοι δὲ γυναιξὶ κρατοῦνται,
τῶν ἀλόγων ζῴων οὐδὲν ἔχουσι πλέον.

Things (not) to say on Valentine’s Day: Ancient Greek (and Roman) Comments on Women

Today, we will be talking about the creation of women in Hesiod and misogyny in Greek myth and culture.  Here are some nice passages that dovetail with these topics and Valentine’s Day:

Euripides, fr. 320 (Danae)

“There is neither fortress nor fortune
Nor anything else as hard to guard as a woman.”

οὐκ ἔστιν οὔτε τεῖχος οὔτε χρήματα
οὔτ’ ἄλλο δυσφύλακτον οὐδὲν ὡς γυνή.

Euripides, fr. 276 (Auge)

“We are women: in some things, we hesitate.
But in others, no one can surpass our courage.”

γυναῖκές ἐσμεν• τὰ μὲν ὄκνῳ νικώμεθα,
τὰ δ’ οὐκ ἂν ἡμῶν θράσος ὑπερβάλοιτό τις.

Euripides, fr. 358 (Erechtheus)

“Children have nothing sweeter than their mother.
Love your mother children, there is no kind of love anywhere
Sweeter than this one to love.”

οὐκ ἔστι μητρὸς οὐδὲν ἥδιον τέκνοις•
ἐρᾶτε μητρός, παῖδες, ὡς οὐκ ἔστ’ ἔρως
τοιοῦτος ἄλλος ὅστις ἡδίων ἐρᾶν.

Euripides, fr. 137 (Andromeda)

“Best of all riches is to find a noble spouse.”

τῶν γὰρ πλούτων ὅδ’ ἄριστος
γενναῖον λέχος εὑρεῖν.

Perhaps this is at the root of the problem:

Euripides, fr. 26 (Aeolus)

“Aphrodite has many shades:
She can please or aggrieve men completely.”

τῇ δ’ ᾿Αφροδίτῃ πόλλ’ ἔνεστι ποικίλα•
τέρπει τε γὰρ μάλιστα καὶ λυπεῖ βροτούς.

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 4.1192-1200: Sometimes Women Don’t Fake It

“A woman doesn’t always gasp with counterfeit passion
when she joins her body in embrace with a man
and holds his lips with a drawn, moist kiss.
Often she acts from her spirit and as she seeks shared happiness,
she incites him to race through the course of his love.”

Nec mulier semper ficto suspirat amore,
quae conplexa viri corpus cum corpore iungit
et tenet adsuctis umectans oscula labris;
nam facit ex animo saepe et communia quaerens
gaudia sollicitat spatium decurrere amoris.

Scholion to Lycophron’s Alexandra, Line 33

“Sleeping with women is night-time work.”

τὸ καθεύδειν μετὰ γυναικῶν νυκτὸς ἔργον ἐστίν

Euripides, fr. 657 (Protelisaus)

“Anyone who lumps all women together in slander
Is unsubtle and unwise
For among the many women you will find one wicked
And another with a spirit as noble as this one”

ὅστις δὲ πάσας συντιθεὶς ψέγει λόγῳ
γυναῖκας ἑξῆς, σκαιός ἐστι κοὐ σοφός
πολλῶν γὰρ οὐσῶν τὴν μὲν εὑρήσεις κακήν
τὴν δ᾿ ὥσπερ ἥδε λῆμ᾿ ἔχουσαν εὐγενές

Anacreontea, 24.8-13

Nature gave bulls horns
Hooves to horses
Swift feet to hares
A mouth of teeth to lions
Swimming to fish
Flight to birds
And wisdom to men.
What did nature give to women?
Beauty
stronger than all shields and spears.
A woman who is beautiful
conquers both iron and fire.

Φύσις κέρατα ταύροις,
ὁπλὰς δ’ ἔδωκεν ἵπποις,
ποδωκίην λαγωοῖς,
λέουσι χάσμ’ ὀδόντων,
τοῖς ἰχθύσιν τὸ νηκτόν,
τοῖς ὀρνέοις πέτασθαι,
τοῖς ἀνδράσιν φρόνημα·
γυναιξὶν οὐν ἔτ᾿ εἶχεν
τί οὖν; δίδωσι κάλλος
ἀντ᾿ ἀσπίδων ἁπασῶν
ἀντ᾿ ἐγχέων ἁπάντων
νικᾷ δὲ καὶ σίδηρον
καὶ πῦρ καλή τις οὖσα

Hipponax fr. 182: The Wise Man’s Wife (Hipponactic!)

“The strongest marriage for a wise man
Is to take a woman of noble character—
This dowry alone safeguards a home.
[But whoever takes a fancy woman home…]
<sees his house fall into ruin>
The wise man has a partner instead of a mistress
A woman with a good mind, reliable for a lifetime.”

γάμος κράτιστός ἐστιν ἀνδρὶ σώφρονι
τρόπον γυναικὸς χρηστὸν ἕδνον λαμβάνειν·
αὕτη γὰρ ἡ προὶξ οἰκίαν σώιζει μόνη.
ὅστις δὲ †τρυφῶς τὴν γυναῖκ’ ἄγει λαβών

συνεργὸν οὗτος ἀντὶ δεσποίνης ἔχει
εὔνουν, βεβαίαν εἰς ἅπαντα τὸν βίον.

Greek Anthology, Book 5.26: I Love You Whatever the Color of Your Hair

“If I saw you shining with dark hair
Or at another time with blond locks, mistress,
The same grace would gleam from both.
Love will make its home in your hair even when it’s gray.”

Εἴτε σε κυανέῃσιν ἀποστίλβουσαν ἐθείραις,
εἴτε πάλιν ξανθαῖς εἶδον, ἄνασσα, κόμαις,
ἴση ἀπ’ ἀμφοτέρων λάμπει χάρις. ἦ ῥά γε ταύταις
θριξὶ συνοικήσει καὶ πολιῇσιν ῎Ερως.

Propertius, Elegies, 2.34.3

“I say this as a man with experience: no one is faithful in love.”

expertus dico, nemo est in amore fidelis