“The Cycle of Learning”: Poetry on the Medieval Curriculum from Tzetzes

John Tzetzes, Chiliades 11.520-533
“Encyclical learnings, the lyrics put properly,
Are properly also the first lessons to have that title,
And it comes from that circle the lyric chorus stood in,
When it was composed of fifty men, to chant the melodies.
The encyclical learnings, the lyrics put properly.

The second reason the encyclical learnings are called
A cycle is [they are] the full circle of all learning:
Grammar, rhetoric, and philosophy itself
And then subordinate to this the four arts are placed:
Arithmetic, music, and geometry
And crossing heaven itself: astronomy.
This encyclical learning, all of these things, for a second reason
As Porphyry wrote in his Lives of the Philosophers
And thousands of other eloquent men [have written too].”

Chiliades 11 Cyclical

In his comments dismissing Tzetzes, Sir Sandys uses this passage to give an example of what his poetry his like (“The following lines are a very faovurable example of his style…” 408). (Also, why’d he have to drag poor Porphyry into this?)

Books Are Oysters and Words Are Pearls: Some ‘Poetry’ from John Tzetzes

John Tzetzes, Chiliades (“Thousands”) 11.393-399

“I also know specialized pearls beyond the pearls.
They shatter and release small pearls in their craft
As they roll out other pearls. These things are about pearls.
I now call books oysters full of words.
You note, I suspect, that words are the pearls that come from them.”

Chiliades 11

If for some, inexplicable, reason, you would like to read the whole poem, it is available online.

An Old Attic Woman Once Said…

The following are apophthegmata [“sayings”] preserved in a Byzantine manuscript and attributed to ancient authorities. Many might actually come from prose composition exercises in Byzantine and late antique schools. Most of the collection are attributed to famous male sages. The collection ends with a selection of 

“Sayings of women and their thoughts”

᾿Αποφθέγματα γυναικῶν, ἤτοι φρονήματα. [Gnomologium Vaticanum, 564-567]

“After an Attic woman saw a sign over the door of someone about to get married which said “Herakles lives here, may nothing bad happen” she said “Now may no woman enter!”

᾿Αττικὴ γυνὴ ἰδοῦσα γράμμα ἐπὶ θυρῶν μέλλοντος γαμεῖν· „῾Ηρακλῆς ἐνθάδε κατοικεῖ· μηδὲν εἰσίτω κακὸν” εἶπεν· „νῦν οὖν ἡ γυνὴ οὐ μὴ εἰσελεύσεται.”

 

“When an old Attic woman was asked at a symposium whether Dionysus is mortal after she saw wine being stolen, she said “yes, he’s mortal, for I saw him carried out…”

[῾Η] ᾿Αττικὴ γραῦς ἐρωτηθεῖσα ἐν συμποσίῳ εἰ θνητὸς ὁ Διόνυσος ἰδοῦσα κλεπτόμενον οἶνον εἶπεν· „ναὶ θνητός· εἶδον γὰρ αὐτὸν ἐκφερόμενον.”

[the joke is based on part of the Greek burial process, the ekphora, which is carrying out of the body]

 

“When an old Attic woman saw a young man pouring wine she said “Boy! You turned Peleus into Oineus.”

<᾿Α>ττικὴ γραῦς ἰδοῦσα νεανίσκον οἶνον ἐκχέοντα εἶπε· „μειράκιον· τὸν Οἰνέα Πηλέα ἐποίησας.”

 

“When an old Attic woman saw an Olympic victor taking sheep out to pasture she said “Ah, he went quickly from the Olympic to the Nemean games.”

Γραῦς ᾿Αττικὴ θεασαμένη ᾿Ολυμπιονίκην ἀθλητὴν πρόβατα βόσκοντα εἶπε· „ταχέως ἀπὸ ᾿Ολυμπίων ἐπὶ Νέμεα.”

 

571: “When a Syracusan woman was summoned by Dionysus the tyrant because he was claiming that he wanted her and would give her whatever she wanted, she said “Let me go—since you believe that women are the same, whenever the lamp goes out.”

Γυνὴ Συρακοσία μεταπεμφθεῖσα ὑπὸ Διονυσίου τοῦ τυράννου [καὶ] φάσκοντος ἐρᾶν αὐτῆς καὶ χαριεῖσθαι ὃ ἂν ἐθέλῃ· „ἄφες τοίνυν με” εἶπε „νομίσας τὰς γυναῖκας ὁμοίας εἶναι, ὅταν ὁ λύχνος ἀποσβεσθῇ.”

 

The website “Sharing Ancient Wisdom” is a really interesting and useful collection of proverbial sayings. Check it out.

Image result for Ancient Greek Woman

Flee, Don’t Go to Trial!

Two Proverbs from Michael Apostolos

7.53

“One should flee, not seek a trial.” Alkibiades, when he was called into judgment by the Athenians from Sicily, hid himself after saying this. When someone else was saying “You will not trust your country about your trial?” he Said “Not even my mother, since she wouldn’t ignorantly throw the black stone instead of the white one.”

᾿Εξὸν φυγεῖν μὴ ζήτει δίκην: ᾿Αλκιβιάδης καλούμενος ἐπὶ κρίσιν ὑπὸ ᾿Αθηναίων ἀπὸ Σικελίας, ἔκρυψεν ἑαυτὸν, εἰπὼν τοῦτο. εἰπόντος δέ τινος, οὐ πιστεύεις τῇ πατρίδι τὴν περὶ σεαυτοῦ κρίσιν; ᾿Εγὼ μὲν, ἔφη, οὐδὲ τῇ μητρί, μή πως ἀγνοήσασα τὴν μέλαιναν βάλῃ ψῆφον ἀντὶ τῆς λευκῆς.

13.3

“The turn of an ostracon. [this proverb is applied] to those who rush to flight easily. Also, Plato has “when the shell falls upside down, he changes and rushes to flight” (Phaedrus 241b). But others claim that he proverb is applied to those who fall from strong positions to the opposite. It is a metaphor from dicing. For the ancients once used shells to throw, and often they lost or won based on their fall.”

᾿Οστράκου μεταστροφή: ἐπὶ τῶν ῥᾳδίως εἰς φυγὴν ὡρμημένων· καὶ Πλάτων· ᾿Οστράκου μεταπεσόντος ἴεται φυγῇ μεταβαλών. ῎Αλλοι δὲ ἐπὶ τῶν ἐκ κρειττόνων εἰς τουναντίον μεταπεσόντων· ἐκ μεταφορᾶς τῶν κυβευόντων· ὀστρακίνοις γὰρ τὸ πάλαι χρώμενοι βώλοις, τῇ μεταβολῇ τούτων πολλάκις ἡττῶντο ἢ ἐνίκων.

If You Thought Your Hometown Made You Sick….

From the annals of WTF, Ancient scholars? Also, if you want to know more words for puking in Greek and Latin, we’ve got you covered.

Etymologicum Magnum [= Etymologicum Gudianum, 461.13]

“Emeia. This is a place near Mycenae. Emeia comes from emo [“to vomit”] just as Thaleia comes from thallô [“to bloom, flourish”]. It is so named either because Kerberos puked there after he came up from Hades or because Thyestes puked there after he ate his own children.”

῎Εμεια: Τόπος ἐστὶ πλησίον Μυκηνῶν· παρὰ τὸ ἐμῶ ῎Εμεια, ὡς θάλλω Θάλεια. Λέγεται δὲ, ἐπειδὴ ἐκεῖ ἤμεσεν ὁ Κέρβερος ἀνελθὼν ἐκ τοῦ ᾅδου· ἢ ἐπειδὴ ἐκεῖ ἔμεσεν ὁ Θυέστης φαγὼν τὰ τέκνα αὐτοῦ.

 

Eustathius, Comm. Ad Homeri Il. 1.282.24

“…after he tasted them he caused the city Emeia to be named for him because it is where he vomited up the things he ate.”

ὧν καὶ γευσάμενος ἐκεῖνος πόλιν ἐξ αὐτοῦ ἀφῆκε καλεῖσθαι τὴν ῎Εμειαν, ὅπου δηλαδὴ τὰ καταβρωθέντα ἐξήμεσε.

 

Interestingly, there is a bit of a slip the next time Eustathius tells the story.

Eustathius, Comm. Ad Homeri Il. 3.691.20

“[Note also] that the city Emeia comes from emein [to vomit] because it is where Aigisthos [sic] vomited after eating his own children thanks to the plan of Atreus, as the story goes.”

Οτι δὲ ἐκ τοῦ ἐμεῖν καὶ πόλις ῎Εμεια, περὶ ἣν Αἴγισθος ἤμεσε φαγὼν ἐξ ἐπιβουλῆς ᾿Ατρέως τὰ οἰκεῖα τέκνα, ἡ ἱστορία φησίν.

Peleus’ Knife, A Proverb

Appendix Prov.

“Peleus’ knife” The knife was a prize of prudence which was given to Peleus—it was made by Hephaistos.”

Πηλέως μάχαιρα: σωφροσύνης γέρας ἡ μάχαιρα τῷ Πηλεῖ δέδοται, ῾Ηφαιστότευκτος οὖσα.

“Peleus’ knife”: this is a proverb. Aristophanes also records this: “he thinks more of himself than Peleus did with the knife”. It seems that this thing which Peleus took was a Hephaistos-made gift of prudence.”

Πηλέως μάχαιρα: παροιμία: ταύτην ἀναγράφει καὶ Ἀριστοφάνης οὕτως: μέγα φρονεῖ μᾶλλον ἢ Πηλεὺς ἐπὶ τῇ μαχαίρᾳ. ἣ ἐδόκει σωφροσύνης γέρας ἡφαιστότευκτος, ἣν εἰλήφει μάχαιραν ὁ Πηλεύς.

Photios

“Peleus’ knife. Aristophanes also records this: “he thinks more of himself than Peleus did with the knife”. It seems that this thing which Peleus took was a Hephaistos-made gift of prudence.

This proverb is used for rare and extremely honored possessions. For they say that Peleus received a sword from the gods because of his surplus of prudence. It was made by Hephaistos.”

Πηλέως μάχαιρα: παροιμία· ταύτην ἀναγράφει καὶ ᾿Αριστοφάνης οὕτως· μέγα φρονεῖ μᾶλλον ἢ Πηλεὺς ἐν τηῖ μαχαίρηι· ἐδόκει σωφροσύνης γέρας ῾Ηφαιστότευκτος ἣν εἰλήφει μάχαιραν ὁ Πηλεύς· λαμβάνεται δὲ ἐπὶ τῶν σπανίων καὶ τιμιωτάτων κτημάτων· διὰ γὰρ σωφροσύνης ὑπερβολὴν παρὰ θεῶν λαβεῖν φασὶ τὸν Πηλέα ξίφος, ῾Ηφαίστου κατασκευάσαντος.

Out of the Smoke, Into the Fire: Some More Greek Proverbs

As of today I take over as chair of my department. Here are some proverbs for life changes and mistakes.

Diogenianus, 8.45

“When I fled the smoke, I fell into the fire”:  [this proverb is applied] to those who flee rather minor troubles only to fall upon greater ones.

Τὸν καπνὸν φεύγων, εἰς τὸ πῦρ ἐνέπεσον: ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ μικρὰ τῶν δεινῶν φευγόντων, καὶ εἰς μείζονα δεινὰ ἐμπιπτόντων.

 

Arsenius 4.23f

“It is strange that one who pursues honors avoids the hard work honors come from”

῎Ατοπόν ἐστι διώκοντα τὰς τιμὰς φεύγειν τοὺς πόνους, δι’ ὧν αἱ τιμαί.

 

Michael Apostolios, 11.15

“You ate some lotus”: [this proverb is applied to those] who are forgetful of things in the household and are slow in matters of hospitality. It is based on the lotus which imbues one who eats it with forgetfulness.”

Λωτοῦ ἔφαγες: ἐπὶ τῶν σχόντων λήθην τῶν οἴκοι, καὶ βραδυνόντων ἐπὶ ξένης. ἔστι δὲ πόα τὸ λωτὸν, λήθην ἐμποιοῦν τῷ φαγόντι.

 

Arsenius 3.19a

“The man who flees will also fight again”: [this proverb is applied] to those who face a doubtful victory.

᾿Ανὴρ ὁ φεύγων καὶ πάλιν μαχήσεται: ἐπὶ τῶν ἑτεραλκεῖ νίκῃ χρωμένων ταχθείη.

 

Michael Apostolios 1.26

“Agamemnon’s sacrifice”: [a proverb] applied to the difficult to persuade and the stubborn. For when Agamemnon was making a sacrifice, the bull was scarcely caught after it fled.” Or, it is because Agamemnon wanted to sacrifice his daughter. And she fled.”

᾿Αγαμέμνονος θυσία: ἐπὶ τῶν δυσπειθῶν καὶ σκληρῶν. θύοντος γὰρ ᾿Αγαμέμνονος ὁ βοῦς φυγὼν μόλις ἐλήφθη. ῍Η ὅτι τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἐβούλετο ᾿Αγαμέμνων θυσιάσαι θυγατέρα· ἣ δ’ ἔφυγε.

Ancient Biological Warfare

Suda, sigma 777

Solon: They [the Amphiktyones] selected this man to be their adviser for war against the Kirrhaians. When they were consulting the oracle about victory, the Pythia said: “you will not capture and raze the tower of this city before the wave of dark-eyed Amphitritê washes onto my precinct as it echoes over the wine-faced sea.”

Solon persuaded them to make Kirrhaia sacred to the god so that the sea would become a neighbor to Apollo’s precinct. And another strategy was devised by Solon against the Kirrhaians. For he turned a river’s water which used to flow in its channel into the city elsewhere.

The Kirrhaians withstood the besiegers by drinking water from wells and from rain. But [Solon] filled the river with hellebore roots and when he believed the water had enough of the drug, he returned it to its course. Then the Kirrhaians took a full portion of this water. And when they went AWOL because of diarrhea, the Amphiktyones who were stationed near the wall took it and then the city.”

Σόλων: τοῦτον εἵλοντο οἱ Κιρραίοις πολεμεῖν ᾑρημένοι σύμβουλον. χρωμένοις δὲ σφίσι περὶ νίκης ἀνεῖπεν ἡ Πυθώ: οὐ πρὶν τῆσδε πόληος ἐρείψετε πύργον ἑλόντες, πρίν κεν ἐμῷ τεμένει κυανώπιδος Ἀμφιτρίτης κῦμα ποτικλύζοι, κελαδοῦν ἐπὶ οἴνοπα πόντον. ἔπεισεν οὖν ὁ Σόλων καθιερῶσαι τῷ θεῷ τὴν Κίρραιαν, ἵνα δὴ τῷ τεμένει τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος γένηται γείτων ἡ θάλαττα. εὑρέθη δὲ καὶ ἕτερον τῷ Σόλωνι σόφισμα ἐς τοὺς Κιρραίους: τοῦ γὰρ ποταμοῦ τὸ ὕδωρ ῥέον δι’ ὀχετοῦ ἐς τὴν πόλιν ἀπέστρεψεν ἀλλαχόσε. καὶ οἱ μὲν πρὸς τοὺς πολιορκοῦντας ἔτι ἀντεῖχον ἔκ τε φρεάτων καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ τὸ ἐκ θεοῦ πίνοντες. ὁ δὲ τοῦ ἑλλεβόρου τὰς ῥίζας ἐμβαλὼν ἐς τὸν ποταμόν, ἐπειδὴ ἱκανῶς τοῦ φαρμάκου τὸ ὕδωρ ᾔσθετο ἔχον, ἀντέστρεψεν αὖθις ἐς τὸν ὀχετόν, καὶ ἐνεφορήσαντο ἀνέδην οἱ Κιρραῖοι τοῦ ὕδατος. καὶ οἱ μὲν ὑπὸ τῆς διαρροίας ἐξέλιπον, οἱ δὲ ἐπὶ τοῦ τείχους τῆς φρουρᾶς Ἀμφικτύονες εἷλον τὴν φρουρὰν καὶ τὴν πόλιν.

Image result for medieval manuscript diarrhea

Roman d’Alexandre, Tournai 1338-1344.

From Apollonios Paradoxographus

“In his work On Plants, in the last part of the material, Theophrastos says that Eunomos, the Khian and purveyor of drugs, did not [cleanse himself/die] while drinking many draughts of hellebore. Once, even, when together with his fellow craftsmen he took over 22 drinks in one day as he sat in the agora and he did not return from his implements. Then he left to wash and eat, as he was accustomed, and did not vomit. He accomplished this after being in this custom for a long time, because he started from small amounts until he got to so many large ones. The powers of all drugs are less severe for those used to them and for some they are even useless.”

50 Θεόφραστος ἐν τῷ περὶ φυτῶν, ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ τῆς πραγματείας· Εὔνομος, φησίν, ὁ Χῖος, ὁ φαρμακοπώλης, ἐλλεβόρου πίνων πλείονας πόσεις οὐκ ἐκαθαίρετο. καὶ ποτέ, ἔφη, ἐν μιᾷ ἡμέρᾳ συνθέμενος τοῖς ὁμοτέχνοις περὶ δύο καὶ εἴκοσι πόσεις ἔλαβεν ἐν τῇ ἀγορᾷ καθήμενος καὶ οὐκ ἐξανέστη ἀπὸ τῶν σκευῶν <μέχρι δείλης>. τότε δ’ ἀπῆλθεν λούσασθαι καὶ δειπνῆσαι, ὥσπερ εἰώθει, καὶ οὐκ ἐξήμεσεν.

 τοῦτο δὲ ἔπραξεν ἐν πολυχρονίῳ συνηθείᾳ γεγονώς, ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ ὀλίγων ἕως τοσούτων πόσεων. πάντων δὲ τῶν φαρμάκων αἱ δυνάμεις ἀσθενέστεραι τοῖς συνειθισμένοις, ἐνίοις δὲ καὶ ἄπρακτοί εἰσιν.

Happy Monday! Some Proverbs for Bad Things

Arsenius 3.64c

“All these evils are the responsibility of nature.”

ἅπαντα ταῦτ’ ἐπίθετα τῇ φύσει κακά

 

Appendix Proverbium 2.22

“You’re burning incense over bullshit”: a proverb for those who are trying to change evil things”

Εἰς κόπρον θυμιᾷς: ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ κακὰ μεταβαλεῖν ἐπιχειρούντων.

 

Arsenius 7.7a

“People suffer less because of their enemies than their friends. For they guard against their enemies because they fear them while they remain open to their friends. They too are slippery and likely to conspire.”

᾿Ελάσσω κακὰ πάσχουσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι ὑπὸ τῶν ἐχθρῶν ἢ ὑπὸ τῶν φίλων· τοὺς μὲν γὰρ ἐχθροὺς δεδιότες φυλάσσονται, τοῖς δὲ φίλοις ἀνεῳγμένοι εἰσί. καὶ γίνονται σφαλεροὶ καὶ εὐεπιβούλευτοι

 

Zenobius 4.43

“An Iliad of Evils”: this proverb is uses for great evils. This is because there were myriad evils in Ilium”

᾿Ιλιὰς κακῶν: ἀπὸ παροιμίας τοῦτο ἐλέγετο ἐπὶ τῶν μεγάλων κακῶν· παρόσον ἐν ᾿Ιλίῳ μυρία κακὰ συνέβη γενέσθαι.

Children, Education, and Open Doors: More Greek Proverbs

Go here for more information about Ancient Greek collections of proverbs.

Arsenius 15.19a

“Milk nourishes infants and conscious children, milk fattens like wisdom”

Γάλα τρέφει νήπια, παῖδα δ’ ἔμφρονα, γάλα πιαίνει σωφροσύνη καθάπερ.

[I want the last phrase to go the other way, e.g. “wisdom fattens like milk” but I can’t justify it completely]

12.42a

“Whatever love you bear for your parents expect the same kind in old age from your children”

Οἵους ἂν ἐράνους ἐνέγκῃς τοῖς γονεῦσι, τούτους αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ γήρᾳ παρὰ τῶν παίδων προσδέχου Πιττακοῦ.

Zenobius 1.89

“The doors of the muses are open”: a proverb applied to those readily acquiring the best things in their education.”

᾿Ανεῳγμέναι Μουσῶν θύραι: ἐπὶ τῶν ἐξ ἑτοίμου λαμβανόντων τὰ κάλλιστα τῶν ἐν παιδείᾳ.

3.30

“Teaching dolphins to swim: [this proverb] is applied to those who are teaching something among people who are already well versed in it.”

Δελφῖνα νήχεσθαι διδάσκεις: ἐπὶ τῶν ἐν ἐκείνοις τινὰ παιδοτριβούντων, ἐν οἷς ἤσκηται.

Michael Apostolios 6.27

“Old men are children twice: A proverb used for those who seem rather simple as they approach old age.”

Δὶς παῖδες οἱ γέροντες: ἐπὶ τῶν πρὸς τὸ γῆρας εὐηθεστέρων εἶναι δοκούντων.

Diogenianus 3.18

“Neither swimming nor letters: thus proverb is applied to those who are unlearned in all regards. For the Athenians were taught swimming and reading from childhood.”

Μήτε νεῖν μήτε γράμματα: ἡ παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ πάντα ἀμαθῶν· οἱ γὰρ ᾿Αθηναῖοι εὐθὺς ἐκ παίδων κολυμβᾶν καὶ γράμματα ἐδιδάσκοντο.

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