Throwing Some Homeric Shade: Sparta is Teucer to an Athenian Ajax

Aelius Aristides, Panathenaic Oration, 282-285

“But [the Spartans] dealt with those who entrusted their safety to them so that they defended themselves best of all people against those charges which at certain times were brought against our city. The explanation for this is not their savagery nor any of those common things which one might easily say to fault them, but the basic failure of their nature to measure up to ours. While the Athenians, furthermore, were in control for more than 70 years, the Spartans could not even hold their empire for three Olympiads. And this would not have even been a true statement if they had not taken over while the first Olympiad period ongoing!

This is why I get annoyed at those who want to compare the two cities. I might in fact seem strange to some of you in criticizing them and then proceeding to do the same thing myself all while saying these things for the very same reasons that I claim they shouldn’t be said. But this illustrates clearly that whatever favor they believe they bestow on the city is not at all remarkable and that these sorts of arguments are not be made freely. So, if someone thinks that I should not have said these things, this is why I said them. In addition, these statements were made without personal attack and because of a pressing need—for there was no other way to show what I wanted to and I was compelled to say what I said for the very reasons I tried not to.

For the Spartans seem to me to have suffered in comparison to this city what Teucer did from Ajax at Homer’s hands. For Teucer retreats to Ajax when he risks his life in front of the rest and at the same time is famous and then sullied by this. In the same way, the Spartans, who stood in front and endangered themselves for the Greeks in a time of need, are still children when compared to our city.”

οἱ δ’ οὕτω τοὺς παραδόντας αὑτοὺς διέθηκαν ὥστε κάλλιστ’ ἀνθρώπων ἀπελογήσαντο ὑπὲρ τῶν κατὰ καιρούς τινας αἰτιῶν γενομένων παρ’ ἐνίων τῇ πόλει. αἴτιον δ’ οὐκ ὠμότης οὐδ’ ἅ τις ἂν φαίη τῶν ῥᾳδίως εἰωθότων ἐπιτιμᾶν, ἀλλὰ τὸ μὴ ἐξικνεῖσθαι τὰς φύσεις ἄχρι τοῦ ἴσου. καὶ μὴν οἱ μὲν πλέον ἢ ἑβδομήκοντα ἔτη κατέσχον, οἱ δ’ οὐδ’ εἰς τρεῖς Ὀλυμπιάδας διεφύλαξαν τὴν ἀρχήν. οὔκουν ὡς ἀληθῶς ἄλλως γε ἂν εἴη, εἰ μὴ τὸ πρῶτον Ὀλυμπίων προσαγόντων παρέλαβον.

ταῦτ’ ἐστὶν ἁγὼ τοῖς παρεξετάζειν βουλομένοις ἄχθομαι. ἴσως μὲν οὖν κἀγώ τισι ποιεῖν ἄτοπον δοκῶ, μεμφόμενος μὲν, αὐτὸς δ’ εἰς τοὺς ὁμοίους λόγους προεληλυθώς, καὶ δι’ αὐτά γε ταῦτ’ εἰρηκὼς αὐτοὺς δι’ ἅ φημι δεῖν μὴ λέγειν. οὐ μὴν ἀλλ’ ἐξ αὐτῶν τούτων καὶ μάλιστ’ ἄν τις κατίδοι ὡς οὔτε ἡ χάρις θαυμαστή, ἣν οἴονται τῇ πόλει κατατίθεσθαι, οὔτ’ ἐξεπίτηδες τά γε τοιαῦτα ἀγωνιστέον. ὥστ’ εἴ τις ἀξιοῖ καὶ ἡμῖν ἄρρητα ταῦτ’ εἶναι, σχεδὸν τούτου χάριν εἴρηται. χωρὶς δὲ τούτων ἄνευ βλασφημίας οἱ λόγοι γεγόνασι καὶ τῆς παραπεσούσης χρείας ἕνεκα. οὐ γὰρ ἦν ἄλλως ὃ προειλόμην ἀποδεῖξαι, ὥστ’ ἐξ ὧν ἔφευγον, ἐκ τούτων προήχθην εἰπεῖν.

δοκοῦσι γάρ μοι Λακεδαιμόνιοι τὸ τοῦ παρ’ Ὁμήρῳ Τεύκρου πρὸς τὸν Αἴαντα πεπονθέναι πρὸς τὴν πόλιν. καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνος τῶν ἄλλων προκινδυνεύων ὡς τὸν Αἴαντα ἀναχωρεῖ καὶ δι’ ἐκείνου φαίνεται, ὡς δ’ αὕτως καὶ κρύπτεται, καὶ Λακεδαιμόνιοι οἱ τῶν Ἑλλήνων προέχοντες καὶ προκινδυνεύοντες ἐν ταῖς χρείαις παῖδες τῇ πόλει παραβαλεῖν εἰσίν.

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Statue of Teucer by Sir William Hamo Thornycroft

The Athenians are Nice! (A Roman Writes From Athens)

Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 5.10 27 (June 51)

“What else besides? Nothing really except for this. Athens has been a delight to me, when it comes to the city and its decoration and the love that its people show you, a certain kind of goodwill they have for us. But many things have been changed and philosophy is disordered this way and that. If there is anything left, it is Aristos’ and I am staying with him.

I left your, or rather ‘our’, friend Zeno to Quintus even though he is close enough that we are together the whole day. I wish that you will write me of your plans as soon as you can so I may know what you are doing and where you will be at which time and, especially, when you will be in Rome.

Quid est praeterea? nihil sane nisi illud: valde me Athenae delectarunt, urbe dumtaxat et urbis ornamento et hominum amore in te, in nos quadam benevolentia; sed mu<tata mu>lta.6 philosophia sursum deorsum. si quid est, est in Aristo, apud quem eram; nam Xenonem tuum vel nostrum potius Quinto concesseram, et tamen propter vicinitatem totos dies simul eramus. tu velim cum primum poteris tua consilia ad me scribas, ut sciam quid agas, ubi quoque tempore, maxime quando Romae futurus sis.

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The Roman Agora

That Rarified Athenian Air

Cicero, de Fato 7-8 [discussing ideas of Chrysippus and Posidonius]

“We observe how much of a difference there is between the characters of various places: some are healthy, others are unhealthy; we see that people in some places are phlegmatic and like people who have too much moisture while others are dried out and thirsty. There are many other significant differences between different places.

Athens has a rare climate from which the residents of Attica are considered to be smarter than others; it is humid at Thebes, and so the Thebans are thick and strong. Nevertheless, that sterling Athenian environments will not ensure that anyone listens to Zeno or Arcesilas or Theophrastus any more than the thick Theban air will prepare someone better to win at Nemea than in Corinth.”

Inter locorum naturas quantum intersit videmus: alios esse salubres, alios pestilentes, in aliis esse pituitosos et quasi redundantes, in aliis exsiccatos atque aridos; multaque sunt alia quae inter locum et locum plurimum differant. Athenis tenue caelum, ex quo etiamacutiores putantur Attici, crassum Thebis, itaque pingues Thebani et valentes. Tamen neque illud tenue caelum efficiet ut aut Zenonem quis aut Arcesilam aut Theophrastum audiat, neque crassum ut Nemea

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Some Pictures of Athens Near Dawn

I like to run in unfamiliar cities and to get thoroughly lost in them. Now, when we travel with children who aren’t up to touring a town for 8-10 hours a day, this is also a good way to see some things which it might take 2 hours to get to with the young ones in tow.

(And don’t worry that I am spending all my time in Greece blogging. I am skimping on the sleep and enjoying Greek coffee while the kids recover from two days in Santorini.)

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Panathenaic Stadium

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Hadrian’s Arch

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Temple of Olympian Zeus

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Acropolis from Behind Theater of Dionysus

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Another shot of the same, a bit farther west

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Sanctuary of Pan, South of Akropolis

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Mt. Lycabettus (Lykavittos) at dawn

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Graffiti I cannot disagree with

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The Academy of Athens

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The National Archaeologlical Museum with Mt. Lycabettus in the Background

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A sculpture not too far from my hotel (Great School of the Nation Square)

This route started near the sculpture and then went down past the Temple of Olympian Zeus and south of the Akropolis. From there I went around the north side of Mt. Lycabettus via the Akademia, National Museum and Areos Pedion (Field/Plain of Ares).

Athens: Sometimes You Want to Go Where Nobody Knows Your Name

Valerius Maximus, 8 ext 5: Democritus Unknown in Athens

“Democritus could have been esteemed for his wealth which was so immense that his father was able to provide a feast to all of Xerxes’ army with ease. In order that he might focus a free mind on the study of literature, he donated his wealth to his country keeping only a very small part for himself.

Even though he stayed in Athens for many years and dedicated himself to gathering and using knowledge, he lived unknown in the city, which he attests too in a certain book. My mind is awestruck with admiration of such a work ethic. And now it moves to something else.”

Democritus, cum divitiis censeri posset, quae tantae fuerunt ut pater eius Xerxis exercitui epulum dare ex facili potuerit, quo magis vacuo animo studiis litterarum esset operatus, parva admodum summa retenta patrimonium suum patriae donavit. Athenis autem compluribus annis moratus, omnia temporum momenta ad percipiendam et exercendam doctrinam conferens, ignotus illi urbi vixit, quod ipse quodam volumine testatur. stupet mens admiratione tantae industriae et iam transit alio.

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Romans Disagree on Athens — Lucretius and Sallust

Athens Week:

From Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura:

“Athens, that famous name, first gave to sickly man
Fruit bearing crops long ago and with them
Created life anew and called for laws
And first offered the sweet comforts of life
When she produced a man with such a soul
That he once divulged everything from his truth-telling tongue.
Though his life has ended, thanks to his divine discoveries,
His glory has been carried abroad and now nears the heavens.
For he saw then that everything which is needed for life
Has already been set aside for mortal man and that
As far as they were able, their life was already safe…”

Primae frugiparos fetus mortalibus aegris
dididerunt quondam praeclaro nomine Athenae
et recreaverunt vitam legesque rogarunt
et primae dederunt solacia dulcia vitae,
cum genuere virum tali cum corde repertum,
omnia veridico qui quondam ex ore profudit;
cuius et extincti propter divina reperta
divolgata vetus iam ad caelum gloria fertur.
nam cum vidit hic ad victum quae flagitat usus
omnia iam ferme mortalibus esse parata
et, pro quam possent, vitam consistere tutam…
The man at Athens? Epicurus, of course.

Sallust, Bellum Catilinae 8

“The achievements of the Athenians were, as I see it, great and magnificent enough, but perhaps a little less so than is commonly believed. But, because the most talented writers happened to go there, the achievements of the Athenians are celebrated throughout the world as the greatest ever.”

Atheniensium res gestae, sicuti ego aestumo, satis amplae magnificaeque fuere, verum aliquanto minores tamen, quam fama feruntur.  Sed quia provenere ibi scriptorum magna ingenia, per terrarum orbem Atheniensium facta pro maxumis celebrantur.

Athens

Velleius Paterculus has his own take on this:

“My wonder passes from clustering in certain times to cities. A solitary Attic city bloomed with more works of every kind of eloquence than the rest of Greece together, to the point that you might believe that the bodies of that race were separated into different cities, but that the geniuses were enclosed only within the walls of Athens. I find this no more surprising than the fact that no Argive, Theban or Spartan was considered worthy of note while he was alive or after he died. These cities, though preeminent for other things, were intellectually infertile, except for Pindar’s single voice which graced Thebes—for the Laconians mark Alcman as their own wrongly.”

[18] Transit admiratio ab conditione temporum et ad urbium. Una urbs Attica pluribus omnis eloquentiae quam universa Graecia operibus usque floruit adeo ut corpora gentis illius separata sint in alias civitates, ingenia vero solis Atheniensium muris clausa existimes. 2 Neque hoc ego magis miratus sim quam neminem Argivum Thebanum Lacedaemonium oratorem aut dum vixit auctoritate aut post mortem memoria dignum existimatum. 3 Quae urbes eximiae alias talium studiorum fuere steriles, nisi Thebas unum os Pindari inluminaret: nam Alcmana Lacones falso sibi vindicant.

Here Velleius moves from the clustering of intellects in time to their clustering in space. Although, to be fair, it seems that one would be impossible without the other…

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Cicero: When I Think of Greece, I Think of Athens

Cicero, Brutus 26.7

“Greece is the witness to this because it was set aflame with a desire for eloquence and has surpassed in it and exceeded other places But Greece also has greater antiquity in all arts which it not only discovered but perfected because the power and abundance of speaking was developed by the Greeks. When I consider Greece, Atticus, your Athens occurs to me especially and shines out like a lighthouse. It is here that an orator first showed himself and here that oratory began to be entrusted to monuments and writings.”

vii. Testis est Graecia, quae cum eloquentiae studio sit incensa iamdiuque excellat in ea praestetque ceteris, tamen omnis artis vetustiores habet et multo ante non inventas solum sed etiam perfectas, quam haec est a Graecis elaborata dicendi vis atque copia. In quam cum intueor, maxime mihi occurrunt, Attice, et quasi lucent Athenae tuae, qua in urbe primum se orator extulit primumque etiam monumentis et litteris oratio est coepta mandari.

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