“My Soul Tried to Cross Our Lips”: Platonic Love

Two love poems attributed to Plato

Diogenes Laertius Vita Phil 1.3 [Plato 31] and Athenaeus 589e

“I have a lover from Kolophôn named Arkheanassa—
Potent lust rests even on her wrinkles
Poor wretches who met her during the first sailing
Of her youth—what a conflagration you passed through!”

Ἀρχεάνασσαν ἔχω τὴν ἐκ Κολοφῶνος ἑταίραν,
ἧς καὶ ἐπὶ ῥυτίδων ἕζετο δριμὺς ἔρως.
ἆ δειλοὶ νεότητος ἀπαντήσαντες ἐκείνης
πρωτοπλόου, δι᾿ ὅσης ἤλθετε πυρκαϊῆς.

The Greek Anth. 7.217 attributes a slightly different version to Asclepiades

“I have Arkheanassa, a lover from Kolophôn—
Sweet lust rests even on her wrinkles
Oh lovers who harvested the fruit of her youth
At first bloom—what a conflagration you passed through!”

Ἀρχεάνασσαν ἔχω, τὰν ἐκ Κολοφῶνος ἑταίραν,
ἇς καὶ ἐπὶ ῥυτίδων ὁ γλυκὺς ἕζετ᾿ Ἔρως.
ἆ νέον ἥβης ἄνθος ἀποδρέψαντες ἐρασταὶ
πρωτοβόλου, δι᾿ ὅσης ἤλθετε πυρκαϊῆς.

D. L = Gr. Anth. 7.78

“When kissing Agathon I felt my soul at my lips.
The wretch—for she was trying to cross between us.”

τὴν ψυχὴν Ἀγάθωνα φιλῶν ἐπὶ χείλεσιν εἶχον·
ἦλθε γὰρ ἡ τλήμων ὡς διαβησομένη.

According to Aelian, Plato’s career as a poet was cut short (Varia Historia 2.30); but note, though there is mention of epic and tragedy, the anecdote makes no claims for lyric and elegy:

“Plato, the son of Ariston, at first pursued poetry and used to write heroic verse. But he soon burned it all because he despised it, since he reckoned that his poetry was far inferior when compared to Homer’s. He then tried tragedy and even completed a tetralogy, and he was about to enter the competition, even to the point of giving the verses to actors. But right before the Dionysia, he went and heard Socrates; and once he was seized by that Siren, he not only withdrew from the competition, but he also gave up the writing of tragedy for good to immerse himself in philosophy.”

Πλάτων ὁ ᾿Αρίστωνος τὰ πρῶτα ἐπὶ ποιητικὴν ὥρμησε, καὶ ἡρωϊκὰ ἔγραφε μέτρα• εἶτα αὐτὰ κατέπρησεν ὑπεριδὼν αὐτῶν, ἐπεὶ τοῖς ῾Ομήρου αὐτὰ ἀντικρίνων ἑώρα κατὰ πολὺ ἡττώμενα. ἐπέθετο οὖν τραγῳδίᾳ, καὶ δὴ καὶ τετραλογίαν εἰργάσατο, καὶ ἔμελλεν ἀγωνιεῖσθαι, δοὺς ἤδη τοῖς ὑποκριταῖς τὰ ποιήματα. πρὸ τῶν Διονυσίων δὲ παρελθὼν ἤκουσε Σωκράτους, καὶ ἅπαξ αἱρεθεὶς ὑπὸ τῆς ἐκείνου σειρῆνος, τοῦ ἀγωνίσματος οὐ μόνον ἀπέστη τότε, ἀλλὰ καὶ τελέως τὸ γράφειν τραγῳδίαν ἀπέρριψε, καὶ ἀπεδύσατο ἐπὶ φιλοσοφίαν.

Image result for ancient greek kissing vase
Louvre G 278 Attributed to Briseis Painter

Tawdry Tuesday: Raising the Dead

Greek Anthology 5.129 Automedon

“I praise the dancer from Asia, the one who moves
From the tips of her fingernails with devious positions,
Not because she shows every passion or because she throws
Her delicate hands delicately this way and that,
But because she knows how to dance around a worn out stump
And doesn’t try to flee its aging wrinkles.
She tongues it, kneads it, throws her hands around it–
And if she throws her leg over me, she raises my staff back from hell.”

129 ΑΥΤΟΜΕΔΟΝΤΟΣ
εἰς πόρνην ὀρχηστρίδα

Τὴν ἀπὸ τῆς Ἀσίης ὀρχηστρίδα, τὴν κακοτέχνοις
σχήμασιν ἐξ ἁπαλῶν κινυμένην ὀνύχων,
αἰνέω, οὐχ ὅτι πάντα παθαίνεται οὐδ᾽ ὅτι βάλλει
τὰς ἁπαλὰς ἁπαλῶς ὧδε καὶ ὧδε χέρας,
ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι καὶ τρίβακον περὶ πάσσαλον ὀρχήσασθαι
οἶδε καὶ οὐ φεύγει γηραλέας ῥυτίδας·
γλωττίζει, κνίζει, περιλαμβάνει· ἢν δ᾽ ἐπιρίψῃ
τὸ σκέλος, ἐξ ᾅδου τὴν κορύνην ἀνάγει.

 Detail from a Paestan red-figure skyphos, ca. 330-320 BC.

If A Poem Is Written in the Forest….

Martial, 3.8

“Quintus Loves Thais, Which one? The One-eyd Thais.
She’s missing one eye but he’s lost two.”

Thaida Quintus amat. ‘quam Thaida?’ Thaida luscam.
unum oculum Thais non habet, ille duos.

3. 9

“Someone says Cinna writes little poems against me.
No one really writes if nobody reads their poems.”

Versiculos in me narratur scribere Cinna.
Non scribit, cuius carmina nemo legit.

Bonus Epigram from the Greek Anthology

11.252 Lucilius

“If you kiss me, you hate me. And if you hate me, you kiss me.
But if you don’t hate me, dearest friend, don’t kiss me!”

Εἴ με φιλεῖς, μισεῖς με· καὶ εἰ μισεῖς, σὺ φιλεῖς με·
εἰ δέ με μὴ μισεῖς, φίλτατε, μή με φίλει.

File:Marble plaque with epigram of Sopatros MET DP132678.jpg
Marble epigram of Sopatros

A Kharak-ter from Pergamon

Suda, s.v. Kharaks

Kharaks, from Pergamon, a priest and a philosopher. In an old book I found an epigram that goes like this:

“I am Kharaks, a priest from the ancient citadel of Pergamon
where Telephos, the blameless son of blameless Herakles,
once warred with city-sacking Achilles”.

Kharaks is the most recent of those poets after Augustus by far. Or, at least he makes mention of Augustus, who at that point was already Caesar for a long time in his second book. And in is seventh, he talks about Nero and those who ruled after him. He composed a Hellenika and Histories of forty books.”

Χάραξ Περγαμηνός, ἱερεὺς καὶ φιλόσοφος, ὡς εὗρον ἐν ἀρχαίωι βιβλίωι ἐπίγραμμα οὔτως ἔχον·

εἰμὶ Χάραξ ἱερεὺς γεραρῆς ἀπὸ Περγάμου ἄκρης,
ἔνθα ποτὲ πτολέμιξεν ᾽Αχιλλῆι πτολιπόρθωι Τήλεφος,
῾Ηρακλῆος ἀμύμονος υἱὸς ἀμύμων…

ἔστι δὲ τῶν μετὰ Αὔγουστον πολλῶι νεώτερος· μέμνηται γοῦν ἐν τῶι β̄ τῶν βιβλίων Αὐγούστου ὡς πάλαι γενομένου Καίσαρος, καὶ ἐν τῶι ζ̄ Νέρωνος καὶ τῶν μετ᾽ αὐτὸν βασιλευσάντων. ἔγραψεν ῾Ελληνικῶν τε καὶ ** ῾Ιστοριῶν βιβλία μ̄..

Acropolis - Bergama (Pergamon) - Turkey - 04 (5747168893).jpg
From Wikimedia Commons, Acropolis of Pergamon By Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada04, CC BY-SA 2.0, 

“Covered in Flames and Sorrowful Ash”: Martial on Vesuvius

Image result for Ancient Roman Pompeii

August 24th 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 (Epigrams, 4.4):

“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.

 

One Country, One World

Meleager, Greek Anthology, 7.417

“My nurse was the Island of Tyre but the country which bore me
Was Atthis which rests in Assyrian Gadara.
I, Meleager, came as a shoot of the Muses from Eukrates
And I ran first in play with the Menippiean Graces.

If I am Syrian, why is it a surprise? Friend, we inhabit
One country, the world. One Khaos gave all mortals this life.

I inscribe these words on a tablet before my tomb, now very old.
For old age is Hades’ neighbor next door.
Offer a word to bid this chatty old man farewell,
And may you come to a chatty old age too.”

Νᾶσος ἐμὰ θρέπτειρα Τύρος· πάτρα δέ με τεκνοῖ
᾿Ατθὶς ἐν ᾿Ασσυρίοις ναιομένα Γαδάροις·
Εὐκράτεω δ’ ἔβλαστον ὁ σὺν Μούσαις Μελέαγρος
πρῶτα Μενιππείοις συντροχάσας Χάρισιν.
εἰ δὲ Σύρος, τί τὸ θαῦμα; μίαν, ξένε, πατρίδα κόσμον
ναίομεν, ἓν θνατοὺς πάντας ἔτικτε Χάος.
πουλυετὴς δ’ ἐχάραξα τάδ’ ἐν δέλτοισι πρὸ τύμβου·
γήρως γὰρ γείτων ἐγγύθεν ᾿Αίδεω.
ἀλλά με τὸν λαλιὸν καὶ πρεσβύτην σὺ προσειπὼν
χαίρειν εἰς γῆρας καὐτὸς ἵκοιο λάλον.

For more on “citizen of the world” in ancient literature, see this post.

Related image
Apamea, Greek City in Syria

An Epitaph for Aristophanes

Greek Anthology, Antipater of Thessaloniki 9. 186

“The books of Aristophanes—divine labor—over which
Archanean ivy dangled its massive green hair.
See how much of Dionysus a page holds, how the stories
Echo, full of frightening charms.
Comic poet, best of heart, equal to the characters of Greece,
You both hated and mocked things that deserved it.”

Βίβλοι Ἀριστοφάνευς, θεῖος πόνος, αἷσιν Ἀχαρνεὺς
κισσὸς ἐπὶ χλοερὴν πουλὺς ἔσεισε κόμην.
ἠνίδ᾿ ὅσον Διόνυσον ἔχει σελίς, οἷα δὲ μῦθοι
ἠχεῦσιν, φοβερῶν πληθόμενοι χαρίτων.
ὦ καὶ θυμὸν ἄριστε, καὶ Ἑλλάδος ἤθεσιν ἶσα,
κωμικέ, καὶ στύξας ἄξια καὶ γελάσας.

Image result for Aristophanes