“Fire Will Not Freeze”: Some Words

Basil, Letter 189

“Fire will not freeze; ice will not turn warm.”

οὔτε ψύχει τὸ πῦρ, οὔτε θερμαίνει ὁ κρύσταλλος


Pliny, Natural History 14.132

“Wine does not usually freeze, it only gets numb with cold temperatures.”

vini natura non gelascit: alias ad frigus stupet tantum.

 Ovid, Ex Ponto 4.85-90

“Is it that I lie, or does the Black sea turn hard at the cold
And ice overtakes many acres of its surface?
When he says these things, ask what reputation I have
Or seek in what way now I survive these hard times.
Here I meet no hatred; and I have not earned hatred either.
Nor has my mind changed at all with my fortune”

mentiar, an coëat duratus frigore Pontus,
et teneat glacies iugera multa freti.
haec ubi narrarit, quae sit mea fama require,
quoque modo peragam tempora dura roga.
nec sumus hic odio, nec scilicet esse meremur,
nec cum fortuna mens quoque versa mea est.

Aristotle, Generation of Animals 735a        

“Watery things certainly freeze but semen does not freeze when it is given to frost in the open air…”

καίτοι πήγνυταί γε τὰ ὑδατώδη· τὸ δὲ σπέρμα οὐ πήγνυται τιθέμενον ἐν τοῖς πάγοις ὑπαίθριον

Plutarch, On the Principle of Cold (Moralia 949b)

“When something freezes, which is the most extreme and most violent of the things that can happen to objects because of the cold, the effect is from water but the cause is the air. For water is a thing which is fluid and not solid and not cohesive. When it is pressed and strained by air in its cold state, it becomes compact.

Καὶ μὴν ἁπάντων γε τῶν γινομένων ὑπὸ ψυχρότητος ἐν τοῖς σώμασι σφοδρότατον καὶ βιαιότατον ἡ πῆξις οὖσα, πάθος μέν ἐστιν ὕδατος, ἔργον δ᾿ ἀέρος· αὐτὸ μὲν γὰρ καθ᾿ ἑαυτὸ τὸ ὕδωρ εὐδιάχυτον καὶ ἀπαγὲς καὶ ἀσύστατόν ἐστιν, ἐντείνεται δὲ καὶ συνάγεται τῷ ἀέρι σφιγγόμενον ὑπὸ ψυχρότητος· διὸ καὶ λέλεκται

Xenophon, Anabasis 4.22.4

“From there they were marching through massive amounts of snow and a for three miles and thirteen parasangs. The third part of it was especially hard: a northern wind was blowing directly against them, slamming everything and freezing the people.”

Ἐντεῦθεν ἐπορεύοντο διὰ χιόνος πολλῆς καὶ πεδίου σταθμοὺς τρεῖς παρασάγγας τρεῖς καὶ δέκα. ὁ δὲ τρίτος ἐγένετο χαλεπὸς καὶ ἄνεμος βορρᾶς ἐναντίος ἔπνει παντάπασιν ἀποκαίων πάντα καὶ πηγνὺς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους.

Snow istotle


ψυχή, ἡ: soul, life

ψύχωσις: life-giving/generating

ψυχοανάκαλυπτος: soul-baring, revealing

ψυχοκλέπτης: soul-thief


ψυχοπλανής: soul-wandering

ψυχοπότης: soul drinker (drinking of life, i.e. blood)

ψῦχος, τό: cold

ψυχρία: cold

ψυχκρασία: growing cold

ψυχολογία: frigid talking

ψυχροποιός: making cold

ψυχροπότης: cold drinker (one who drinks cold water)

ψυχρόσαρκος: with cold flesh


It Was Winter, It Was Snowing

Thucydides 4.103

“It was winter and it was snowing”

χειμὼν δὲ ἦν καὶ ὑπένειφεν…

Homer, Il. 3.222-3

“Yet, then a great voice came from his chest And [Odysseus’] words were like snowy storms”

ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ ὄπα τε μεγάλην ἐκ στήθεος εἵη καὶ ἔπεα νιφάδεσσιν ἐοικότα χειμερίῃσιν,

Hermippus, 37 (Athenaeus 650e)

“Have you ever seen a pomegranate seed in drifts of snow?”

ἤδη τεθέασαι κόκκον ἐν χιόνι ῥόας;

Pindar, Pythian 1. 20

“Snowy Aetna, perennial nurse of bitter snow”

νιφόεσσ᾿ Αἴτνα, πάνετες χιόνος ὀξείας τιθήνα

Plutarch, Moralia 340e

“Nations covered in depths of snow”

καὶ βάθεσι χιόνων κατακεχωσμένα ἔθνη

Herodotus, Histories 4.31

“Above this land, snow always falls…

τὰ κατύπερθε ταύτης τῆς χώρης αἰεὶ νίφεται

Diodorus Siculus, 14.28

“Because of the mass of snow that was constantly falling, all their weapons were covered and their bodies froze in the chill in the air. Thanks to the extremity of their troubles, they were sleepless through the whole night”

διὰ γὰρ τὸ πλῆθος τῆς κατὰ τὸ συνεχὲς ἐκχεομένης χιόνος τά τε ὅπλα πάντα συνεκαλύφθη καὶ τὰ σώματα διὰ τὸν ἀπὸ τῆς αἰθρίας πάγον περιεψύχετο. διὰ δὲ τὴν ὑπερβολὴν τῶν κακῶν ὅλην τὴν νύκτα διηγρύπνουν·

Ammianus Marcellinus, History V. V. Gratianus 27.9

“He will tolerate sun and snow, frost and thirst, and long watches.”

solem nivesque et pruinas et sitim perferet et vigilias

Basil, Letter 48

“We have been snowed in by such a volume of snow that we have been buried in our own homes and taking shelter in our holes for two months already”

καὶ γὰρ τοσούτῳ πλήθει χιόνων κατενίφημεν, ὡς αὐτοῖς οἴκοις καταχωσθέντας δύο μῆνας ἤδη ταῖς καταδύσεσιν ἐμφωλεύειν.

Livy, 10.46

“The snow now covered everything and it was no longer possible to stay outside…”

Nives iam omnia oppleverant nec durari extra tecta poterat

Plautus, Stichus 648

“The day is melting like snow…”

quasi nix tabescit dies.

Seneca, De Beneficiis 4

“I will go to dinner just as I promised, even if it is cold. But I certainly will not if it begins to snow.”

Ad cenam, quia promisi, ibo, etiam si frigus erit; non quidem, si nives cadent.

Snowy Mountain

Snow istotle

The Power of the Cold

Some sophistic considerations from Plutarch


On The Principle of Cold (Moralia 945)

“Is there truly some power of the cold, Favorinus, a principle and substantial thing, just as fire is the principle power of heat, by the presence of and through sharing of which each thing becomes cold? Or is coldness the subtraction of warmth just as people say that darkness is bereavement of life and stillness the absence of movement? Cold does seem to be still while warm has movement while the cooling of higher temperatures occurs by no presence of a force but instead thanks to the separation of heat. For heat appears to leave at the very same time that the rest of a substance cools. And steam, which water emits as it boils, escapes with the passing of the warmth. For this reason the larger amount loses mass when it cools as it loses the heat and nothing else replaces it.

As a starting point, shouldn’t someone be suspicious of this argument that it denies many types of forces by defining them not as characteristics or aspects but instead as the opposite of aspects and characteristics—for example, weight is the negation of lightness, hardness the absence of softness, black the opposite of whiteness, bitter of sweet, and of these rest of matters each develops an opposite force rather than mere negation….”

  1. Ἔστι τις ἄρα τοῦ ψυχροῦ δύναμις, ὦ Φαβωρῖνε, πρώτη καὶ οὐσία, καθάπερ τοῦ θερμοῦ τὸ πῦρ, ἧς παρουσίᾳ τινὶ καὶ μετοχῇ γίνεται τῶν ἄλλων ἕκαστον ψυχρόν· ἢ μᾶλλον ἡ ψυχρότης στέρησίς ἐστι θερμότητος, ὥσπερ τοῦ φωτὸς τὸ σκότος λέγουσι καὶ τῆς κινήσεως τὴν στάσιν; ἐπεὶ καὶ τὸ ψυχρὸν ἔοικε στάσιμον εἶναι, κινητικὸν δὲ τὸ θερμόν· αἵ τε τῶν θερμῶν καταψύξεις οὐδεμιᾶς παρουσίᾳ γίνονται δυνάμεως, ἀλλ᾿ ἐκστάσει θερμότητος· ἅμα γὰρ ἀπιοῦσ᾿ ὅλη2φαίνεται καὶ ψύχεται τὸ ὑπολειπόμενον· ὁ γὰρ ἀτμός, ὃν τὰ ζέοντα τῶν ὑδάτων μεθίησιν, ἀπιόντι τῷ θερμῷ συνεκπίπτει· διὸ καὶ μειοῖ τὸ πλῆθος ἡ περίψυξις ἐκκρίνουσα τὸ θερμόν, ἑτέρου μηδενὸς ἐπεισιόντος.
  2. Ἤ πρῶτον μὲν ἄν τις ὑπίδοιτο τοῦ λόγου τούτου τὸ πολλὰς τῶν ἐμφανῶν ἀναιρεῖν δυνάμεων, ὡς οὐ ποιότητας οὐδ᾿ ἕξεις, ἕξεων δὲ καὶ ποιοτήτων στερήσεις οὔσας,3βαρύτητα μὲν κουφότητος καὶ σκληρότητα μαλακότητος, τὸ μέλαν δὲ τοῦ λευκοῦ καὶ τὸ πικρὸν τοῦ γλυκέος, καὶ ὧν ἕκαστον ἑκάστῳ πέφυκεν ἀντικεῖσθαι κατὰ δύναμιν, οὐχ ὡς ἕξει στέρησις·

    Image result for ancient greek and roman cold
    Not dressed for this weather

Snow-Struck: Ancient Greek for Our Current Pain

νιφοβλής, “snow-struck”
νιφοκτύπος, “snow-hammered”
νιφάς, ή: “snow, snow flake”
νιφετώδης: “snowy, like snow”
νιφοβολία: “snowstorm”
νιφοστιβής: “snow-covered”
νιφοψυχής: “snow cold”

Thucydides 4.103

“It was winter and it was snowing”

χειμὼν δὲ ἦν καὶ ὑπένειφεν…

Homer, Il. 3.222-3

“Yet, then a great voice came from his chest And [Odysseus’] words were like snowy storms”

ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ ὄπα τε μεγάλην ἐκ στήθεος εἵη καὶ ἔπεα νιφάδεσσιν ἐοικότα χειμερίῃσιν,

Homer, Il. 13.754

“And then Hector surged up like a snowy mountain”

῏Η ῥα, καὶ ὁρμήθη ὄρεϊ νιφόεντι ἐοικὼς

Simonides, Gr. Anth. 6.217

“Once he avoided the winter onslaught of the snow..”

Χειμερίην νιφετοῖο κατήλυσιν ἡνίκ᾿ ἀλύξας

Od. 4.565-66

“There humans have the easiest life indeed—
There is no snow, nor storms, nor ever too much rain…”

τῇ περ ῥηΐστη βιοτὴ πέλει ἀνθρώποισιν·
οὐ νιφετός, οὔτ’ ἂρ χειμὼν πολὺς οὔτε ποτ’ ὄμβρος…

Euteknios Sophista, 18.15

“Then the snow must be eaten again.”

τοτὲ χιονοφαγητέον δ’ αὖ

Pherecrates 24 (from harpokration

“Whenever you have the time, make it snow…”

ὁπόταν σχολάζῃς, νεῖψον

Pindar, Paean 9 fr. 52K

“…or the indescribable power of the snowstorm…”

ἢ νιφετοῦ σθένος / ὑπέρφατον,

Antipater, 6. 19 (Greek Anthology)

“Driven by Zeus’ limb-freezing snow…”

Ζανὸς ἐλαστρησθεὶς γυιοπαγεῖ νιφάδι

Leonidas 6.222 (Greek Anthology)

“Fleeing the snow and chilling frost…”

καὶ νιφετὸν φεύγων καὶ κρυόεντα πάγον

Ok. Some Latin too…

Plautus, Stichus 648

“The day is melting like snow…”

quasi nix tabescit dies.

Seneca, De Beneficiis 4

“I will go to dinner just as I promised, even if it is cold. But I certainly will not if it begins to snow.”

Ad cenam, quia promisi, ibo, etiam si frigus erit; non quidem, si nives cadent.

χιών, ὁ: “snow”
χιονόβατος: “snow-path” (“where one walks in snow”)
χιονοβλέφαρος: “with a dazzling white eye”
χιονόβλητος: “snow-struck”
χιονοθρέμμων, ὁ: “snow-nourishing”
χιονόκτυπος: “snow-beaten”
χιονόμελι: “snow-honey”
χιονόπεπλος, “robe of snow”
χιονωπός: “snow-white”
χιονωτός: “snow-beaten”

Longus, Daphnis and Chloe 3.3.1

“A winter more bitter than war fell upon Daphnis and Chloe: for a great snowstorm descended suddenly and blocked all the roads, closing off all the farmers.”

Γίνεται δὲ χειμὼν Δάφνιδι καὶ Χλόῃ τοῦ πολέμου πικρότερος: ἐξαίφνης γὰρ περιπεσοῦσα χιὼν πολλὴ πάσας μὲν ἀπέκλεισε τὰς ὁδούς, πάντας δὲ κατέκλεισε τοὺς γεωργούς.

Solon, fr.9 1-4

“The fury of snow and hail comes from a cloud
and thunder comes from bright lightning.
A city is destroyed by great men and the people fall
into the slavery of monarchy thanks to ignorance.”

ἐκ νεφέλης πέλεται χιόνος μένος ἠδὲ χαλάζης,
βροντὴ δ’ ἐκ λαμπρῆς γίγνεται ἀστεροπῆς·
ἀνδρῶν δ’ ἐκ μεγάλων πόλις ὄλλυται, ἐς δὲ μονάρχου
δῆμος ἀϊδρίηι δουλοσύνην ἔπεσεν.

Diogenes Laertius 6.34.4 (on Diogenes)

“He used to walk in the snow with bare feet…”

γυμνοῖς ποσὶ χίονα ἐπάτει….

Image result for Ancient Greek snow

Suda, s.v. niphetos

Niphetos: This denotes thin, falling snow. There are four results of water condensing in the air. High, above the earth, the lesser type is snow and the greater force is hail. Below on the land, the lesser type is hoar-frost and the greater part is frost. But snow falling [niphetos] is not a specific type of condensing, instead it is just a different type of appearance. “When the Skythian land is blanketed in show, they cannot live without freezing weather” [Men. Fr. 10.10. And elsewhere: “Queen, even a snow storm brings you fruit as you are” [Gr. Anth. 6.242].

Νιφετός: ἡ κατάλεπτος καταφερομένη χιών. τέσσαρές εἰσι πήξεις τῆς ἐν τῷ ἀέρι ὑδατώδους πήξεως ὑγρότητος: ὑπὲρ γῆν μὲν ἄνω, ἐπ’ ἔλαττον μὲν χιών, ἐπὶ πλέον δὲ χάλαζα: ἐπὶ γῆς δὲ κάτω, ἐπ’ ἔλαττον μὲν πάχνη, ἐπὶ πλέον δὲ κρύσταλος: ὁ δὲ νιφετὸς πῆξις οὐκ ἔστιν, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον περὶ τὴν ἀλλοίαν χροιὰν ἡ ποιότης αὕτη. ἅτε τῆς χώρας τῶν Σκυθῶν θαμὰ νιφετῷ παλυνομένης, καὶ ἀδύνατον ὂν αὐτοῖς ἄνευ κρυμώδους καταστήματος βιοτεύειν. καὶ αὖθις: ἐς δέ σ’, ἄνασσα, τοίην χὠ νιφόεις κρυμὸς ὀπωροφορεῖ.

This is how the narrative describes Penelope and Odysseus during their encounter while Odysseus is in disguise.

Odyssey 19.204–212

‘As she was listening her tears began to flow and her skin’s color receded
As when snow melts on the highest mountaintops,
The snow the east wind melts after the west wind piles it up,
And rivers grow full and flow from the thaw—
That’s how her beautiful cheeks melted, pouring tears
As she wept for her own husband even as he sat there. But Odysseus
Pitied his wife as she mourned in his heart—
But his eyes stood motionless like horn or iron
Under his brows as he cloaked his tears with a trick.”

τῆς δ’ ἄρ’ ἀκουούσης ῥέε δάκρυα, τήκετο δὲ χρώς.
ὡς δὲ χιὼν κατατήκετ’ ἐν ἀκροπόλοισιν ὄρεσσιν,
ἥν τ’ εὖρος κατέτηξεν, ἐπὴν ζέφυρος καταχεύῃ,
τηκομένης δ’ ἄρα τῆς ποταμοὶ πλήθουσι ῥέοντες·
ὣς τῆς τήκετο καλὰ παρήϊα δάκρυ χεούσης,
κλαιούσης ἑὸν ἄνδρα, παρήμενον. αὐτὰρ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς
θυμῷ μὲν γοόωσαν ἑὴν ἐλέαιρε γυναῖκα,
ὀφθαλμοὶ δ’ ὡς εἰ κέρα ἕστασαν ἠὲ σίδηρος
ἀτρέμας ἐν βλεφάροισι· δόλῳ δ’ ὅ γε δάκρυα κεῦθεν.

Related image
Penelope and Odysseus, by Johann Heinrich Tischbein

Cicero, in Catilinam 2.23

“How will they bear the Appenines covered in frosts and snow? Maybe they think that they can tolerate the cold, because they learned to dance naked at dinner parties.”

Quo autem pacto illi Appeninum atque illas pruinas ac nivis perferent? Nisi idcirco se facilius hiemem toleraturos putant, quod nudi in conviviis saltare didicerunt.