Four Years of Presidential Memory: Giving The Finger in Ancient Greek

Since we are all about to be rendered powerless by shameless show trials, why not wrest back for ourselves a gesture appropriate to the tenor of our times.

In Aristophanes’ Peace a rude hand gesture is mentioned (549):

Καὶ τὸν δορυξὸν οἷον ἐσκιμάλισεν.

Perseus’ translation (“this sickle-maker is thumbing his nose at the spear-maker?” ) may not do justice to the gesture or its meaning. Ancient commentary glosses this in a slightly different way. (See this site for a reference to the digitus impudicus in the Clouds)

Schol ad Ar. Pax. 549

Eskimálisen: “instead of he stuck his finger up” for to skimalísai is properly to shove a finger into a bird’s anus. But when people wish to insult someone, they extend their middle finger, retract the rest, and show it.”

ἐσκιμάλισεν: ἀντὶ τοῦ “κατεδακτύλισεν”· σκιμαλίσαι γάρ ἐστι κυρίως τὸ τὸν δάκτυλον εἰς τὸν πρωκτὸν τοῦ ὀρνέου βαλεῖν. οὐ μόνον δὲ τοῦτο, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὅταν βουλόμενοι ἐφυβρίσαι τινὰ τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐντείνοντες καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς συνάγοντες δείξωσιν αὐτόν.

Apart from loving this passage’s instructions about how to give a middle finger, I am intrigued by the fact that Greeks gave the middle finger at all and by the chance that the reference to a bird’s anus might provide an amusing folk etymology for why we call it the “bird”. But, first and foremost, we can learn why the Greeks gave the finger.

A popular article in Slate claims that the middle finger is offensive because it is phallic, so sticking it up is like rudely showing someone a penis. Wikipedia says it is all about sexual intercourse. The Greek evidence, however, indicates that while phallic meaning is operative, what one does with the threatened phallus is truly insulting (at hubris levels even!). So, let’s go through some of the extant evidence.

We have some confirmation of the synonymy the scholion indicates between giving the middle finger and sticking a finger in an anus:

Phrynichus, 83.15

Katadaktulizein: “to wantonly touch through the rectum with a finger. Attic Greeks use the term skimalizein.

καταδακτυλίζειν: τὸ ἀσελγῶς τῷ δακτύλῳ τῆς τοῦ πέλας ἕδρας ἅπτεσθαι. τοῦτο καὶ σκιμαλίζειν οἱ ᾿Αττικοὶ λέγουσιν.

The Suda provides a gloss on an adjective related to this verb:

Katadaktulikos: a phrase for wanting to penetrate the anus’s sphincter.

Καταδακτυλικός: ἀντὶ τοῦ συνουσιαστικὸς κατὰ τοῦ δακτυλίου τοῦ πρωκτοῦ.

There is also a proverb recorded that repeats much of the same material as we find in the scholion.

Michal. Apostol. Parom. 7.98

“You should get fingered” : [This is a proverb applied] for those worthy of insult. For skimalísai means when someone wants to insult someone, people raise their middle finger, retract the rest, and show it. Properly, this indicates shoving a finger into a bird’s anus.”

     ᾿Εσκιμαλίχθαι σε χρή: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀξίων ὕβρεως· σκιμαλίσαι δὲ λέγεται, ὅταν βουλόμενος ἐνυβρίσαι τινὰ τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐντείναντες καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς συνάγοντες ἐνδείξωσιν αὐτῷ· κυρίως δὲ λέγεται τὸ τὸν δάκτυλον εἰς τὸν πρωκτὸν τοῦ ὀρνέου βαλεῖν.

Picture
Image from thefinger.org

The Suda pretty much provides the same information but with an opening alternative:

Eskimalisen: [This is when] one insults by joining thumb and middle finger and striking them. Or, instead it means to give the finger [katedaktulise]: for “to finger” is, properly, to place your middle finger into a bird’s anus. But it is not only this: whenever people want to insult someone, they stretch out their middle finger, withdraw the rest, and show it. So Aristophanes says: “[see] how he fingered the spear-maker.”

Ἐσκιμάλισεν: τῷ μέσῳ δακτύλῳ συναρμόσας τὸν μέγαν καὶ πλήξας ἐφυβρίζει. ἢ ἀντὶ τοῦ κατεδακτύλισε: σκιμαλίσαι γάρ ἐστι κυρίως τὸ μέσον τὸν δάκτυλον εἰς τὸν πρωκτὸν τοῦ ὀρνέου ἐμβαλεῖν. οὐ μόνον δὲ τοῦτο, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὅταν βουλόμενοι ἐνυβρίσαι τινά, τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐντείνοντες καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς συνάγοντες δείξωσιν αὐτῷ. Ἀριστοφάνης: καὶ τὸν δορυξὸν οἷον ἐσκιμάλισεν.

In another entry we find a more abstract use of the verb with several options for translation. (There is also an explanation about why people are sticking fingers in birds.) Don’t sleep on the Suda: the entry combines agricultural information with an anecdote from philosophy:

Skimalisô: “I treat as nothing; I mock; I grab with a little finger as I would a woman’s ass”. Skimalizein means to examine with a little finger, to see if chickens are about to lay eggs.

When two men were resting above at one of Zeno’s drinking parties, and the one below him was sticking his foot in the other’s ass, and Zeno was doing the same thing to him with his knee, he turned around and said, “what kind of pain do you think you were causing the man below you?”

Σκιμαλίσω: ἐξουδενώσω, χλευάσω, τῷ μικρῷ δακτύλῳ ὡς τῶν γυναικείων πυγῶν ἅψομαι. λέγεται δὲ σκιμαλίζειν κυρίως τὸ τῷ μικρῷ δακτύλῳ ἀποπειρᾶσθαι, εἰ ᾠοτοκοῦσιν αἱ ἀλεκτορίδες. δυοῖν ὑπερανακειμένοιν ἐν πότῳ τοῦ Ζήνωνος, καὶ τοῦ ὑπ’ αὐτὸν τὸν ὑφ’ ἑαυτὸν σκιμαλίζοντος τῷ ποδί, αὐτὸς ἐκεῖνον τῷ γόνατι. ἐπιστραφέντος δέ, τί οὖν, οἴει, τὸν ὑποκάτω σου πάσχειν ὑπὸ σοῦ;

The entries from the Suda are pretty far removed from the time of Aristophanes’ Peace (only 1500 years or so). Although the steady tradition from the scholia through the lexicographers indicates some consistency, we still need a little more to help flesh this out.

So, a final piece of evidence to wrap this all up. One of the words for the middle finger in Attic Greek is καταπύγων (a meaning attested by both Photius and Hesychius: Καταπύγων: ὁ μέσος δάκτυλος).  This word, when not referring to fingers, generally indicates someone “given to unnatural lust” (LSJ) or one who is lecherous, derived from the preposition kata and the noun pugê (buttocks, ass). The point, if I may, is that the middle finger in this colloquialism is directly associated with something that goes deep in the buttocks.

To stay with the assertion in Slate, as the largest finger, the middle finger raised does seem to have a phallic association, but in the Greek usage at least the showing of such a phallic symbol is a threat of its use. Based on the association of the gesture and the word for the middle finger with “wantonness”, the gesture threatens deep anal penetration, a threat like Catullus’ pedicabo (“I will sexually violate your ass”). Google searches will find this answer, but without the pleasant lexical tour!

Image result for ancient greek chicken vase
A FALISCAN BLACK-GLAZED ASKOS | CIRCA 4TH CENTURY B.C. | Ancient Art & Antiquities Auction | Ancient Art & Antiquities, vases | Christie’s from Pinterest

But lest you fear that the gesture is now too base and vulgar to be used, no less a luminary than the philosopher Diogenes employed it:

Diogenes Flips off Demosthenes (Diogenes Laertius, 6.34 and 35)

Once, when some foreigners wanted to see Demosthenes, he put up his middle finger, and said, “this is the Athenian demagogue!”

ξένων δέ ποτε θεάσασθαι θελόντων Δημοσθένην, τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐκτείνας, “οὗτος ὑμῖν,” ἔφη, “ἐστὶν ὁ ᾿Αθηναίων δημαγωγός.”

 “[Diogenes] used to say that most people were a single finger away from insanity. If someone walks around holding out his middle finger, he seems nuts. But if he is holding his index, he doesn’t.”

τοὺς πλείστους ἔλεγε παρὰ δάκτυλον μαίνεσθαι· ἐὰν οὖν τις τὸν μέσον προτείνας πορεύηται, δόξει μαίνεσθαι, ἐὰν δὲ τὸν λιχανόν, οὐκέτι.

See also Jeffrey Henderson, The Maculate Muse (New Haven, 1975).

Thanks to Justin Arft and Matt Farmer for comments on an earlier version of this.

Suda Online, epsilon 3150; kappa 516; sigma 606

 

Giving The Finger in Ancient Greek

Since we are all about to be rendered powerless by shameless show trials, why not wrest back for ourselves a gesture appropriate to the tenor of our times.

In Aristophanes’ Peace a rude hand gesture is mentioned (549):

Καὶ τὸν δορυξὸν οἷον ἐσκιμάλισεν.

Perseus’ translation (“this sickle-maker is thumbing his nose at the spear-maker?” ) may not do justice to the gesture or its meaning. Ancient commentary glosses this in a slightly different way. (See this site for a reference to the digitus impudicus in the Clouds)

Schol ad Ar. Pax. 549

Eskimálisen: “instead of he stuck his finger up” for to skimalísai is properly to shove a finger into a bird’s anus. But when people wish to insult someone, they extend their middle finger, retract the rest, and show it.”

ἐσκιμάλισεν: ἀντὶ τοῦ “κατεδακτύλισεν”· σκιμαλίσαι γάρ ἐστι κυρίως τὸ τὸν δάκτυλον εἰς τὸν πρωκτὸν τοῦ ὀρνέου βαλεῖν. οὐ μόνον δὲ τοῦτο, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὅταν βουλόμενοι ἐφυβρίσαι τινὰ τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐντείνοντες καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς συνάγοντες δείξωσιν αὐτόν.

Apart from loving this passage’s instructions about how to give a middle finger, I am intrigued by the fact that Greeks gave the middle finger at all and by the chance that the reference to a bird’s anus might provide an amusing folk etymology for why we call it the “bird”. But, first and foremost, we can learn why the Greeks gave the finger.

A popular article in Slate claims that the middle finger is offensive because it is phallic, so sticking it up is like rudely showing someone a penis. Wikipedia says it is all about sexual intercourse. The Greek evidence, however, indicates that while phallic meaning is operative, what one does with the threatened phallus is truly insulting (at hubris levels even!). So, let’s go through some of the extant evidence.

We have some confirmation of the synonymy the scholion indicates between giving the middle finger and sticking a finger in an anus:

Phrynichus, 83.15

Katadaktulizein: “to wantonly touch through the rectum with a finger. Attic Greeks use the term skimalizein.

καταδακτυλίζειν: τὸ ἀσελγῶς τῷ δακτύλῳ τῆς τοῦ πέλας ἕδρας ἅπτεσθαι. τοῦτο καὶ σκιμαλίζειν οἱ ᾿Αττικοὶ λέγουσιν.

The Suda provides a gloss on an adjective related to this verb:

Katadaktulikos: a phrase for wanting to penetrate the anus’s sphincter.

Καταδακτυλικός: ἀντὶ τοῦ συνουσιαστικὸς κατὰ τοῦ δακτυλίου τοῦ πρωκτοῦ.

There is also a proverb recorded that repeats much of the same material as we find in the scholion.

Michal. Apostol. Parom. 7.98

“You should get fingered” : [This is a proverb applied] for those worthy of insult. For skimalísai means when someone wants to insult someone, people raise their middle finger, retract the rest, and show it. Properly, this indicates shoving a finger into a bird’s anus.”

     ᾿Εσκιμαλίχθαι σε χρή: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀξίων ὕβρεως· σκιμαλίσαι δὲ λέγεται, ὅταν βουλόμενος ἐνυβρίσαι τινὰ τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐντείναντες καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς συνάγοντες ἐνδείξωσιν αὐτῷ· κυρίως δὲ λέγεται τὸ τὸν δάκτυλον εἰς τὸν πρωκτὸν τοῦ ὀρνέου βαλεῖν.

Picture
Image from thefinger.org

The Suda pretty much provides the same information but with an opening alternative:

Eskimalisen: [This is when] one insults by joining thumb and middle finger and striking them. Or, instead it means to give the finger [katedaktulise]: for “to finger” is, properly, to place your middle finger into a bird’s anus. But it is not only this: whenever people want to insult someone, they stretch out their middle finger, withdraw the rest, and show it. So Aristophanes says: “[see] how he fingered the spear-maker.”

Ἐσκιμάλισεν: τῷ μέσῳ δακτύλῳ συναρμόσας τὸν μέγαν καὶ πλήξας ἐφυβρίζει. ἢ ἀντὶ τοῦ κατεδακτύλισε: σκιμαλίσαι γάρ ἐστι κυρίως τὸ μέσον τὸν δάκτυλον εἰς τὸν πρωκτὸν τοῦ ὀρνέου ἐμβαλεῖν. οὐ μόνον δὲ τοῦτο, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὅταν βουλόμενοι ἐνυβρίσαι τινά, τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐντείνοντες καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς συνάγοντες δείξωσιν αὐτῷ. Ἀριστοφάνης: καὶ τὸν δορυξὸν οἷον ἐσκιμάλισεν.

In another entry we find a more abstract use of the verb with several options for translation. (There is also an explanation about why people are sticking fingers in birds.) Don’t sleep on the Suda: the entry combines agricultural information with an anecdote from philosophy:

Skimalisô: “I treat as nothing; I mock; I grab with a little finger as I would a woman’s ass”. Skimalizein means to examine with a little finger, to see if chickens are about to lay eggs.

When two men were resting above at one of Zeno’s drinking parties, and the one below him was sticking his foot in the other’s ass, and Zeno was doing the same thing to him with his knee, he turned around and said, “what kind of pain do you think you were causing the man below you?”

Σκιμαλίσω: ἐξουδενώσω, χλευάσω, τῷ μικρῷ δακτύλῳ ὡς τῶν γυναικείων πυγῶν ἅψομαι. λέγεται δὲ σκιμαλίζειν κυρίως τὸ τῷ μικρῷ δακτύλῳ ἀποπειρᾶσθαι, εἰ ᾠοτοκοῦσιν αἱ ἀλεκτορίδες. δυοῖν ὑπερανακειμένοιν ἐν πότῳ τοῦ Ζήνωνος, καὶ τοῦ ὑπ’ αὐτὸν τὸν ὑφ’ ἑαυτὸν σκιμαλίζοντος τῷ ποδί, αὐτὸς ἐκεῖνον τῷ γόνατι. ἐπιστραφέντος δέ, τί οὖν, οἴει, τὸν ὑποκάτω σου πάσχειν ὑπὸ σοῦ;

The entries from the Suda are pretty far removed from the time of Aristophanes’ Peace (only 1500 years or so). Although the steady tradition from the scholia through the lexicographers indicates some consistency, we still need a little more to help flesh this out.

So, a final piece of evidence to wrap this all up. One of the words for the middle finger in Attic Greek is καταπύγων (a meaning attested by both Photius and Hesychius: Καταπύγων: ὁ μέσος δάκτυλος).  This word, when not referring to fingers, generally indicates someone “given to unnatural lust” (LSJ) or one who is lecherous, derived from the preposition kata and the noun pugê (buttocks, ass). The point, if I may, is that the middle finger in this colloquialism is directly associated with something that goes deep in the buttocks.

To stay with the assertion in Slate, as the largest finger, the middle finger raised does seem to have a phallic association, but in the Greek usage at least the showing of such a phallic symbol is a threat of its use. Based on the association of the gesture and the word for the middle finger with “wantonness”, the gesture threatens deep anal penetration, a threat like Catullus’ pedicabo (“I will sexually violate your ass”). Google searches will find this answer, but without the pleasant lexical tour!

Image result for ancient greek chicken vase
A FALISCAN BLACK-GLAZED ASKOS | CIRCA 4TH CENTURY B.C. | Ancient Art & Antiquities Auction | Ancient Art & Antiquities, vases | Christie’s from Pinterest

But lest you fear that the gesture is now too base and vulgar to be used, no less a luminary than the philosopher Diogenes employed it:

Diogenes Flips off Demosthenes (Diogenes Laertius, 6.34 and 35)

Once, when some foreigners wanted to see Demosthenes, he put up his middle finger, and said, “this is the Athenian demagogue!”

ξένων δέ ποτε θεάσασθαι θελόντων Δημοσθένην, τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐκτείνας, “οὗτος ὑμῖν,” ἔφη, “ἐστὶν ὁ ᾿Αθηναίων δημαγωγός.”

 “[Diogenes] used to say that most people were a single finger away from insanity. If someone walks around holding out his middle finger, he seems nuts. But if he is holding his index, he doesn’t.”

τοὺς πλείστους ἔλεγε παρὰ δάκτυλον μαίνεσθαι· ἐὰν οὖν τις τὸν μέσον προτείνας πορεύηται, δόξει μαίνεσθαι, ἐὰν δὲ τὸν λιχανόν, οὐκέτι.

See also Jeffrey Henderson, The Maculate Muse (New Haven, 1975).

Thanks to Justin Arft and Matt Farmer for comments on an earlier version of this.

Suda Online, epsilon 3150; kappa 516; sigma 606

 

Diogenes Can Get Satisfaction (And So Can You!)

Dio recounts how the philosopher proposed dealing with, um, animal urges.

Dio Chrysostom, The Sixth Oration: On Diogenes or Tyranny (16-20)

“On behalf of that very thing which men make the most effort and waste the most money—through which many cities have been overturned and for whose sake many people have perished pitiably—for [Diogenes] this was the easiest and cheapest thing. For he didn’t have to go anywhere for sexual satisfaction, since, as he used to joke, Aphrodite was near him everywhere, and for free. He used to say that the poets slandered the goddess because of their own lack of control when they called her “all golden”. Since many did not believe this, he proved it out in the open while everyone was watching. And he used to say that if people did this, then Troy would not have fallen, nor would have Priam, the Phrygian king of the line of Zeus, bled out on Zeus’ altar.

He added that the Achaeans were so witless as to imagine that even corpses needed women and so slaughtered Polyxena on the tomb of Achilles. So he used to explain that fish proved themselves to be almost more prudent than men—for whenever they needed to expel their seed, the went out and rubbed up against something with friction. Diogenes was amazed at the unwillingness of men to spend money to have their foot, hand, or any other part of the body rubbed, and how the very rich would not waste even a drachma on this. But they [all] lavished many a talent on that single member often and that some even still endangered their lives too. He used to joke that this kind of intercourse was Pan’s discovery: when he was lusting after Echo but couldn’t overtake her, he was wondering in the mountains night and day until that point when Hermes taught him how to do this, because he pitied his helplessness and he was his son. And, after he learned this, he got a break from his great suffering. Apparently, shepherds learned this from him.”

ὑπὲρ οὗ δὲ πλεῖστα μὲν πράγματα ἔχουσιν ἄνθρωποι πλεῖστα δὲ χρήματα ἀναλίσκουσι, πολλαὶ δὲ ἀνάστατοι πόλεις διὰ ταῦτα γεγόνασι, πολλὰ δὲ ἔθνη τούτων ἕνεκεν οἰκτρῶς ἀπόλωλεν, ἁπάντων ἐκείνῳ χρημάτων ἀπονώτατον ἦν καὶ ἀδαπανώτατον. οὐ γὰρ ἔδει αὐτὸν οὐδαμόσε ἐλθεῖν ἀφροδισίων ἕνεκεν, ἀλλὰ παίζων ἔλεγεν ἁπανταχοῦ παρεῖναι αὐτῷ τὴν Ἀφροδίτην προῖκα· τοὺς δὲ ποιητὰς καταψεύδεσθαι τῆς θεοῦ διὰ τὴν αὑτῶν ἀκρασίαν, πολύχρυσον καλοῦντας. ἐπεὶ δὲ πολλοὶ τοῦτο ἠπίστουν, ἐν τῷ φανερῷ ἐχρῆτο καὶ πάντων ὁρώντων· καὶ ἔλεγεν ὡς εἴπερ οἱ ἄνθρωποι οὕτως εἶχον, οὐκ ἂν ἑάλω ποτὲ ἡ Τροία, οὐδ᾿ ἂν ὁ Πρίαμος ὁ Φρυγῶν βασιλεύς, ἀπὸ Διὸς γεγονώς, ἐπὶ τῷ βωμῷ τοῦ Διὸς ἐσφάγη. τοὺς δὲ Ἀχαιοὺς οὕτως εἶναι ἄφρονας ὥστε καὶ τοὺς νεκροὺς νομίζειν προσδεῖσθαι γυναικῶν καὶ τὴν Πολυξένην σφάττειν ἐπὶ τῷ τάφῳ τοῦ Ἀχιλλέως. ἔφη δὲ τοὺς ἰχθύας σχεδόν τι φρονιμωτέρους φαίνεσθαι τῶν ἀνθρώπων· ὅταν γὰρ δέωνται τὸ σπέρμα ἀποβαλεῖν, ἰόντας ἔξω προσκνᾶσθαι πρός τι τραχύ. θαυμάζειν δὲ τῶν ἀνθρώπων τὸ τὸν μὲν πόδα μὴ θέλειν ἀργυρίου κνᾶσθαι μηδὲ τὴν χεῖρα μηδὲ ἄλλο μηδὲν τοῦ σώματος, μηδὲ τοὺς πάνυ πλουσίους ἀναλῶσαι ἂν μηδεμίαν ὑπὲρ τούτου δραχμήν· ἓν δὲ ἐκεῖνο τὸ μέρος πολλάκις πολλῶν ταλάντων, τοὺς δέ τινας ἤδη καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν παραβαλλομένους. ἔλεγε δὲ παίζων τὴν συνουσίαν ταύτην εὕρεμα εἶναι τοῦ Πανός, ὅτε τῆς Ἠχοῦς ἐρασθεὶς οὐκ ἐδύνατο λαβεῖν, ἀλλ᾿ ἐπλανᾶτο ἐν τοῖς ὄρεσι νύκτα καὶ ἡμέραν, τότε οὖν τὸν Ἑρμῆν διδάξαι αὐτόν, οἰκτείραντα τῆς ἀπορίας, ἅτε υἱὸν αὐτοῦ. καὶ τόν, ἐπεὶ ἔμαθε, παύσασθαι τῆς πολλῆς ταλαιπωρίας· ἀπ᾿ ἐκείνου δὲ τοὺς ποιμένας χρῆσθαι μαθόντας.

Image result for Ancient Greek Diogenes

Here’s another post on masturbation in Ancient Greek.

Quipping with Diogenes

These sayings come from the Gnomologium Vaticanum

 

168 “Diogenes, after he saw a small city with big gates, said “Lock the gates so that the city can’t escape!”

Διογένης θεασάμενος μικρὰν πόλιν μεγάλας πύλας ἔχουσαν ἔφη· „κλείσατε τὰς πύλας, μὴ ἡ πόλις ἐξέλθῃ”.

 

189 “When [Diogenes] was asked what is evil in life, he said “A pretty woman.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς τί κακὸν ἐν βίῳ ἔφη· „γυνὴ καλὴ τῷ εἴδει”.

 

201 “[Diogenes] to say that he had everything that happened in the tragedies: for he was a beggar, a wanderer, and he had an ephemeral life.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη πάντα ἔχειν τὰ ἐν ταῖς τραγῳδίαις· εἶναί τε γὰρ πτωχός, πλανήτης, βίον ἔχων ἐφήμερον·

Image result for ancient greek sleep Diogenes the Cynic

How to Give the Finger in Ancient Greek (And Why…)

[Thanks to new friend Matt Farmer for drawing the following to my attention and to Justin Arft for realizing Matt and I might have something to talk about]

In Aristophanes’ Peace a rude hand gesture is mentioned (549):

Καὶ τὸν δορυξὸν οἷον ἐσκιμάλισεν.

Perseus’ translation (“this sickle-maker is thumbing his nose at the spear-maker?” ) may not do justice to the gesture or its meaning. Ancient commentary glosses this in a slightly different way.

Schol ad Ar. Pax. 549

Eskimálisen: “instead of he stuck his finger up” for to skimalísai is properly to shove a finger into a bird’s anus. But when people wish to insult someone, they extend their middle finger, retract the rest, and show it.”

ἐσκιμάλισεν: ἀντὶ τοῦ “κατεδακτύλισεν”· σκιμαλίσαι γάρ ἐστι κυρίως τὸ τὸν δάκτυλον εἰς τὸν πρωκτὸν τοῦ ὀρνέου βαλεῖν. οὐ μόνον δὲ τοῦτο, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὅταν βουλόμενοι ἐφυβρίσαι τινὰ τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐντείνοντες καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς συνάγοντες δείξωσιν αὐτόν.

Apart from loving this passage’s instructions about how to give a middle finger, I am intrigued by the fact that Greeks gave the middle finger at all and by the chance that the reference to a bird’s anus might provide an amusing folk etymology for why we call it the “bird”. But, first and foremost, we can learn why the Greeks gave the finger.

A popular article in Slate claims that the middle finger is offensive because it is phallic, so sticking it up is like rudely showing someone a penis. The Greek evidence, however, indicates that while phallic meaning is operative, what one does with the threatened phallus is truly insulting (at hubris levels even!). So, let’s go through some of the extant evidence.

We have some confirmation of the synonymy the scholion indicates between giving the middle finger and sticking a finger in an anus:

Phrynichus, 83.15

Katadaktulizein: “to wantonly touch through the rectum with a finger. Attic Greeks use the term skimalizein.

καταδακτυλίζειν: τὸ ἀσελγῶς τῷ δακτύλῳ τῆς τοῦ πέλας ἕδρας ἅπτεσθαι. τοῦτο καὶ σκιμαλίζειν οἱ ᾿Αττικοὶ λέγουσιν.

The Suda provides a gloss on an adjective related to this verb:

Katadaktulikos: a phrase for wanting to penetrate the anus’s sphincter.

Καταδακτυλικός: ἀντὶ τοῦ συνουσιαστικὸς κατὰ τοῦ δακτυλίου τοῦ πρωκτοῦ.

There is also a proverb recorded that repeats much of the same material as we find in the scholion.

Michal. Apostol. Parom. 7.98

“You should get fingered” : [This is a proverb applied] for those worthy of insult. For skimalísai means when someone wants to insult someone, people raise their middle finger, retract the rest, and show it. Properly, this indicates shoving a finger into a bird’s anus.”

     ᾿Εσκιμαλίχθαι σε χρή: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀξίων ὕβρεως· σκιμαλίσαι δὲ λέγεται, ὅταν βουλόμενος ἐνυβρίσαι τινὰ τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐντείναντες καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς συνάγοντες ἐνδείξωσιν αὐτῷ· κυρίως δὲ λέγεται τὸ τὸν δάκτυλον εἰς τὸν πρωκτὸν τοῦ ὀρνέου βαλεῖν.

The Suda pretty much provides the same information but with an opening alternative:

Eskimalisen: [This is when] one insults by joining thumb and middle finger and striking them. Or, instead it means to give the finger [katedaktulise]: for “to finger” is, properly, to place your middle finger into a bird’s anus. But it is not only this: whenever people want to insult someone, they stretch out their middle finger, withdraw the rest, and show it. So Aristophanes says: “[see] how he fingered the spear-maker.”

Ἐσκιμάλισεν: τῷ μέσῳ δακτύλῳ συναρμόσας τὸν μέγαν καὶ πλήξας ἐφυβρίζει. ἢ ἀντὶ τοῦ κατεδακτύλισε: σκιμαλίσαι γάρ ἐστι κυρίως τὸ μέσον τὸν δάκτυλον εἰς τὸν πρωκτὸν τοῦ ὀρνέου ἐμβαλεῖν. οὐ μόνον δὲ τοῦτο, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὅταν βουλόμενοι ἐνυβρίσαι τινά, τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐντείνοντες καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς συνάγοντες δείξωσιν αὐτῷ. Ἀριστοφάνης: καὶ τὸν δορυξὸν οἷον ἐσκιμάλισεν.

In another entry we find a more abstract use of the verb with several options for translation. (There is also an explanation about why people are sticking fingers in birds.) Don’t sleep on the Suda: the entry combines agricultural information with an anecdote from philosophy:

Skimalisô: “I treat as nothing; I mock; I grab with a little finger as I would a woman’s ass”. Skimalizein means to examine with a little finger, to see if chickens are about to lay eggs.

When two men were resting above at one of Zeno’s drinking parties, and the one below him was sticking his foot in the other’s ass, and Zeno was doing the same thing to him with his knee, he turned around and said, “what kind of pain do you think you were causing the man below you?”

Σκιμαλίσω: ἐξουδενώσω, χλευάσω, τῷ μικρῷ δακτύλῳ ὡς τῶν γυναικείων πυγῶν ἅψομαι. λέγεται δὲ σκιμαλίζειν κυρίως τὸ τῷ μικρῷ δακτύλῳ ἀποπειρᾶσθαι, εἰ ᾠοτοκοῦσιν αἱ ἀλεκτορίδες. δυοῖν ὑπερανακειμένοιν ἐν πότῳ τοῦ Ζήνωνος, καὶ τοῦ ὑπ’ αὐτὸν τὸν ὑφ’ ἑαυτὸν σκιμαλίζοντος τῷ ποδί, αὐτὸς ἐκεῖνον τῷ γόνατι. ἐπιστραφέντος δέ, τί οὖν, οἴει, τὸν ὑποκάτω σου πάσχειν ὑπὸ σοῦ;

The entries from the Suda are pretty far removed from the time of Aristophanes’ Peace (only 1500 years or so). Although the steady tradition from the scholia through the lexicographers indicates some consistency, we still need a little more to help flesh this out.

Image result for Ancient Greek Vase chicken

So, a final piece of evidence to wrap this all up. One of the words for the middle finger in Attic Greek is καταπύγων (a meaning attested by both Photius and Hesychius: Καταπύγων: ὁ μέσος δάκτυλος).  This word, when not referring to fingers, generally indicates someone “given to unnatural lust” (LSJ) or one who is lecherous, derived from the preposition kata and the noun pugê (buttocks, ass). The point, if I may, is that the middle finger in this colloquialism is directly associated with something that goes deep in the buttocks.

To stay with the assertion in Slate, as the largest finger, the middle finger raised does seem to have a phallic association, but in the Greek usage at least the showing of such a phallic symbol is a threat of its use. Based on the association of the gesture and the word for the middle finger with “wantonness”, the gesture threatens deep anal penetration, a threat like Catullus’ pedicabo (“I will sexually violate your ass”). Google searches will find this answer, but without the pleasant lexical tour!

But lest you fear that the gesture is now too base and vulgar to be used, no less a luminary than the philosopher Diogenes employed it:

Diogenes Flips off Demosthenes (Diogenes Laertius, 6.34 and 35)

Once, when some foreigners wanted to see Demosthenes, he put up his middle finger, and said, “this is the Athenian demagogue!”

ξένων δέ ποτε θεάσασθαι θελόντων Δημοσθένην, τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐκτείνας, “οὗτος ὑμῖν,” ἔφη, “ἐστὶν ὁ ᾿Αθηναίων δημαγωγός.”

 “[Diogenes] used to say that most people were a single finger away from insanity. If someone walks around holding out his middle finger, he seems nuts. But if he is holding his index, he doesn’t.”

τοὺς πλείστους ἔλεγε παρὰ δάκτυλον μαίνεσθαι· ἐὰν οὖν τις τὸν μέσον προτείνας πορεύηται, δόξει μαίνεσθαι, ἐὰν δὲ τὸν λιχανόν, οὐκέτι.

See also Jeffrey Henderson, The Maculate Muse (New Haven, 1975)

Suda Online, epsilon 3150; kappa 516; sigma 606

Some Sayings of Pittacus according to Diogenes Laertius

From Lives of the Eminent Philosophers

1.76
“Pardon is better than vengeance”
συγγνώμη τιμωρίας κρείσσων

“[Pittacus] made some laws: that the penalty would be double for someone who messed up while drunk. This is to discourage people from getting drunk, since there was a lot of wine on the island. And he said “it is hard to be noble.” This is recalled when Simonides says “It is hard for a man to be truly good, the Pittakan phrase.” Plato also echoed this in the Protagoras: “Not even the gods fight with necessity;” and “the position reveals a man.”

When someone asked him, “what is best?” He said “Doing the present work well.” When he was asked by Kroisos, “what government is best?” He answered “the rule of decorated wood;” which means the law. He used to encourage that victories should be obtained without blood. And he said to the Phocian man who was asking what it is necessary for a man to seek earnestly, “whatever you seek to excess, you will not find.” And to the men who were inquiring what was kindest, he said “time”. Uncertain? “the future?” Trustworthy? “Earth” Untrustworthy? “The sea”.

And he also used to say that it is the nature of wise men to make plans for misfortune before things go badly while brave men handle them after they happen. Don’t say what you are going to do: for you will be mocked if you fail. Don’t reproach misfortune, but fear Nemesis. Give back what has been entrusted to you. Don’t speak badly of a friend or an enemy. Make piety a habit. Love wisdom. Keep close truth, faith, experience, cleverness, companionship, and care.

Of the songs he sang, these lines are the most famous

One should keep a bow and arrow-holding quiver
Trained against a wicked man
The tongue in his mouth
Speaks nothing credible
Because his heart harbors
A doubled-minded thought.”

seven-sages
One of these guys!

Νόμους δὲ ἔθηκε: τῷ μεθύοντι, ἐὰν ἁμάρτῃ, διπλῆν εἶναι τὴν ζημίαν: ἵνα μὴ μεθύωσι, πολλοῦ κατὰ τὴν νῆσον οἴνου γινομένου. εἶπέ τε “χαλεπὸν ἐσθλὸν ἔμμεναι:” οὗ καὶ Σιμωνίδης μέμνηται λέγων: “ἄνδρ᾽ ἀγαθὸν ἀλαθέως γενέσθαι χαλεπόν, τὸ Πιττάκειον.” 4 [77] μέμνηται αὐτοῦ καὶ Πλάτων ἐν Πρωταγόρᾳ: “ἀνάγκᾳ δ᾽ οὐδὲ θεοὶ μάχονται.” καὶ “ἀρχὴ ἄνδρα δείκνυσιν.” ἐρωτηθεὶς δέ ποτε τί ἄριστον, “τὸ παρὸν εὖ ποιεῖν.” καὶ ὑπὸ Κροίσου τίς ἀρχὴ μεγίστη, “ἡ τοῦ ποικίλου,” ἔφη, “ξύλου,” σημαίνων τὸν νόμον. ἔλεγε δὲ καὶ τὰς νίκας ἄνευ αἵματος ποιεῖσθαι. ἔφη δὲ καὶ πρὸς τὸν Φωκαϊκὸν φάσκοντα δεῖν ζητεῖν ἄνθρωπον σπουδαῖον, “ἂν λίαν,” ἔφη, “ζητῇς, οὐχ εὑρήσεις.” καὶ πρὸς τοὺς πυνθανομένους τί εὐχάριστον, “χρόνος,” ἔφη: ἀφανές, “τὸ μέλλον”: πιστόν, “γῆ”: ἄπιστον, “θάλασσα.” ἔλεγέ τε συνετῶν ἀνδρῶν, πρὶν γενέσθαι τὰ δυσχερῆ, προνοῆσαι ὅπως μὴ γένηται: ἀνδρείων δέ, γενόμενα εὖ θέσθαι. ὃ μέλλεις πράττειν, μὴ πρόλεγε: ἀποτυχὼν γὰρ γελασθήσῃ. ἀτυχίαν μὴ ὀνειδίζειν, νέμεσιν αἰδούμενον. παρακαταθήκην λαβόντα ἀποδοῦναι. φίλον μὴ λέγειν κακῶς, ἀλλὰ μηδὲ ἐχθρόν. εὐσέβειαν ἀσκεῖν. σωφροσύνην φιλεῖν. ἀλήθειαν ἔχειν, πίστιν, ἐμπειρίαν, ἐπιδεξιότητα, ἑταιρίαν, ἐπιμέλειαν.

Τῶν δὲ ᾀδομένων αὐτοῦ μάλιστα εὐδοκίμησε τάδε:
ἔχοντα χρὴ τόξα καὶ ἰοδόκον φαρέτρην
στείχειν ποτὶ φῶτα κακόν.
πιστὸν γὰρ οὐδὲν γλῶσσα διὰ στόματος
λαλεῖ διχόθυμον ἔχουσα
κραδίῃ νόημα.

Fables for Children and Old Men

Lately we have been posting a lot of fables. Why? Because they are fabulous. But, also, because they are fun, fascinating, and a fine way to seek shelter from current events (while still doing some thinking). Ancient literature does not include a great deal of critical reflection on the Fable, but we do find it prized at the beginning of an education (by Quintilian) and the end of Socrates’ life.

Quintilian, Inst. Orat. 1.9.1-3

“Therefore, let children learn to relay Aesop’s fables—which follow closely the stories of the nursery, in a simple speech and without adding too much and then to write them down in the same unadorned fashion. They should first analyze the verse, then interpret it in their own words, and finally expand it in their own version in which they may either compress some parts or elaborate others with without losing the poet’s meaning.”

[2] igitur Aesopi fabellas, quae fabulis nutricularum proxime succedunt, narrare sermone puro et nihil se supra modum extollente, deinde eandem gracilitatem stilo exigere condiscant; versus primo solvere, mox mutatis verbis interpretari, tum paraphrasi audacius vertere, qua et breviare quaedam et exornare salvo modo poetae sensu permittitur.

Cheiron
Do you think Cheiron taught Achilles fables?

Diogenes Laertius, Vita Philosophorum 2.5.45

“Then they sentenced[Socrates] to death, adding 80 additional votes to this tally. After he was imprisoned for just a few days, he drank the hemlock, but not without having a few exemplary conversations which Plato describes in the Phaedrus. He also composed a paian which begins: “Hail, Delian Apollo, and Artemis, famous children”. Dionysodôros says that this paian is not his. He also composed Aesopic tales in verse, though not completely well, one of which begins:

“Aesop once said to the men who live in Korinth,
Do not judge virtue according to a jury’s opinion”

And then he was taken from the world of men. Soon, the Athenians changed their minds and closed the wrestling floor and gymnasium. They banished the accusers but put Meletos to death. They honored Socrates with a bronze statue which they placed in the Pompeion. It was mad by Lysippos. As soon as Anytos visited Heracleia, the people expelled him. Not only did the Athenians suffer concerning Socrates, but according to Heracleides they fined Homer fifty drachmae because he was insane and they said Tyrtaeus was out of his mind and they even honored Astydamas and others more than Aeschylus with a bronze statue. Euripides rebukes them in his Palamedes when he says:

“You have butchered/ you have butchered
The all-wise nightingale of the muses
Who caused no harm”

This is one story. But Philochorus claims that Euripides died before Socrates.”

Καὶ οἳ θάνατον αὐτοῦ κατέγνωσαν, προσθέντες ἄλλας ψήφους ὀγδοήκοντα. καὶ δεθεὶς μετ’ οὐ πολλὰς ἡμέρας ἔπιε τὸ κώνειον, πολλὰ καλὰ κἀγαθὰ διαλεχθείς, ἃ Πλάτων ἐν τῷ Φαίδωνί φησιν. ἀλλὰ καὶ παιᾶνα κατά τινας ἐποίησεν, οὗ ἡ ἀρχή· Δήλι’ ῎Απολλον χαῖρε, καὶ ῎Αρτεμι, παῖδε κλεεινώ. Διονυσόδωρος δέ φησι μὴ εἶναι αὐτοῦ τὸν παιᾶνα (FHG ii. 84). ἐποίησε δὲ καὶ μῦθον Αἰσώπειον οὐ πάνυ ἐπιτετευγμένως, οὗ ἡ ἀρχή·

Αἴσωπός ποτ’ ἔλεξε Κορίνθιον ἄστυ νέμουσι
μὴ κρίνειν ἀρετὴν λαοδίκῳ σοφίῃ.

῾Ο μὲν οὖν ἐξ ἀνθρώπων ἦν· ᾿Αθηναῖοι δ’ εὐθὺς μετέγνωσαν, ὥστε κλεῖσαι καὶ παλαίστρας καὶ γυμνάσια. καὶ τοὺς μὲν ἐφυγάδευσαν, Μελήτου δὲ θάνατον κατέγνωσαν. Σωκράτην δὲ χαλκῇ εἰκόνι ἐτίμησαν, ἣν ἔθεσαν ἐν τῷ Πομπείῳ, Λυσίππου ταύτην ἐργασαμένου. ῎Ανυτόν τε ἐπιδημήσαντα αὐθημερὸν ἐξεκήρυξαν

῾Ηρακλεῶται. οὐ μόνον δ’ ἐπὶ Σωκράτους ᾿Αθηναῖοι πεπόνθασι τοῦτο, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐπὶ πλείστων ὅσων. καὶ γὰρ ῞Ομηρον καθά  φησιν ῾Ηρακλείδης (Wehrli vii, fg. 169), πεντήκοντα δραχμαῖς ὡς μαινόμενον ἐζημίωσαν, καὶ Τυρταῖον παρακόπτειν ἔλεγον, καὶ ᾿Αστυδάμαντα πρότερον τῶν περὶ Αἰσχύλον ἐτίμησαν εἰκόνι χαλκῇ.

Εὐριπίδης δὲ καὶ ὀνειδίζει αὐτοῖς ἐν τῷ Παλαμήδει λέγων (588 N2),

ἐκάνετ’ ἐκάνετε τὰν
πάνσοφον, <ὦ Δαναοί,>
τὰν οὐδὲν ἀλγύνουσαν ἀηδόνα μουσᾶν.

καὶ τάδε μὲν ὧδε. Φιλόχορος (FGrH 328 F 221) δέ φησι προτελευτῆσαι τὸν Εὐριπίδην τοῦ Σωκράτους.

Diogenes is not completely fabricating material here. Plato’s Phaedo records that Socrates while imprisoned composed “poems, arranged versions of Aesop’s tales and a prooimon to Apollo” (ποιημάτων ὧν πεποίηκας ἐντείνας τοὺς τοῦ Αἰσώπου λόγους καὶ τὸ εἰς τὸν Ἀπόλλω προοίμιον, 60d). When asked why he was occupying his time in this way, Socrates responds (Phaedo 60e-61a):

“The same dream often come to me in my past life, appearing in different forms from time to time, but saying the same things: “Socrates, make music and work on it.” In earlier time, I believe that it was compelling me and encouraging me to do what I was doing—just as some cheer on runners, in the same way the dream was telling me to do what I was doing, to make music, since philosophy is the greatest music of all and I was working on that. But now that the trial is complete and the festival has delayed my death, it seemed right to me, if the frequent dream really meant for me to make what is normally called music, not to disobey it but to compose.”

πολλάκις μοι φοιτῶν τὸ αὐτὸ ἐνύπνιον ἐν τῷ παρελθόντι βίῳ, ἄλλοτ᾽ ἐν ἄλλῃ ὄψει φαινόμενον, τὰ αὐτὰ δὲ λέγον, ‘ὦ Σώκρατες,’ ἔφη, ‘μουσικὴν ποίει καὶ ἐργάζου.’ καὶ ἐγὼ ἔν γε τῷ πρόσθεν χρόνῳ ὅπερ ἔπραττον τοῦτο ὑπελάμβανον αὐτό μοι παρακελεύεσθαί τε καὶ ἐπικελεύειν, ὥσπερ οἱ τοῖς θέουσι διακελευόμενοι, καὶ ἐμοὶ οὕτω τὸ ἐνύπνιον ὅπερ ἔπραττον τοῦτο ἐπικελεύειν, μουσικὴν ποιεῖν, ὡς φιλοσοφίας μὲν οὔσης μεγίστης μουσικῆς, ἐμοῦ δὲ τοῦτο πράττοντος. νῦν δ᾽ ἐπειδὴ ἥ τε δίκη ἐγένετο καὶ ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ ἑορτὴ διεκώλυέ με ἀποθνῄσκειν, ἔδοξε χρῆναι, εἰ ἄρα πολλάκις μοι προστάττοι τὸ ἐνύπνιον ταύτην τὴν δημώδη μουσικὴν ποιεῖν, μὴ ἀπειθῆσαι αὐτῷ ἀλλὰ ποιεῖν

(I don’t know if this is the saddest story I have ever read or not. Curse you, Plato).

Phaedo, Diogenes and Epictetus Were Slaves, Then Philosophers (Gellius)

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 2.18

“On the fact that the Socratic Phaedo was a slave and that others also served as the same

Phaedo of Elis, a member of Socrates’s and Plato’s circle and very close to both of them, was a slave. (Plato used his name for that divine dialogue concerning the immortality of the soul.) This Phaedo, though a slave, was by birth free and noble and, as some have written, was forced as a boy into prostitution. Cebes, also of the Socratic circle, is reported to have purchased him at Socrates’ urging and to have exposed him to philosophical training. Later he became a famous philosopher and his fine writings on Socrates are still read.

There are many other slaves who later became famous philosophers including that Menippus whose books Marcus Varro imitated with the satires some call “Cynic” but he called “Menippean”. In addition to these two men, Pompylus, the slave of the Peripatetic Theophrastus, and Zeno the Stoic’s slave who was named Persaeus, and Epicurus’ slave, Mys, all lived as famous philosophers.

Diogenes the Cynic also lived as a slave—but he was sold into servitude from freedom. When Xeniades of Corinth wanted to purchase him and inquired what his skills were, Diogenes answered, “I know how to rule free men.” Then Xeniades, because he admired the answer, purchased him and entrusted him with his children, saying “Take my children to rule”.

The fact that Epictetus, the noble philosopher, was also a slave is too recent a memory to record as if it had been forgotten.”

XVIII. Quod Phaedon Socraticus servus fuit; quodque item alii complusculi servitutem servierunt. 1 Phaedon Elidensis ex cohorte illa Socratica fuit Socratique et Platoni per fuit familiaris. 2Eius nomini Plato librum illum divinum de immortalitate animae dedit. 3 Is Phaedon servus fuit forma atque ingenio liberali et, ut quidam scripserunt, a lenone domino puer ad merendum coactus. 4 Eum Cebes Socraticus hortante Socrate emisse dicitur habuisseque in philosophiae disciplinis. 5 Atque is postea philosophus inlustris fuit, sermonesque eius de Socrate admodum elegantes leguntur. 6 Alii quoque non pauci servi fuerunt, qui post philosophi clari exstiterunt. 7 Ex quibus ille Menippus fuit, cuius libros M. Varro in saturis aemulatus est, quas alii “cynicas”, ipse appellat “Menippeas”. 8 Sed et Theophrasti Peripatetici servus Pompylus et Zenonis Stoici servus, qui Persaeus vocatus est, et Epicuri, cui Mys nomen fuit, philosophi non incelebres vixerunt. 9 Diogenes etiam Cynicus servitutem servivit. Sed is ex libertate in servitutem venum ierat. Quem cum emere vellet Xeniades Korinthios, ecquid artificii novisset, percontatus “novi” inquit Diogenes “hominibus liberis imperare”. 10 Tum Xeniades responsum eius demiratus emit et manu emisit filiosque suos ei tradens: “accipe” inquit “liberos meos, quibus imperes”. De Epicteto autem philosopho nobili, quod is quoque servus fuit, recentior est memoria, quam ut scribi quasi oblitteratum debuerit.

A Pre-Socratic Saturday: Xenophanes and Friends on Thinking, Waking, Being and Lust

The collection of luminaries known as the Presocratics are great to quote because their words have already been quoted and excerpted for over 2000 years.  This makes our job easy.

But here are some of our favorites: selections of selections.

On Herakles or Achilles?

Xenophanes, Fragment 2 13-14

“It is unjust to judge strength to be better than good wisdom.”

οὐδὲ δίκαιον / προκρίνειν ῥώμην τῆς ἀγαθῆς σοφίης·

A line stolen from the Rocky Horror Picture Show:

Parmenides, fragment 3.7

“Thinking and being are the same thing.”

… τὸ γὰρ αὐτὸ νοεῖν ἐστίν τε καὶ εἶναι

Wake Up! Inspiration for Plato?

Heraclitus, Fragment 73

“It is not right to act and speak like men who are sleeping”

οὐ δεῖ ὥσπερ καθεύδοντας ποιεῖν καὶ λέγειν·

Money Corrupts, right?

Democritus, Fragment 50

“A man wholly committed to money can never be just.”

ὁ χρημάτων παντελῶς ἥσσων οὐκ ἄν ποτε εἴη δίκαιος.

David Byrne said something like this:

Thales fr. 20 (Hippolytus, Refutation of all Heresies. 1.1.1)

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

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

If you thought money was bad…

Prodicus fr. B7 (Stobaeus 4.20.65)

“Desire when doubled is lust; lust doubled is madness.”

ἐπιθυμίαν μὲν διπλασιασθεῖσαν ἔρωτα εἶναι, ἔρωτα δὲ διπλασιασθέντα μανίαν γίγνεσθαι.

But don’t worry, it is all in your head:

Diogenes F6 (from Simplicius Physics152.21-153.13)

And yet all things live, see and hear though the same thing; and they derive every other part of their mind from that very source.

ὅμως δὲ πάντα τῶι αὐτῶι καὶ ζῆι καὶ ὁρᾶι καὶ ἀκούει, καὶ τὴν ἄλλην νόησιν ἔχει ἀπὸ αὐτοῦ πάντα

Innocent as a babe? That’s what some think:

Ion of Chios, fr. 5a 1-2

“All creatures are born to their parents ignorant
but experience teaches them.”

καὶ μὴν ἅπαντα τίκτεται πρῶτον γοναῖς
ἄϊδρα, πειραθέντα δ’ ἐκδιδάσκεται

But we all have to start somewhere. And then work real hard:

Protagoras fr. B10 (Stobaeus 3.29.80)

“[Protagaras said that] skill is nothing without practice and practice is nothing without skill.”

[Πρωταγόρας ἔλεγε] μηδὲν εἶναι μήτε τέχνην ἄνευ μελέτης μήτε μελέτην ἄνευ τεχνης

καὶ μὴν ἅπαντα τίκτεται πρῶτον γοναῖς
ἄϊδρα, πειραθέντα δ’ ἐκδιδάσκεται

If this wasn’t enough for you, search for some Heraclitus, Democritus, and Parmenides. We love quoting these guys. And then read them again, because:

Critias 9 (Stobaeus, Anthology 3.29.11)

“Men become good more from practice than nature.”

ἐκ μελέτης πλείους ἢ φύσεως ἀγαθοί

Critias was an uncle of Plato

And:

Parmenides, fr. 6.16

“The path of all things goes backwards.”

…πάντων δὲ παλίντροπός ἐστι κέλευθος.

A Wholly Tragic Life: Aelian, Varia Historia 3.29

“Diogenes of Sinope was constantly saying of himself that he himself had fulfilled and suffered all of the imprecations of tragedy, for he was ‘A wanderer, homeless, deprived of his country, a beggar in shoddy clothes, living from day to day.’ Yet at the same time he was no less impressed with this condition than Alexander was with the rule of the entire world, when he returned to Babylon after taking India.”

Διογένης ὁ Σινωπεὺς συνεχῶς ἐπέλεγεν ὑπὲρ ἑαυτοῦ ὅτι τὰς ἐκ τῆς τραγῳδίας ἀρὰς αὐτὸς ἐκπληροῖ καὶ ὑπομένει· εἶναι γὰρ

πλάνης ἄοικος πατρίδος ἐστερημένος

πτωχὸς δυσείμων βίον ἔχων ἐφήμερον.

καὶ ὅμως ἐπὶ τούτοις μέγα ἐφρόνει οὐδὲν ἧττον ἢ ᾿Αλέξανδρος ἐπὶ τῇ τῆς οἰκουμένης ἀρχῇ, ὅτε καὶ ᾿Ινδοὺς ἑλὼν ἐς Βαβυλῶνα ὑπέστρεψεν.