The Most Shameful Plague

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 609-612

“I will tell you everything clearly that you need to learn,
Without interweaving riddles, in a direct speech,
The right way to open one’s mouth to friends.
You see Prometheus, the one who gave mortals fire.”

λέξω τορῶς σοι πᾶν ὅπερ χρήζεις μαθεῖν,
οὐκ ἐμπλέκων αἰνίγματ᾿, ἀλλ᾿ ἁπλῷ λόγῳ,
ὥσπερ δίκαιον πρὸς φίλους οἴγειν στόμα.
πυρὸς βροτοῖς δοτῆρ᾿ ὁρᾷς Προμηθέα.

682-686

“You hear what has happened. If you can,
Tell me the rest of my toils and don’t distract me
With false tales because you pity me
I think that manufactured lies are the most shameful plague.”

κλύεις τὰ πραχθέντ᾿. εἰ δ᾿ ἔχεις εἰπεῖν ὅ τι
λοιπὸν πόνων, σήμαινε· μηδέ μ᾿ οἰκτίσας
ξύνθαλπε μύθοις ψευδέσιν· νόσημα γὰρ
αἴσχιστον εἶναί φημι συνθέτους λόγους.

Jacob Jordaens – Prometheus bound, 1648

The More Things Change…: Let the Oldest Citizen Speak First!

In the following speech check out the extreme distance between the μὲν clause and the δὲ clause. Also note Aeschines’ assertions about the rules for speaking in court (descending from oldest to youngest) traced back to Solon.

Aeschines, Against Ctesiphon 1-5

“Athenian men: you see the preparations and plans, how many there are, and the public pleading which certain men have used against what is measured and customary in the state. But I have come here because I have faith first in the gods and then in the laws and you—since I believe that no type of preparation is stronger among you than the laws and justice.

I [μὲν οὖν] would therefore wish, Athenian men, that the Council of Five Hundred and the Assembly would be governed rightly by those who led them and that the laws which Solon established about the proper order for public speakers would prevail: that it would be possible for the oldest citizen—as the laws prescribe—to speak prudently what he thinks is best for the city based on his experience on the platform without racket and trouble and then the rest of the citizens, as each desired, would provide their opinion about each matter in turn separated by age. In this way, the city would seem to me to be governed best, and the fewest cases would develop.

But [Ἐπειδὴ δὲ] since now all the standards which were previously agreed as acceptable have been rejected and certain men make illegal proclamations easily while others vote for them—and these are not men who were chosen by lot in the most just fashion to preside, but they sit in judgment by collusion and if any other councilor should actually obtain the right to be seated by lot and proclaims your votes correctly, then men who no longer believe that citizenship is a public good but think it is a private right threaten to accuse him; men who would take them as private slaves and make governments for themselves; these men who cast down the judgments of precedent and mete out their decisions based on the votes of anger—now the wisest and finest command of those in the city is silent: “Who of those men who are already fifty years old wishes to address the people?” and then in turn the rest of the Athenians. Now neither the laws nor the prytanes nor the selected officials nor even the selected tribe which is one tenth of the city is able to manage the disorder of the politicians.

Τὴν μὲν παρασκευὴν ὁρᾶτε, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, καὶ τὴν παράταξιν ὅση γεγένηται, καὶ τὰς κατὰ τὴν ἀγορὰν δεήσεις, αἷς κέχρηνταί τινες ὑπὲρ τοῦ τὰ μέτρια καὶ συνήθη μὴ γίγνεσθαι ἐν τῇ πόλει· ἐγὼ δὲ πεπιστευκὼς ἥκω πρῶτον μὲν τοῖς θεοῖς, ἔπειτα τοῖς νόμοις καὶ ὑμῖν, ἡγούμενος οὐδεμίαν παρασκευὴν μεῖζον ἰσχύειν παρ᾿ ὑμῖν τῶν νόμων καὶ τῶν δικαίων.

Ἐβουλόμην μὲν οὖν, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, καὶ τὴν βουλὴν τοὺς πεντακοσίους καὶ τὰς ἐκκλησίας ὑπὸ τῶν ἐφεστηκότων ὀρθῶς διοικεῖσθαι, καὶ τοὺς νόμους οὓς ἐνομοθέτησεν ὁ Σόλων περὶ τῆς τῶν ῥητόρων εὐκοσμίας ἰσχύειν, ἵνα ἐξῆν πρῶτον μὲν τῷ πρεσβυτάτῳ τῶν πολιτῶν, ὥσπερ οἱ νόμοι προστάττουσι, σωφρόνως ἐπὶ τὸ βῆμα παρελθόντι ἄνευ θορύβου καὶ ταραχῆς ἐξ ἐμπειρίας τὰ βέλτιστα τῇ πόλει συμβουλεύειν, δεύτερον δ᾿ ἤδη καὶ τῶν ἄλλων πολιτῶν τὸν βουλόμενον καθ᾿ ἡλικίαν χωρὶς καὶ ἐν μέρει περὶ ἑκάστου γνώμην ἀποφαίνεσθαι· οὕτω γὰρ ἄν μοι δοκεῖ ἥ τε πόλις ἄριστα διοικεῖσθαι, αἵ τε κρίσεις ἐλάχισται γίγνεσθαι.

Ἐπειδὴ δὲ πάντα τὰ πρότερον ὡμολογημένα καλῶς ἔχειν νυνὶ καταλέλυται, καὶ γράφουσί τε τινὲς ῥᾳδίως παρανόμους γνώμας, καὶ ταύτας ἕτεροι τινες ἐπιψηφίζουσιν, οὐκ ἐκ τοῦ δικαιοτάτου τρόπου λαχόντες προεδρεύειν, ἀλλ᾿ ἐκ παρασκευῆς καθεζόμενοι, ἂν δέ τις τῶν ἄλλων βουλευτῶν ὄντως λάχῃ προεδρεύειν,3 καὶ τὰς ὑμετέρας χειροτονίας ὀρθῶς ἀναγορεύῃ, τοῦτον οἱ τὴν πολιτείαν οὐκέτι κοινήν, ἀλλ᾿ ἰδίαν αὑτῶν ἡγούμενοι, ἀπειλοῦσιν εἰσαγγελεῖν, καταδουλούμενοι τοὺς ἰδιώτας καὶ δυναστείας ἑαυτοῖς περιποιούμενοι, καὶ τὰς κρίσεις τὰς μὲν ἐκ τῶν νόμων καταλελύκασι, τὰς δ᾿ ἐκ τῶν ψηφισμάτων μετ᾿ ὀργῆς κρίνουσιν, σεσίγηται μὲν τὸ κάλλιστον καὶ σωφρονέστατον κήρυγμα τῶν ἐν τῇ πόλει· “Τίς ἀγορεύειν βούλεται τῶν ὑπὲρ πεντήκοντα ἔτη γεγονότων;” καὶ πάλιν ἐν μέρει τῶν ἄλλων Ἀθηναίων. τῆς δὲ τῶν ῥητόρων ἀκοσμίας οὐκέτι κρατεῖν δύνανται οὔθ᾿ οἱ νόμοι οὔθ᾿ οἱ πρυτάνεις οὔθ᾿ οἱ πρόεδροι οὔθ᾿ ἡ προεδρεύουσα φυλή, τὸ δέκατον μέρος τῆς πόλεως.

Aeschines bust.jpg
Bust of Aeschines

“This is One of Those Speeches”: Isocrates on Good Advice and the Common Enemy

Isocrates, Panegyricus 1-6

“I have often been surprised at those who called together the assemblies and established the athletic contests, particularly at the fact that, while they considered the successes of the body to be worthy of prizes so great, they apportioned no kind of honor to those who had toiled for the commons with their private effort and who had prepared their minds so that they might be able to help others. It is appropriate to make a greater consideration for these men—for, although athletes obtain twice the amount of their strength, they provide nothing more for everyone else; but should one man offer good advice, everyone who wants to share in his opinion would profit.

And, truly, I do not choose to take it easy because I have been dispirited by this things—no, because I think that I will have as a sufficient prize the reputation that will come from this speech, I have come for the purpose of counseling you about both the war against the barbarians and your harmony with one another. And I do this even though I am not ignorant that many of those who pretend to be wise have rushed to this subject before, but because at the same time I expect that I will take this so far that nothing will seem to have ever been spoken before on this matters, and, because I think that these are the most noble words, ones that happen to be about the most important matters and which illuminate those who speak them the best and most help those who hear them. This is one of those speeches.

Furthermore, the opportunity to act has not yet passed us by—so it is not pointless to speak about these matters. For it is right to stope speaking about something when an end has overtaken affairs and it is no longer necessary to advise about them, or when one sees that the argument has such an end that nothing is left for others to say. But as long as these are similar to how they were before, and what was previously said happens to be insufficient, how is it not right to examine and weigh this argument philosophically when the correct plan will free us from this war against one another, our present turmoil, and the greatest evils we face?”

Πολλάκις ἐθαύμασα τῶν τὰς πανηγύρεις συναγαγόντων καὶ τοὺς γυμνικοὺς ἀγῶνας καταστησάντων, ὅτι τὰς μὲν τῶν σωμάτων εὐτυχίας οὕτω μεγάλων δωρεῶν ἠξίωσαν, τοῖς δ᾿ ὑπὲρ τῶν κοινῶν ἰδίᾳ πονήσασι καὶ τὰς ἑαυτῶν ψυχὰς οὕτω παρασκευάσασιν ὥστε καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ὠφελεῖν δύνασθαι, τούτοις δ᾿ οὐδεμίαν τιμὴν ἀπένειμαν· ὧν εἰκὸς ἦν αὐτοὺς μᾶλλον ποιήσασθαι πρόνοιαν· τῶν μὲν γὰρ ἀθλητῶν δὶς τοσαύτην ῥώμην λαβόντων οὐδὲν ἂν πλέον γένοιτο τοῖς ἄλλοις, ἑνὸς δὲ ἀνδρὸς εὖ φρονήσαντος ἅπαντες ἂν ἀπολαύσειαν οἱ βουλόμενοι κοινωνεῖν τῆς ἐκείνου διανοίας.

Οὐ μὴν ἐπὶ τούτοις ἀθυμήσας εἱλόμην ῥᾳθυμεῖν, ἀλλ᾿ ἱκανὸν νομίσας ἆθλον ἔσεσθαί μοι τὴν δόξαν τὴν ἀπ᾿ αὐτοῦ τοῦ λόγου γενησομένην ἥκω συμβουλεύσων περί τε τοῦ πολέμου τοῦ πρὸς τοὺς βαρβάρους καὶ τῆς ὁμονοίας τῆς πρὸς ἡμᾶς αὐτούς, οὐκ ἀγνοῶν ὅτι πολλοὶ τῶν προσποιησαμένων εἶναι σοφιστῶν ἐπὶ τοῦτον τὸν λόγον ὥρμησαν, ἀλλ᾿ ἅμα μὲν ἐλπίζων τοσοῦτον διοίσειν ὥστε τοῖς ἄλλοις μηδὲν πώποτε δοκεῖν εἰρῆσθαι περὶ αὐτῶν, ἅμα δὲ προκρίνας τούτους καλλίστους εἶναι τῶν λόγων, οἵτινες περὶ μεγίστων τυγχάνουσιν ὄντες καὶ τούς τε λέγοντας μάλιστ᾿ ἐπιδεικνύουσι καὶ τοὺς ἀκούοντας πλεῖστ᾿ ὠφελοῦσιν, ὧν εἷς οὗτός ἐστιν. ἔπειτ᾿ οὐδ᾿ οἱ καιροί πω παρεληλύθασιν, ὥστ᾿ ἤδη μάτην εἶναι τὸ μεμνῆσθαι περὶ τούτων. τότε γὰρ χρὴ παύεσθαι λέγοντας, ὅταν ἢ τὰ πράγματα λάβῃ τέλος καὶ μηκέτι δέῃ βουλεύεσθαι περὶ αὐτῶν, ἢ τὸν λόγον ἴδῃ τις ἔχοντα πέρας, ὥστε μηδεμίαν λελεῖφθαι τοῖς ἄλλοις ὑπερβολήν. ἕως δ᾿ ἂν τὰ μὲν ὁμοίως ὥσπερ πρότερον φέρηται, τὰ δ᾿ εἰρημένα φαύλως ἔχοντα τυγχάνῃ, πῶς οὐ χρὴ σκοπεῖν καὶ φιλοσοφεῖν τοῦτον τὸν λόγον, ὃς ἢν κατορθωθῇ, καὶ τοῦ πολέμου τοῦ πρὸς ἀλλήλους καὶ τῆς ταραχῆς τῆς παρούσης καὶ τῶν μεγίστων κακῶν ἡμᾶς ἀπαλλάξει;

 

Image result for Ancient Greek Isocrates

Let the Oldest Citizen Speak First!

In the following speech check out the extreme distance between the μὲν clause and the δὲ clause. Also note Aeschines’ assertions about the rules for speaking in court (descending from oldest to youngest) traced back to Solon.

Aeschines, Against Ctesiphon 1-5

“Athenian men: you see the preparations and plans, how many there are, and the public pleading which certain men have used against what is measured and customary in the state. But I have come here because I have faith first in the gods and then in the laws and you—since I believe that no type of preparation is stronger among you than the laws and justice.

I [μὲν οὖν] would therefore wish, Athenian men, that the Council of Five Hundred and the Assembly would be governed rightly by those who led them and that the laws which Solon established about the proper order for public speakers would prevail: that it would be possible for the oldest citizen—as the laws prescribe—to speak prudently what he thinks is best for the city based on his experience on the platform without racket and trouble and then the rest of the citizens, as each desired, would provide their opinion about each matter in turn separated by age. In this way, the city would seem to me to be governed best, and the fewest cases would develop.

But [Ἐπειδὴ δὲ] since now all the standards which were previously agreed as acceptable have been rejected and certain men make illegal proclamations easily while others vote for them—and these are not men who were chosen by lot in the most just fashion to preside, but they sit in judgment by collusion and if any other councilor should actually obtain the right to be seated by lot and proclaims your votes correctly, then men who no longer believe that citizenship is a public good but think it is a private right threaten to accuse him; men who would take them as private slaves and make governments for themselves; these men who cast down the judgments of precedent and mete out their decisions based on the votes of anger—now the wisest and finest command of those in the city is silent: “Who of those men who are already fifty years old wishes to address the people?” and then in turn the rest of the Athenians. Now neither the laws nor the prytanes nor the selected officials nor even the selected tribe which is one tenth of the city is able to manage the disorder of the politicians.

Τὴν μὲν παρασκευὴν ὁρᾶτε, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, καὶ τὴν παράταξιν ὅση γεγένηται, καὶ τὰς κατὰ τὴν ἀγορὰν δεήσεις, αἷς κέχρηνταί τινες ὑπὲρ τοῦ τὰ μέτρια καὶ συνήθη μὴ γίγνεσθαι ἐν τῇ πόλει· ἐγὼ δὲ πεπιστευκὼς ἥκω πρῶτον μὲν τοῖς θεοῖς, ἔπειτα τοῖς νόμοις καὶ ὑμῖν, ἡγούμενος οὐδεμίαν παρασκευὴν μεῖζον ἰσχύειν παρ᾿ ὑμῖν τῶν νόμων καὶ τῶν δικαίων.

Ἐβουλόμην μὲν οὖν, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, καὶ τὴν βουλὴν τοὺς πεντακοσίους καὶ τὰς ἐκκλησίας ὑπὸ τῶν ἐφεστηκότων ὀρθῶς διοικεῖσθαι, καὶ τοὺς νόμους οὓς ἐνομοθέτησεν ὁ Σόλων περὶ τῆς τῶν ῥητόρων εὐκοσμίας ἰσχύειν, ἵνα ἐξῆν πρῶτον μὲν τῷ πρεσβυτάτῳ τῶν πολιτῶν, ὥσπερ οἱ νόμοι προστάττουσι, σωφρόνως ἐπὶ τὸ βῆμα παρελθόντι ἄνευ θορύβου καὶ ταραχῆς ἐξ ἐμπειρίας τὰ βέλτιστα τῇ πόλει συμβουλεύειν, δεύτερον δ᾿ ἤδη καὶ τῶν ἄλλων πολιτῶν τὸν βουλόμενον καθ᾿ ἡλικίαν χωρὶς καὶ ἐν μέρει περὶ ἑκάστου γνώμην ἀποφαίνεσθαι· οὕτω γὰρ ἄν μοι δοκεῖ ἥ τε πόλις ἄριστα διοικεῖσθαι, αἵ τε κρίσεις ἐλάχισται γίγνεσθαι.

Ἐπειδὴ δὲ πάντα τὰ πρότερον ὡμολογημένα καλῶς ἔχειν νυνὶ καταλέλυται, καὶ γράφουσί τε τινὲς ῥᾳδίως παρανόμους γνώμας, καὶ ταύτας ἕτεροι τινες ἐπιψηφίζουσιν, οὐκ ἐκ τοῦ δικαιοτάτου τρόπου λαχόντες προεδρεύειν, ἀλλ᾿ ἐκ παρασκευῆς καθεζόμενοι, ἂν δέ τις τῶν ἄλλων βουλευτῶν ὄντως λάχῃ προεδρεύειν,3 καὶ τὰς ὑμετέρας χειροτονίας ὀρθῶς ἀναγορεύῃ, τοῦτον οἱ τὴν πολιτείαν οὐκέτι κοινήν, ἀλλ᾿ ἰδίαν αὑτῶν ἡγούμενοι, ἀπειλοῦσιν εἰσαγγελεῖν, καταδουλούμενοι τοὺς ἰδιώτας καὶ δυναστείας ἑαυτοῖς περιποιούμενοι, καὶ τὰς κρίσεις τὰς μὲν ἐκ τῶν νόμων καταλελύκασι, τὰς δ᾿ ἐκ τῶν ψηφισμάτων μετ᾿ ὀργῆς κρίνουσιν, σεσίγηται μὲν τὸ κάλλιστον καὶ σωφρονέστατον κήρυγμα τῶν ἐν τῇ πόλει· “Τίς ἀγορεύειν βούλεται τῶν ὑπὲρ πεντήκοντα ἔτη γεγονότων;” καὶ πάλιν ἐν μέρει τῶν ἄλλων Ἀθηναίων. τῆς δὲ τῶν ῥητόρων ἀκοσμίας οὐκέτι κρατεῖν δύνανται οὔθ᾿ οἱ νόμοι οὔθ᾿ οἱ πρυτάνεις οὔθ᾿ οἱ πρόεδροι οὔθ᾿ ἡ προεδρεύουσα φυλή, τὸ δέκατον μέρος τῆς πόλεως.

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Isocrates on the Power of Homeric Poetry

Isocrates, To Nicocles 48-50

“But this is clear: those who wish to compose or write anything that is cherished popularly need to seek out not the most beneficial types of speech but the most mythical. For people take pleasure in listening to these types of tales and when they witness contests and struggles.  For this reason, it is right to wonder at the poetry of Homer and the first tragedians—because they recognize human nature, they have imbued their poetry with both of these powers. Homer has told tales of the struggles and wars of the demigods while the tragedians have worked the myths into competitions and actions so that we are not just listeners but eyewitnesses as well. Given these types of prior examples, then, it is necessary that those who desire to keep our attention should avoid warning and counseling and should focus instead on those things which they know effectively pleases the crowd.”

᾿Εκεῖνο δ’ οὖν φανερὸν, ὅτι δεῖ τοὺς βουλομένους ἢ ποιεῖν ἢ γράφειν τι κεχαρισμένον τοῖς πολλοῖς μὴ τοὺς ὠφελιμωτάτους τῶν λόγων ζητεῖν, ἀλλὰ τοὺς μυθωδεστάτους· ἀκούοντες μὲν γὰρ τῶν τοιούτων χαίρουσιν, θεωροῦντες δὲ τοὺς ἀγῶνας καὶ τὰς ἁμίλλας. Διὸ καὶ τὴν ῾Ομήρου ποίησιν καὶ τοὺς πρώτους εὑρόντας τραγῳδίαν ἄξιον θαυμάζειν, ὅτι κατιδόντες τὴν φύσιν τὴν τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀμφοτέραις ταῖς ἰδέαις ταύταις κατεχρήσαντο πρὸς τὴν ποίησιν. ῾Ο μὲν γὰρ τοὺς ἀγῶνας καὶ τοὺς πολέμους τοὺς τῶν ἡμιθέων ἐμυθολόγησεν, οἱ δὲ τοὺς μύθους εἰς ἀγῶνας καὶ πράξεις κατέστησαν, ὥστε μὴ μόνον ἀκουστοὺς ἡμῖν ἀλλὰ καὶ θεατοὺς γενέσθαι. Τοιούτων οὖν παραδειγμάτων ὑπαρχόντων δέδεικται τοῖς ἐπιθυμοῦσιν τοὺς ἀκροωμένους ψυχαγωγεῖν ὅτι τοῦ μὲν νουθετεῖν καὶ συμβουλεύειν ἀφεκτέον, τὰ δὲ τοιαῦτα λεκτέον, οἷς ὁρῶσι τοὺς ὄχλους μάλιστα χαίροντας.

Isocrates

 

Panegyricus 159

“I suspect that even Homer’s poetry acquired a greater reputation because he gloriously promoted the men who fought against the barbarians and thanks to this our forefathers made his art honored in our musical competitions and in the education of the youth so that by hearing his poems often we might learn the ancient enmity towards them and, because we admire the excellence of those who went to war, we might pursue the same deeds.”

Οἶμαι δὲ καὶ τὴν ῾Ομήρου  ποίησιν μείζω λαβεῖν δόξαν ὅτι καλῶς τοὺς πολεμήσαντας τοῖς βαρβάροις ἐνεκωμίασεν καὶ διὰ τοῦτο βουληθῆναι τοὺς προγόνους ἡμῶν ἔντιμον αὐτοῦ ποιῆσαι τὴν τέχνην ἔν τε τοῖς τῆς μουσικῆς ἄθλοις καὶ τῇ παιδεύσει τῶν νεωτέρων, ἵνα πολλάκις ἀκούοντες τῶν ἐπῶν ἐκμανθάνωμεν τὴν ἔχθραν τὴν ὑπάρχουσαν πρὸς αὐτοὺς καὶ ζηλοῦντες τὰς ἀρετὰς τῶν στρατευσαμένων τῶν αὐτῶν ἔργων ἐκείνοις ἐπιθυμῶμεν.

Lucian, Dialogues of the Dead 13.3: Alexander Plays the Fool

“Shouldn’t I laugh, Alexander, when I see you still acting like a fool even in Hades, believing that you are Anubis or Osiris? Don’t hope too much about these things, most divine man: it is not permitted that anyone who has sailed into our harbor once and passed into our anchorage should return.”

Μὴ γελάσω οὖν, ὦ ᾿Αλέξανδρε, ὁρῶν καὶ ἐν ᾅδου ἔτι σε μωραίνοντα καὶ ἐλπίζοντα ῎Ανουβιν ἢ ῎Οσιριν γενήσεσθαι; πλὴν ἀλλὰ ταῦτα μέν, ὦ θειότατε, μὴ ἐλπίσῃς· οὐ γὰρ θέμις ἀνελθεῖν τινα τῶν ἅπαξ διαπλευσάντων τὴν λίμνην καὶ εἰς τὸ εἴσω τοῦ στομίου παρελθόντων·

(Yes, reading the Dialogues of the Dead around a birthday is not necessarily the most uplifting experience. But it is an experience. And, to paraphrase Alcman, an experience is the first step of learning…or something like that.)

Alcman, fr. 125 (Schol ad Pind. Isthm 1.56)

“Trying is the first step of learning”

πῆρά τοι μαθήσιος ἀρχά

I was always a little partial to one of the first lessons to be learned in graduate school (and life):

“Learn by Suffering”

… πάθει μάθος

(Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 177)

Lucian, Dialogues of the Dead 1.3.6

“Fools, why do you watch over your gold? Why do you wear yourselves out calculating interest and adding talents to talents when you must soon go to death with only a single coin?”

 

τί, ὦ μάταιοι, τὸν χρυσὸν φυλάττετε; τί δὲ τιμωρεῖσθε ἑαυτοὺς λογιζόμενοι τοὺς τόκους καὶ τάλαντα ἐπὶ ταλάντοις συντιθέντες, οὓς χρὴ ἕνα ὀβολὸν ἔχοντας ἥκειν μετ’ ὀλίγον;

 

Some liberties with this passage: I put “go to death” for ἥκειν because it makes more sense out of context (which is Diogenes in the underworld telling Pollux to send a message to rich men).  I also translated ἕνα ὀβολὸν as “with only a single coin” because it too would make more sense to an average reader than “having only one obol” (the point being that the only money you get to take is for the boatman Charon…)