Eat and Take the Pleasure that Is Near

In the first passage, Eumaios the Swineherd speaks to Odysseus

Homer, Odyssey 14.443-445

“Eat, blessed stranger, and take pleasure in these things
Which are near. God will give one thing and pass by another
Whatever he wishes in in his heart. He is capable of everything.”

“ἔσθιε, δαιμόνιε ξείνων, καὶ τέρπεο τοῖσδε,
οἷα πάρεστι· θεὸς δὲ τὸ μὲν δώσει, τὸ δ’ ἐάσει,
ὅττι κεν ᾧ θυμῷ ἐθέλῃ· δύναται γὰρ ἅπαντα.”

Theognis 1069-70ab

“Humans are foolish and dumb because we mourn
The dead but not the wilting flower of youth.
Take some pleasure, my dear heart. For all too soon
there will be other people here. And, dead, I will be dark earth.”

῎Αφρονες ἄνθρωποι καὶ νήπιοι, οἵτε θανόντας
κλαίουσ’, οὐ δ’ ἥβης ἄνθος ἀπολλύμενον.
τέρπεό μοι, φίλε θυμέ· τάχ’ αὖ τινες ἄλλοι ἔσονται
ἄνδρες, ἐγὼ δὲ θανὼν γαῖα μέλαιν’ ἔσομαι.

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Four More Funerary Epigrams


“You’re dragging your feet past the grave of Callimachus
He knew: how to sing well and the right time to laugh well over wine.”

Βαττιάδεω παρὰ σῆμα φέρεις πόδας, εὖ μὲν ἀοιδὴν
εἰδότος, εὖ δ᾿ οἴνῳ καίρια συγγελάσαι.


“The stranger was short, his poem is too: so I will not speak long.
Thêris the son of Aristaios was from Crete, for me, a long enough song.”

Σύντομος ἦν ὁ ξεῖνος· ὃ καὶ στίχος· οὐ μακρὰ λέξω·
“Θῆρις Ἀρισταίου, Κρὴς” ἐπ᾿ ἐμοὶ δόλιχος.


“Here Akanthios Dikôn’s son sleeps his sacred sleep.
Don’t say that good men die.”

Τᾷδε Σάων ὁ Δίκωνος Ἀκάνθιος ἱερὸν ὕπνον
κοιμᾶται. θνάσκειν μὴ λέγε τοὺς ἀγαθούς.


“Ye who pass me by, remember Euboulos the wise.
Let’s drink. For Hades is our common harbor.”

Μεμνησθ᾿ Εὐβούλοιο σαόφρονος, ὦ παριόντες.
πίνωμεν· κοινὸς πᾶσι λιμὴν Ἀΐδης.

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Taken from

Drinking is a Double-Edged Sword

Theognis, 837-840

“Drinking is double-edged for wretched mortals:
Thirst weakens your limbs and drunkenness is mean.
I’ll walk a fine line: you won’t persuade me
Not to drink nor to get too drunk.

Δισσαί τοι πόσιος κῆρες δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσιν,
δίψα τε λυσιμελὴς καὶ μέθυσις χαλεπή·
τούτων δ’ ἂν τὸ μέσον στρωφήσομαι, οὐδέ με πείσεις
οὔτε τι μὴ πίνειν οὔτε λίην μεθύειν.


Too Pretty To Be Loved

(Sappho to Phaon; Ovid Heroides, 15.31-40)


“If unfair nature denied beauty to me,
Take in exchange for appearance my wit.
I am short, but my name stretches across all lands:
I am the measure of my fame not my height.
If I am not pale enough, well, Cepheian Andromeda,
Dark with the color of her country, pleased Perseus!
White doves often mate with different colors:
The dark turtle-dove has a love dressed in green.
If no one who cannot be worthy of you in beauty alone
will be yours, then no one will ever be yours.”

si mihi difficilis formam natura negavit,
ingenio formae damna repende meae.
sum brevis. at nomen, quod terras impleat omnes,
est mihi: mensuram nominis ipsa fero.
candida si non sum, placuit Cepheia Perseo
Andromede patriae fusca colore suae.
et variis albae iunguntur saepe columbae
et niger a viridi turtur amatur ave.
si nisi quae facie poterit te digna videri,
nulla futura tua est, nulla futura tua est!

Happy Birthday, Ovid: It’s All About Love

Tristia II: 361-376


“I am not the only one who has written tender love tales.
But I am the only one punished for love’s composition.
What, except for the liberal mixing of Venus with wine,
Did the lyric muse of the Tean* bard teach?
What other than loving did Lesbian Sappho teach the girls?
But Sappho was safe and Anacreon was safe.
It didn’t hurt you, Battiades*, that you often confessed
To your reader your dirty desires in your poems.
No story of playful Menander lacks love;
And he is usually read by boys and maidens!
What is the Iliad itself about other than an adultress
On whose behalf husband and lover quarrel?
What happens in the poem before the fire over Briseis
Makes the leaders enraged over a stolen girl?
Or what is the Odyssey about other than a woman sought for love
By many men when her husband is away?”

Denique composui teneros non solus amores:
composito poenas solus amore dedi.
Quid, nisi cum multo Venerem confundere uino,
praecepit lyrici Teia Musa senis?
Lesbia quid docuit Sappho, nisi amare, puellas?
Tuta tamen Sappho, tutus et ille fuit.
Nec tibi, Battiade, nocuit, quod saepe legenti
delicias uersu fassus es ipse tuas.
Fabula iucundi nulla est sine amore Menandri,
et solet hic pueris uirginibusque legi.
Ilias ipsa quid est aliud, nisi adultera, de qua
inter amatorem pugna uirunique fuit?
Quid prius est illi flamma Briseidos, utque
fecerit iratos rapta puella duces?
Aut quid Odyssea est, nisi femina propter amorem,
dum uir abest, multis una petita procis?

*Tean: Anacreaon
*Battiades: Callimachus

What is Love? Philodemus and Mimnermus Get old and Throw Down

Philodemus, Greek Anthology. 5.112; Mimnermus. fr 1


“I was in love—who wasn’t? I partied. Who didn’t?
But what made me crazy? Was it a god?
Let him go. For now in place of my dark hair
I am growing gray, announcing the age of ‘knowing better’.
When it was the time to play, we played. Now the time is done,
We will reach for more elevated thought.”

᾿Ηράσθην• τίς δ’ οὐχί; κεκώμακα• τίς δ’ ἀμύητος
κώμων; ἀλλ’ ἐμάνην• ἐκ τίνος; οὐχὶ θεοῦ;
ἐρρίφθω• πολιὴ γὰρ ἐπείγεται ἀντὶ μελαίνης
θρὶξ ἤδη, συνετῆς ἄγγελος ἡλικίης.
καὶ παίζειν ὅτε καιρός, ἐπαίξαμεν• ἡνίκα καιρὸς
οὐκέτι, λωιτέρης φροντίδος ἁψόμεθα.

Perhaps Philodemos is trying to argue against the wisdom of Mimnermus (fr. 1):

“What is life? What enjoyment is there without golden Aphrodite?
May I die when these things no longer interest me…”

τίς δὲ βίος, τί δὲ τερπνὸν ἄτερ χρυσῆς ᾿Αφροδίτης;
τεθναίην, ὅτε μοι μηκέτι ταῦτα μέλοι,

Tawdry Tuesday: The Judgement of Rufinus

From the Greek Anthology (5.35)

“I judged the asses of three women—they chose themselves
to show me the naked treasure of their limbs.
The first was signed with round dimples
and crowned with a white softness from her thighs.
The snowy flesh of the second reddened as it parted,
blushing darker than a purple rose.
The third, a calm sea furrowed by a quiet wave,
undulated across the surface of her tender skin.
If the goddesses’ judge had seen these rear-ends,
he never would have wished to see those other ones…

Πυγὰς αὐτὸς ἔκρινα τριῶν• εἵλοντο γὰρ αὐταὶ
δείξασαι γυμνὴν ἀστεροπὴν μελέων.
καί ῥ’ ἡ μὲν τροχαλοῖς σφραγιζομένη γελασίνοις
λευκῇ ἀπὸ γλουτῶν ἤνθεεν εὐαφίῃ•
τῆς δὲ διαιρομένης φοινίσσετο χιονέη σὰρξ
πορφυρέοιο ῥόδου μᾶλλον ἐρυθροτέρη•
ἡ δὲ γαληνιόωσα χαράσσετο κύματι κωφῷ,
αὐτομάτη τρυφερῷ χρωτὶ σαλευομένη.
εἰ ταύτας ὁ κριτὴς ὁ θεῶν ἐθεήσατο πυγάς,
οὐκέτ’ ἂν οὐδ’ ἐσιδεῖν ἤθελε τὰς προτέρας.


In 5.36, Rufinus uses a similar trope, but focusing on a different body part. For now, I will leave this one untranslated.

῎Ηρισαν ἀλλήλαις ῾Ροδόπη, Μελίτη, ῾Ροδόκλεια,
τῶν τρισσῶν τίς ἔχει κρείσσονα μηριόνην,
καί με κριτὴν εἵλοντο· καὶ ὡς θεαὶ αἱ περίβλεπτοι
ἔστησαν γυμναί, νέκταρι λειβόμεναι.
καὶ ῾Ροδόπης μὲν ἔλαμπε μέσος μηρῶν πολύτιμος
οἷα ῥοδὼν πολλῷ σχιζόμενος ζεφύρῳ …
τῆς δὲ ῾Ροδοκλείης ὑάλῳ ἴσος ὑγρομέτωπος
οἷα καὶ ἐν νηῷ πρωτογλυφὲς ξόανον.
ἀλλὰ σαφῶς, ἃ πέπονθε Πάρις διὰ τὴν κρίσιν, εἰδὼς
τὰς τρεῖς ἀθανάτας εὐθὺ συνεστεφάνουν.

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