Rhapsody and Murder: A Few Epigrams from the Greek Anthology

Greek Anthology, 9.369 (Attributed to Kyrillos)

“An epigram of two lines is beautiful and complete
But more lines than three are not an epigram but a rhapsody”

Πάγκαλόν ἐστ᾿ ἐπίγραμμα τὸ δίστιχον· ἢν δὲ παρέλθῃς
τοὺς τρεῖς, ῥαψῳδεῖς, κοὐκ ἐπίγραμμα λέγεις

Greek Anthology, 11.187 (Leonidas of Alexandria)

“Simylos the lyre player murdered his neighbors
Playing all night long. But not Origines:
Nature made him deaf and thus
Gave him a longer life instead of hearing.”

Σιμύλος ὁ ψάλτης τοὺς γείτονας ἔκτανε πάντας
νυκτὸς ὅλης ψάλλων, πλὴν ἑνὸς Ὠριγένους·
κωφὸν γὰρ φύσις αὐτὸν ἐθήκατο· τοὔνεκεν αὐτῷ
ζωὴν ἀντ᾿ ἀκοῆς δῶκε περισσοτέρην.

Image result for ancient greek lyre player
Lyre player Met 06.1021.188.jpg

A Poem Your [Heart?] Desires

Martial, Epigrams 12.61

“Ligurra, you fear that I might compose
Verses against you, a brief, intense poem—
Oh how you long to seem worthy of this fear.
But you fear in vain, in vain you long.
The Libyan lions growl at bulls;
They do not pester butterflies.

I will advise you—if you are in pain to be read,
Find a drunk alley poet who writes
with broken coal or dusty chalk
the poems people read while shitting.
This face of yours can’t be known by my touch.”

Versus et breve vividumque carmen
in te ne faciam times, Ligurra,
et dignus cupis hoc metu videri.
sed frustra metuis cupisque frustra.
in tauros Libyci fremunt leones,
non sunt papilionibus molesti.
quaeras censeo, si legi laboras,
nigri fornicis ebrium poetam,
qui carbone rudi putrique creta
scribit carmina quae legunt cacantes.
frons haec stigmate non meo notanda est

Image result for medieval manuscript defecation
Gorleston Psalter, f 61r

Four More Funerary Epigrams

415

“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.

447

“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.

451.—ΚΑΛΛΙΜΑΧΟΥ

“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.

452.—ΛΕΩΝΙΔΑ

“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.

Image result for funerary epigrams greek
Taken from archaeology.wiki

Uncommon Love Needs: Be My Achilles, Please

“I have a wound from love: from it pours not blood
But tears and a scar will never close it.
I am undone by this evil and not even Makhaon
Could heal me by applying his gentle drugs.
I am Telephos, girl—be my faithful Achilles:
Stop this longing you caused with your beauty.”

Achilles, heal my wounds! (Vase Image: Achilles Heals Patroklos)
Achilles, heal my wounds! (Vase Image: Achilles Heals Patroklos)

῞Ελκος ἔχω τὸν ἔρωτα· ῥέει δέ μοι ἕλκεος ἰχὼρ
δάκρυον, ὠτειλῆς οὔποτε τερσομένης.
εἰμὶ καὶ ἐκ κακότητος ἀμήχανος, οὐδὲ Μαχάων
ἤπιά μοι πάσσει φάρμακα δευομένῳ.
Τήλεφός εἰμι, κόρη, σὺ δὲ γίνεο πιστὸς ᾿Αχιλλεύς·
κάλλεϊ σῷ παῦσον τὸν πόθον, ὡς ἔβαλες.

A few notes to make this make sense: In the Iliad Makhaon is a healer who ministers to the wounded captains. In myth, Telephos, a son of Herakles, is wounded by Achilles’ spear and can only be healed by the man who hurt him. Achilles encounters Telephos at the beginning of the war when the Greeks mistakenly attack Mysia (believing it to be Troy!). He is later healed in exchange for leading the Greeks to Troy.

So, this odd epigram becomes a tad bit odder thanks to knowing the references. It is ascribed to a poet named Macedonius and is in book 5 of The Greek Anthology (the Erotic Epigrams).

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,

Boy-Cheaters and Sons-of-Virtue Seekers: Some Crazy Greek Compounds

For your afternoon edification: some crazy Greek compounds:

“Sons of eye-brow raisers, men-with-noses-affixed-to-beards
Coarse-beard-growers, sons-of-casserole-thieves
Face-garment-blockers, barefoot-oil-lamp-lookers,
Nocturnal-secret-eaters, nocturnal-alley-walkers
Boy-cheaters, syllable-question-yakkers,
Stupid-belief-philosophers, sons-of-virtue-seekers

ὀφρυανασπασίδαι, ῥινεγκαταπηξιγένειοι,
σακκογενειοτρόφοι καὶ λοπαδαρπαγίδαι,
εἱματανωπερίβαλλοι, ἀνηλιποκαιβλεπέλαιοι,
νυκτιλαθραιοφάγοι, νυκτιπαταιπλάγιοι,
μειρακιεξαπάται <καὶ> συλλαβοπευσιλαληταί,
δοξοματαιόσοφοι, ζηταρετησιάδαι.

From an epigram quoted in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists (162a-b)

Catullus, 91: Untrustworthy Gellius Fails to Surprise

“I was hoping that you would be true to me, Gellius
in my misery, in this love of sure destruction,
not because I know you well and think you are dependable,
or because you are able of restraining your mind from foul crime,
but because I grasped that she is not your mother or sister,
this girl whose great love has been consuming me.
Yet, even though I was joined with you by much familiarity,
I did not believe that this was enough to attract you.
But you, you thought it enough: you find so much joy
In any fault, in anything with even the smallest part of sin.”

Non ideo, Gelli, sperabam te mihi fidum
in misero hoc nostro, hoc perdito amore fore,
quod te cognossem bene constantemve putarem
aut posse a turpi mentem inhibere probro;
sed neque quod matrem nec germanam esse videbam
hanc tibi, cuius me magnus edebat amor.
et quamvis tecum multo coniungerer usu,
non satis id causae credideram esse tibi.
tu satis id duxti: tantum tibi gaudium in omni
culpa est, in quacumque est aliquid sceleris.

Gellius is one of the recurring addressees in Catullus’ poems. He is infamous across the centuries for his (alleged) incestuous relationships with his mother and his (alleged) novel ‘lip balm’ (to name a few of Catullus’ more ribald jests….)