A Bad Combination of Good Things

Lucian, You’re a Prometheus in Words

I am afraid that my work too is a camel in Egypt and people admire its bridle and its sea-purple, since even the combination of those two very fine creations, dialogue and comedy, is not enough for beauty of form if the blending lacks harmony and symmetry.

The synthesis of two fine things can be a freak—the hippocentaur is an obvious example: you would not call this creature charming, rather a monstrosity, to go by the paintings of their drunken orgies and murders. Well then, can nothing beautiful come from the synthesis of two things of high quality, as the mixture of wine and honey is exceedingly pleasant? Yes, certainly. But I cannot maintain that this is the case with my two: I’m afraid that the beauty of each has been lost in the blending.

Dialogue and comedy were not entirely friendly and compatible from the beginning.

Δέδοικα δὲ μὴ καὶ τοὐμὸν κάμηλος ἐν Αἰγυπτίοις ᾖ, οἱ δὲ ἄνθρωποι τὸν χαλινὸν ἔτι αὐτῆς θαυμάζωσι καὶ τὴν ἁλουργίδα, ἐπεὶ οὐδὲ τὸ ἐκ δυοῖν τοῖν καλλίστοιν συγκεῖσθαι, διαλόγου καὶ κωμῳδίας, οὐδὲ τοῦτο ἀπόχρη εἰς εὐμορφίαν, εἰ μὴ καὶ ἡ μῖξις ἐναρμόνιος καὶ κατὰ τὸ σύμμετρον γίγνοιτο. ἔστι γοῦν ἐκ δύο καλῶν ἀλλόκοτον τὴν ξυνθήκην εἶναι, οἷον ἐκεῖνο τὸ προχειρότατον, ὁ ἱπποκένταυρος· οὐ γὰρ ἂν φαίης ἐπέραστόν τι ζῷον τουτὶ γενέσθαι, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὑβριστότατον, εἰ χρὴ πιστεύειν τοῖς ζωγράφοις ἐπιδεικνυμένοις τὰς παροινίας καὶ σφαγὰς αὐτῶν. τί οὖν; οὐχὶ καὶ ἔμπαλιν γένοιτ᾿ ἂν εὔμορφόν τι ἐκ δυοῖν τοῖν ἀρίστοιν ξυντεθέν, ὥσπερ ἐξ οἴνου καὶ μέλιτος τὸ ξυναμφότερον ἥδιστον; φημὶ ἔγωγε. οὐ μὴν περί γε τῶν ἐμῶν ἔχω διατείνεσθαι ὡς τοιούτων ὄντων, ἀλλὰ δέδια μὴ τὸ ἑκατέρου κάλλος ἡ μῖξις συνέφθειρεν.

Prometheus Stauros. That bird doesn’t look so bad….

Tawdry Tuesday: Words You Didn’t Know You Need

Selections from the Comica Adespota

72 Aelian Historical Miscellany 13.15

“The comic poets say that there was a guy named Polydorus who was really thick in the head and had nearly impenetrable skin. There was also another person named Koikylion who used to try to count the waves of the sea because of madness. There is a tale that Sannurion was like this, a man who was looking for a ladder in a flask. They also say that those guys Koroibos and Melitides were stupid too”

φασὶ παχύτατον γενέσθαι τὴν διάνοιαν οἱ τῆς κωμῳδίας ποιηταὶ τὸ δέρμα ἔχοντα ἀδιακόντιστον Πολύδωρόν τινα, καὶ ἄλλον Κοικυλίωνα ὄνομα, ὅσπερ τὰ κύματα ἠρίθμει ὑπὸ τῆς ἄγαν μανίας. λόγος δέ τις καὶ Σαννυρίωνα τοιοῦτον γενέσθαι, ὃς ἐν τῇ ληκύθῳ τὴν κλίμακα ἐζήτει. καὶ Κόροιβον δὲ καὶ Μελιτίδην καὶ ἐκείνους ἀνοήτους φασίν.

The Loeb translates the phrase “ladder in a flask” as “tempest in a teapot”. I feel less than compelled by the translation in this context.

173 Etym. Gen. lambda 34

“Long-balls”: this means having big testicles. Aristokrates was mocked thus.”

λαπιδόρχας· ὁ μεγάλους ὄρχεις ἔχων. Ἀριστοκράτης δὲ οὕτω διεβάλλετο.

221 Eustathius ad Od. 1910.10

“Harsher than this is to be called a centaur in jest, one in comedy who pricks the ass [kent-orros]”

πικρότερον δὲ τούτου εἰς σκῶμμα τὸ εἰρῆσθαι κένταυρον, ὃς κεντεῖ ὄρρον τὸν παρὰ τῷ κωμικῷ.

511 Photius p. 192.12

“Laconian-ass-bandit: For Kleinias who had Laconian style anal-sex. They say that having sex with boys is to “act like a Laconian.” According to Aristotle, Theseus had sex with Helen this way.”

Κυσολάκων· ὁ Κλεινίας ὁ τῷ κυσῷ λακωνίζων· τὸ δὲ τοῖς παιδικοῖς χρῆσθαι λακωνίζειν λέγουσιν· Ἑλένῃ γὰρ Θησεὺς οὕτως ἐχρήσατο, ὡς Ἀριστοτέλης.

File:Plastic aryballos BM GR1888.6-1.660.jpg
Squatting man aryballos

A Comic Scene for Parents and Small Children

Plautus, Curculio, 182-184

Ph. Shhhhh.
Pal: Why? I am being quiet. Why don’t you go back to sleep?
Ph. I am sleeping. Don’t yell.
Pal. But you are awake.
Ph. No. I am sleeping the way I do. This is how I sleep!

Phae: tace.
Pal: quid, taceam? quin tu is dormitum?
Phae: dormio, ne occlamites.
Pal: tuquidem uigilas.
Phae: at meo more dormio: hic somnust mihi.

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Mondays Are Hard: Here’s How to Say “Dildo” in Ancient Greek

From the Suda

Olisbos: Genitals made from leather which the Milesian women used to use as tribades(!) and shameful people do. Widowed women also use them. Aristophanes writes “I did not see an eight-fingered dildo*/ which might be our leathered aid.”** This second part is drawn from the proverb “fig-wood aid” applied to weak people.

῎Ολισβος: αἰδοῖον δερμάτινον, ᾧ ἐχρῶντο αἱ Μιλήσιαι γυναῖκες, ὡς τριβάδες καὶ αἰσχρουργοί· ἐχρῶντο δὲ αὐτοῖς καὶ αἱ χῆραι γυναῖκες. ᾿Αριστοφάνης· οὐκ εἶδον οὐδ’ ὄλισβον ὀκταδάκτυλον, ὃς ἂν ἡμῖν σκυτίνη ‘πικουρία. παρὰ τὴν παροιμίαν, συκίνη ἐπικουρία. ἐπὶ τῶν ἀσθενῶν.

Another proverb from the Suda, s.v. misêtê:

“And Kratinus said somewhere: “hated women use dildos.”

καὶ ὁ Κρατῖνός που τοῦτο ἔφη: μισῆται δὲ γυναῖκες ὀλίσβωσι χρήσονται



Herodas, Mime 6.19 (h/t to David White for this one)

“Dear Koritto, who sewed up this crimson dildo for you?”

φίλη Κοριττοῖ, τίς κοτ᾿ ἦν ὄ σοι ράψας τὸν κόκκινον βαυβῶνα;


Hesychius may give us a clue to this one:

Bauban: To sleep

Baubô: A nurse of Demeter; it also can mean belly

βαυβᾶν· καθεύδειν

Βαυβώ· τιθήνη Δήμητρος. ps σημαίνει δὲ καὶ κοιλίαν


(!) tribades: see the Suda again s.v. Hetairistai:

“Courtesanizers: The women who are called ‘rubbers'” [or ‘grinders’? i.e. Lesbians] Ἑταιρίστριαι: αἱ καλούμεναι τριβάδες. See also Hesychius s.v. dietaristriai: “Women who rub themselves against girls in intercourse the way men do. For example, tribades.” διεταρίστριαι· γυναῖκες αἱ τετραμμέναι πρὸς τὰς ἑταίρας ἐπὶ συνουσίᾳ, ὡς οἱ ἄνδρες. οἷον τριβάδες (Plat. conv. 191 e).

*this is not an eight-shafted instrument but may instead point to the instrument’s length. See the note on the Suda-online.

**Lysistrata 109-110.



The Lexicographer Photius repeats only the following definition:

Olisboi: Leather dicks

῎Ολισβοι: δερμάτινα αἰδοῖα.


The Scholion to Aristophanes’ Lysistrata 109-110 basically presents the same information:

Olisbon: A leather penis. And that is for the Milesian women. He is joking that they use dildos. The next part, “leathery aid” plays upon the proverb “fig-tree aid”, used for the weak. He has changed it to “leathery” because dildos are made of leather. They are leather-made penises which widowed women use.”

ὄλισβον: Αἰδοῖον δερμάτινον. καὶ τοῦτο εἰς τὰς Μιλησίας. παίζει δὲ ὡς τοῖς ὀλίσβοις χρωμέναις. σκυτίνη ἐπικουρία: Παρὰ τὴν παροιμίαν, συκίνη ἐπικουρία, ἐπὶ τῶν ἀσθενῶν. ὁ δὲ εἰς τὴν σκυτίνην μετέβαλε. σκύτινοι γὰρ οἱ ὄλισβοι. εἰσὶ δὲ δερμάτινα αἰδοῖα, οἷς χρῶνται αἱ χῆραι γυναῖκες.


And, the chaste H. Liddell could do no better than give this a Latin name:

ὄλισβος , ὁ,

A.penis coriaceus, Cratin.316, Ar.Lys.109, Fr.320.13.


Is There a Doctor in the House?

Aristophanes, Assemblywomen 363-371

“Who can get a doctor for me and which one?
Who is an expert in the art of assholes?
Is it Amunôn? Perhaps he will decline.
Have someone call Antisthenes by any means.
For this man knows why an asshole wants
To shit thanks to the groaning.
Queen Eleithuia, don’t you ignore me
When I am breaking but all stopped up,
Don’t let me be the comic chamberpot!”

τίς ἂν οὖν ἰατρόν μοι μετέλθοι, καὶ τίνα;
τίς τῶν καταπρώκτων δεινός ἐστι τὴν τέχνην;
ἆρ᾿ οἶδ᾿ Ἀμύνων; ἀλλ᾿ ἴσως ἀρνήσεται.
Ἀντισθένη τις καλεσάτω πάσῃ τέχνῃ·
οὗτος γὰρ ἁνὴρ ἕνεκά γε στεναγμάτων
οἶδεν τί πρωκτὸς βούλεται χεζητιῶν.
ὦ πότνι᾿ Ἱλείθυα μή με περιίδῃς
διαρραγέντα μηδὲ βεβαλανωμένον,
ἵνα μὴ γένωμαι σκωραμὶς κωμῳδική.

By Autor: Dr.Rudolf Schandalik. – Own work Eigenes Foto, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=977342

Medically Mad or Just Thinking Bad? Early Greek on Being Crazy

An ancient distinction between mental maladies with absolutely no relevance to the modern day.

Assemblywomen, 248-253

[First Woman]: But what if Kephalos attacks you with abuse—
How will you response to him in the assembly?

[Praksagora]: I will say he’s out of his mind [paraphronein]

[First Woman]: but everyone knows this!

[Praksagora]: then I will also call him psychopathic [lit. ‘black-biled’=melancholic].

[First Woman]: They know this too.

[Praksagora]: But I will add that he produces terrible ceramics and will then do a fine job of doing the same to the city.

ἀτὰρ ἢν Κέφαλός σοι λοιδορῆται προσφθαρείς,
πῶς ἀντερεῖς πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐν τἠκκλησίᾳ;
ΠΡΑΞΑΓΟΡΑ φήσω παραφρονεῖν αὐτόν.
ΓΥΝΗ Α …ἀλλὰ τοῦτό γε
ἴσασι πάντες.
ΠΡΑΞΑΓΟΡΑ ἀλλὰ καὶ μελαγχολᾶν.
ΓΥΝΗ Α καὶ τοῦτ᾿ ἴσασιν.
ΠΡΑΞΑΓΟΡΑἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ τρύβλια
κακῶς κεραμεύειν, τὴν δὲ πόλιν εὖ καὶ καλῶς.

Melancholy here contrasts with “thinking -wrongly” (paraphronein). A scholion to another play by Aristophanes glosses the realms of these types of mental maladies (Schol. ad Plut. 11a ex 20-28)

“He seems to say this because he harmed or helped his master through his own virtue more—and while he disturbed him through prophecy, he made him crazy [melankholan] through medicine and took away his ability to think [phronein] through wisdom, which is the art of thinking. The servant lies. For he does not speak the truth….”

…τοῦτο οὖν
ἔοικε λέγειν, ὅτι διὰ τῶν ἑαυτοῦ
μᾶλλον ἀρετῶν ἔβλαψε τὸν δεσπότην
ἤπερ ὠφέλησε, καὶ διὰ μὲν τῆς
μαντείας ἐτάραξε, διὰ δὲ τῆς ἰατρι-
κῆς μελαγχολᾶν ἐποίησε, διὰ δὲ
τῆς σοφίας, ὅ ἐστι τῆς φρονήσεως,
τοῦ φρονεῖν αὐτὸν ἀφείλατο. ψεύδεται
ὁ δοῦλος· οὐ γὰρ ἀλήθειαν λέγει

Where melancholy denotes a physical ailment [i.e. biologically caused and treated], paraphrosunê indicates parafunctionality which may be treated without medicine.

μελαγχολάω: to be atrabilious, melancholy-mad.

μελαγχολία: atrabiliousness, melancholy, a disease [atual LSJ definition]

παραφροσύνη, ἡ:  wandering of mind, derangment, delirium

παραφρονέω: to be beside oneself, be deranged, or mad.

Lyrica Adespota, fr. 3.9-10

“Lust–that magician–takes me. It descends upon my mind
And makes me crazy!”

῎Ερως μ’ ἔλα]β’ ὁ γόης· εἰς τὴν ψυχήν μου εἰσπε-
σὼν [ποιεῖ μ]ε παραφρονεῖν.

Aristotle, Metaphysics 4.1009b

“In the same way, ‘truth’ concerning the way things appear has come to some people from their senses. They believe that it is right that truth should be judged neither by the multitude or the scarcity [of those who believe it]; and they believe that the same thing seems sweet to some who taste it and bitter to others with the result that if all men were sick or if they were all insane and two or three were healthy or in their right mind, wouldn’t it seem that these few were sick and crazy and not the rest?”

[1] —ὅμοιως δὲ καὶ ἡ περὶ τὰ φαινόμενα ἀλήθεια ἐνίοις ἐκ τῶν αἰσθητῶν ἐλήλυθεν. τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἀληθὲς οὐ πλήθει κρίνεσθαι οἴονται προσήκειν οὐδὲ ὀλιγότητι, τὸ δ᾽ αὐτὸ τοῖς μὲν γλυκὺ γευομένοις δοκεῖν εἶναι τοῖς δὲ πικρόν, ὥστ᾽ εἰ πάντες ἔκαμνον [5] ἢ πάντες παρεφρόνουν, δύο δ᾽ ἢ τρεῖς ὑγίαινον ἢ νοῦν εἶχον, δοκεῖν ἂν τούτους κάμνειν καὶ παραφρονεῖν τοὺς δ᾽ ἄλλους οὔ:

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Breakfast of Champions (NSFW)?

This is probably not safe for work.

Aristophanes, Wealth 295

“You’re following with your dicks out; and you will eat breakfast [like] goats”

ἕπεσθ’ ἀπεψωλημένοι· τράγοι δ’ ἀκρατιεῖσθε.

From the Suda

“You will breakfast”: Aristophanes in Wealth has “You will breakfast like goats”. This means you will breakfast with an exposed penis: you will do wild things like goats, since after sex, goats lick the penis. [So this means] you will lick the end of a dick like a goat.”

Ἀκρατιεῖσθε: Ἀριστοφάνης Πλούτῳ: τράγοι δ’ ἀκρατιεῖσθε. τουτέστιν ἀπεψωλημένοι ἀκρατιεῖσθε: ἀντὶ τοῦ ὡς τράγοι ἀκρατῆ πράξετε, ἐπεὶ μετὰ τὴν συνουσίαν οἱ τράγοι λείχουσι τὸ αἰδοῖον. τὸ ἄκρον λείξετε ὡς τράγοι.

The scholia to this passage have a few different interpretations:
Scholia ad. Arist. Plut.

“[They used to thing it means] “You are licking your balls like goats”. Clearly, this means: you are licking genitals.”

ἤγουν δίκην τράγων τοὺς ὄρχεις λείχετε. P. λείχετε τὰ αἰδοῖα δηλονότι. Br.

Scholia recentiora Tzetzae

“akratieisthe” stands in for “you would eat”. For akratismos means eating first thing in the morning. Or, “you will do wild things”, since after intercourse, goats lick their own genitals.”

τὸ δ’ “ἀκρατιεῖσθε” ἀντὶ τοῦ “φάγοιτε”· ἀκρατισμὸς γὰρ λέγεται τὸ πρωϊνὸν φαγεῖν. ἢ “ἀκρατῆ πράσσετε”, ἐπειδὴ μετὰ συνουσίαν οἱ τράγοι λείχουσι τὰ αἰδοῖα ἑαυτῶν.

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