Love Week: Some ‘Platonic’ Epigrams

Erik posted translations of the first two of these on twitter last year. I saved them

Greek Anthology, 7.669 (Plato)

“My shining star, you gaze upon the stars yourself;
I wish that I were the sky, so that I could look at you with many eyes.”

᾿Αστέρας εἰσαθρεῖς, ᾿Αστὴρ ἐμός· εἴθε γενοίμην
οὐρανός, ὡς πολλοῖς ὄμμασιν εἰς σὲ βλέπω.

Greek Anthology, 7.670 (Plato)

“You once shone as the morning star among the living,
but now you shine like the evening star among the dead.”

᾿Αστὴρ πρὶν μὲν ἔλαμπες ἐνὶ ζωοῖσιν ῾Εῷος·
νῦν δὲ θανὼν λάμπεις ῞Εσπερος ἐν φθιμένοις.

Two more 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 medieval manuscript love

Two For Tawdry Tuesday: A Mom Joke and Salacious Salutations

A girlfriend’s mom joke….

Greek Anthology 5.127 (Attributed to Marcus Argentarius)

“I was really in love with the maiden Alkippê and once
I persuaded her I took her secretly to bed.
Our chests were pounding over anyone entering—
That someone might see the secrets of excessive desire.
The bed’s chatter didn’t get by her mother— she looked in
And suddenly said: “Daughter, Hermes is shared” “

Παρθένον Ἀλκίππην ἐφίλουν μέγα, καί ποτε πείσας
αὐτὴν λαθριδίως εἶχον ἐπὶ κλισίῃ.
ἀμφοτέρων δὲ στέρνον ἐπάλλετο, μή τις ἐπέλθῃ,
μή τις ἴδῃ τὰ πόθων κρυπτὰ περισσοτέρων.
μητέρα δ᾽ οὐκ ἔλαθεν κλίνης λάλον· ἀλλ᾽ ἐσιδοῦσα
ἐξαπίνης· “Ἑρμῆς κοινός,” ἔφη, “θύγατερ.”

A weird salutation of body parts that takes a surprising racist turn

Greek Anthology, 5.132 (Attributed to Philodemus)

“Hello foot and calves, and oh—I should be dying here—thighs
Oh buttocks, Oh pussy, hey ass—
Oh shoulders, Oh breasts, what the slender neck,
The hands, oh—seriously I am losing my mind—eyes,
Oh bedeviled-craft of movement, Oh luxurious
Lickings, oh—come on, kill me now—the sounds from her mouth.
Even if she is Oscan and her name is Phlora and she doesn’t know Sappho,
Well, even Perseus loved Indian Andromeda.”

Ὢ ποδός, ὢ κνήμης, ὢ τῶν (ἀπόλωλα δικαίως)
μηρῶν, ὢ γλουτῶν, ὢ κτενός, ὢ λαγόνων,
ὢ ὤμοιν, ὢ μαστῶν, ὢ τοῦ ῥαδινοῖο τραχήλου,
ὢ χειρῶν, ὢ τῶν (μαίνομαι) ὀμματίων,
ὢ κακοτεχνοτάτου κινήματος, ὢ περιάλλων
γλωττισμῶν, ὢ τῶν (θῦέ με) φωναρίων.
εἰ δ᾽ Ὀπικὴ καὶ Φλῶρα καὶ οὐκ ᾄδουσα τὰ Σαπφοῦς,
καὶ Περσεὺς Ἰνδῆς ἠράσατ᾽ Ἀνδρομέδης.

Image result for Ancient Greek satyr

Ending the Year in Style with The Emperor Julian’s Epigram on Beer

Julian the Apostate, Epigrams 1

“Who are you and where are you from Dionysus? By the Bakhos true
I know only the son of Zeus and I do not know you.
He smells like nektar, but you smell like goat.
Did the Celts make you from grain because of their lack of grapes?
Ah, we should call you not Dionysus, but Demetrios instead.
And Bromos*** not Bromios since you are born of wheat**.”

Τίς πόθεν εἶς Διόνυσε; μὰ γὰρ τὸν ἀληθέα Βάκχον,
οὔ σ᾿ ἐπιγιγνώσκω· τὸν Διὸς οἶδα μόνον.
κεῖνος νέκταρ ὄδωδε· σὺ δὲ τράγου. ἦ ῥά σε Κελτοὶ
τῇ πενίῃ βοτρύων τεῦξαν ἀπ᾿ ἀσταχύων.
τῷ σε χρὴ καλέειν Δημήτριον, οὐ Διόνυσον,
πυρογενῆ μᾶλλον καὶ Βρόμον, οὐ Βρόμιον.

 

* Demetrios: the joke is that he is not Zeus-born, but instead of Demeter (the goddess of grain)

**πυρογενῆ is funny because here it can mean “grain-born” but it also sounds like “fire-born” and Dionysus was famously born (for the first time) when lightning killed his mother.

***Bromos sounds a little like the Greek word for “oats” instead of the typical epithet “thunderous one” (Bromios)

Image result for ancient greek beer
Image from Britannica.com

Who Are You? The Emperor Julian’s Epigram on Beer

Julian the Apostate, Epigrams 1

“Who are you and where are you from Dionysus? By the Bakhos true
I know only the son of Zeus and I do not know you.
He smells like nektar, but you smell like goat.
Did the Celts make you from grain because of their lack of grapes?
Ah, we should call you not Dionysus, but Demetrios instead.
And Bromos*** not Bromios since you are born of wheat**.”

Τίς πόθεν εἶς Διόνυσε; μὰ γὰρ τὸν ἀληθέα Βάκχον,
οὔ σ᾿ ἐπιγιγνώσκω· τὸν Διὸς οἶδα μόνον.
κεῖνος νέκταρ ὄδωδε· σὺ δὲ τράγου. ἦ ῥά σε Κελτοὶ
τῇ πενίῃ βοτρύων τεῦξαν ἀπ᾿ ἀσταχύων.
τῷ σε χρὴ καλέειν Δημήτριον, οὐ Διόνυσον,
πυρογενῆ μᾶλλον καὶ Βρόμον, οὐ Βρόμιον.

 

* Demetrios: the joke is that he is not Zeus-born, but instead of Demeter (the goddess of grain)

**πυρογενῆ is funny because here it can mean “grain-born” but it also sounds like “fire-born” and Dionysus was famously born (for the first time) when lightning killed his mother.

***Bromos sounds a little like the Greek word for “oats” instead of the typical epithet “thunderous one” (Bromios)

Image result for ancient greek beer
Image from Britannica.com

Tawdry Tuesday: The Way to a Man’s Heart

Martial 11.29

“Phyllis, when you begin to stroke my flaccid pieces
with your wrinkled hand, I am just wrecked by your thumb.
Oh, when you say I am your “mouse” or “your shining lights”,
I don’t think I can be firm again for ten hours.

You’re ignorant of pillow-talk. Say, “I will give you a hundred thousand
acres of good Setine land
Here, have some wine, a home, boys, gold dishes and tables.
You don’t need your fingers at all–turn me on like this, Phyllis.”

Languida cum vetula tractare virilia dextra
coepisti, iugulor pollice, Phylli, tuo.
iam cum me murem, cum me tua lumina dicis,
horis me refici vix puto posse decem.
blanditias nescis: ‘dabo’ dic ‘tibi milia centum
et dabo Setini iugera certa soli;
accipe vina, domum, pueros, chrysendeta, mensas.’
nil opus est digitis: sic mihi, Phylli, frica.

11.64

“Faustus–what you write to so many girls, I do not know.
I do see that no girl writes to you though.”

Nescio tam multis quid scribas, Fauste, puellis:
hoc scio, quod scribit nulla puella tibi.

Image result for Roman tableware gold archaeology
Roman Silver from Berthouville

A Fine Poem on Friendship

Martial 12.40

“You lie, I trust you. You recite terrible poems, I praise them.
You sing, I sing. You drink, Pontilianus and I drink too.
You fart, I ignore it. You want to play a board game, I am defeated.
You do one thing without me, I’ll be quiet too.
You do no duty for me at all: You say, “when you’re dead”
I will take good care of you. I don’t want anything, but you can die.”

Mentiris: credo. recitas mala carmina: laudo.
cantas: canto. bibis, Pontiliane: bibo.
pedis: dissimulo. gemma vis ludere: vincor.
res una est sine me quam facis: et taceo.
nil tamen omnino praestas mihi. ‘mortuus’ inquis
‘accipiam bene te.’ nil volo: sed morere.

Image result for medieval manuscript friendship
Royal 19 C II f. 59v

Inside Menophilia’s Universe: A Tawdry Tuesday Classic (NSFW)

Last year, I was alerted to this poem by a friend. I won’t out him to the world. This is some tasteless stuff.

Greek Anthology 5.105 [Attributed to Marcus Argentarius]

 “The lusty ladies claim that Menophila’s universe is different,
Since it contains a taste of every kind of vice.
Come here and check her out, Astrologers, for her sky
Can fit both the dog and the twins inside.”

῎Αλλος ὁ Μηνοφίλας λέγεται παρὰ μαχλάσι κόσμος,
ἄλλος, ἐπεὶ πάσης γεύεται ἀκρασίης.
ἀλλ’ ἴτε, Χαλδαῖοι, κείνης πέλας· ἦ γὰρ ὁ ταύτης
οὐρανὸς ἐντὸς ἔχει καὶ κύνα καὶ διδύμους.

The joke (and the filth) depends on a double entendre. The Dog and the Twins are celestial bodies [Sirius, the Dog-star and Gemini, the twins]. But “dog” (κύων) and “twins” (διδύμοι) can also mean “cock and balls”. ὄρχεις is the more clinical word for “testicles”.  The “sky” here may be euphemistic for Menophila’s mouth (As our friend below notes, “Aristotle (at least) uses “ouranos” for “the roof of the mouth,” so this is definitely about fellatio.”)

A Facebook correspondent (S. C. Stroup) has suggested some useful improvements to this post. First, “the name “Menophila” (Μηνοφίλα) can be read as “month” / “moon” lover (from μήνη, “moon”); so her name is an astronomical pun, as well.” This adds a nice, though mind-bending visual possibility, which Stroup picks up on:

“I would render the second line as “Hers is different, as it tastes of all mixtures.” The joke, I think, is that the Twins and the Dog—Gemini and Sirius—don’t appear right next to each other. So she mixes it up.”

So, here is Stroup’s full translation:

“Ladies of luxury claim that Moongirl’s delights are different;
Different (they say) because she enjoys all mixtures.
Come, Astrologers: and check her out:
Her vault of heaven holds both cock and balls.”

Image result for ancient Greek brothels