My Sirens, My Words: Two Poems by Erinna

Some accounts make Erinna a contemporary of Sappho

Greek Anthology 7.710

“Columns, and my Sirens, and you, sorrowful urn
Who holds Hades’ small portion of ash—
Say “hello” to those who walk by my grave,
Whether they happen to be citizens or from another town.

Tell them this too so they may know it:
this grave covered me when I was a bride,
My father used to call me Baukis and Tenos was my land
Tell them also that Erinna, my friend,
Etched this poem on my Tomb.”

Στᾶλαι, καὶ Σειρῆνες ἐμαί, καὶ πένθιμε κρωσσέ,
ὅστις ἔχεις Ἀΐδα τὰν ὀλίγαν σποδιάν,
τοῖς ἐμὸν ἐρχομένοισι παρ᾿ ἠρίον εἴπατε χαίρειν,
αἴτ᾿ ἀστοὶ τελέθωντ᾿, αἴθ᾿ ἑτέρας πόλιος·
χὤτι με νύμφαν εὖσαν ἔχει τάφος, εἴπατε καὶ τό·
χὤτι πατήρ μ᾿ ἐκάλει Βαυκίδα, χὤτι γένος
Τηνία, ὡς εἰδῶντι· καὶ ὅττι μοι ἁ συνεταιρὶς
Ἤρινν᾿ ἐν τύμβῳ γράμμ᾿ ἐχάραξε τόδε.

Greek Anthology 6.352

“These outlines come from tender hands: noble Prometheus
There are people whose talent is near to yours!
Whoever drew this girl so truly
If he added a voice, she would be Agatharkhis entirely.”

Ἐξ ἁπαλᾶν χειρῶν τάδε γράμματα· λῷστε Προμαθεῦ,
ἔντι καὶ ἄνθρωποι τὶν ὁμαλοὶ σοφίαν.
ταύταν γοῦν ἐτύμως τὰν παρθένον ὅστις ἔγραψεν,
αἰ καὐδὰν ποτέθηκ᾿, ἦς κ᾿ Ἀγαθαρχὶς ὅλα.

Image result for erinna greek poet
Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene by Simeon Solomon

To the Nymphs of the River: Two Poems from Moero

Moero (Moirô) of Byzantium is from the Hellenistic period.

Greek Anthology, 6.119

“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.”

Κεῖσαι δὴ χρυσέαν ὑπὸ παστάδα τὰν Ἀφροδίτας,
βότρυ, Διωνύσου πληθόμενος σταγόνι·
οὐδ᾿ ἔτι τοι μάτηρ ἐρατὸν περὶ κλῆμα βαλοῦσα
φύσει ὑπὲρ κρατὸς νεκτάρεον πέταλον.

6.189

“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.”

Νύμφαι Ἀνιγριάδες, ποταμοῦ κόραι, αἳ τάδε βένθη
ἀμβρόσιαι ῥοδέοις στείβετε ποσσὶν ἀεί,
χαίρετε καὶ σώζοιτε Κλεώνυμον, ὃς τάδε καλὰ
εἵσαθ᾿ ὑπαὶ πιτύων ὔμμι, θεαί, ξόανα.

Image result for ancient greek grapes on vase

Sappho’s Equal? Some Epigrams Assigned to the Poet Nossis

Nossis is one of the best attested woman poets from the ancient world. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of her.

Greek Anthology, 6.353

“Melinna herself is here. Look how her pure face
Seems to glance gently at me.
How faithfully she looks like her mother in every way.
Whenever children equal their parents it is beautiful.”

Αὐτομέλιννα τέτυκται· ἴδ᾿ ὡς ἀγανὸν τὸ πρόσωπον
ἁμὲ ποτοπτάζειν μειλιχίως δοκέει·
ὡς ἐτύμως θυγάτηρ τᾷ ματέρι πάντα ποτῴκει.
ἦ καλὸν ὅκκα πέλῃ τέκνα γονεῦσιν ἴσα.

7.718

“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!”

Ὦ ξεῖν᾿, εἰ τύ γε πλεῖς ποτὶ καλλίχορον Μυτιλάναν,
τὰν Σαπφὼ χαρίτων ἄνθος ἐναυσαμέναν,
εἰπεῖν, ὡς Μούσαισι φίλαν τήνᾳ τε Λοκρὶς γᾶ
τίκτεν ἴσαν ὅτι θ᾿ οἱ τοὔνομα Νοσσίς· ἴθι.

6.275

“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.”

Χαίροισάν τοι ἔοικε κομᾶν ἄπο τὰν Ἀφροδίταν
ἄνθεμα κεκρύφαλον τόνδε λαβεῖν Σαμύθας·
δαιδαλέος τε γάρ ἐστι, καὶ ἁδύ τι νέκταρος ὄσδει,
τοῦ, τῷ καὶ τήνα καλὸν Ἄδωνα χρίει.

9.332

“Let’s leave for the temple and go to see Aphrodite’s
Sculpture—how it is made so finely in gold.
Polyarkhis dedicated it after she earned great
wealth from the native glory of her body.”

Ἐλθοῖσαι ποτὶ ναὸν ἰδώμεθα τᾶς Ἀφροδίτας
τὸ βρέτας, ὡς χρυσῷ διαδαλόεν τελέθει.
εἵσατό μιν Πολυαρχίς, ἐπαυρομένα μάλα πολλὰν
κτῆσιν ἀπ᾿ οἰκείου σώματος ἀγλαΐας.

Nossis.jpg
Bust by Francesco Jerace

“What Kinds of Things Are Roses”: More Poems from Nossis

Yesterday I posted some fragments from Nossis. Here are some more.

Greek Anthology, 6. 265

“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.”

Ἥρα τιμήεσσα, Λακίνιον ἃ τὸ θυῶδες
πολλάκις οὐρανόθεν νεισομένα καθορῇς,
δέξαι βύσσινον εἷμα, τό τοι μετὰ παιδὸς ἀγαυᾶς
Νοσσίδος ὕφανεν Θευφιλὶς ἁ Κλεόχας.

6.138

“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.”

Ἔντεα Βρέττιοι ἄνδρες ἀπ᾿ αἰνομόρων βάλον ὤμων,
θεινόμενοι Λοκρῶν χερσὶν ὕπ᾿ ὠκυμάχων,
ὧν ἀρετὰν ὑμνεῦντα θεῶν ὑπ᾿ ἀνάκτορα κεῖνται,
οὐδὲ ποθεῦντι κακῶν πάχεας, οὓς ἔλιπον.

7.414

“Pass by me, give an honest laugh, and speak over me
A loving word. I am Rhintho from Syracuse,
A minor nightingale of the Muses. But from my tragic
Nonsense poems, I made my own ivy crown.”

Καὶ καπυρὸν γελάσας παραμείβεο, καὶ φίλον εἰπὼν
ῥῆμ᾿ ἐπ᾿ ἐμοί. Ῥίνθων εἴμ᾿ ὁ Συρακόσιος,
Μουσάων ὀλίγη τις ἀηδονίς· ἀλλὰ φλυάκων
ἐκ τραγικῶν ἴδιον κισσὸν ἐδρεψάμεθα.

Greek Anthology, 5.170

“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.”

Ἅδιον οὐδὲν ἔρωτος· ἃ δ᾽ ὄλβια, δεύτερα πάντα
ἐστίν· ἀπὸ στόματος δ᾽ ἔπτυσα καὶ τὸ μέλι.
τοῦτο λέγει Νοσσίς· τίνα δ᾽ ἁ Κύπρις οὐκ ἐφίλασεν,
οὐκ οἶδεν τήνας τἄνθεα, ποῖα ῥόδα.

Greek Anthology, 9.604

“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.”

Θαυμαρέτας μορφὰν ὁ πίναξ ἔχει· εὖ γε τὸ γαῦρον
τεῦξε τό θ᾿ ὡραῖον τᾶς ἀγανοβλεφάρου.
σαίνοι κέν σ᾿ ἐσιδοῖσα καὶ οἰκοφύλαξ σκυλάκαινα,
δέσποιναν μελάθρων οἰομένα ποθορῆν.

Some ‘Platonic’ Epigrams for Love

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

Sappho ❤️ Paulus

An imagined situation: 

The poet Paulus Silentiarius (6th C. CE) complains to a confidant that his beloved, Sappho, is something of a cold fish. 

Meanwhile, Sappho (c.6th C. BCE) admits to the same confidant that actually, she’s overcome with lust whenever Paulus is around:  

Paulus Silentiarius 5.246 (Greek Anthology)

Soft are Sappho’s kisses!
Soft her embracing snow-white arms!
All of her body, soft.

But her heart, it’s steely and unyielding–
See how she loves to kiss, yet minds her chastity.

Who could bear this?
Perhaps, just perhaps, the stoical man
Who could easily bear Tantalus’s thirst.

Sappho Fr. 130.

Again, limb-liberating Lust rattles me.
He’s a beast both sweet and bitter
And cannot be fought off.

Paulus Silentiarius 5.246 (Greek Anthology)

μαλθακὰ μὲν Σαπφοῦς τὰ φιλήματα, μαλθακὰ γυίων
πλέγματα χιονέων, μαλθακὰ πάντα μέλη:
ψυχὴ δ᾽ ἐξ ἀδάμαντος ἀπειθέος: ἄχρι γὰρ οἴων
ἔστιν ἔρως στομάτων, τἆλλα δὲ παρθενίης.
καὶ τίς ὑποτλαίη; τάχα τις τάχα τοῦτο ταλάσσας
δίψαν Τανταλέην τλήσεται εὐμαρέως.

Sappho.Fr. 130.

Ἔρος δηὖτέ μ’ ὀ λυσιμέλης δόνει,
γλυκύπικρον ἀμάχανον ὄρπετον.

Edward Munch. The Kiss. 1895.
Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Weird Wishes

These short poems are structured as wishes, and each is creepy in its own way.

The two taken from Campbell’s edition of anonymous Greek songs are presumed to be sympotic drinking songs (scolia), and the final poem is an Hellenistic epigram.

Campbell 889

If only we could know what manner of man
each man was–by opening his chest,
seeing his heart, then sealing it up again–
We would know a dear man by his honest heart.

Campbell 900

If only I were a fine lyre made of ivory
and pretty boys carried me
in the Dionysian chorus.

Greek Anthology 5.83

If only I were the wind
and you, walking in the sun with breasts exposed,
could feel my gusts.

Campbell 889

εἴθ᾿ ἐξῆν ὁποῖός τις ἦν ἕκαστος
τὸ στῆθος διελόντ᾿, ἔπειτα τὸν νοῦν
ἐσιδόντα, κλείσαντα πάλιν,
ἄνδρα φίλον νομίζειν ἀδόλῳ φρενί.

Campbell 900

εἴθε λύρα καλὴ γενοίμην ἐλεφαντίνη
καί με καλοὶ παῖδες φέροιεν Διονύσιον ἐς χορόν.

Greek Anthology 5.83

εἴθ᾽ ἄνεμος γενόμην, σὺ δ᾽ ἐπιστείχουσα παρ᾽ ἀυγὰς
στήθεα γυμνώσαις, καί με πνέοντα λάβοις.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

Somebody to Drink With: Anacreon’s Epitaph and Some Poems

Greek Anthology 7.26, Antipater of Sidon

“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.”

Ξεῖνε, τάφον παρὰ λιτὸν ᾿Ανακρείοντος ἀμείβων,
εἴ τί τοι ἐκ βίβλων ἦλθεν ἐμῶν ὄφελος,
σπεῖσον ἐμῇ σποδιῇ, σπεῖσον γάνος, ὄφρα κεν οἴνῳ
ὀστέα γηθήσῃ τἀμὰ νοτιζόμενα,
ὡς ὁ Διωνύσου μεμελημένος εὐάσι κώμοις,
ὡς ὁ φιλακρήτου σύντροφος ἁρμονίης
μηδὲ καταφθίμενος Βάκχου δίχα τοῦτον ὑποίσω
τὸν γενεῇ μερόπων χῶρον ὀφειλόμενον.

Fr. 395

“Hades’ hall is horrifying
And the passage there is hard.
Worse: it is decided that
who ventures there does not return.”

Ἀίδεω γάρ ἐστι δεινὸς
μυχός, ἀργαλῆ δ᾿ ες αὐτὸν
κάτοδος. και γὰρ ἐτοῖμον
καταβάντι μὴ ἀναβῆναι

Anacreon. Marble. Roman copy of the 2nd century A.D. after a Greek original of the 5th century B.C. Inv. No. 491. Copenhagen, New Carlsberg Glyptotek.

Anacreon fr. 2

“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.”

οὐ φιλέω, ὃς κρητῆρι παρὰ πλέωι οἰνοποτάζων
νείκεα καὶ πόλεμον δακρυόεντα λέγει,
ἀλλ’ ὅστις Μουσέων τε καὶ ἀγλαὰ δῶρ’ ᾿Αφροδίτης
συμμίσγων ἐρατῆς μνήσκεται εὐφροσύνης.

Fr. 428

“I love and again do not love
I am insane and yet sane too”

ἐρέω τε δηὖτε κοὐκ ἐρέω
καὶ μαίνομαι κοὐ μαίνομαι

This last fragment recalls (the much later) Carmen 85 of Catullus:

“I hate and I love: you might ask why I do this–
I don’t know, but I see it happen and it’s killing me.

Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

Ready When Called? Tawdry Tuesday Tension

In the vast and boring literature on Samuel von Pufendorf (1632-1694), everything the man had to say on the natural law is picked apart, but you’d be hard pressed to find a single discussion of his verdict on male sexual potency: 

“Man is an animal ready for sex at any time,” Pufendorf wrote. “He’s aroused much more frequently than seems necessary for the conservation of the species” (“Ast homo animal est nullo non tempore in libidinem paratum, cujus stimulis longe frequentius vellicatur, quam conservandae speciei necessarium videbatur”). 

Pufendorf always took into consideration the views of ancient writers, but he must have missed the contradicting account offered by Hellenistic poet Rufinus: 

Greek Anthology 5.47

How often, Thaleia, I’ve wanted to take you in the night
And gorge my spirit on hot-blooded lust.
But now you’re up against me, your sweet body naked,
And I’m limp, my spent ‘limb’ falling asleep.
Sad excuse for a heart, what’s happened?
Get up! Don’t flop!
You’ll have to search for another
When, right here, is some super good luck.

πολλάκις ἠρασάμην σε λαβὼν ἐν νυκτί Θάλεια,
πληρῶσαι θαλερῇ θυμὸν ἐρωμανίῃ.
νῦν δ᾽ ὅτε <μοι> γυμνὴ γλυκεροῖς μελέεσσι πέπλησαι,
ἔκλυτος ὑπναλέῳ γυῖα κέκμηκα κόπῳ.
θυμὲ τάλαν, τί πέπονθας; ἀνέγρεο, μηδ᾽ ἀπόκαμνε:
ζητήσεις ταύτην τὴν ὑπερευτυχίην.

*The Pufendorf quotation is from his De Officio Hominis & Civis Juxta Legem Naturalem (“On the Duty of Man and Citizen According to the Natural Law”).

Fresco of the god Priapus.
Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

Tawdry Tuesday: Zeus, Ganymede, and a Cock

Greek Anthology, Antipater 5.77

“Hera twisted by the beauty of Ganymede once spoke
As she suffered the heart-rending stab of jealousy in her heart:
“Troy ignited a male fire for Zeus—and so I will send
A fire at Troy, a pain bearing Paris.
No eagle will come to Troy again, but vultures
Will go to the feast when the Greeks get the spoils for their toils.”

Πριομένα κάλλει Γανυμήδεος εἶπέ ποθ᾿ Ἥρα,
θυμοβόρον ζάλου κέντρον ἔχουσα νόῳ·
“Ἄρσεν πῦρ ἔτεκεν Τροία Διΐ· τοιγὰρ ἐγὼ πῦρ
πέμψω ἐπὶ Τροίᾳ, πῆμα φέροντα Πάριν·
ἥξει δ᾿ Ἰλιάδαις οὐκ ἀετός, ἀλλ᾿ ἐπὶ θοίναν
γῦπες, ὅταν Δαναοὶ σκῦλα φέρωσι πόνων.”

Sometimes an Eagle Does show up in stories of Zeus and Ganymede. 

Greek Anthology 12.211

“Go to bright heaven, go carrying the child,
Eagle, keep your twin wings spread wide.
Go holding gentle Ganymede and do not drop
Zeus’ wine-bearer of the sweetest cups.
But be careful not to bloody him with your clawed feet
So that Zeus, upset, won’t hurt you.”

Στεῖχε πρὸς αἰθέρα δῖον, ἀπέρχεο παῖδα κομίζων,
αἰετέ, τὰς διφυεῖς ἐκπετάσας πτέρυγας,
στεῖχε τὸν ἁβρὸν ἔχων Γανυμήδεα, μηδὲ μεθείης
τὸν Διὸς ἡδίστων οἰνοχόον κυλίκων·
φείδεο δ᾿ αἱμάξαι κοῦρον γαμψώνυχι ταρσῷ,
μὴ Ζεὺς ἀλγήσῃ, τοῦτο βαρυνόμενος.

MFA #01.8114

Image result for ganymede rooster Zeus
Terracotta of Zeus with Ganymede (LIMC 56; from Olympia)
Image result for ganymede rooster Zeus
Attic red-figured hydria
Attributed to Eupolis P. by Beazley
Approx. 450 -440 BC
This image from the MFA shows Zeus contemplating what to do with his cock.
Image result for ganymede rooster Zeus Black figure
Zeus pursuing Ganymedes, Athenian red-figure kantharos C5th B.C., Museum of Fine Arts Boston