“You lie there beneath Aphrodite’s golden ceiling,
Grapes, full with Dionysus’ drink.
Your mother, the vine, will no longer wrap her love branch around you
And protect your head beneath her sweet leaf.”
“Anigrian Nymphs, daughters of the river, you ambrosial
Creatures who always step on the depths with rosy feet.
Say hello to and preserve Kleonymos who set out for you goddesses
These wooden images beneath the pines.”
“Reverent Hera, who often comes down
From the sky to gaze upon your fragrant Lakinian home.
Take the linen robe which Theophilos, the daughter of Kleokha
Wove for you with the help of her noble daughter Nossis.”
“These weapons the Brettian men hurled down from their unlucky shoulders
As they were overcome by the hands of the fast-battling Lokrians.
They are dedicated here singing the Lokrians glory in the temple of the gods.
They don’t long at all for the hands of the cowards they abandoned.”
“There is nothing sweeter than love: all other blessings
Take second place. I even spit honey from my mouth.
This is what Nossis says. Whomever Kypris has not kissed,
Does not understand her flowers, what kinds of things roses are.”
“This frame has the picture of Thaumareta. The painter
Caught the form and the age of the soft-glancing woman well.
Your house dog, the little puppy, would paw at you if she saw this,
Believing that she was looking down at the lady of her home.”
“Stranger, if you sail to the city of beautiful dances, Mytilene,
The city which fed Sappho, the the Graces’ flower,
Tell them that the land of Lokris bore for the Muses
A woman her equal, by the name of Nossis. Go!”
“I expect that Aphrodite will be pleased to receive
As an offering from Samutha, the band that held her hair.
For it is well made and smells sweetly of nektar,
That very nektar she uses to anoint beautiful Adonis.”
“The beach is like a cemetery. Look at the sea – it’s beautiful, but deceptive.”
-Words of a woman who came across the bodies of migrants washed up on an Italian beach. (The Guardian, Feb. 27, 2023).
Callimachus 59 (Wilamowitz 58)
Shipwrecked migrant, who are you?
Leonticus found your corpse there, on the shore,
And he buried you right here, in this grave.
He then wept for his own death-doomed life.
For although he’s unsettled, he must,
Like an aquatic bird, still cross the sea.
Reverend sovereign of the Tarpeian palace
Whom we recognize as the Thunderer
By our leader’s safekeeping:
Everyone importunes you with prayers for himself,
And asks that you do what you gods can do.
But don’t be vexed with me, Jupiter,
As if I too were impertinent:
I ask nothing for myself.
It’s for Caesar I must petition you.
Then for myself, it’s Caesar I must petition.
Tarpeiae venerande rector aulae,
Quem salvo duce credimus Tonantem,
Cum votis sibi quisque te fatiget
Et poscat dare, quae dei potestis:
Nil pro me mihi, Iuppiter, petenti
Ne suscensueris velut superbo.
Te pro Caesare debeo rogare:
Pro me debeo Caesarem rogare.
“Stranger passing by the humble grave of Anakreon,
If my books were of any use to you,
Pour some wine on my ashes, pour it out in drops
So that my bones can smile, refreshed a bit by wine,
so I, who loved the shouting raves of Dionysus,
so I, who was a partner of music matched to drink,
may not lie dead apart from Bacchus in this place below,
the land which all the race of mortals one day must know.”
“I don’t love the man who while drinking next to a full cup
Talks about conflicts and lamentable war.
But whoever mixes the shining gifts of Aphrodite and the Muses
Let him keep in mind loving, good cheer.”
Here are some techniques if you’re worried about where you are dining next week
“You will always earn a dinner with these skills, Philomusus:
Fabricate many tales, but relay them as if they are true.
You know what Pacorus is considering in his Arsacian abode;
You count the number of Rhenish and Sarmatian men,
You reveal the words consigned to paper by the Dacian chef,
And you see the victor’s crown before it arrives.
You know how many times Pharian rain dampens dark Syene
And the number of ships departing from Lybian shores
For whose head Julian olives are harvested,
And for whom the heavenly father has promised his wreaths.
Forget your skill! You will dine with me today
Under one rule: Philomusus, tell me nothing of the news.”
Artibus his semper cenam, Philomuse, mereris,
plurima dum fingis, sed quasi vera refers.
scis quid in Arsacia Pacorus deliberet aula,
Rhenanam numeras Sarmaticamque manum,
verba ducis Daci chartis mandata resignas, 5
victricem laurum quam venit ante vides,
scis quotiens Phario madeat Iove fusca Syene,
scis quota de Libyco litore puppis eat,
cuius Iuleae capiti nascantur olivae,
destinet aetherius cui sua serta pater. 10
Tolle tuas artes; hodie cenabis apud me
hac lege, ut narres nil, Philomuse, novi.
Is there any way I can prove myself to you beyond the work I have put in to your Greek epigrams, which I have tried to match in Latin translation? It’s still a turn for the worse: the cause is the weakness of my own genius followed by the inadequacy of what Lucretius calls the “poverty of our country’s language.” But, if these Latin translations of mine seem to you to possess any bit of charm, then you know how much pleasure I have in the originals you made in Greek. Farewell.”
Plinius Arrio Antonino Suo S.
Quemadmodum magis adprobare tibi possum, quanto opere mirer epigrammata tua Graeca, quam quod quaedam Latine aemulari et exprimere temptavi? in deterius tamen. Accidit hoc primum imbecillitate ingenii mei, deinde inopia ac potius, ut Lucretius ait, egestate patrii sermonis. Quodsi haec, quae sunt et Latina et mea, habere tibi aliquid venustatis videbuntur, quantum putas inesse iis gratiae, quae et a te et Graece proferuntur! Vale.
“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.”
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.”