Plato Paid too Much for Books, Then Ripped Them Off (Gellius on Timon and the Timaios)

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 3.16

  1. 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):

καὶ σύ, Πλάτων· καὶ γάρ σε μαθητείης πόθος ἔσχεν,
πολλῶν δ’ ἀργυρίων ὀλίγην ἠλλάξαο βίβλον,
ἔνθεν ἀπαρχόμενος τιμαιογραφεῖν ἐδιδάχθης.

[Martial Wants] A Lucretia on the Street, but a Lais Between the Sheets (Epigram 11.104)

“Wife, leave my house or adopt my ways!
I am not a Curius, a Numa or a Tatius.
Nights made happy with drink please me:
But you hurry to leave with water to drink.
You love the shadows, but I’m happy to play
With a lamp as witness or with light let in on my ‘bulge’.
Tunics and obscuring robes must cover you:
But no girl could ever be naked enough for me!
Kisses to mimic eager doves delight me;
But you give those from a grandmother’s ‘good morning’.
It is beneath you to help out with movement or voice,
Not even fingers, as if you were readying incense and wine.
Phrygian slaves used to masturbate outside the door
Whenever the wife sat atop her Hectorean ‘horse’;
Chaste Penelope always used to keep her hand down there,
Even when the Ithacan was snoring!
You won’t abide anal sex! Cornelia permitted this to Gracchus!
Julia allowed Pompey; Porcia bent for you, Brutus!
When the Dardanian was not yet his servant mixing sweet wine,
Juno was Jupiter’s Ganymede.
If you want to be grave, then be Lucretia all day
But at night I want a Lais.”

Uxor, vade foras aut moribus utere nostris:
non sum ego nec Curius nec Numa nec Tatius.
Me jucunda juvant tractae per pocula noctes:
tu properas pota surgere tristis aqua.
Tu tenebris gaudes: me ludere teste lucerna
et juvat admissa rumpere luce latus.
Fascia te tunicaeque obscuraque pallia celant:
at mihi nulla satis nuda puella jacet.
basia me capiunt blandas imitata columbas:
tu mihi das aviae qualia mane soles.
Nec motu dignaris opus nec voce juvare
nec digitis, tamquam tura merumque pares:
masturbabantur Phrygii post ostia servi,
Hectoreo quotiens sederat uxor equo,
et quamvis Ithaco stertente pudica solebat
illic Penelope semper habere manum.
Pedicare negas: dabat hoc Cornelia Graccho,
Julia Pompeio, Porcia, Brute, tibi;
dulcia Dardanio nondum miscente ministro
pocula Juno fuit pro Ganymede Jovi.
Si te delectat gravitas, Lucretia toto
sis licet usque die: Laida nocte volo.

*Lais was a name for a prostitute from the time of the Peloponnesian War.

My Book Doesn’t Have My (Chaste) Taste: Martial on His Dirty Little, um, Book

Martial, Epigrams Book 11.15

“I do have drafts that Cato’s wife
And those dreadful Sabine women might read:
But I want this whole little book to laugh
and to be dirtier than other little books.
Let it soak up wine and not shudder
To be died dark with Cosmian ink,
Let it play with the boys and love the girls
And let it just name directly that ‘thing’
From which we are born, the parent of all
Which holy Numa called a little dick.
Remember still, Apollinoris, that
These verses are Saturnalian.
This little book’s morals aren’t mine!”

Sunt chartae mihi quas Catonis uxor
et quas horribiles legant Sabinae:
hic totus volo rideat libellus
et sit nequior omnibus libellis.
Qui vino madeat nec erubescat
pingui sordidus esse Cosmiano,
ludat cum pueris, amet puellas,
nec per circuitus loquatur illam,
ex qua nascimur, omnium parentem,
quam sanctus Numa mentulam vocabat.
Versus hos tamen esse tu memento
Saturnalicios, Apollinaris:
mores non habet hic meos libellus.

Poets Have to Make a Living Somehow: Homer Sang and Wrote for His Meals (Certamen, 15-16)

Most people who think of the “Contest of Homer and Hesiod” remember the fact that Homer and Hesiod competed and that there was a mixed verdict (with Hesiod taking the prize).  The account, however, also details legendary travels of Homer. Wherever he goes, he composes poems, almost pathologically.

Here is an excerpt:

 

 
“When the sons of king Midas, Xanthos and Gorgos, heard Homer’s poetry they commissioned him to compose an epigram for their father’s tomb which was marked by a bronze maiden mourning Midas’ death. Homer made this:

“I am a bronze girl, and I sit on the grave of Midas.
As long as water flows and trees grow long,
While the rivers fill and the sea resounds,
As long as the sun rises to shine and the bright moon too,
I will remain here on this much-wept mound
A sign to those who pass by that Midas here is buried.”

He received from them a silver cup, which he inscribed and dedicated at Delphi to Apollo:

“Lord Phoibos, I Homer give you this fine gift
in exchange for your wisdom. May you always grant me fame.”

Then he composed the Odyssey (which is 12,000 lines) when he had already finished the Iliad (15,500 lines). They say that he left there and was entertained in Athens at the house of the king of the Athenians, Medon. In the council chamber, when it was cold and there was a fire burning, the story is that he improvised these lines:

“A man’s crown is his children; the city has its towers;
Horses decorate a plain and ships are the jewels of the sea.
The people who sit in the agora are an adornment to be seen;
But when a fire burns it makes a house a prouder sight
On a winter’s day when Kronos’ son sends snow.”

ἀκούσαντες δὲ τῶν ἐπῶν οἱ Μίδου τοῦ βασιλέως παῖδες Ξάνθος καὶ Γόργος παρακαλοῦσιν αὐτὸν ἐπίγραμμα ποιῆσαι ἐπὶ τοῦ τάφου τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτῶν, ἐφ’ οὗ ἦν παρθένος χαλκῆ τὸν Μίδου θάνατον οἰκτιζομένη. καὶ ποιεῖ οὕτως•

χαλκῆ παρθένος εἰμί, Μίδου δ’ ἐπὶ σήματος ἧμαι.
ἔς τ’ ἂν ὕδωρ τε νάῃ καὶ δένδρεα μακρὰ τεθήλῃ
καὶ ποταμοὶ πλήθωσι, περικλύζῃ δὲ θάλασσα,
ἠέλιος δ’ ἀνιὼν φαίνῃ λαμπρά τε σελήνη,
αὐτοῦ τῇδε μένουσα πολυκλαύτῳ ἐπὶ τύμβῳ
σημανέω παριοῦσι Μίδης ὅτι τῇδε τέθαπται.

λαβὼν δὲ παρ’ αὐτῶν φιάλην ἀργυρᾶν ἀνατίθησιν ἐν Δελφοῖς τῷ ᾿Απόλλωνι, ἐπιγράψας

Φοῖβε ἄναξ δῶρόν τοι ῞Ομηρος καλὸν ἔδωκα
σῇσιν ἐπιφροσύναις• σὺ δέ μοι κλέος αἰὲν ὀπάζοις.

μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα ποιεῖ τὴν ᾿Οδύσσειαν ἔπη μβ′, πεποιηκὼς ἤδη τὴν ᾿Ιλιάδα ἐπῶν μεφ′. παραγενόμενον δὲ ἐκεῖθεν εἰς ᾿Αθήνας αὐτὸν ξενισθῆναί φασι παρὰ Μέδοντι τῷ βασιλεῖ τῶν ᾿Αθηναίων. ἐν δὲ τῷ βουλευτηρίῳ ψύχους ὄντος καὶ πυρὸς καιομένου σχεδιάσαι λέγεται τούσδε τοὺς στίχους•

ἀνδρὸς μὲν στέφανοι παῖδες, πύργοι δὲ πόληος,
ἵπποι δ’ αὖ πεδίου κόσμος, νῆες δὲ θαλάσσης,
λαὸς δ’ εἰν ἀγορῇσι καθήμενος εἰσοράασθαι.
αἰθομένου δὲ πυρὸς γεραρώτερος οἶκος ἰδέσθαι
ἤματι χειμερίῳ ὁπότ’ ἂν νείφῃσι Κρονίων.

“These were the hills Bacchus loved more than Nysae”: Martial on the Aftermath of Vesuvius

Today is, according to many, the anniversary of the eruption of Vesuvius in the Bay of Naples in 79 CE. Pliny’s account is the most famous, but Martial had his say too:

“Here is Vesuvius, recently verdant with shading vines–
here the noble grape weighed made filled deep pools:
these were the hills Bacchus loved more than Nysae–
On this mountain the Satyrs not so long ago led their dance.
Here was the home Venus considered more pleasing than Sparta.
This place was famous because of its Herculean name.
All of this lies covered in flames and sorrowful ash.
Not even the gods wished for this to be their right.”

Hic est pampineis uiridis modo Vesbius umbris,
presserat hic madidos nobilis uua lacus:
haec iuga quam Nysae colles plus Bacchus amauit;
hoc nuper Satyri monte dedere choros;
haec Veneris sedes, Lacedaemone gratior illi;              5
hic locus Herculeo nomine clarus erat.
Cuncta iacent flammis et tristi mersa fauilla:
nec superi uellent hoc licuisse sibi.

Pssst, Man Near My Grave, You Probably Know Me: Callimachus, Epigram 21

“Whoever you are to put a foot near my grave, know me:
The child and the father of Kallimakhos of Cyrene.
You likely know both: One led the arms of his fatherland
And the other sang songs stronger than envy.
Don’t scoff at this: for whichever children the Muses
See at birth, they never abandon as friends when they’re old.”

῞Οστις ἐμὸν παρὰ σῆμα φέρεις πόδα, Καλλιμάχου με
ἴσθι Κυρηναίου παῖδά τε καὶ γενέτην.
εἰδείης δ’ ἄμφω κεν• ὁ μέν κοτε πατρίδος ὅπλων
ἦρξεν, ὁ δ’ ἤεισεν κρέσσονα βασκανίης.
[οὐ νέμεσις• Μοῦσαι γὰρ ὅσους ἴδον ὄμματι παῖδας
†ἄχρι βίου† πολιοὺς οὐκ ἀπέθεντο φίλους.]

I 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.

Yes, but can you publish hate?