“Instead of a Bed, a Tomb; Instead of a Bride, A Stone”

CIRB 125 [Corpus Inscriptionum Regni Bosporani ]c. 50-1 BCE

“Mênodorus and Hêlodôros, the sons of Hêliodôros, greet you
Traveler, beneath me, the words—dear Heliodôros,
Eighteen years old, he had his father’s name.
With him lies his brother on the edge of adulthood,
Mênodorus, who has earned all the pity on Aeida.

Instead of a lovely marriage bed, they get a tomb;
Instead of a bride, a stone, and instead of a wedding, terrible grief for their parents.
I grieve for the pitiable mother who put her hands over their eyes.”

1    Μηνόδωρε καὶ
οἱ Ἡλιοδώρου,
5 ὧθ’ ὑπ’ ἐμοὶ παροδεῖτα, λόγων φίλος Ἡλιόδωρος
ὀκτωκαιδεχέτης, πατρὸς ἔχων ὄνομα·
σὺν τῶι Μηνεόδωρος ὁ μελλυμέναιος ἀδελφὸς
κέκλιται εἰν Ἀείδῃ πάντα λαχὼν ἐλέου·
ἀντὶ μὲν ἱμερτοῦ θαλάμου τάφον, ἀντὶ δὲ νύμφης′
στήλην, ἀντὶ γάμου δ’ αἰνὸν ἄχος γενέταις.
ματέρα τὰν δύστανον ὀδύρομαι, ἃ δυσὶ τέκνοις
θῆκεν ἀνυμφεύτοις χῖρας {²⁶χεῖρας}²⁶ ἐπὶ βλέφαρα.

Image result for ancient greek epitaph
A Different epitaph

Whoa, Wednesday–We Still Have Sappho

Sappho, Fr. 5 (P. Oxy. 7 + 2289. 6) 1-8

Kypris and Nereids—let my brother
come here unharmed and grant
Everything he wishes to have happen
In his heart

May he make up for all the things he did wrong before
And become a source of joy for his friends
And grief for his enemies, and may he no longer
Be a pain for us.

Κύπρι καὶ] Νηρήιδες ἀβλάβη[ν μοι
τὸν κασί]γνητον δ[ό]τε τυίδ’ ἴκεσθα[ι
κὤσσα v]ο̣ι̣ θύμωι κε θέληι γένεσθαι
πάντα τε]λέσθην,

ὄσσα δὲ πρ]όσθ’ ἄμβροτε πάντα λῦσα[ι
καὶ φίλοισ]ι vοῖσι χάραν γένεσθαι
<κὠνίαν> ἔ]χθροισι, γένοιτο δ’ ἄμμι
<πῆμ᾿ ἔτι >μ]ηδ’ εἴς·

Image result for ancient greek brother statue
Fourth Century BCE Grave Relief

Penelope Had Brothers, Really.

In the Odyssey, Athena warns Telemachus to be quickly on his way:

Od. 15. 16-18

“Already [Penelope’s] father and relatives are urging her
To marry Eurymakhos, for he excels all the other suitors
In gifts and he has promised many bridegifts.”

ἤδη γάρ ῥα πατήρ τε κασίγνητοί τε κέλονται
Εὐρυμάχῳ γήμασθαι· ὁ γὰρ περιβάλλει ἅπαντας
μνηστῆρας δώροισι καὶ ἐξώφελλεν ἔεδνα·

The word kasignêtoi here can merely mean male relatives (it is cognate with the English “cousins”) but the Scholia to the Odyssey take the passage to be referring to Penelope’s father and brothers. It names them.

Schol ad. Od. 15.16-17

“Penelope had two brothers, Sêmos and Aulêtês. But Ikarios was from Kephallanian Messêne. He was not seen in Ithaka because he was traveling. But he is not Laconian. This is the reason Telemakhos did not visit him during his trip abroad in Sparta.”

ἀδελφοὶ τῆς Πηνελόπης δύο, Σῆμος καὶ Αὐλήτης· ὁ δὲ ᾿Ικάριος ἐκ Μεσσήνης ἦν τῆς Κεφαλληνιακῆς· ἐπεὶ οὐχ ὁρᾶται ἐν ᾿Ιθάκῃ ἀναστρεφόμενος. ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ Λάκων· ὅθεν οὐδὲ ἐνέτυχε αὐτῷ Τηλέμαχος ἐν τῇ εἰς Λακεδαίμονα ἀποδημίᾳ. H.

So, this scholion excuses Ikarios by putting him elsewhere. (There is debate in the tradition about whether or not this Ikarios is Tyndareus’ brother. This would put him the Peloponnese, and it troubles scholars that Telemachus does not visit his maternal grandfather.) But what of Penelope’s brothers—did they owe no support to their nephew in his time of trouble? (The brothers are not given these names anywhere else that I know of).

Telemachus takes Athena’s warning to heart, as he says later to Theoklymenos:

Homer, Odyssey 15.518-524

“But I will tell you of another man you might encounter,
Eurymakhos, the shining son of sharp-minded Polyboios,
Whom the Ithakans now look upon the way they would a god.
He is by far the best man remaining and the best
To marry my mother and receive my father’s geras.
But Zeus is the one who knows these things as he rules on high”
Whether or not he will bring about a deadly day for them before a marriage.”

ἀλλά τοι ἄλλον φῶτα πιφαύσκομαι, ὅν κεν ἵκοιο,
Εὐρύμαχον, Πολύβοιο δαΐφρονος ἀγλαὸν υἱόν,
τὸν νῦν ἶσα θεῷ ᾿Ιθακήσιοι εἰσορόωσι·
καὶ γὰρ πολλὸν ἄριστος ἀνὴρ μέμονέν τε μάλιστα
μητέρ’ ἐμὴν γαμέειν καὶ ᾿Οδυσσῆος γέρας ἕξειν.

There are other names and other brothers too, as our friend Carly Silver points out:


Catullus, Carmina 101: Trying to Comfort Mute Ash

“Drawn across many nations and seas

I come to your pitiful resting place, brother

To present you with a final gift at death

And to try to comfort mute ash pointlessly,

Since chance has stolen you away from me.

My sad brother, unfairly taken from me.

For now, this, the ancient custom of our ancestors

Handed down as the sad gift for the grave,

Accept with a flowing flood of fraternal tears

And forever, my brother, hail and farewell.”

Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus

advenio has miseras, frater, ad inferias,

ut te postremo donarem munere mortis

et mutam nequiquam adloquerer cinerem,

quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum,

heu miser indigne frater adempte mihi.

nunc tamen interea haec, prisco quae more parentum

tradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias,

accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu

atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.

In school, I had to memorize the following poem.  I took it very seriously. Then I went to grad school and learned about genre, persona, and play.  Now I can’t read the poem as a record of actual human emotion. Graduate school ruined Catullus for me. (And many other human things).  This translation started as an attempt to regain it. But, the poem does seem maudlin and exquisitely built. Shit. Is he for real? What’s real? Thursdays!

(So, now, this translation is an allegory for graduate school.)