The Best Love Poem Ever Written (Perhaps)

Sappho, fr. 16

Some say a force of horsemen, some say infantry
and others say a fleet of ships is the loveliest
thing on the dark earth, but I say it is
the one you love

It is altogether simple to make this understood
since she whose beauty outmatched all,
Helen, left her husband
a most noble man

And went sailing to Troy
Without a thought for her child and dear parents
[Love] made her completely insane
And led her astray

This reminds me of absent Anactoria

I would rather watch her lovely walk
and see the shining light of her face
than Lydian chariots followed by
infantrymen in arms

Οἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον, οἰ δὲ πέσδων,
οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ’ ἐπὶ γᾶν μέλαιναν
ἔμμεναι κάλλιστον, ἐγὼ δὲ κῆν’ ὄτ-
τω τις ἔραται

πά]γχυ δ’ εὔμαρες σύνετον πόησαι
πά]ντι τ[οῦ]τ’· ἀ γὰρ πολὺ περσκέθοισα
κά]λλος ἀνθρώπων Ἐλένα [τὸ]ν ἄνδρα
τὸν πανάριστον
/ [κρίννεν ἄρ]ιστον

καλλίποισ’ ἔβας ‘ς Τροίαν πλέοισα
/ ὂσ τὸ πὰν] σέβασ τροΐα[σ ὄ]λεσσ[ε,
κωὐδὲ παῖδος οὐδὲ φίλων τοκήων
πάμπαν ἐμνάσθη, ἀλλὰ παράγαγ’ αὔταν
οὐκ ἀέκοισαν
/ πῆλε φίλει]σαν

Κύπρις· εὔκαμπτον γὰρ ἔφυ βρότων κῆρ
] κούφως τ . . . οη . . . ν
κἄμε νῦν Ἀνακτορίας ὀνέμναι-
σ’ οὐ παρεοίσας

/ Ὠροσ. εὔκ]αμπτον γαρ [ἀεὶ τὸ θῆλυ]
αἴ κέ] τισ κούφωσ τ[ὸ πάρον ν]οήσῃ.
οὐ]δὲ νῦν, Ἀνακτορί[α, τ]ὺ μέμναι
δὴ] παρειοῖσασ,

τᾶς κε βολλοίμαν ἔρατόν τε βᾶμα
κἀμάρυχμα λάμπρον ἴδην προσώπω
ἢ τὰ Λύδων ἄρματα κἀν ὄπλοισι

Attested compounds from the LSJ 1902:

φιλαλεξάνδρος: philaleksandros, “Alexander-lover”

φιλαλήθης: philalêthês, “lover of truth”

φιλαναγνώστης: philanagnôstês, “love of reading”

φιλαμαρτήμων: philamartêmôn, “lover of sin”

φιλανθής: philanthês, “flower-lover”

φιλαπεχθημοσύνη: philapekhthêmosunê, “fond of making enemies”

φίλαυτος: philautos, “self-lover”

φιλέρημος: philerêmos, “lover of solitude”

φίλερις: phileris, “lover of conflict”

φιληδονία: philêdonia, “lover of pleasure”

φιλόβιβλιος: philobiblios, “book-lover”

φιλοβόρβορος: philoborboros, “lover of dirt”

φιλόγλυκυς: philoglukus, “sweet-lover”

φιλογύνης: philogunês, “woman-lover”

φιλοδένρος: philodendros, “tree-lover”

φιλόδροσος: philodrosos, “lover of dew”

φιλοζωία: philozôia, “lover of life”

φιλόθακος: philothakos, “lover of sitting”

φιλοιφής: philoiphês, “lover of sexual intercourse”

φιλόκενος: philokenos, “lover of emptiness”

φιλόκηπος: philokêpos, “lover of gardens”

φιλόκροτος: philokrotos, “lover of noise”

φιλοκύων: philokuôn, “lover of dogs”

φιλόλογος: philologos, “lover of words”

φιλόλουτρος: philoloutros, “lover of baths”

φιλομαθής: philomathês, “lover of learning”

φιλόμαστος: philomastos, “breast-loving”

φιλόμβρος: philombros, “rain-loving”

φιλόμηρος: philomêros, “Homer-loving”

φιλομήτωρ: philomêtôr, “mother-loving”

φιλονέος: philoneos, “youth-loving”

φιλομόχθηρος: philomokhthêros, “loving bad men”

φιλομύθος: philomuthos, “story-lover”; also “fond of talking”

φιλόξενος: philoksenos: “Stranger-lover”

φιλοπενθής: philopenthês, “grief-lover”

φιλοπλάκουντος: philoplakountos, “cake-lover”

φιλοπολύγελως: philopolugelôs, “lover of great laughter”

φιλοπόνος: philoponos, “work-lover”

φιλοπόρνος: philopornos, “lover of harlots”

φιλοπρεπής: philoprepês, “lover of propriety

φιλορρώθων: philorrôthôn, “nose-lover”

φιλορχηστής: philorkhêstês, “dance-lover”

Palaiophron posted this last year.

Basil Gildersleeve, Hellas and Hesperia

“No lover can avoid the catalogue of the charms of his mistress. Petrarch is eloquent in sonnet and canzone on the subject of Laura’s eyes. Shall our mistress lack eyes? Again, your true lover is sublimely indifferent to the fact that the audience is utterly unacquainted with the object of his adoration, and so even after many years of close communion with Greek, I was capable in 1869 of holding forth ecstatically on its physical charms, for I am enough of a heathen to recognize in physical beauty the only true incentive of love. It is the physical beauty of Greek that constitutes its intimate attraction, that redeems, for instance, the tedious obviousnesses of the old man eloquent, and I could still rhapsodize, as I did forty years ago, on the sequences of vowels and the combinations of consonants, the concert of mute and liquid, the clear-cut outline of every word in Greek, clear and sharp as the sky-line of the mountains of Greece, as the effigies on Greek coins. I could still wax lyrical about the paradigm of the Greek verb. The Greek verb is, indeed, a marvel.

‘Flexible and exact, simple in its means, abundant in its applications, with varying tones for colorless statement, for eager wish, for purpose, for command, now despatching the past with impatient haste, now unrolling it in panoramic procession, but bringing forth its treasure of vowels and diphthongs to mark the striving of the will, the thought, the desire, toward the future,’ and so on and so on. Perhaps discourse like this might rouse the curiosity of the student and win here and there a friend for Greek. The teacher can never know whether shall prosper either this or that. I remember to have read in Gogol’s ‘Dead Souls’ a eulogy of Russian that would have Inspired me, if I had been endowed with ample leisure, to attempt the acquisition of that difficult idiom. But I am not quite sure that this unverifiable laudation Is the right way to lend vitality to the study. ‘The king’s daughter is all glorious within.’ But he that is without remains cold as a rule. The love of a language from this point of view is a matter of individual experience, a business to be transacted under four eyes only, and as much of the physical beauty of a language depends on the pronunciation, it may be well to relegate the whole thing to the realm of ‘fancy,’ that admirable old word for love. I will, therefore, waive the whole subject of the perfection of the Greek language, both in Its form and Its function, the wealth of its vocabulary, and the flexibility of its syntax, and limit myself to a few remarks on the relation of Greek to our daily life.”


Hard To Stomach: Some Needful Words

A proverb

“A fat stomach does not bear a subtle mind”

Γαστὴρ παχεῖα λεπτὸν οὐ τίκτει νόον.  (Arsenius, 5.22a1)

Od. 18.54-56

“Friends, it is in no way good for an old man
In the clutches of sorrow to fight a younger man.
But my no-good stomach compels me, that I might fall beneath his blows.”

“ὦ φίλοι, οὔ πως ἔστι νεωτέρῳ ἀνδρὶ μάχεσθαι
ἄνδρα γέροντα δύῃ ἀρημένον· ἀλλά με γαστὴρ
ὀτρύνει κακοεργός, ἵνα πληγῇσι δαμείω.

γαστήρ, ἡ: “stomach”

γαστραία: A type of turnip

γαστρίδουλος: “slave to one’s stomach”

γαστρίον: “sausage”

γαστρίζω: “to punch someone in the belly”

γραστριμαργία: “gluttony”

γαστροβαρής: “stomach-heavy”, i.e. “heavy with child”

γαστροκνημία: lit. “shin-stomach”, so “calf”

γαστρολογία: An almanac for gourmands, so “foodie-book”

γαστρομαντεύομαι: “to divine by the stomach”

γαστροπίων: “a fat-bellied fellow”

γαστρορραφία: “sewing a stomach wound”

γαστρόρροια: “diarrhea”

γαστροτόμος: “stomach cutting”

Image result for ancient greek comic vase

γαστροχάρυβδις: “having a gaping maw of a belly”

γαστρόχειρ: lit. “stomach-hand”, so “living by hand” or “hand to mouth”

γαστρώδης: “pot pellied”

Work Words

Zenobius 3.71

“To dance in darkness”: A proverb applied to those who toil over unwitnessed things—their work is invisible.”

᾿Εν σκότῳ ὀρχεῖσθαι: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀμάρτυρα μοχθούντων, ὧν τὸ ἔργον ἀφανές.


Plutarch, Perikles 1.4 5-6

“Often and quite contrarily, we look down on a laborer while delighting in his work.”

πολλάκις δὲ καὶ τοὐναντίον χαίροντες τῷ ἔργῳ τοῦ δημιουργοῦ καταφρονοῦμεν


ἐργάνη: worker

ἐργασία: work, labor

ἐργαστήρ: worker

ἐργαστηριάρχος: work-leader

ἐργαστήριον: a workplace

ἐργαστικός: able to work

ἐργαστῖναι: girls who make the peplos for Athena

ἐργατεία: work, labor


Arsenius, 13.49a

“Not even time, the father of everything, can make an end of labors.”

 Οὐδ’ ἂν χρόνος ὁ πάντων πατὴρ δύνατο θέμεν ἔργων τέλος.


ἐργάτησιος: income-earning

ἐργάτης: workman

ἐργάτις: workwoman

ἐργοδιώκτης: task-master

ἐργολαβία: contract for work

ἐργοπαρέκτης: employer

ἐργόχειρον: manual labor

ἐργώδης: irksome, troublesome

μίσοεργος: hating work, lazy

φιλοεργός: fond of work, industrious


Hesiod Works and Days, 289-90

“The gods made sweat the price for virtue.”

τῆς δ’ ἀρετῆς ἱδρῶτα θεοὶ προπάροιθεν ἔθηκαν / ἀθάνατοι·

Image result for ancient greek harvest vase
The “Harvesters vase” from Agia Triada ( 1500-1400 BC). Heraklion Archaeological Museum

How to Say “Sharknado” in Ancient Greek

Last summer, while catching up with the SYFY series The Expanse, I learned that a fifth installment of the movie Sharknado has made its debut. So, got to thinking and sent a tweet. Some entertainment ensued. In honor of the sixth and allegedly final movie in the storied franchise The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time, here we go again.

I was surprised about the engagement (people like absurd questions), but not too surprised. I then got distracted by the idea. I have put some of the responses below. Apologies if I missed anyone.

My first thought was: Why is Shark-nado funny?

It is an absurd compound, the word shark plus a part of the word tornado, which has been amusingly reanalyzed as if it were a meaningful suffix. And, by the magical power of languag, it now is in fact a meaningful suffix.

Also, it is funny because it sounds like a metaphor but is actually literal: in the made for TV movies, of which there are now five, there is a churning gyro made of sharks.

Etymology, from the OED s.v. “tornado”

Etymology: In Hakluyt and his contemporaries, ternado; from Purchas 1625 onward, turnadotournadotornado. In none of these forms does the word exist in Spanish or Portuguese. But the early sense makes it probable that ternado was a bad adaptation (perhaps originally a blundered spelling) of Spanish tronada ‘thunderstorm’ ( <tronar to thunder), and that tornado was an attempt to improve it by treating it as a derivative of Spanish tornar to turn, return; compare tornado participle, returned. It is notable that this spelling is identified with explanations in which, not the thunder, but the turning, shifting, or whirling winds are the main feature. This is emphasized in the variants turnadotournado.

The suggestions from Twitter:

καρχαριοτυφῶν: from   [καρχαρίας “shark” + τυφῶν “tornado”] by @AntieDiaphanus

καρχαρίανεμοστρόβιλος: “shark-rain-gyre” from @didaclopez

κηταιγίδα: pun on “sea monster” (κῆτος) and storm (καταιγίς) from @KirkdaleBooks cf. κηταιγίδα (loved by @giovanni_lido)

καρχαρίομβρος: “shark-rain” from @nanocyborgasm

καρχαριοστρόβιλος: “shark-gyre” from @peneloPa

τερατολαῖλαψ: “monster=-omen hurricane” from @ohflanders

καρχαριηριώλη: “shark-air-destruction” from @deadfulprof

καρχαριάνεμος “shark-wind” from @jatrius

Κετρόβιλος: “sea-monster gyre” from @didaclopez

καρχαροδίνη: “shark-whorl” from @equiprimordial

Image result for ancient greek vase shark

My thought process:

I wanted Ancient Greek, so the problem is there is no word for “shark” according to Woodhouse’s Greek English dictionary. In Oppian’s Halieutika, we find a “fox-shark” (ἀλωπεκίαι, 1.380; cf. Ananius fr. 5.5: κἀλωπέκων) and, possibly, “the genus shark” in Aristotle’s On Breathing (τὸ τῶν καλουμένων σελαχῶν γένος, 476a) while Aelian prefers Ὁ γαλεὸς (On Animals, 2.55).

Of course, we need to go to Greek comedy if we want fish names: Platon the Comic gives us καρχαρίαν (fr. 189.14) while Cratinus, according to Athenaeus, gives us κύων (fr. 171.50), Eupolis provides σελάχιον (πρίω μοι σελάχιον, fr 1.: “buy some shark for me!”). I am going to leave aside the metaphorical transfer names (“dog” and “shark”) and focus just on the fish-words.

Here’s the LSJ on this:

σέλαχος, ὁ: “of all cartilaginous fishes” including “sharks”

καρχαρίας, ὁ: “a kind of shark” named so because of its “sharp” teeth (κάρχαρος means “sharp”).

Obviously, no one wants to use σέλαχος. So, the better suggestions should be from καρχαρίας.  Someone suggested a κητ- compound, which I find especially attractive since κῆτος is already productive in compounds (e.g. κητόδορπος (fish-food) κητοτρόφος (sea-monster nourishing), κητοφάγος (sea-monster eating), κητοφόνος (sea monster slaying). The reason I am leaning this way is because SHARK in American films and culture is a figure of respect and horror, not something you eat. IT EATS YOU. So, Greek κῆτος, while not a shark, seems more apt for the EXTREME nature of this gyronic KILLING MACHINE.

Woodhouse suggests for English “tornado”: χείμων, θύελλα, τυφώς. For hurricane: the same, but with πρηστήρ coming sooner. The blander “storm” gets these, plus τρικυμία, φυσήματα, κλύδων and νιφάς. It does not provide what I think is the best suggestion, λαῖλαψ, which I am probably particular to because it is rather archaic. I also love the Suda’s definition “rain with wind. And darkness” (Λαῖλαψ: μετ’ ἀνέμων ὄμβρος, καὶ σκότος). Hescyhius also glosses it as “a storm, a turning of wind with rain” (καταιγίς, ἀνέμου συστροφὴ μετὰ ὑετοῦ).

Some further suggestions

κητολαῖλαψ: “sea-monster hurricane”

κητοχειμών: “sea-monster storm”

καρχαριοτυφών: “shark-typhoon”

κητοτυφών: “sea-monster typhoon”

καρχαριολαῖλαψ: “sea-monster hurricane”

Palaiophron suggested ἕλιξ κητέων, which is pretty rad. But I would like to turn that bad-boy around and get κητο-ελιξ or perhaps κητόλελιξ or even καρχαριόλελιξ.


Side-note 1: One friend said this post would be really popular. I said maybe, but what people really like are posts about feces, middle-fingers, puking and masturbation.

Side-note 2: Another friend said that the compound should have some Greek compound of “turn” in it. I failed him.

Side-note 3: Another friend, in discovering that there were 5 Sharknado films, texted me: “What!? Where have I been? In such a world, “President Trump” should have come as no surprise.”

Side-note 4: My son who is 5 just walked by and saw the promo-picture for “Sharknado 5” and said “giant sharks on land and in the air? That. Is. A. Mazing.”

Postscript: There were some Latin suggestions too

Post-Post Script: There was a late-breaking addition that is worthy of note:


The pictures were sent by my mother-in-law who is visiting Morocco. They made me long for a Greek compound for “tree-goats”. There is not one. But here are some goatwords.

αἴξ, αἴγος: goat, usually female

αἰγοκέφαλος: “goat-headed”, for a type of owl

αἰγόλεθρος: “goat’s bane”

αἰγομελής: “goat-limbed”

αἰγονόμιον: “herd of goats”

αἰγοπίθηκος: “goat ape”

αἰγόπλαστος: “goat-shaped”

αἰγοπόδης: “goat-footed”

αἰγοτριχέω: “to have goat hair”

αἰγοφάγος: “goat-eater”

The Root aiks is unclear, but might have to do with jumping


τράγος, ὁ: “he-goat”

τραγίζειν: “to be a he-goat”

τραγέλαφος: “goat-stag”

τραγοβάμων: “goat-walking”

τραγόκτονος: “goat slaughter”

τραγομάσχαλος: “smelling like goat in the armpits”

τραγοπρόσωπος: “goat-faced”

τραγοπτισάνη: “a goat gruel

τραγοπώγων: “goat-bearded”

Trag- is probably derived from what goats are known to do: they eat everything







Some Useful Words for Current Events

πόρνη: harlot, prostitute; likely derive from πέρναω, since most prostitutes were slaves who were purchased

πορνίδιον: little harlot (a diminutive)

πορνοβοσκεῖον: a brothel

πορνοβοσκός: a keeper of prostitutes

πορνογέννητος: born of a prostitute

πορνογράφος: writing belonging to prostitutes

πορνοδιδάσκαλος: a sex-teacher

πορνοκόπος: one who spends time with prostitutes

πορνομανής: crazy for prostitutes

πορνομοιχής: one who commits adultery with prostitutes


The terms πορνοβοσκεῖον (a brothel)  andπορνοβοσκός (keeper of prostitutes) are a little disturbing insofar as they are composed of a verb boskeô, which is more often used with grazing or caring for herd animals.

Image result for medieval manuscript prostitute
Royal 20 C V f 96v

Thunderous-Mouth-Milling and Petty-Bragging: Some Words for a Thursday

The Suda has the following anecdote which seems to be taken and altered from Diogenes Laertius or something similar.

“thunderous-mouth-milling”: Eubulides says this “the eristic, asking his horn questions and discombobulating the orators with his falsely-intellectual arguments, taking with him the “thunderous-mouth-milling” of Demosthenes.

Ῥομβοστωμυλήθρα: Εὐβουλίδης φησίν: οὑριστικὸς κερατίνας ἐρωτῶν καὶ ψευδαλαζόσιν λόγοις τοὺς ῥήτορας κυλίων ἀπῆλθ’, ἔχων Δημοσθένους τὴν ῥομβοστωμυλήθραν.

ῥομβοστωμυλήθρη (lit. “thunderous-mouth-milling” (?) seems to be a misunderstanding or humorous take on ῥωποπερπερήθρη, usually translated as “braggadocio” but is more like “cheap/petty bragging”
From Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers 2.10

“The eristic Euboulides, asking questions about horns
And discombobulating the speakers with his falsely-intellectual arguments
Has gone off, taking the petty self regard of Demosthenes with him

For it seems that Demosthenes was a student of Eubulides and was able to stop his problems with the letter ‘r’ because of it. Eubulides was also in conflict with Aristotle and undermined him a lot.

οὑριστικὸς δ᾿ Εὐβουλίδης κερατίνας ἐρωτῶν
καὶ ψευδαλαζόσιν λόγοις τοὺς ῥήτορας κυλίων
ἀπῆλθ᾿ ἔχων Δημοσθένους τὴν ῥωποπερπερήθραν.

ἐῴκει γὰρ αὐτοῦ καὶ Δημοσθένης ἀκηκοέναι καὶ ῥωβικώτερος ὢν παύσασθαι. ὁ δ᾿ Εὐβουλίδης καὶ πρὸς Ἀριστοτέλην διεφέρετο, καὶ πολλὰ αὐτὸν διαβέβληκε.

Eubulides is now known for some interesting paradoxes.

Image result for ancient greek eubulides
Demosthenes, no longer thunderous-mouth-milling.