On Rivers and Poets: Quintilian And Callimachus

Quintilian, An Orator’s Education 10.1.47

“Hence, as Aratus believes that we must begin with Zeus, we think that it is right to begin with Homer. For, truly, just as what he says about the ocean, which he says is the source and the force of every river and stream, so too does Homer furnish the model and origin for every type of eloquence. No one has exceeded him for sublimity in the large themes or quiet sense in the personal ones. At the same time he is ebullient and terse, joyful and severe, a source of wonder for his expansions and his brevity—preeminent by far for both his poetic and rhetorical mastery.”

Igitur, ut Aratus ab Iove incipiendum putat, ita nos rite coepturi ab Homero videmur. Hic enim, quem ad modum ex Oceano dicit ipse 〈omnium〉 amnium fontiumque cursus initium capere, omnibus eloquentiae partibus exemplum et ortum dedit. Hunc nemo in magnis rebus sublimitate, in parvis proprietate superaverit. Idem laetus ac pressus, iucundus et gravis, tum copia tum brevitate mirabilis, nec poetica modo sed oratoria virtute eminentissimus.

Callimachus, Hymn to Apollo 2.108-112

“Envy spoke surreptitiously into Apollo’s ears:
“I don’t love the singer who doesn’t sing as wide as the sea”
Apollo then kicked Envy with his foot and said this:
“The flowing of the Assyrian river is huge, but it carries a great deal
Of trash from the earth and hauls garbage with its water.
The bees do not carry water from just anywhere to Demeter
But only that which is clean and unmixed and flows down
From a sacred fountain, a little stream from a high peak.”

ὁ Φθόνος ᾿Απόλλωνος ἐπ’ οὔατα λάθριος εἶπεν·
‘οὐκ ἄγαμαι τὸν ἀοιδὸν ὃς οὐδ’ ὅσα πόντος ἀείδει.’
τὸν Φθόνον ὡπόλλων ποδί τ’ ἤλασεν ὧδέ τ’ ἔειπεν·
‘᾿Ασσυρίου ποταμοῖο μέγας ῥόος, ἀλλὰ τὰ πολλά
λύματα γῆς καὶ πολλὸν ἐφ’ ὕδατι συρφετὸν ἕλκει.
Δηοῖ δ’ οὐκ ἀπὸ παντὸς ὕδωρ φορέουσι μέλισσαι,
ἀλλ’ ἥτις καθαρή τε καὶ ἀχράαντος ἀνέρπει
πίδακος ἐξ ἱερῆς ὀλίγη λιβὰς ἄκρον ἄωτον.’

Image result for Okeanos ancient Greek

Archilochus, Fr. 15: I don’t need Money, Gods or Politics

Archilochus declares his lack of concern for most things in one fragment:

 

“Wealthy Gyges’ stuff doesn’t matter to me.
Jealousy never holds me and I don’t wonder
at the works of the gods. I don’t seek some great tyranny.
These things are far from my eyes.”

 

οὔ μοι τὰ Γύγεω τοῦ πολυχρύσου μέλει,
οὐδ’ εἷλέ πώ με ζῆλος, οὐδ’ ἀγαίομαι
θεῶν ἔργα, μεγάλης δ’ οὐκ ἐρέω τυραννίδος·
ἀπόπροθεν γάρ ἐστιν ὀφθαλμῶν ἐμῶν.

 

But what is it that he wants?  Maybe he just wants to be left alone:

 

Archilochus, Fragment 14

“No one ever got much pleasure from listening to the public complain”

 

Αἰσιμίδη, δήμου μὲν ἐπίρρησιν μελεδαίνων
οὐδεὶς ἂν μάλα πόλλ’ ἱμερόεντα πάθοι.

 

 

Or maybe he just doesn’t want to be one of the monkeys who lose out to the fox:

 

Archilochus, fab 81 (Fox and the Monkey)

“After he danced at a gathering of unreasoning animals and earned a reputation, a monkey was elected their king.”

 

ἐν συνόδῳ τῶν ἀλόγων ζῴων πίθηκος ὀρκησάμενος καὶ εὐδοκιμήσας βασιλεὺς ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν ἐχειροτονήθη

Bacchylides Epinicia, fr. 10.38-53: On Knowledge, Wealth and Fortune

“The knowledge of man has countless forms—
whether learned in some prophetic art
or allotted the Graces’ honor,
the wise man certainly flourishes with golden hope.
Another man aims his dabbled bow at boys.
Others fortify their hearts in the field
Or with herds of cattle.
But the future bears ends that make the path of fortune
unmeasurable.
This thing is best: to be a noble man
envied by many men.
I know something about wealth’s great power:
It makes even the most useless man useful.
But why do I pilot my great tongue so
and drive off the road?
When the moment of victory is appointed for mortals,
only then the wise man must…[ ]
With flutes [pay back the favor of the gods]
And mingle [among those who may envy]

… Μυρίαι δ’ ἀνδρῶν ἐπιστᾶμαι πέλονται·
ἦ γὰρ σ[ο]φὸς ἢ Χαρίτων τιμὰν λελογχὼς
ἐλπίδι χρυσέᾳ τέθαλεν
ἤ τινα θευπροπίαν ἰ-
δώς· ἕτερος δ’ ἐπὶ παισὶ
ποικίλον τόξον τιταίνει·
οἱ δ’ ἐπ’ ἔργοισίν τε καὶ ἀμφὶ βοῶν ἀ[γ]έλαις
θυμὸν αὔξουσιν. Τὸ μέλλον
δ’ ἀκρίτους τίκτει τελευτάς,
πᾶ τύχα βρίσει. Τὸ μὲν κάλλιστον, ἐσθλὸν
ἄνδρα πολλῶν ὑπ’ ἀνθρώπων πολυζήλωτον εἶμεν·
οἶδα καὶ πλούτου μεγάλαν δύνασιν,
ἃ καὶ τ[ὸ]ν ἀχρεῖον τί[θησ]ι
χρηστόν. Τί μακρὰν γ̣[λ]ῶ[σ]σαν ἰθύσας ἐλαύνω
ἐκτὸς ὁδοῦ; Πέφαται θνατοῖσι νίκας
[ὕστε]ρον εὐφροσύνα,
αὐλῶν []
μειγν[υ]

χρή τιν[]

The last few lines of this poem are completely fragmentary. In italics I put in something just to complete the sentence. I think that the reference to flutes probably indicates some ritual celebration, but I also wanted the end to repeat the note of warning about the mutability of fortune. Any other suggestions?

Plato on Why Opposites Attract (Plato, Lysis 215c-d)

“I once heard someone saying—and I just now remembered it—that like is most hostile to like and the good is hostile to the good. Indeed, I believe that he furnished Hesiod as a witness, since he says that “a potter rivals a potter, a singer a singer, and a beggar a beggar” and he says that this is the same by necessity with everything else, especially when something is very similar, they are filled with envy, competitiveness, and enmity. But things that are unlike one another are filled with love.”

῎Ηδη ποτέ του ἤκουσα λέγοντος, καὶ ἄρτι ἀναμιμνῄσκομαι, ὅτι τὸ μὲν ὅμοιον τῷ ὁμοίῳ καὶ οἱ ἀγαθοὶ τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς πολεμιώτατοι εἶεν· καὶ δὴ καὶ τὸν ῾Ησίοδον ἐπήγετο μάρτυρα, λέγων ὡς ἄρα—

καὶ κεραμεὺς κεραμεῖ κοτέει καὶ ἀοιδὸς ἀοιδῷ
καὶ πτωχὸς πτωχῷ,

καὶ τἆλλα δὴ πάντα οὕτως ἔφη ἀναγκαῖον εἶναι μάλιστα τὰ ὁμοιότατα ἄλληλα φθόνου τε καὶ φιλονικίας καὶ ἔχθρας ἐμπίμπλασθαι, τὰ δ’ ἀνομοιότατα φιλίας·

I am not quite sure that Hesiod would agree to this interpretation:

Hes. Fr. 264

“Good men flock to the tables of good men on their own.”
αὐτόματοι δ’ ἀγαθοὶ ἀγαθῶν ἐπὶ δαῖτας ἵενται.

And, because of my age, I cannot even think “opposites attract” without hearing this:

Pindar, Pythian 1.85

 

“Envy is stronger than pity”

κρέσσον γὰρ οἰκτιρμοῦ φθόνος

 

 

Pindar reflects on human nature. But he might not be lamenting. As Hesiod says, the ‘good’ type of strife makes a man envy his neighbor’s goods–and work harder as a consequence (Works and Days, 21-26):

 

εἰς ἕτερον γάρ τίς τε ἴδεν ἔργοιο χατίζων

πλούσιον, ὃς σπεύδει μὲν ἀρόμεναι ἠδὲ φυτεύειν

οἶκόν τ’ εὖ θέσθαι· ζηλοῖ δέ τε γείτονα γείτων

εἰς ἄφενος σπεύδοντ’· ἀγαθὴ δ’ ῎Ερις ἥδε βροτοῖσιν.

καὶ κεραμεὺς κεραμεῖ κοτέει καὶ τέκτονι τέκτων,

καὶ πτωχὸς πτωχῷ φθονέει καὶ ἀοιδὸς ἀοιδῷ.