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

This week lots of people are graduating. 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.

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Illuminated Manuscript – The Hague, KB, 76 F 13, f. 12v, XIV cent., France

“I Defecated Because of Fear”

See here for our ongoing skatokhasm and the sheer variety of excremental words in ancient Greek.

Suda, Epsilon 93 [referring to Aristophanes, Frogs 479]

“I shat myself”: I defecated because of some fear. I pooped. Aristophanes says this in the Frogs. He is calling the god to help.”

᾿Εγκέχοδα: ἀπεπάτησα διὰ φόβον τινά, ἔχεσον. ᾿Αριστοφάνης Βατράχοις. κάλει θεὸν εἰς βοήθειαν.

Principal parts: χέζω, χεσοῦμαι, ἔχεσα, κέχοδα, κέχεσμαι….

Strattis, fr. 1.3

“If he will not have the leisure to shit,
Nor to visit a profligate man’s home, nor if he meets
Anyone, to talk to them at all…”

Εἰ μηδὲ χέσαι γ’ αὐτῷ σχολὴ γενήσεται,
μηδ’ εἰς ἀσωτεῖον τραπέσθαι, μηδ’ ἐάν
αὐτῷ ξυναντᾷ τις, λαλῆσαι μηδενί.

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Aristophanes, Clouds, 391

“When I shit, it’s like thunder: pa-pa-pa-papp-AKS!

χὤταν χέζω, κομιδῇ βροντᾷ “παπαπαππάξ,”

 

 

 

Cheesy Positions: The Shameful Lioness on a Kitchen Knife

Suda, Tau 1197

“Turoknêstis: a cheesegrater. A type of knife. There is also a proverb: “I will not position myself like a lioness on a cheese-grater”* This means “in the way a lioness would”, and it is a shameful and whorish sexual position.

A cheese-grater is a knife. On the hilts of some kitchen knives lionesses used to be carved out of ivory, in a squatting position, so that their feet might not be broken off as they might be if they were made standing up. So, the speaker is saying I will not position myself like a prostitute awaiting a man, the way a lioness is positioned on a cheese-grater.”

Τυρόκνηστις: ἡ μάχαιρα. καὶ παροιμία: οὐ στήσομαι λέαιν’ ἐπὶ τυροκνήστιδος. ἀντὶ τοῦ ὡς λέαινα. σχῆμα δέ ἐστιν ἀκόλαστον καὶ ἑταιρικόν. τυρόκνηστις δὲ ἡ μάχαιρα. ἐπὶ δὲ ταῖς λαβαῖς τῶν μαχαιρῶν ἐλέφαντες λέοντες ἐγλύφοντο ὀκλάζοντες, ὅπως μὴ ἀποθραύοιντο αὐτῶν οἱ πόδες, εἰ ὀρθοὶ ἑστῶτες γλύφοιντο. λέγει οὖν ὅτι οὐκ ἐπ’ ἀνδρὶ στήσομαι πορνεύουσα, ὡς λέαινα ἐπὶ τυροκνήστιδος.

*Aristophanes, Lysistrata 231

 

From Henderson, The Maculate Muse

bent over 1

bent over 2

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Ugh. 

If You Thought Your Hometown Made You Sick….

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.

Picture found here

“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.

Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 14429, Folio 117v

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.

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