The Original Virgin Suicides

Here’s an anecdote that is chilling and a bit upsetting. CW: it contains misogyny as well as reference to suicide clusters. In general, this reminded me of the suicide clusters in Silicon Valley discussed widely a few years ago. But–and I think this is more important–it also points to groups of suicide as an attempt to wrest agency in response to desperation, a lack of agency, and marginalization.

Aulus Gellius, Varia Historia 15.10

“In his first of the books On the Soul, Plutarch included the following tale when he was commenting on maladies which afflict human minds. He said that there were maiden girls of Milesian families who at a certain time suddenly and without almost any clear reason made a plan to die and that many killed themselves by hanging.

When this became more common in following days and there was no treatment to be found for the spirits of those who were dedicated to dying, The Milesians decreed that all maidens who would die by hanging their bodies would be taken out to burial completely naked except for the rope by which they were hanged. After this was decreed, the maidens did not seek suicide only because they were frightened by the thought of so shameful a funeral.”

Plutarchus in librorum quos περὶ ψυχῆς inscripsit primo cum de morbis dissereret in animos hominum incidentibus, virgines dixit Milesii nominis, fere quot tum in ea civitate erant, repente sine ulla evidenti causa voluntatem cepisse obeundae mortis ac deinde plurimas vitam suspendio amississe. id cum accideret in dies crebrius neque animis earum mori perseverantium medicina adhiberi quiret, decrevisse Milesios ut virgines, quae corporibus suspensis demortuae forent, ut hae omnes nudae cum eodem laqueo quo essent praevinctae efferrentur. post id decretum virgines voluntariam mortem non petisse pudore solo deterritas tam inhonesti funeris.

Suicides of public figures cause disbelief because of our cultural misconceptions about depression and about the importance of material wealth and fame to our well-being. While some clusters of suicide can be understood as a reflex of the “threshold problem”, we fail to see the whole picture if we do not also see that human well-being is connected to a sense of agency and belonging. Galen, in writing about depression, notes that melancholy can make us desire that which we fear.

Galen, De Locis Affectis 8.190-191

“But there are ten thousand other fantasies. The melancholic differ from one another, but even though they all exhibit fear, despair, blaming of life and hatred for people, they do not all want to die. For some, fear of death is the principle source of their depression. Some will seem paradoxical to you because they fear death and desire death at the same time.”

ἄλλα τε μυρία τοιαῦτα φαντασιοῦνται. διαφέρονται δὲ ἀλλήλων οἱ μελαγχολικοὶ, τὸ μὲν φοβεῖσθαι καὶ δυσθυμεῖν καὶ μέμφεσθαι τῇ ζωῇ καὶ μισεῖν τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἅπαντες ἔχοντες, ἀποθανεῖν δ’ ἐπιθυμοῦντες οὐ πάντες, ἀλλ’ ἔστιν ἐνίοις αὐτῶν αὐτὸ δὴ τοῦτο κεφάλαιον τῆς μελαγχολίας, τὸ περὶ τοῦ θανάτου δέος· ἔνιοι δὲ ἀλλόκοτοί σοι δόξουσιν, ἅμα τε καὶ δεδιέναι τὸν θάνατον καὶ θανατᾷν.

In thinking about the impact of agency and belonging on our sense of well-being and relationship to death, I have been significantly influence by this book:

Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg and Tom Pyszczynski. The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life. London: Allen Lane, 2015.

Related image
Picture found here

If you or someone you know feel alone, uncertain, depressed or for any reason cannot find enough joy and hope to think life is worth it, please reach out to someone. The suicide prevention hotline has a website, a phone number (1-800-273-8255), and a chat line. And if we can help you find some tether to the continuity of human experience through the Classics or a word, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Cicero on the “Unforgettable Ides of March”

Cicero, Letters to Atticus (14.4) 10 April 44

“But should all these things befall us, the Ides of March may console. Our heroes too accomplished most gloriously and magnificently everything it was in their power to do. For the rest, we need money and troops, neither of which we have.”

Sed omnia licet concurrant, Idus Martiae consolantur. nostri autem ἥρωες quod per ipsos confici potuit gloriosissime et magnificentissime confecerunt; reliquae res opes et copias desiderant, quas nullas habemus


Cicero, Letters to Brutus  I.15 (23) 14 July 43

“Therefore, come here, by the gods, as fast as possible; Convince yourself that it would do your country no greater good if you come quickly than you did on the Ides of March when you freed your fellow citizens from slavery.”

subveni igitur, per deos, idque quam primum, tibique persuade non te Idibus Martiis, quibus servitutem a tuis civibus depulisti, plus profuisse patriae quam, si mature veneris, profuturum.


Cicero, Letters to Brutus, 1.15 (23) July 43

“After the death of Caesar and your unforgettable Ides of March, Brutus, you will not have lost sight of the the fact that I said that one thing was overlooked by you—how much a storm loomed over the Republic. The greatest disease was warded off thanks to you—a great blight was cleansed from the Roman people—and you won immortal fame for your part. But the mechanism of monarchy fell then to Lepidus and Antonius—one of whom is more erratic, while the other is rather unclean—both fearing peace and ill-fit to idle time.”

Post interitum Caesaris et vestras memorabilis Idus Martias, Brute, quid ego praetermissum a vobis quantamque impendere rei publicae tempestatem dixerim non es oblitus. magna pestis erat depulsa per vos, magna populi Romani macula deleta, vobis vero parta divina gloria, sed instrumentum regni delatum ad Lepidum et Antonium, quorum alter inconstantior, alter impurior, uterque pacem metuens, inimicus otio.

Image result for Ancient Roman death of caesar
The death of Julius Caesar in the Roman Senate by Vincenzo Camuccini


Spectators, a Warning: Stay Hydrated

Diogenes Laertius, Thales 39

“[Thales] the wise died while watching a sporting contest because of heat, thirst, weakness, and old age. This is inscribed on his tomb:

While Thales lies in this small tomb on the ground
The fame of his wisdom spans the sky without bound

And I can also add this epigram of my own from my Epigrams of Various Meters:

As wise Thales watched the athletic games
The sun came to the stadium to tack him away
That you took him Zeus I praise
For he could not see the stars from earth because of age.

Ὁ δ᾿ οὖν σοφὸς ἐτελεύτησεν ἀγῶνα θεώμενος γυμνικὸν ὑπό τε καύματος καὶ δίψους καὶ ἀσθενείας, ἤδη γηραιός. καὶ αὐτοῦ ἐπιγέγραπται τῷ μνήματι·

ἦ ὀλίγον τόδε σᾶμα—τὸ δὲ κλέος οὐρανόμακες
—τῶ πολυφροντίστω τοῦτο Θάλητος ὅρη.

ἔστι καὶ παρ᾿ ἡμῖν ἐς αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ πρώτῳ τῶν Ἐπιγραμμάτων ἢ Παμμέτρῳ τόδε τὸ ἐπίγραμμα·

γυμνικὸν αὖ ποτ᾿ ἀγῶνα θεώμενον, ἠέλιε Ζεῦ,
τὸν σοφὸν ἄνδρα Θαλῆν ἥρπασας ἐκ σταδίου.
αἰνέω ὅττι μιν ἐγγὺς ἀπήγαγες· ἦ γὰρ ὁ πρέσβυς
οὐκέθ᾿ ὁρᾶν ἀπὸ γῆς ἀστέρας ἠδύνατο.

Irony strikes

Thales, Fr. 22

“Water is the beginning and the end of everything.”

[οὕτος ἔφη] ἀρχὴν τοῦ παντὸς εἶναι καὶ τέλος τὸ ὕδωρ

From wikimedia commons

Aristotle’s Defense for Going to That Superbowl Party

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics IX

“…so, friends properly desire spending time with one another. And whatever it is that is truly living for each and what they think makes life worth living, they want to share that with their friends. This is why some people drink together, others play dice together, some exercise together, or hunt, or study philosophy.

Each group of people spend their time together doing what they delight in most in life—because they want to share their lives with their friends, they join them and share in their pursuits as much as possible.”

ὥστ᾿ εἰκότως τούτου  ἐφίενται. καὶ ὅ τι ποτ᾿ ἐστὶν ἑκάστοις τὸ εἶναι ἢ οὗ χάριν αἱροῦνται τὸ ζῆν, ἐν τούτῳ μετὰ τῶν φίλων βούλονται διάγειν· διάπερ οἱ μὲν συμπίνουσιν, οἱ δὲ συγκυβεύουσιν, ἄλλοι δὲ συγγυμνάζονται καὶ συγκυνηγοῦσιν ἢ συμφιλοσοφοῦσιν, ἕκαστοι ἐν τούτῳ συνημερεύοντες ὅ τί περ μάλιστα ἀγαπῶσι τῶν ἐν τῷ βίῳ· συζῆν γὰρ βουλόμενοι μετὰ τῶν φίλων, ταῦτα ποιοῦσι καὶ τούτων κοινωνοῦσιν ὡς οἷόν τε [συζῆν].

Image result for ancient greek party

Life and the Great Game: Some Ancient Passages on Spectacles

Homer, Odyssey 8.147-8

“For as long as he lives, a man has no greater glory
than that which he wins with his own hands and feet”

οὐ μὲν γὰρ μεῖζον κλέος ἀνέρος, ὄφρα κεν ᾖσιν,
ἢ ὅ τι ποσσίν τε ῥέξῃ καὶ χερσὶν ἑῇσιν.

Diogenes Laertius, Life of Pythagoras 8.1

“Sosikrates in his Successions writes that when Pythagoras was asked by Leon the Tyrant of Plius what he was, he said “A philosopher”. And he was in the custom of comparing life to the Great Games because while some go there to compete, others go there to make money, even as some of the best go to watch. In the same way, in life, some grow up in servile positions, Pythagoras used to say, hunting for fame and profit while the philosopher hunts for the truth. That’s enough of that.”

Σωσικράτης δ᾿ ἐν Διαδοχαῖς φησιν αὐτὸν ἐρωτηθέντα ὑπὸ Λέοντος τοῦ Φλιασίων τυράννου τίς εἴη, φιλόσοφος, εἰπεῖν. καὶ τὸν βίον ἐοικέναι πανηγύρει· ὡς οὖν εἰς ταύτην οἱ μὲν ἀγωνιούμενοι, οἱ δὲ κατ᾿ ἐμπορίαν, οἱ δέ γε βέλτιστοι ἔρχονται θεαταί, οὕτως ἐν τῷ βίῳ οἱ μὲν ἀνδραποδώδεις, ἔφη, φύονται δόξης καὶ πλεονεξίας θηραταί, οἱ δὲ φιλόσοφοι τῆς ἀληθείας. καὶ τάδε μὲν ὧδε.

Tertullian, De Spectaculis

“This will be enough regarding the stained origin of games in idolatry”
Sed haec satis erunt ad originis de idololatria reatum.

“How many ways have we shown that nothing which has to do with these games pleases god!”

Quot adhuc modis probavimus, nihil ex his quae spectaculis deputantur placitum deo esse!

Plutarch, Progress in Virtue 79F

Once when Aeschylus was watching a boxing match at the Isthmian games, one of the men was hit and the audience screamed out. He elbowed Ion of Chios and said, “Do you see what training is like? The man who was hit stays silent and the spectators yell!”

Αἰσχύλος μὲν γὰρ Ἰσθμοῖ θεώμενος ἀγῶνα πυκτῶν, ἐπεὶ πληγέντος τοῦ ἑτέρου τὸ θέατρον ἐξέκραγε, νύξας Ἴωνα τὸν Χῖον “ὁρᾷς,” ἔφη, “οἷον ἡ ἄσκησίς ἐστιν; ὁ πεπληγὼς σιωπᾷ, οἱ δὲ θεώμενοι βοῶσιν.”

Pindar, Nem. 4.6

“The story of deeds lives longer than deeds themselves”

ῥῆμα δ’ ἐργμάτων χρονιώτερον βιοτεύει

Cicero, De Senectute 58

“Let others have weapons, horses, spears, fencing-foils, ball games, swimming competitions, races, and leave to the old men dice and knucklebones for games. Or let that go too since old age can be happy without it.”

Sibi habeant igitur arma, sibi equos, sibi hastas, sibi clavam et pilam, sibi natationes1 atque cursus; nobis senibus ex lusionibus multis talos relinquant et tesseras; id ipsum ut2 lubebit, quoniam sine eis beata esse senectus potest.

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 4.973-984

“And whenever people for many days in a row
Have given endless attention to games, we see that many
Have stopped actually absorbing these things with their senses
Even though there are paths still open in the mind
By which the representations of things may enter.
For many days in this way the same things are seen
Before their eyes and they stay awake so that they might seem
To see dancers moving their gentle limps
Or brush with their ears the liquid song of the lyre
And the talking chords, and to sense again that same concord
And the wild spectacular with its bright scene.”

Et quicumque dies multos ex ordine ludis
adsiduas dederunt operas, plerumque videmus,
cum iam destiterunt ea sensibus usurpare,
relicuas tamen esse vias in mente patentis,
qua possint eadem rerum simulacra venire.
per multos itaque illa dies eadem obversantur
ante oculos, etiam vigilantes ut videantur
cernere saltantis et mollia membra moventis,
et citharae liquidum carmen chordasque loquentis
auribus accipere, et consessum cernere eundem
scenaique simul varios splendere decores.

Horace, Epistles 1.19.48-9

“Sport tends to give rise to heated strife and anger, anger in turns brings savage feuds and war to the death”.

ludus enim genuit trepidum certamen et iram, ira truces inimicitias et funebre bellum.

Xenophanes, Fragment 2. 16-19

“Swiftness of feet—the thing honored most in all of man’s acts of strength in the contest—could never make a city governed well.”

οὐδὲ μὲν εἰ ταχυτῆτι ποδῶν, τόπερ ἐστὶ πρότιμον,
ῥώμης ὅσσ’ ἀνδρῶν ἔργ’ ἐν ἀγῶνι πέλει,
τούνεκεν ἂν δὴ μᾶλλον ἐν εὐνομίηι πόλις εἴη·

Image result for Ancient Greek athletic competitions

Gambling and Work

Xenophon, Memorabilia 1.2.57

“Socrates, then, would agree that it is useful for a person to be a worker and both harmful and bad for someone to be lazy. Work, then, is a good thing; being lazy is an evil one. He said that work was when people  did something good, but he used to call people who gambled or did any other deceptive or questionable thing lazy. From these ideas, he rightly believed that “work isn’t to be criticized at all, laziness is.”

Σωκράτης δ᾿ ἐπεὶ διομολογήσαιτο τὸ μὲν ἐργάτην εἶναι ὠφέλιμόν τε ἀνθρώπῳ καὶ ἀγαθὸν εἶναι, τὸ δὲ ἀργὸν βλαβερόν τε καὶ κακόν, καὶ τὸ μὲν ἐργάζεσθαι ἀγαθόν, τὸ δ᾿ ἀργεῖν κακόν, τοὺς μὲν ἀγαθόν τι ποιοῦντας ἐργάζεσθαί τε ἔφη καὶ ἐργάτας εἶναι, τοὺς δὲ κυβεύοντας ἤ τι ἄλλο πονηρὸν καὶ ἐπιζήμιον ποιοῦντας ἀργοὺς ἀπεκάλει. ἐκ δὲ τούτων ὀρθῶς ἂν ἔχοι τὸἔργον δ᾿ οὐδὲν ὄνειδος, ἀεργίη δέ τ᾿ ὄνειδος


Herodotus 1.94

“During the reign of Manes’ son, a massive food shortage struck all of Lydia. The Lydians endured this living as they could, but after a while, when it did not stop, they sought cures, and different men devised different solutions. At that time they invented the ideas of dice, and knucklebones, and ball, and every other kind of game except for draughts. For the Lydians do not claim the invention of these games. They invented the games they did for the famine. They played their games on alternate days when they could not seek food and on others they stopped their games and ate. They lived this way for eighteen years.”

᾿Επὶ ῎Ατυος τοῦ Μάνεω βασιλέος σιτοδείην ἰσχυρὴν ἀνὰ τὴν Λυδίην πᾶσαν γενέσθαι· καὶ τοὺς Λυδοὺς τέως μὲν διάγειν λιπαρέοντας, μετὰ δέ, ὡς οὐ παύεσθαι, ἄκεα δίζησθαι, ἄλλον δὲ ἄλλο ἐπιμηχανᾶσθαι αὐτῶν. ᾿Εξευρεθῆναι δὴ ὦν τότε καὶ τῶν κύβων καὶ τῶν ἀστραγάλων καὶ τῆς σφαίρης καὶ τῶν ἀλλέων πασέων παιγνιέων τὰ εἴδεα, πλὴν πεσσῶν· τούτων γὰρ ὦν τὴν ἐξεύρεσιν οὐκ οἰκηιοῦνται Λυδοί. Ποιέειν δὲ ὧδε πρὸς τὸν λιμὸν ἐξευρόντας· · τὴν μὲν ἑτέρην τῶν ἡμερέων παίζειν πᾶσαν, ἵνα δὴ μὴ ζητέοιεν σιτία, τὴν δὲ ἑτέρην σιτέεσθαι παυομένους τῶν παιγνιέων. Τοιούτῳ τρόπῳ διάγειν ἐπ’ ἔτεα δυῶν δέοντα εἴκοσι.

Plutarch, De Tranquilitate Animi 467b

“Plato likened life to a dice-game in which we need both to throw what is advantageous and to use the dice well after we’ve thrown them. And when we are subject to chance, if we take good advice, this is our task: though we cannot control the toss, we can accept the outcome luck gives us properly and allot to each event a place in which what is good for us helps the most and what was unplanned aggrieves the least.”

Κυβείᾳ γὰρ ὁ Πλάτων (Resp. 604c) τὸν βίον ἀπείκασεν, ἐν ᾧ καὶ βάλλειν δεῖ τὰ πρόσφορα, καὶ βαλόντα χρῆσθαι καλῶς τοῖς πεσοῦσι. τούτων δὲ τὸ μὲν βάλλειν οὐκ ἐφ’ ἡμῖν, τὸ δὲ προσηκόντως δέχεσθαι τὰ γινόμενα παρὰ τῆς τύχης καὶ νέμειν ἑκάστῳ τόπον, ἐν ᾧ καὶ τὸ οἰκεῖον ὠφελήσει μάλιστα καὶ τὸ ἀβούλητον ἥκιστα λυπήσει τοὺς ἐπιτυγχάνοντας, ἡμέτερον ἔργον ἐστίν, ἂν εὖ φρονῶμεν.

And here is the passage Plutarch is drawing on from the tenth book of the Republic (Plato, Republic 604c-d)

“The best way to deliberate about what has happened is just as we might in the fall of dice: to order our affairs in reference to how the dice have fallen where reason dictates the best place would be, and not to stumble forward like children shocked at the outcome wasting time with crying. Instead, we should always prepare our mind towards addressing what has happened as quickly as possible and to redress what has fallen and what ails, erasing lament [lit. threnody] with treatment*.”

Τῷ βουλεύεσθαι, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, περὶ τὸ γεγονὸς καὶ ὥσπερ ἐν πτώσει κύβων πρὸς τὰ πεπτωκότα τίθεσθαι τὰ αὑτοῦ πράγματα, ὅπῃ ὁ λόγος αἱρεῖ βέλτιστ’ ἂν ἔχειν, ἀλλὰ μὴ προσπταίσαντας καθάπερ παῖδας ἐχομένους τοῦ πληγέντος ἐν τῷ βοᾶν διατρίβειν, ἀλλ’ ἀεὶ ἐθίζειν τὴν ψυχὴν ὅτι τάχιστα γίγνεσθαι πρὸς τὸ ἰᾶσθαί τε καὶ ἐπανορθοῦν τὸ πεσόν τε καὶ νοσῆσαν, ἰατρικῇ θρηνῳδίαν ἀφανίζοντα.

Diogenes Laertius, Pythagoras 8.3

“Sôsikrates, in his Successions, says that when Pythagoras was asked by Leon, the tyrant of the Phliasians, who he was, he said, “a philosopher,” and that he said life was like the Great Games. Some people go there to compete, others go to make money, and the best people go to watch. For in life, some people have a slavish nature and they hunt for glory or profit, while philosophers search for the truth.”

Σωσικράτης δ᾿ ἐν Διαδοχαῖς φησιν αὐτὸν ἐρωτηθέντα ὑπὸ Λέοντος τοῦ Φλιασίων τυράννου τίς εἴη, φιλόσοφος, εἰπεῖν. καὶ τὸν βίον ἐοικέναι πανηγύρει· ὡς οὖν εἰς ταύτην οἱ μὲν ἀγωνιούμενοι, οἱ δὲ κατ᾿ ἐμπορίαν, οἱ δέ γε βέλτιστοι ἔρχονται θεαταί, οὕτως ἐν τῷ βίῳ οἱ μὲν ἀνδραποδώδεις, ἔφη, φύονται δόξης καὶ πλεονεξίας θηραταί, οἱ δὲ φιλόσοφοι τῆς ἀληθείας.


Stop the Presses! The Character of an Oligarch

Theophrastus, Characters: Authoritarianism

1. Authoritarianism [oligarchy] would appear to be a certain lust for power that is greedy for power and profit. An oligarch is the sort who:

2. When the people are debating who should be selected to assist leading a parade, steps right up and declares that absolute control is required. If others propose ten people to do a job, he declares that “one is enough, provided he is a real man”. He can recall only that one Homeric verse—“the rule of many is not good, there should be one ruler’—and he understands nothing of the rest.

3. Don’t miss out that he uses these kinds of statements: “We should get together and deliberate about this on our own and avoid the democrat mob and the assembly. Stop being insulted or honored by them when we hold public offices” or “They should run the state or we should.”

4. In the middle of the day he goes out finely dressed with his hair hanging at mid-length and his fingernails finely done, peacocking around, laying about with words like this:

5. “Thanks to all these whistleblowers, this country is unlivable!” “We are being treated the worst in the courts because of their corruption!” “I can’t imagine what these people pursuing politics even want!” “The people are completely ungrateful—all they want is a handout!” He says he is ashamed in the assembly whenever some skinny person sits next to him.”

Letter (2)
There may be a universe in which this is real

(1) δόξειεν δ᾿ ἂν εἶναι ἡ ὀλιγαρχία φιλαρχία τις ἰσχύος καὶ κέρδους γλιχομένη, ὁ δὲ ὀλιγαρχικὸς τοιοῦτος,

(2) οἷος τοῦ δήμου βουλευομένου, τίνας τῷ ἄρχοντι προσαιρήσονταιτῆς πομπῆς τοὺς συνεπιμελησομένους, παρελθὼν ἀποφήνασθαι ὡς δεῖ αὐτοκράτορας τούτους εἶναι, κἂν ἄλλοι προβάλλωνται δέκα, λέγειν “ἱκανὸς εἷς ἐστι, τοῦτον δὲ” ὅτι “δεῖ ἄνδρα εἶναι·” καὶ τῶν Ὁμήρου ἐπῶν τοῦτο ἓν μόνον κατέχειν, ὅτι “οὐκ ἀγαθὸν πολυκοιρανίη, εἷς κοίρανος ἔστω,” τῶν δὲ ἄλλων μηδὲν ἐπίστασθαι·

(3) ἀμέλει δὲ δεινὸς τοῖς τοιούτοις τῶν λόγων χρήσασθαι, ὅτι “δεῖ αὐτοὺς ἡμᾶς συνελθόντας περὶ τούτων βουλεύσασθαι, καὶ ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου καὶ τῆς ἀγορᾶς ἀπαλλαγῆναι, καὶ παύσασθαι ἀρχαῖς πλησιάζοντας καὶ ὑπὸ τούτων οὕτως ὑβριζομένους ἢ τιμωμένους,” <καὶ> ὅτι “ἢ τούτους δεῖ ἢ ἡμᾶς οἰκεῖν τὴν πόλιν.”

(4) καὶ τὸ μέσον δὲ τῆς ἡμέρας ἐξιὼν καὶ τὸ ἱμάτιον ἀναβεβλημένος καὶ μέσην κουρὰν κεκαρμένος καὶ ἀκριβῶς ἀπωνυχισμένος σοβεῖν τοὺς τοιούτους λόγους τραγῳδῶν·

(5) “διὰ τοὺς συκοφάντας οὐκ οἰκητόν ἐστιν ἐν τῇ πόλει,” καὶ ὡς “ἐν τοῖς δικαστηρίοις δεινὰ πάσχομεν ὑπὸ τῶν δεκαζομένων,” καὶ ὡς “θαυμάζω τῶν πρὸς τὰ κοινὰ προσιόντων τί βούλονται,” καὶ ὡς “ἀχάριστόν ἐστι <τὸ πλῆθος καὶ ἀεὶ>τοῦ νέμοντος καὶ διδόντος,” καὶ ὡς αἰσχύνεται ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, ὅταν παρακάθηταί τις αὐτῷ λεπτὸς

arrogant finger

Foot Ailments and Fools! Save us From Democrates


Aelian, Miscellany 4.5

“Democrates the wrestler also had a foot ailment. When he went to a competition he stood in the arena, drew a circle around himself and dared his opponents to drag him over the line. Those who couldn’t, were defeated. He left crowned victor, having stood his ground strongly.”

Δημοκράτης ὁ παλαιστὴς καὶ αὐτὸς νοσήσας τοὺς πόδας, παριὼν εἰς τοὺς ἀγῶνας καὶ στὰς ἐν τῷ σταδίῳ, περιγράφων ἑαυτῷ κύκλον προσέταττε τοῖς ἀντιπαλαισταῖς ἔξω τῆς γραμμῆς αὐτὸν προέλκειν·οἱ δὲ ἡττῶντο ἀδυνατοῦντες. ὁ δὲ εὖ διαβὰς ἐν τῇ στάσει καὶ ἐγκρατῶς, στεφανούμενος ἀπῄει


Democrates or Heraclitus

“Friendship with a single smart person is better than many fools”

ἑνὸς φιλίη ξυνετοῦ κρέσσων ἀξυνέτων πάντων.


From Brill’s New Pauly, s.v. Democrates

[1] Attic orator of the 4th cent. BC from Aphidna

Attic orator of the 4th cent. BC from Aphidna, probably an older contemporary of Demosthenes [2] (about 338 BC he is called γέρων (gérōn; old man), cf. Stob. Floril. 3,22,43). As the descendant of  Harmodius or  Aristogeiton, he had a claim to free provisions in the Prytaneion (Hyp. 4,3). He belonged to the Pro-Macedonian party (Hyp. 4,2). He is also mentioned in Aeschin. Leg. 2,17 and Isaeus 6,22.

Parody and Charm

Demetrius, On Style 158

“Charm also comes from imitating someone else’s style, as Aristophanes does when he mocks Zeus someplace because “he fails to hit evil people with lightning but hits his own temple instead as well as the Athenians’ Sounian peak!” See, here it is not Zeus who is mocked, but Homer and a Homeric line too, and more charm comes from this.”

(150) καὶ ἀπὸ στίχου δὲ ἀλλοτρίου γίνεται χάρις, ὡς ὁ Ἀριστοφάνης σκώπτων που τὸν Δία, ὅτι οὐ κεραυνοῖ τοὺς πονηρούς, φησίν,
ἀλλὰ τὸν ἑαυτοῦ νεὼ βάλλει, καὶ Σούνιον ἄκρον​
ὥσπερ γοῦν οὐκέτι ὁ Ζεὺς κωμῳδεῖσθαι δοκεῖ, ἀλλ᾿ Ὅμηρος καὶ ὁ στίχος ὁ Ὁμηρικός, καὶ ἀπὸ τούτου πλείων ἐστὶν ἡ χάρις.

Athenaeus 15.698b

“Polemon in the 12th book of his Essay to Timaios writes on his inquiry into composers of parody:’ I would say that the parodists Boiotos and Euboios are clever because they toy with double meanings and surpass previous poets even though they are later born. Still, it needs to be said that the iambic poet Hipponax created the genre. He speaks in Hexameters:

Muse, tell me about the stomach slicing, sea-swallowing
Eurymedontes who was eating out of order so that
He was allotted a terrible death by the vote
Of all the people along the strand of the tireless sea.”

Πολέμων δ᾿ ἐν τῷ δωδεκάτῳ τῶν πρὸς Τίμαιον περὶ τῶν τὰς παρῳδίας γεγραφότων ἱστορῶν τάδε γράφει· “καὶ τὸν Βοιωτὸν δὲ καὶ τὸν Εὔβοιον τοὺς τὰς παρῳδίας γράψαντας λογίους ἂν φήσαιμι διὰ τὸ παίζειν ἀμφιδεξίως καὶ τῶν προγενεστέρων ποιητῶν ὑπερέχειν ἐπιγεγονότας. εὑρετὴν μὲν οὖν τοῦ γένους Ἱππώνακτα φατέον τὸν ἰαμβοποιόν. λέγει γὰρ οὗτος ἐν τοῖς ἑξαμέτροις·
Μοῦσά μοι Εὐρυμεδοντιάδεω τὴν ποντοχάρυβδιν,
τὴν ἐγγαστριμάχαιραν, ὃς ἐσθίει οὐ κατὰ κόσμον,
ἔννεφ᾿, ὅπως ψηφῖδι <κακῇ> κακὸν οἶτον ὄληται
βουλῇ δημοσίῃ παρὰ θῖν᾿ ἁλὸς ἀτρυγέτοιο.

Distorted adult figures fight over an overgrown baby. Small babies run around hatched from eggs. Oil painting.
Grotesque parody of an accouchement. Oil painting attributed to Faustino Bocchi.

Cicero: A Liar Will Probably Commit Perjury Too

Cicero, Pro Quinctui Roscio 16

“Still,” he said, “Cluvius told Lucius and Manilius he was not on sworn oath.” If he told them while sworn in, would you believe? What is the difference between a perjurer and a liar? A man who is accustomed to lying, can get used to committing perjury.

I can easily get a man to perjure himself once I am able to persuade him to lie. For once someone has departed from the truth, he is not in the habit of being constrained by greater belief from perjury than from lying. For what man who is not moved by the force of his own conscience is moved by invocation of the gods?

The reason for this is that the gods dispense the same penalty for the perjurer and the liar. The gods become enraged and punish a man not for the institution which frames the swearing of the words but because of the evil and the malice that these traps are set for another person.”

XVI. “Dicit enim,” inquit, “iniuratus Luscio et Manilio.” Si diceret iuratus, crederes? At quid interest inter periurum et mendacem? Qui mentiri solet, peierare consuevit. Quem ego, ut mentiatur, inducere possum, ut peieret, exorare facile potero. Nam qui semel a veritate deflexit, hic non maiore religione ad periurium quam ad mendacium perduci consuevit. Quis enim deprecatione deorum, non conscientiae fide commovetur? Propterea, quae poena ab dis immortalibus periuro, haec eadem mendaci constituta est; non enim ex pactione verborum, quibus ius iurandum comprehenditur, sed ex perfidia et malitia, per quam insidiae tenduntur alicui, di immortales hominibus irasci et suscensere consuerunt.

Image result for medieval manuscript perjury
Sinon. Augustine, La Cit de Dieu, Books I-X. Paris, Ma tre Franois (illuminator); c. 1475-1480.