Don’t. Betray. Sappho.

Sappho, fr. 55

“When you die you will lie there and no one will remember you.
And there will no longing for you later on. You will not receive
Any roses from Pieria. But you will wander unseen through Hades’ home
Flitting away from the dirty corpses.”

κατθάνοισα δὲ κείσηι οὐδέ ποτα μναμοσύνα σέθεν
ἔσσετ’ οὐδὲ πόθα εἰς ὔστερον· οὐ γὰρ πεδέχηις βρόδων
τὼν ἐκ Πιερίας· ἀλλ’ ἀφάνης κἀν ᾿Αίδα δόμωι
φοιτάσηις πεδ’ ἀμαύρων νεκύων ἐκπεποταμένα.

Image result for ancient greek underworld scene sarcophagus
Roman Sarcophagus, Abduction of Persephone

Simonides and Boris

It has recently been reported that Boris Johnson, current Prime Minister of the UK and Donald Trump bookend, is fond of reciting Simonides:

Johnson’s penchant for the Classics and his ability to recite Greek are often mentioned either to illustrate that he might actually be intelligent or to furnish some additional evidence for his winsome quirkiness. This quotation of Simonides is not only not impressive but it is entirely predictable and tiresome.

What is Simonides known for? Perhaps apocryphally, he is known for surviving a disaster and remembering where everyone was seated.  He is also said to have been saved from a sinking ship by a dream (everyone else died). Of equal interest, he is maligned or at least singled out in antiquity for being one of the first to make money from his poetry.

Sure, memorizing stuff isn’t easy, but it doesn’t mean you understand it or are noble at all. It means you come from a place of privilege where you were given the time and instruction to memorize it.

There’s a lot more to Simonides’ poetry than the muscular epigram in praise of Sparta little BoJo managed to keep in his head when he was failing to learn empathy and how to tell the truth. Memorizing a key bit about Thermopylae just shows you drank int he canon at Boarding school deep and full and you have been trading on shared delirium in your charlatan’s career.

Here are some of our favorites:

Fr. 14

“Weakness is the mortal’s lot,
nor yet does grief avail –
in such truncated time there’s naught
but toil heaped on travail.”

ἀνθρώπων ὀλίγον μὲν
κάρτος, ἄπρακτοι δὲ μεληδόνες,
αἰῶνι δ’ ἐν παύρωι πόνος ἀμφὶ πόνωι

Fr. 15 (definitely on Brexit plans)

“Human strength is meager
Our plains incomplete
Toil follows toil in our short lives.
Death looms inescapable for all—
Men who are good and bad draw
of that an equal portion.”

ἀνθρώπων ὀλίγον μὲν
κάρτος, ἄπρακτοι δὲ μεληδόνες,
αἰῶνι δ’ ἐν παύρωι πόνος ἀμφὶ πόνωι·
ὁ δ’ ἄφυκτος ὁμῶς ἐπικρέμαται θάνατος·
κείνου γὰρ ἴσον λάχον μέρος οἵ τ’ ἀγαθοὶ
ὅστις τε κακός.

Fr. 17 (on a No-deal Brexit?)

“Everything comes to a single, dreadful Charybis—
The great virtues and wealth the same.”

πάντα γὰρ μίαν ἱκνεῖται δασπλῆτα Χάρυβδιν,
αἱ μεγάλαι τ’ ἀρεταὶ καὶ ὁ πλοῦτος.

Fr. 16 (for some humility)

“Since you are human, never say what will come tomorrow.
Nor, if you see a fortunate man, how long it will last.
For not even the time of a tender-winged fly
Is not as fast.”

ἄνθρωπος ἐὼν μή ποτε φάσηις ὅ τι γίνεται 〚αὔριον〛,
μηδ’ ἄνδρα ἰδὼν ὄλβιον ὅσσον χρόνον ἔσσεται·
ὠκεῖα γὰρ οὐδὲ τανυπτερύγου μυίας
οὕτως ἁ μετάστασις.

Fr. 18

“Not even those who were long ago,
The half-divine sons of our lord gods,
Came to old age without finishing
A life of toil, pain and danger.”

†οὐδὲ γὰρ οἳ πρότερόν ποτ’ ἐπέλοντο,
θεῶν δ’ ἐξ ἀνάκτων ἐγένονθ’ υἷες ἡμίθεοι,
ἄπονον οὐδ’ ἄφθιτον οὐδ’ ἀκίνδυνον βίον
ἐς γῆρας ἐξίκοντο τελέσαντες.†

 

Fr. 525 (perhaps to explain people listing to BoJo)

“The gods easily make off with the minds of men”

ῥεῖα θεοὶ κλέπτουσιν ἀνθρώπων νόον

 

Fr. 524

“Death catches up with those who run from battle too.”

ὁ αὖ θάνατος κίχε καὶ τὸν φυγόμαχον

Fr. 37

“It is hard for a man to be truly good,
built evenly with hands,
feet and mind without blame.”

ἄνδρ’ ἀγαθὸν μὲν ἀλαθέως γενέσθαι
χαλεπὸν χερσίν τε καὶ ποσὶ καὶ νόωι
τετράγωνον ἄνευ ψόγου τετυγμένον·

As Sarah Bond makes clear, there is more behind the choice of this Simonides: it is about claiming the ever so muscular Spartan mystique. This is all nonsense of course.

Myke Cole has talked about the lie of Sparta (“The Sparta Fetish is a Cultural Cancer”The New Republic). Bond published a piece for Eidolon  about the appropriation of Spartan iconography and values in the modern world (“This Is Not Sparta: Why the Modern Romance with Sparta is a Bad One”).  Neville Morely’s subsequent post on the use of Sparta by the far right is also a must-read. I have gathered some sources on this too.

Nuremberg chronicles f 60r 3.png

A Brother or a Counterfeit: Theognis on Friendship

Theognis, 93-100

“If someone praises you for as long as you see him
But lashes you with an evil tongue when you are apart,
That kind of man is not a very good friend at all.
He’s the kind who speaks smoothly with his tongue, but harbors different thoughts.

Let me have that kind of friend who knows his companion
And puts up with him when he’s mean or in a rage,
Like a brother. But you, friend, keep these things your heart
And you will remember me in future days.”

ἄν τις ἐπαινήσῃ σε τόσον χρόνον ὅσσον ὁρῴης,
νοσφισθεὶς δ᾿ ἄλλῃ γλῶσσαν ἱῇσι κακήν,
τοιοῦτός τοι ἑταῖρος ἀνὴρ φίλος οὔ τι μάλ᾿ἐσθλός.
ὅς κ᾿ εἴπῃ γλώσσῃ λεῖα, φρονῇ δ᾿ ἕτερα.
ἀλλ᾿ εἴη τοιοῦτος ἐμοὶ φίλος, ὃς τὸν ἑταῖρον
γινώσκων ὀργὴν καὶ βαρὺν ὄντα φέρει
ἀντὶ κασιγνήτου. σὺ δέ μοι, φίλε, ταῦτ᾿ ἐνὶ θυμῷ
φράζεο, καί ποτέ μου μνήσεαι ἐξοπίσω.

117-118

“Nothing is harder than recognizing a counterfeit.
But, Kurnos, there is nothing more urgent than guarding against one.”

κιβδήλου δ᾿ ἀνδρὸς γνῶναι χαλεπώτερον οὐδέν,
Κύρν᾿, οὐδ᾿ εὐλαβίης ἐστὶ περὶ πλέονος.

119-128

“One can survive the ruin from counterfeit silver and gold
Kurnos—and a wise person can easily discover it.
But if a dear friend’s mind is hidden in his chest
When he is false and he has a deceptive heart,
Well this the most counterfeit thing god has made for mortals
And it is the most painful thing of all to recognize.
For you cannot know the mind of a man or a woman
Before you investigate them, like an animal under a yoke—
And you cannot imagine what they are like at the right time
Since the outer image often misleads your judgment.”

Χρυσοῦ κιβδήλοιο καὶ ἀργύρου ἀνσχετὸς ἄτη,
Κύρνε, καὶ ἐξευρεῖν ῥάιδιον ἀνδρὶ σοφῶι.
εἰ δὲ φίλου νόος ἀνδρὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσι λελήθηι
ψυδρὸς ἐών, δόλιον δ’ ἐν φρεσὶν ἦτορ ἔχηι,
τοῦτο θεὸς κιβδηλότατον ποίησε βροτοῖσιν,
καὶ γνῶναι πάντων τοῦτ’ ἀνιηρότατον.
οὐδὲ γὰρ εἰδείης ἀνδρὸς νόον οὐδὲ γυναικός,
πρὶν πειρηθείης ὥσπερ ὑποζυγίου,
οὐδέ κεν εἰκάσσαις ὥσπερ ποτ’ ἐς ὥριον ἐλθών·
πολλάκι γὰρ γνώμην ἐξαπατῶσ’ ἰδέαι.

1318a-b

“Alas, I am a wretch: because of the terrors I have suffered
I bring pleasure to my enemies and toil to my friends”

῎Ωιμοι ἐγὼ δειλός· καὶ δὴ κατάχαρμα μὲν ἐχθροῖς,
τοῖσι φίλοις δὲ πόνος δεινὰ παθὼν γενόμην.

1079-80

“I’ll fault no enemy when he is noble,
nor will I praise a friend when he is wrong”

Οὐδένα τῶν ἐχθρῶν μωμήσομαι ἐσθλὸν ἐόντα,
οὐδὲ μὲν αἰνήσω δειλὸν ἐόντα φίλον.

1151–52

“Never dismiss a present friend and seek another
Because you are persuaded by the words of cowardly people.”

μήποτε τὸν παρεόντα μεθεὶς φίλον ἄλλον ἐρεύνα
δειλῶν ἀνθρώπων ῥήμασι πειθόμενος.

 595-598

“Dude, let’s be friends with each other at a distance.
With the exception of wealth, there’s too much of any good thing.
But we can be friends for a long time, just spend time with different men
Who have a better grasp of your mind.”

ἄνθρωπ᾿, ἀλλήλοισιν ἀπόπροθεν ὦμεν ἑταῖροι·
πλὴν πλούτου παντὸς χρήματός ἐστι κόρος.
δὴν δὴ καὶ φίλοι ὦμεν· ἀτάρ τ᾿ ἄλλοισιν ὁμίλει
ἀνδράσιν, οἳ τὸν σὸν μᾶλλον ἴσασι νόον.

1219-1220

“It is difficult for an enemy to deceive
But it is easy for a friend to fool a friend.”

᾿Εχθρὸν μὲν χαλεπὸν καὶ δυσμενεῖ ἐξαπατῆσαι,
Κύρνε· φίλον δὲ φίλωι ῥάιδιον ἐξαπατᾶν.

Friendship
Royal 19 C II  f. 59v

“Come to me Now”, Sappho’s First Song

Fragment 1 (Preserved in Dionysus of Halicarnassus’ On Literary Composition 23)

“Immortal Aphrodite in your elaborate throne,
Wile-weaving daughter of Zeus, I beseech you:
Don’t curse my heart with grief and pains
My queen—

But come here, if ever at different time
You heeded me somewhere else because you heard
My pleadings, and once you left the golden home of your father,
You came,

After you yoked your chariot. Then the beautiful, swift
Sparrows ferried you over the dark earth
By churning their wings swiftly down through the middle
Of the sky.

And they arrived quickly. But you, blessed one,
Composed a grin on your immortal face
And were asking what it was I suffered that made me
Call you.

“The things which I most wish would happen for me
In my crazy heart”. “Whom, then, do I persuade to
Return you to their love? O Sappho, who is it who
Hurt you?

For if she flees now, she will soon chase you.
If she refuses gifts, then she will give them too.
If she does not love you now, she will love you soon, even if,
She doesn’t want to.”

Come to me now, too, and free me from
my terrible worries. Whatever things my heart longs
to accomplish, you, achieve them—
be my ally.

πο]ικιλόθρο[ν’ ἀθανάτ᾿Αφρόδιτα
παῖ] Δ[ί]ος δολ[όπλοκε, λίσσομαί σε,
μή μ’] ἄσαισι [μηδ’ ὀνίαισι δάμνα,
[]πότν]ια, θῦ[μον,

ἀλλ]ὰ τυίδ’ ἔλ[θ’, αἴ ποτα κἀτέρωτα
τὰ]ς ἔμας αὔ[δας ἀίοισα πήλοι
ἔκ]λυες, πάτρο[ς δὲ δόμον λίποισα
χ]ρύσιον ἦλθ[ες

ἄρ]μ’ ὐπασδε[ύξαισα· κάλοι δέ σ’ ἆγον
ὤ]κεες στροῦ[θοι περὶ γᾶς μελαίνας
πύ]κνα δίν[νεντες πτέρ’ ἀπ’ ὠράνωἴθε-
ρο]ς διὰ μέσσω·

αἶ]ψα δ’ ἐξίκο[ντο· σὺ δ’, ὦ μάκαιρα,
μειδιαί[σαισ’ ἀθανάτωι προσώπωι
ἤ]ρε’ ὄττ[ι δηὖτε πέπονθα κὤττι
δη]ὖτε κ[άλ]η[μμι

κ]ὤττι [μοι μάλιστα θέλω γένεσθαι
μ]αινόλαι [θύμωι· τίνα δηὖτε πείθω
.].σάγην [ἐς σὰν φιλότατα; τίς σ’, ὦ
Ψά]πφ’, [ἀδικήει;

κα]ὶ γ[ὰρ αἰ φεύγει, ταχέως διώξει,
<αἰ δὲ δῶρα μὴ δέκετ’, ἀλλὰ δώσει,>
<αἰ δὲ μὴ φίλει, ταχέως φιλήσει>
[]<κωὐκ ἐθέλοισα.>

<ἔλθε μοι καὶ νῦν, χαλέπαν δὲ λῦσον>
<ἐκ μερίμναν, ὄσσα δέ μοι τέλεσσαι>
<θῦμος ἰμέρρει, τέλεσον, σὺ δ’ αὔτα>
[]<σύμμαχος ἔσσο.>
.ρανοθεν κατιου[σ-

Image result for Aphrodite chariot ancient
Disappointingly, not a sparrow chariot.

Hunting, Leaping, and Drunk on Love

Anacreon, fr. 357

“Lord with whom Lust the subduer
And the dark-eyed nymphs
And royal Aphrodite play
As you roam the high mountain peaks.

I beg you:
come to me kindly
Hear my prayer made pleasing to you:

Be a good advisor to Kleoboulos,
Dionysus, that he accept
My desire.

ὦναξ, ὧι δαμάλης ῎Ερως
καὶ Νύμφαι κυανώπιδες
πορφυρῆ τ’ ᾿Αφροδίτη
συμπαίζουσιν, ἐπιστρέφεαι
δ’ ὑψηλὰς ὀρέων κορυφάς·

γουνοῦμαί σε, σὺ δ’ εὐμενὴς
ἔλθ’ ἡμίν, κεχαρισμένης
δ’ εὐχωλῆς ἐπακούειν·
Κλεοβούλωι δ’ ἀγαθὸς γένεο
σύμβουλος, τὸν ἐμόν γ’ ἔρω-
τ’, ὦ Δεόνυσε, δέχεσθαι.

fr. 358

“Again! Golden-haired Desire
Strikes me with a purple ball
Calling me out to play
With a fine-sandaled youth

But she is from well-settled
Lesbos and she carps at my hair,
Because it is white. So she stares at
Some other [hair] instead.”*

σφαίρηι δηὖτέ με πορφυρῆι
βάλλων χρυσοκόμης ῎Ερως
νήνι ποικιλοσαμβάλωι
συμπαίζειν προκαλεῖται·

ἡ δ’, ἐστὶν γὰρ ἀπ’ εὐκτίτου
Λέσβου, τὴν μὲν ἐμὴν κόμην,
λευκὴ γάρ, καταμέμφεται,
πρὸς δ’ ἄλλην τινὰ χάσκει.

*The Greek ἄλλην τινὰ may mean “some other girl” as the Loeb translation has it. But the structure of the sentence makes me think the girl is staring at different hair (not the narrator’s white hair).

fr. 359

“I long for Kleoboulos.
I am crazy for Kleoboulos.
I am staring at Kleoboulos.”

Κλεοβούλου μὲν ἔγωγ’ ἐρέω,
Κλεοβούλωι δ’ ἐπιμαίνομαι,
Κλεόβουλον δὲ διοσκέω.

 

fr. 360

“Boy with a maiden’s looks—
I am hunting you, but you don’t hear me
Because you do not know
That you are the charioteer of my soul”

ὦ παῖ παρθένιον βλέπων
δίζημαί σε, σὺ δ’ οὐ κλύεις,
οὐκ εἰδὼς ὅτι τῆς ἐμῆς
ψυχῆς ἡνιοχεύεις.

 

fr. 377

“Ah, I climbed up again and leapt
From the Leucadian Cliff into the grey wave,
Drunk with longing.”

ἀρθεὶς δηὖτ’ ἀπὸ Λευκάδος
πέτρης ἐς πολιὸν κῦμα κολυμβῶ μεθύων ἔρωτι.

 

fr. 378

“I am springing up to Olympos on light wings
Because of Desire—for [no one] wants to enjoy youth with me”

ἀναπέτομαι δὴ πρὸς ῎Ολυμπον πτερύγεσσι κούφηις
διὰ τὸν ῎Ερωτ’· οὐ γὰρ ἐμοὶ <> θέλει συνηβᾶν.

 

fr. 389

“Since you’re a friendly girl to strangers, allow me to drink because I’m thirsty”

φίλη γάρ εἰς ξείνοισιν· ἔασον δέ με διψέοντα πιεῖν.

 

Image result for ancient greek anacreon
Anacreon, Verso.

 

Tawdry Tuesday: That Artemon and his Earrings

Why is this fragment tawdry? Oh, some choice words, casual misogyny, and the typical invective fare.

Anacreon, Fragment 388

“Before, he used to wander around with a broken cap,
A thread-bare hood, holding dice in his ears
And a bare bit of leather
Around his ribs,

It was the unwashed wrapping of a terrible shield,
That wretch Artemôn who, because he hung out with
Bread-sellers and voluntary whores and devised a
Devious life for himself

Often found his neck on the stock or his body on the wheel,
And often found his back marked by a whip, and his
Hair and beard plucked clean.

But now he climbs on a chariot wearing gold earrings
This child of Kukê, as he carries an ivory parasol
Just like women do.

πρὶν μὲν ἔχων βερβέριον, καλύμματ’ ἐσφηκωμένα,
καὶ ξυλίνους ἀστραγάλους ἐν ὠσὶ καὶ ψιλὸν περὶ
πλευρῆισι <> βοός,

νήπλυτον εἴλυμα κακῆς ἀσπίδος, ἀρτοπώλισιν
κἀθελοπόρνοισιν ὁμιλέων ὁ πονηρὸς ᾿Αρτέμων,
κίβδηλον εὑρίσκων βίον,

πολλὰ μὲν ἐν δουρὶ τιθεὶς αὐχένα, πολλὰ δ’ ἐν τροχῶι,
πολλὰ δὲ νῶτον σκυτίνηι μάστιγι θωμιχθείς, κόμην
πώγωνά τ’ ἐκτετιλμένος·

νῦν δ’ ἐπιβαίνει σατινέων χρύσεα φορέων καθέρματα
†παῖς Κύκης† καὶ σκιαδίσκην ἐλεφαντίνην φορεῖ
γυναιξὶν αὔτως <>.

Image result for ancient greek man on chariot
Arrival of Guests at the Wedding of Peleus and Thetis

Hunting, Leaping, and Drunk on Love: Some Anacreon for Your Weekend

Anacreon, fr. 357

“Lord with whom Lust the subduer
And the dark-eyed nymphs
And royal Aphrodite play
As you roam the high mountain peaks.

I beg you:
come to me kindly
Hear my prayer made pleasing to you:

Be a good advisor to Kleoboulos,
Dionysus, that he accept
My desire.

ὦναξ, ὧι δαμάλης ῎Ερως
καὶ Νύμφαι κυανώπιδες
πορφυρῆ τ’ ᾿Αφροδίτη
συμπαίζουσιν, ἐπιστρέφεαι
δ’ ὑψηλὰς ὀρέων κορυφάς·

γουνοῦμαί σε, σὺ δ’ εὐμενὴς
ἔλθ’ ἡμίν, κεχαρισμένης
δ’ εὐχωλῆς ἐπακούειν·
Κλεοβούλωι δ’ ἀγαθὸς γένεο
σύμβουλος, τὸν ἐμόν γ’ ἔρω-
τ’, ὦ Δεόνυσε, δέχεσθαι.

fr. 358

“Again! Golden-haired Desire
Strikes me with a purple ball
Calling me out to play
With a fine-sandaled youth

But she is from well-settled
Lesbos and she carps at my hair,
Because it is white. So she stares at
Some other [hair] instead.”*

σφαίρηι δηὖτέ με πορφυρῆι
βάλλων χρυσοκόμης ῎Ερως
νήνι ποικιλοσαμβάλωι
συμπαίζειν προκαλεῖται·

ἡ δ’, ἐστὶν γὰρ ἀπ’ εὐκτίτου
Λέσβου, τὴν μὲν ἐμὴν κόμην,
λευκὴ γάρ, καταμέμφεται,
πρὸς δ’ ἄλλην τινὰ χάσκει.

*The Greek ἄλλην τινὰ may mean “some other girl” as the Loeb translation has it. But the structure of the sentence makes me think the girl is staring at different hair (not the narrator’s white hair).

fr. 359

“I long for Kleoboulos.
I am crazy for Kleoboulos.
I am staring at Kleoboulos.”

Κλεοβούλου μὲν ἔγωγ’ ἐρέω,
Κλεοβούλωι δ’ ἐπιμαίνομαι,
Κλεόβουλον δὲ διοσκέω.

 

fr. 360

“Boy with a maiden’s looks—
I am hunting you, but you don’t hear me
Because you do not know
That you are the charioteer of my soul”

ὦ παῖ παρθένιον βλέπων
δίζημαί σε, σὺ δ’ οὐ κλύεις,
οὐκ εἰδὼς ὅτι τῆς ἐμῆς
ψυχῆς ἡνιοχεύεις.

 

fr. 377

“Ah, I climbed up again and leapt
From the Leucadian Cliff into the grey wave,
Drunk with longing.”

ἀρθεὶς δηὖτ’ ἀπὸ Λευκάδος
πέτρης ἐς πολιὸν κῦμα κολυμβῶ μεθύων ἔρωτι.

 

fr. 378

“I am springing up to Olympos on light wings
Because of Desire—for [no one] wants to enjoy youth with me”

ἀναπέτομαι δὴ πρὸς ῎Ολυμπον πτερύγεσσι κούφηις
διὰ τὸν ῎Ερωτ’· οὐ γὰρ ἐμοὶ <> θέλει συνηβᾶν.

 

fr. 389

“Since you’re a friendly girl to strangers, allow me to drink because I’m thirsty”

φίλη γάρ εἰς ξείνοισιν· ἔασον δέ με διψέοντα πιεῖν.

 

Image result for ancient greek anacreon
Anacreon, Verso.