“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
“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.”
A few notes to make this make sense: In the IliadMakhaon 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).
“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.”
“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….)
This too has been entrusted to history by the most trustworthy men: Plato bought three books of Philolaus the Pythagorean and Aristotle acquired a few volumes of the philosopher Speusippus at inconceivable prices.
It has been said that the philosopher Plato was a man without great financial resources; yet he nevertheless purchased three books of the Pythagorean Philolaus for ten thousand denarii. That amount, some write, Dio of Syracuse, his friend, gave to him. Aristotle too is said to have bought a few books of the philosopher Speusippus after his death for three Attic talents. That is as much as seventy-two thousand sesterces!
The acerbic Timon wrote a very libelous book which is called the Sillos [i.e. “Lampoon”]. In that book, he takes on Plato insultingly for the fact that he bought the book of Pythagorean philosophy for so high a price and that he cobbled together that noble dialogue the Timaeus from it. Here are Timon’s lines on the matter:
And You, Plato: the desire of education seized you
And you bought a small book for a vast sum,
This book is where you learned to write a Timaios.”
XVII.Id quoque esse a gravissimis viris memoriae mandatum, quod tris libros Plato Philolai Pythagorici et Aristoteles pauculos Speusippi philosophi mercati sunt pretiis fidem non capientibus.
1Memoriae mandatum est Platonem philosophum tenui admodum pecunia familiari fuisse atque eum tamen tris Philolai Pythagorici libros decem milibus denarium mercatum. 2 Id ei pretium donasse quidam scripserunt amicum eius Dionem Syracosium. 3 Aristotelem quoque traditum libros pauculos Speusippi philosophi post mortem eius emisse talentis Atticis tribus; ea summa fit nummi nostri sestertia duo et septuaginta milia. 4 Timon amarulentus librum maledicentissimum conscripsit, qui sillos inscribitur. 5 In eo libro Platonem philosophum contumeliose appellat, quod inpenso pretio librum Pythagoricae disciplinae emisset exque eo Timaeum, nobilem illum dialogum, concinnasset. Versus super ea re Timonos hi sunt (fr. 828):