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.

grapes

Love it When They Hate Me

Martial, 6.60

“My Rome praises, loves, and sings my little books—
Every pocket, every hand holds me.
Look: someone turns red, yellow, is dumbstruck, looks again, and hates!
This is what I long for: now my songs have pleased even me.”

Laudat, amat, cantat nostros mea Roma libellos,
meque sinus omnes, me manus omnis habet.
Ecce rubet quidam, pallet, stupet, oscitat, odit.
Hoc uolo: nunc nobis carmina nostra placent.

Perhaps shit-talking is a trope in Roman poetry

Catullus, Carmen 83

“Lesbia talks a lot of shit about me when her husband is around
This brings the greatest pleasure to that fool.
Ass, do you know nothing? She would be sound
If she forgot us in silence—but she rants and she squawks.
She not only remembers me but—a thing sharper to touch,
She’s enraged: it’s like this, she’s burning and talks.”

Lesbia mi praesente viro mala plurima dicit:
haec illi fatuo maxima laetitia est.
mule, nihil sentis? si nostri oblita taceret,
sana esset: nunc quod gannit et obloquitur,
non solum meminit, sed, quae multo acrior est res,
irata est. hoc est, uritur et loquitur.

Book of Hours, MS S.7 fol. 5v - Images from Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts - The Morgan Library & Museum
Book of Hours, MS S.7 fol. 5v

Courtly Fruit Lobbing

Or, how not to slide into DMs.

Diogenes Laertius Vita Phil 1.3 (32)= Greek Anthology 5.79

“I am tossing you an apple. If you willingly love me,
Take it and share with me your virginity.
But if the worst should happen and you retreat.
Take the apple and think: its ripeness is preciously brief.”

Τῷ μήλῳ βάλλω σε· σὺ δ᾽ εἰ μὲν ἑκοῦσα φιλεῖς με,
δεξαμένη τῆς σῆς παρθενίης μετάδος·
εἰ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽, ὃ μὴ γίγνοιτο, ὀκνεῖς, τοῦτ᾽ αὐτὸ λαβοῦσα
σκέψαι τὴν ὥρην ὡς ὀλιγοχρόνιος.

Diogenes attributes a companion couplet to Plato as well; the Greek Anthology gives it to Philodemos. How do you like those, um, apples?

Greek Anthology 5.80

 “I’m an apple. Someone who fancies you sent me your way.
Nod your head, Xanthippê. You and I are both starting to fade.”

Μῆλον ἐγώ· πέμπει με φιλῶν σέ τις. ἀλλ᾽ ἐπίνευσον,
Ξανθίππη· κἀγὼ καὶ σὺ μαραινόμεθα.

Ah, those virgins who make little of apples and much of time. What would Robert Herrick say?

Image result for medieval manuscript apple
A very different apple for a very different day.

This is essentially like saying:

I have sent you some fruit
So I can have sex with you.
So take off your top
Before my gift rots
Cause we both know that you’re rotting too.

A Double Mind With a Single Tongue: Elegiac Advice on Vetting People

Theognis, Elegies

77-78

“A man you can trust, Kurnos, is equal to his weight in silver and gold
Kurnos, during a time of of painful civil strife.”

πιστὸς ἀνὴρ χρυσοῦ τε καὶ ἀργύρου ἀντερύσασθαι
ἄξιος ἐν χαλεπῇ, Κύρνε, διχοστασίῃ.

91-92

“Kurnos, whoever has a double mind with a single tongue is a
Terrible companion: a better enemy than a friend.”

ὃς δὲ μιῇ γλώσσῃ δίχ᾿ ἔχει νόον, οὗτος ἑταῖρος
δεινός, Κύρν᾿· ἐχθρὸς βέλτερος ἢ φίλος ὤν.

113-114

“Never make an evil man into a dear friend:
Avoid him always, like a bad harbor.”

μήποτε τὸν κακὸν ἄνδρα φίλον ποιεῖσθαι ἑταῖρον,
ἀλλ᾿ αἰεὶ φεύγειν ὥστε κακὸν λιμένα

117-118

“Nothing is harder than recognizing a counterfeit.
But, Kurnos, there is nothing more urgent than guarding against one.”

κιβδήλου δ᾿ ἀνδρὸς γνῶναι χαλεπώτερον οὐδέν,
Κύρν᾿, οὐδ᾿ εὐλαβίης ἐστὶ περὶ πλέονος.

161-164

“Many people have worthless minds but enjoy good luck
And what seems like misfortune ends up good.
And there are others with good plans who have wretched luck
and success never accompanies their deeds.”

Πολλοί τοι χρῶνται δειλαῖς φρεσί, δαίμονι δ’ ἐσθλῶι,
οἷς τὸ κακὸν δοκέον γίνεται εἰς ἀγαθόν.
εἰσὶν δ’ οἳ βουλῆι τ’ ἀγαθῆι καὶ δαίμονι δειλῶι
μοχθίζουσι, τέλος δ’ ἔργμασιν οὐχ ἕπεται.

 

Gemini. From the Hunterian Psalter, produced in England ca. 1170. Glasgow University Library MS Hunter 229, folio 3r.
University Library MS Hunter 229, folio 3r.

A Brother or a Counterfeit: Theognis on Friendship

Theognis, 93-100

“If someone praises you for as long as you see him
But lashes you with an evil tongue when you are apart,
That kind of man is not a very good friend at all.
He’s the kind who speaks smoothly with his tongue, but harbors different thoughts.

Let me have that kind of friend who knows his companion
And puts up with him when he’s mean or in a rage,
Like a brother. But you, friend, keep these things your heart
And you will remember me in future days.”

ἄν τις ἐπαινήσῃ σε τόσον χρόνον ὅσσον ὁρῴης,
νοσφισθεὶς δ᾿ ἄλλῃ γλῶσσαν ἱῇσι κακήν,
τοιοῦτός τοι ἑταῖρος ἀνὴρ φίλος οὔ τι μάλ᾿ἐσθλός.
ὅς κ᾿ εἴπῃ γλώσσῃ λεῖα, φρονῇ δ᾿ ἕτερα.
ἀλλ᾿ εἴη τοιοῦτος ἐμοὶ φίλος, ὃς τὸν ἑταῖρον
γινώσκων ὀργὴν καὶ βαρὺν ὄντα φέρει
ἀντὶ κασιγνήτου. σὺ δέ μοι, φίλε, ταῦτ᾿ ἐνὶ θυμῷ
φράζεο, καί ποτέ μου μνήσεαι ἐξοπίσω.

117-118

“Nothing is harder than recognizing a counterfeit.
But, Kurnos, there is nothing more urgent than guarding against one.”

κιβδήλου δ᾿ ἀνδρὸς γνῶναι χαλεπώτερον οὐδέν,
Κύρν᾿, οὐδ᾿ εὐλαβίης ἐστὶ περὶ πλέονος.

119-128

“One can survive the ruin from counterfeit silver and gold
Kurnos—and a wise person can easily discover it.
But if a dear friend’s mind is hidden in his chest
When he is false and he has a deceptive heart,
Well this the most counterfeit thing god has made for mortals
And it is the most painful thing of all to recognize.
For you cannot know the mind of a man or a woman
Before you investigate them, like an animal under a yoke—
And you cannot imagine what they are like at the right time
Since the outer image often misleads your judgment.”

Χρυσοῦ κιβδήλοιο καὶ ἀργύρου ἀνσχετὸς ἄτη,
Κύρνε, καὶ ἐξευρεῖν ῥάιδιον ἀνδρὶ σοφῶι.
εἰ δὲ φίλου νόος ἀνδρὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσι λελήθηι
ψυδρὸς ἐών, δόλιον δ’ ἐν φρεσὶν ἦτορ ἔχηι,
τοῦτο θεὸς κιβδηλότατον ποίησε βροτοῖσιν,
καὶ γνῶναι πάντων τοῦτ’ ἀνιηρότατον.
οὐδὲ γὰρ εἰδείης ἀνδρὸς νόον οὐδὲ γυναικός,
πρὶν πειρηθείης ὥσπερ ὑποζυγίου,
οὐδέ κεν εἰκάσσαις ὥσπερ ποτ’ ἐς ὥριον ἐλθών·
πολλάκι γὰρ γνώμην ἐξαπατῶσ’ ἰδέαι.

1318a-b

“Alas, I am a wretch: because of the terrors I have suffered
I bring pleasure to my enemies and toil to my friends”

῎Ωιμοι ἐγὼ δειλός· καὶ δὴ κατάχαρμα μὲν ἐχθροῖς,
τοῖσι φίλοις δὲ πόνος δεινὰ παθὼν γενόμην.

1079-80

“I’ll fault no enemy when he is noble,
nor will I praise a friend when he is wrong”

Οὐδένα τῶν ἐχθρῶν μωμήσομαι ἐσθλὸν ἐόντα,
οὐδὲ μὲν αἰνήσω δειλὸν ἐόντα φίλον.

1151–52

“Never dismiss a present friend and seek another
Because you are persuaded by the words of cowardly people.”

μήποτε τὸν παρεόντα μεθεὶς φίλον ἄλλον ἐρεύνα
δειλῶν ἀνθρώπων ῥήμασι πειθόμενος.

 595-598

“Dude, let’s be friends with each other at a distance.
With the exception of wealth, there’s too much of any good thing.
But we can be friends for a long time, just spend time with different men
Who have a better grasp of your mind.”

ἄνθρωπ᾿, ἀλλήλοισιν ἀπόπροθεν ὦμεν ἑταῖροι·
πλὴν πλούτου παντὸς χρήματός ἐστι κόρος.
δὴν δὴ καὶ φίλοι ὦμεν· ἀτάρ τ᾿ ἄλλοισιν ὁμίλει
ἀνδράσιν, οἳ τὸν σὸν μᾶλλον ἴσασι νόον.

1219-1220

“It is difficult for an enemy to deceive
But it is easy for a friend to fool a friend.”

᾿Εχθρὸν μὲν χαλεπὸν καὶ δυσμενεῖ ἐξαπατῆσαι,
Κύρνε· φίλον δὲ φίλωι ῥάιδιον ἐξαπατᾶν.

Friendship
Royal 19 C II  f. 59v

Boredom and Death: Ovid’s Briseis

Here’s a bit from Ovid’s Briseis as I read my way through antiquity’s versions of Homer’s unnamed Hippodameia (inspired by this essay). Ovid is a clever writer and capable of deep understanding and empathy. I don’t see a lot of that in this poem. A full translation is available on Theoi.com.  The Latin text is available through Perseus’ Scaife Viewer.

Ovid, Heroides 3. 135-148 [Briseis to Achilles]

“Still now—I hope your father Peleus lives every year he can
And that Pyrrhus come to the same good luck in weapons as you
But just notice worried Briseis, brave Achilles,
And don’t torture the miserable with painful delay.

If your desire for me has turned to boredom,
Force me to die rather than live without you.
You’re forcing it as you act now—my body and complexion are ruined;
This bit of breath that keeps me upright is only hope in you.

If that leaves me? I’ll meet my brothers and husband
And it won’t be glory for you to order a woman to die.
Why bother to tell me to? Strike at my body with bared steel.
There’s blood here to pour once my chest is opened.
Let that sword of yours find me, the very one the goddess stopped
From entering the breast of Atreus’ son.”

Nunc quoque—sic omnes Peleus pater inpleat annos,
sic eat auspiciis Pyrrhus ad arma tuis! —
respice sollicitam Briseida, fortis Achille,
nec miseram lenta ferreus ure mora!
aut, si versus amor tuus est in taedia nostri,
quam sine te cogis vivere, coge mori!
utque facis, coges. abiit corpusque colorque;
sustinet hoc animae spes tamen una tui.
qua si destituor, repetam fratresque virumque—
nec tibi magnificum femina iussa mori.
cur autem iubeas? stricto pete corpora ferro;
est mihi qui fosso pectore sanguis eat.
me petat ille tuus, qui, si dea passa fuisset,
ensis in Atridae pectus iturus erat!

Léon Cogniet, Briséis rendue à Achille découvre dans sa tente le corps de Patrocle, 1815, Orléans, musée des Beaux-Arts

How Not to Remember the Dead

The Greek Anthology records fifty-one poems by the versatile Crinagoras of Mytilene (c. 1st century BC – 1st century AD). Here are 2 uncharitable epigrams of his regarding the tomb and decaying remains of one Eunicides:

7.380 (Greek Anthology)

Though the tomb’s been cut from a block of white marble,
And it’s been made fine with a mason’s straight rule,
It does not belong to a good man.
Do not appraise the dead, my friend, based on stone.
Stone is witless: this is how it covers
Even a corpse already turned black.
Here lies that limp rag, Eunicides,
Rotting away under the ashes.

7.401 (Greek Anthology)

The tomb atop his odious head
Crushes the bones of the reprobate
Who lies beneath the accursed dirt:
It crushes his jutting chest,
His foul-smelling row of teeth,
His legs bandaged like a slave’s,
And his hairless head as well.
Eunicides’ half-burnt remains, these,
And they’re still full of greenish pus.
Earth, you’ve made an unfortunate marriage;
Don’t now lie lightly, or even slightly,
On this misshapen man’s ashes.

7.380

εἰ καὶ τὸ σῆμα λυγδίνης ἀπὸ πλακὸς
καὶ ξεστὸν ὀρθῇ λαοτέκτονος στάθμῃ,
οὐκ ἀνδρὸς ἐσθλοῦ. μὴ λίθῳ τεκμαίρεο,
ὦ λῷστε, τὸν θανόντα. κωφὸν ἡ λίθος,
τῇ καὶ ζοφώδης ἀμφιέννυται νέκυς.
κεῖται δὲ τῇδε τὠλιγηπελὲς ῥάκος
Εὐνικίδαο, σήπεται δ᾽ ὑπὸ σποδῷ

7.401

τήνδ᾽ ὑπὸ δύσβωλον θλίβει χθόνα φωτὸς ἀλιτροῦ
ὀστέα μισητῆς τύμβος ὑπὲρ κεφαλῆς,
στέρνα τ᾽ ἐποκριόεντα, καὶ οὐκ εὔοδμον ὀδόντων
πρίονα, καὶ κώλων δούλιον οἰοπέδην,
ἄτριχα καὶ κόρσην, Εὐνικίδου ἡμιπύρωτα
λείψαν᾽, ἔτι χλωρῆς ἔμπλεα τηκεδόνος.
χθὼν ὦ δυσνύμφευτε, κακοσκήνευς ἐπὶ τέφρης
ἀνδρὸς μὴ κούφη κέκλισο, μηδ᾽ ὀλίγη.

This is an image by the surrealist photographer Hans Bellmer (1902-1975). It depicts the life-like (or rather, death-like) doll he built and set in poses before his camera.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

A Commencement Address

Theognis 1007-1012

I give the same advice to everyone
so that someone young,
someone still possessing the splendid bloom,
thinks over in his mind what is good
but all the while enjoys his wealth.
for there is no growing young again
—twice is for the gods—
and there is no release from death for people.
rather, devastating old age shames the beautiful man–
it takes him by the crown of his head.

†ξυνὸν δ᾽ ἀνθρώποις ὑποθήσομαι, ὄφρα τις ἡβᾷ
ἀγλαὸν ἄνθος ἔχων καὶ φρεσὶν ἐσθλὰ νοῇ,
τῶν αὐτοῦ κτεάνων εὖ πάσχεμεν: οὐ γὰρ ἀνηβᾶν
δὶς πέλεται πρὸς θεῶν οὐδὲ λύσις θανάτου
θνητοῖς ἀνθρώποισι: καλὸν δ᾽ ἐπὶ γῆρας ἐλέγχει
οὐλόμενον, κεφαλῆς δ᾽ ἅπτεται ἀκροτάτης.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

Hades’ Newest Bride: A Remarkable Epitaph

This poem actually inspired me to type “just wow” when I was looking through the PHI Epigraphic Database.

CIRB 130 from the N. Black Sea ca. 50 BC-50 AD — GVI 1989

“Theophilê Hekataiou gives her greeting.

They were wooing me, Theiophilê the short-lived daughter of
Hekataios, those young men [seeking] a maiden for marriage.
But Hades seized me first, since he was longing for me
When he saw a Persephone better than Persephone.

[….]

And when the message is carved on the stone
He weeps for the girl, Theiophilê the Sinopian,
Whose father, Hekataios, gave the torch-holding bride-to-be
To Hades and not a marriage.

[…]

Maiden Theiophilê, no marriage awaits you, but a land
With no return; not as the bride of Menophilos,
But as a partner in Persephone’s bed. Your father Hekataios
Now has only the name of the pitiable lost girl.

And as he looks on your shape in stone he sees
The unfulfilled hopes Fate wrongly buried in the ground.

Theiophilê, a girl allotted beauty envied by mortals,
A tenth Muse, a Grace for marriage’s age,
A perfect example of prudence.
Hades did not throw his dark hands around you.

No, Pluto lit the flames for the wedding torches
With his lamp, welcoming a most desired mate.

Parents, stop your laments now, stop your grieving,
Theiophilê has found an immortal bed.”

1           Θεοφίλη Ἑκαταίου, / χαῖρε.
Θειοφίλην με θύγατρα μινυνθαδίην Ἑκαταίου
ἐμνώοντο, γάμωι παρθένον ἠΐθεοι,
5 ἔφθασε δ’ ἁρπάξας Ἀΐδης, ἠράσσατο γάρ μευ,
Φερσεφόνας ἐσιδὼν κρέσσονα Φερσεφόναν.
6a ———

7 καὶ γράμμα πέτρης ἐκγλυφὲν στηλίτιδος
κόρην δακρύει Θεοφίλην Σινωπίδα
τὰς μελλονύμφους ἧς πατὴρ δαιδουχίας
10   Ἑκαταῖος Ἅιδηι καὶ οὐ γάμωι συνάρμοσεν.
10a ———

11 παρθένε Θειοφίλα, σὲ μὲν οὐ γάμος, ἀλλ’ ἀδίαυλος
χῶρος ἔχει νύμφη δ’ οὐκέτι Μηνοφίλου,
[ἀ]λλὰ Κόρης σύλλεκτρος· ὁ δὲ σπείρας Ἑκαταῖος
οὔνομα δυστήνου μοῦνον ἔχει φθιμένης,
15 [μ]ορφὰν δ’ ἐν πέτραι λεύ<σ>σει σέο τὰς δ’ ἀτελέστους
ἐλπίδας οὐχ ὁσίη Μοῖρα κατεχθόνισεν.

τὴν κάλλος ζηλωτὸν ἐνὶ θνατοῖσι λαχοῦσαν
Θειοφίλην, Μουσῶν τὴν δεκάτην, Χάριτα,
πρὸς γάμον ὡραίαν, τὴν σωφροσύνης ὑπόδειγμα,
20   οὐκ Ἀΐδας ζοφεραῖς ἀμφέβαλεν παλάμαις,

Πλούτων δ’ εἰς θαλάμους τὰ γαμήλια λαμπάδι φέγγη
ἇψε, ποθεινοτάτην δεξάμενος γαμέτιν.
[ὦ γ]ονέες, θρήνων νῦν λήξατε, παύετ’ ὀδυρμῶν·
Θειοφίλη λέκτρων ἀθανάτων ἔτυχεν.

Image result for hades persephone grave relief
A relief of Persephone and Hades from the Hierapolis Archaeological Museum