Odysseus, Scammer

Philoxenos of Cythera 818  = Synes. Epist. 121

“To Athanasios, wine-diluter: Odysseus was persuading Polyphemos to release him from the cave: “I am a sorcerer and it is the right time for me to help you in your lack of success in maritime love. I certainly know chants, binding spells, and love-magic which it is unlikely for Galateia to resist for long. Just promise to move the door, or, more, the door stone. It seems the size of a cliff to me. I’ll swim back faster than this word itself, once I have compelled the girl. What do I mean by compelling her? I will show her here to you once she is easier because of the magic.

She will beg you and plead with you and you will act shy and be bashful. But something still gives me pause here. I am worried that the goat-reek of your blankets will be displeasing for a girl used to luxury, who bathes often during the day. It would be great if you cleaned everything up, sweeping, washing, and fumigating your place. It would be even better if you readied some ivy and bindweed to crown yourself and the girl when she gets here. Why are you wasting time? Why don’t you open the door now?”

In response to this, Polyphemos cackled as loud as he could and clapped his hands. Odysseus believed that because he was expecting to gain this girl quickly he was not able to restrain his joy. But Polyphemos rubbed his own chin and said, “No-man, you seem like the slickest fellow, a polished little businessman. Work on some other elaborate scam. You will never get out of here.”

Ἀθανασίῳ ὑδρομίκτῃ. Ὀδυσσεὺς ἔπειθε τὸν Πολύφημον διαφεῖναι αὐτὸν ἐκ τοῦ σπηλαίου· ‘γόης γάρ εἰμι καὶ ἐς καιρὸν ἄν σοι παρείην οὐκ εὐτυχοῦντι τὰ εἰς τὸν θαλάττιον ἔρωτα· ἀλλ᾿ ἐγώ τοι καὶ ἐπῳδὰς οἶδα καὶ καταδέσμους καὶ ἐρωτικὰς κατανάγκας, αἷς οὐκ εἰκὸς ἀντισχεῖν οὐδὲ πρὸς βραχὺ τὴν Γαλάτειαν. μόνον ὑπόστηθι σὺ τὴν θύραν ἀποκινῆσαι, μᾶλλον δὲ τὸν θυρεὸν τοῦτον· ἐμοὶ μὲν γὰρ καὶ ἀκρωτήριον εἶναι φαίνεται· ἐγὼ δὲ ἐπανήξω σοι θᾶττον ἢ λόγος τὴν παῖδα κατεργασάμενος· τί λέγω κατεργασάμενος; αὐτὴν ἐκείνην ἀποφανῶ σοι δεῦρο πολλαῖς ἴυγξι γενομένην ἀγώγιμον. καὶ δεήσεταί σου καὶ ἀντιβολήσει, σὺ δὲ ἀκκιῇ καὶ κατειρωνεύσῃ. ἀτὰρ μεταξύ μέ τι καὶ τοιοῦτον ἔθραξε, μὴ τῶν κωδίων ὁ γράσος ἀηδὴς γένηται κόρῃ τρυφώσῃ καὶ λουομένῃ τῆς ἡμέρας πολλάκις· καλὸν οὖν εἰ πάντα εὐθετήσας ἐκκορήσειάς τε καὶ ἐκπλύνειας καὶ ἐκθυμιάσειας τὸ δωμάτιον· ἔτι δὲ κάλλιον εἰ καὶ στεφάνους παρασκευάσαιο κιττοῦ τε καὶ μίλακος, οἷς σαυτόν τε καὶ τὰ παιδικὰ ἀναδήσαιο. ἀλλὰ τί διατρίβεις; οὐκ ἐγχειρεῖς ἤδη τῇ θύρᾳ;’ πρὸς οὖν ταῦτα ὁ Πολύφημος ἐξεκάγχασέ τε ὅσον ἠδύνατο μέγιστον καὶ τὼ χεῖρε ἐκρότησε. καὶ ὁ μὲν Ὀδυσσεὺς ᾤετο αὐτὸν ὑπὸ χαρμονῆς οὐκ ἔχειν ὅ τι ἑαυτῷ χρήσαιτο κατελπίσαντα τῶν παιδικῶν περιέσεσθαι. ὁ δὲ ὑπογενειάσας αὐτόν, ‘ὦ Οὖτι,’ ἔφη, ‘δριμύτατον μὲν ἀνθρώπιον ἔοικας εἶναι καὶ ἐγκατατετριμμένον ἐν πράγμασιν. ἄλλο μέντοι τι ποίκιλλε· ἐνθένδε γὰρ οὐκ ἀποδράσεις.’

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Jakob Jordans, 17th Century

Pliny Looks Up From His Desk to the Horizon….

Pliny to his Friend Caninius, 8

Are you studying, fishing, hunting, or everything at once? All of this can happen at the same time on the shores of Como. For, the lake has fish, the forests around the lake have beasts, and your most isolated retreat supplies constant opportunities for study. But whether you are doing it all at once or just one thing, I cannot say that “I hate you for it”, but I am still anguished that I can’t join in when I long for them the way a sick man desires wine, baths, and springs.

Ah! how shall I ever drop these tightest of bonds if there is no way to untie them? Never, I suspect. For new business grows on top of the old before what was there is handled. As many links as already exist are added anew each day as my chain extends ever on.

Goodbye.

Plinius Caninio Suo S.

1Studes an piscaris an venaris an simul omnia? Possunt enim omnia simul fieri ad Larium nostrum. Nam lacus piscem, feras silvae quibus lacus cingitur, studia altissimus iste secessus adfatim suggerunt. 2Sed sive omnia simul sive aliquid facis, non possum dicere “invideo”; angor tamen non et mihi licere, qui sic concupisco ut aegri vinum balinea fontes. Numquamne hos artissimos laqueos, si solvere negatur, abrumpam? Numquam, puto. Nam veteribus negotiis nova accrescunt, nec tamen priora peraguntur: tot nexibus, tot quasi catenis maius in dies occupationum agmen extenditur. Vale.

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Image from here

Martial on His Summer Sleep Schedule

Epigrams 12.68

“Morning appointment–my reason for leaving the city–
If you knew better, you would visit more ambitious homes.
I am no lawyer, no man prepared for harsh suits,
I am a lazy and aging friend of the Muses.
Sleep and leisure make me happy—the very things
Which Rome denied me. But I’ll go back if I can’t sleep here.”

Matutine cliens, urbis mihi causa relictae,
atria, si sapias, ambitiosa colas.
non sum ego causidicus nec amaris litibus aptus,
sed piger et senior Pieridumque comes;
otia me somnusque iuvant, quae magna negavit
Roma mihi: redeo, si vigilatur et hic.

12.80

“Callistratus praises everyone so he may not praise the worthy.
What good can he be when he doesn’t think anyone’s bad?

Ne laudet dignos, laudat Callistratus omnes.
cui malus est nemo, quis bonus esse potest?

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St. Mark with a lion, BL Add MS 18852 

Money-Lenders are Twice as Bad as Thieves (or, Cato the Elder loves Farming)

Palaiophron, well into his first month teaching Latin at a new high school, told me that he feels like Cato at times when considering “kids today”. Here’s the introduction to Marcus Porcius Cato’s De Agri Cultura (Praefatio). (He was a censor, by the way. This makes censorious make sense…)

“It is in fact true that one may make a living by trade, if it were less dangerous, or even by money-lending, if it were honorable. Our forefathers thought this way and enshrined it in the laws to indemnify a thief doubly and a usurer by a factor of four. How much they considered a money-lender worse than a thief can be seen from this fact. When they used to praise a man as good, they would praise him by calling him a good farmer, a good land-owner—it was thought that to be praised in this way was the most impressive compliment. I think that the trader is a vigorous man, serious about making money; but, as I said above, this is dangerous and calamitous. No, the bravest men and the strongest soldiers are born from farms—their way is the most dutiful, the most stable, the least susceptible to envy and those who pursue this way of life are also least likely to be depressed. Now, that I may return to the subject at hand, what I have said will serve as a basic introduction to my project.”

Est interdum praestare mercaturis rem quaerere, nisi tam periculosum sit, et item foenerari, si tam honestum. Maiores nostri sic habuerunt et ita in legibus posiverunt: furem dupli condemnari, foeneratorem quadrupli. Quanto peiorem civem existimarint foeneratorem quam furem, hinc licet existimare. Et virum bonum quom laudabant, ita laudabant: bonum agricolam bonumque colonum; amplissime laudari existimabatur qui ita laudabatur. Mercatorem autem strenuum studiosumque rei quaerendae existimo, verum, ut supra dixi, periculosum et calamitosum. At ex agricolis et viri fortissimi et milites strenuissimi gignuntur, maximeque pius quaestus stabilissimusque consequitur minimeque invidiosus, minimeque male cogitantes sunt qui in eo studio occupati sunt. Nunc, ut ad rem redeam, quod promisi institutum principium hoc erit.