Epitaphs for Legendary Poets

Greek Anthology 7.7

“Here lies Homer who sang of all Greece,
Born and bred in hundred-gated Thebes”

᾿Ενθάδε θεῖος ῞Ομηρος, ὃς ῾Ελλάδα πᾶσαν ἄεισε,
Θήβης ἐκγεγαὼς τῆς ἑκατονταπύλου.

Greek Anthology 7.8

“Orpheus, you will no longer lead away oaks or stones
Bewitched by your song, or the leaderless herds of beasts.
You will no longer sing the howl of the wind or the hail to sleep
Or calm blizzards of snow or the roaring of the sea.
For you have died. The daughters of memory mourn you
Much, and especially your mother Kalliope.
Why do we weep over our dead sons when not even the gods
Can ward Hades from their children?”

Οὐκέτι θελγομένας, ᾿Ορφεῦ, δρύας, οὐκέτι πέτρας
ἄξεις, οὐ θηρῶν αὐτονόμους ἀγέλας·
οὐκέτι κοιμάσεις ἀνέμων βρόμον, οὐχὶ χάλαζαν,
οὐ νιφετῶν συρμούς, οὐ παταγεῦσαν ἅλα.
ὤλεο γάρ· σὲ δὲ πολλὰ κατωδύραντο θύγατρες
Μναμοσύνας, μάτηρ δ’ ἔξοχα Καλλιόπα.
τί φθιμένοις στοναχεῦμεν ἐφ’ υἱάσιν, ἁνίκ’ ἀλαλκεῖν
τῶν παίδων ᾿Αίδαν οὐδὲ θεοῖς δύναμις.

Image result for ancient greek orpheus

This Unforgetting Stone (Another Epitaph)

Iscr. di Cos (Fun.) EF 518  From Kos, 2nd/1st Century BCE

“Previously Homeric grooves [arrows] were sounding out
The master-loving habit of Eumaios on golden tablets,
But now this stone, repeating the unforgetting word,
Will sing your wise wit even into Hades, Inakhos.

Philoskos, who reveres your home, will always increase
The fine gifts and honor you both among the living and the dead—
Along with your wife who honors your son who is weeping,
A young child who draws deep from the spring of her breasts.

O, inescapable Hades, why do you hoard this kind of blessing,
Taking away the famous son of Kleumakhis?”

1 π̣ρὶν μ̣ὲν Ὁμήρειο[ι γλυφί]δες φιλ[οδέσποτ]ο̣ν̣ ἦ̣θ̣[ο]ς
Εὐμαίου χρ̣υσέαις̣ ἔ̣κλαγον ἐν σ̣ε̣λίσ̣ι̣ν̣·
σεῦ δὲ καὶ εἰν Ἀΐδαο σαόφρονα μῆτιν ἀείσει
Ἴν̣αχ̣’ ἀείμνηστον γ̣ρ̣άμ̣μ̣α λαλεῦσ̣α̣ πέ̣τρ̣η·
5 καί σε πρὸς εὐσεβέ̣ων δ̣όμ̣ον ἄξ̣ε̣ται ἐσθλὰ Φ̣ιλίσκος̣
δῶρα καὶ ἐν ζῳοῖς κἂμ φθιμένοισι τίνων·
σήν τ̣’ ἄλοχ̣ον κλείουντ’ αὐτόν σοι παῖδα τίο̣υσαν
π̣ηγῆς ἧς μασ̣τ̣ῶν ε̣ἴ̣λ̣κυ̣σ̣ε νηπίαχο̣ς̣.
[ὦ] δυσάλικτ’ Ἀΐδα, τὶ τὸ τηλίκον ἔσχ̣ες ὄνειαρ̣,
10 κλεινὸν Κλευμαχίδο̣ς̣ κοῦρον ἀειρ̣ά̣μενο̣ς̣;

Image result for ancient greek arrows

Don’t Even Say it–Little Atthis, Eight Years Old

SEG 15:174  = IG II² 13124 (Attica, 2nd Century BCE)

“Don’t say it, if you look upon here,
The little Atthis…
Woe for the muse whose fine gifts she knew—
Her soul went to heaven when she was eight years old.

She left tears and moans of grief for her dear parents
Who, terribly, made her this monument instead of a marriage
When she went down to deep Acheron and Hades’ home,
All their hopes were poured into the fire and ash.”

1 [μ]ὴ̣ φῆτ’, ἢν̣ [ἐσίδητε ⏑–⏑⏑–⏑⏑–⏑]
Ἀτθίδα τὴν ὀλ[ίγην –⏑⏑–⏑⏑–]
αἰαῖ τῆς Μούσης [ἤδη καλὰ δῶρ’ εἰδυῖαν]
ὀκταέτιν· ψυχ[ὴ δ’ οὐρανὸν εἰσανέβη].
5 δάκρυα δὲ στον[αχάς τε φίλοις λείπουσα γονεῦσιν]
ἀντὶ γάμων οἴμ[οι τοῦτο τὸ σῆμ’ ἔλαχον],
τὸμ βαθὺν <ε>ἰς Ἀχ[έροντα μολοῦσ’ Ἀΐδαό τε δῶμα]·
εἰς πῦρ δὲ σπ[οδιάν τ’ ἐλπίδες ἐξεχύθεν].

Some liberties taken here

Epitaphs for Legendary Poets

Greek Anthology 7.7

“Here lies Homer who sang of all Greece,
Born and bred in hundred-gated Thebes”

᾿Ενθάδε θεῖος ῞Ομηρος, ὃς ῾Ελλάδα πᾶσαν ἄεισε,
Θήβης ἐκγεγαὼς τῆς ἑκατονταπύλου.

Greek Anthology 7.8

“Orpheus, you will no longer lead away oaks or stones
Bewitched by your song, or the leaderless herds of beasts.
You will no longer sing the howl of the wind or the hail to sleep
Or calm blizzards of snow or the roaring of the sea.
For you have died. The daughters of memory mourn you
Much, and especially your mother Kalliope.
Why do we weep over our dead sons when not even the gods
Can ward Hades from their children?”

Οὐκέτι θελγομένας, ᾿Ορφεῦ, δρύας, οὐκέτι πέτρας
ἄξεις, οὐ θηρῶν αὐτονόμους ἀγέλας·
οὐκέτι κοιμάσεις ἀνέμων βρόμον, οὐχὶ χάλαζαν,
οὐ νιφετῶν συρμούς, οὐ παταγεῦσαν ἅλα.
ὤλεο γάρ· σὲ δὲ πολλὰ κατωδύραντο θύγατρες
Μναμοσύνας, μάτηρ δ’ ἔξοχα Καλλιόπα.
τί φθιμένοις στοναχεῦμεν ἐφ’ υἱάσιν, ἁνίκ’ ἀλαλκεῖν
τῶν παίδων ᾿Αίδαν οὐδὲ θεοῖς δύναμις.

Image result for ancient greek orpheus

“Everything is Laughter in The End”: An Epitaph

Anonymous epitaph for Democritus, Greek Anthology 7.56

“This was the source of Democritus’ laughter, as he would say immediately:
‘Did I not say, while laughing, that everything is laughter in the end?
For I too, after my boundless wisdom and ranks of
So many books, lie beneath a tomb as a joke.’ ”

῏Ην ἄρα Δημοκρίτοιο γέλως τόδε, καὶ τάχα λέξει·
„Οὐκ ἔλεγον γελόων· ‚Πάντα πέλουσι γέλως’;
καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ σοφίην μετ’ ἀπείρονα καὶ στίχα βίβλων
τοσσατίων κεῖμαι νέρθε τάφοιο γέλως.”

Image result for Ancient Greek Democritus

According to Aulus Gellius, here is the epitaph of Pacuvius (Gellius I.24.4)

“Young man, even though you hurry by, this stone
asks you to look on it and then to read what is written.
Here is where you find interred the bones of the poet
Marcus Pacuvius. I desire that you know this. Farewell.”

Adulescens, tam etsi properas te hoc saxum rogat
Ut sese aspicias, deinde quod scriptum est legas.
Hic sunt poetae Pacuvi Marci sita
Ossa. Hoc volebam nescius ne esses. Vale.

Literary–both fictionalized and not–epigraphs were part of the Greek literary tradition at least to the 6th century BCE. From the 5th century, we have Simonides’ epitaph at Thermopylae:

polyxena2

“Stranger, go tell the Spartans that we lie here
obedient to their commands.”

Ω ξεῖν’, ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις, ὅτι τῇδε
κείμεθα τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.

This epigram seems ‘real’ enough, but during the Hellenistic period, poets like Callimachus seem to have made a game of composing funerary epigrams. Here’s one he wrote about himself (or not):

Callimachus, epigram 21.

“Whoever you are lifting your foot near my grave
Know that I am the child and father both of Cyrenian Callimachus.
You would know both men. One led the soldiers of his country,
And the other sang songs beyond envy.
Don’t be surprised: whoever the Muses behold at birth
Are not abandoned friends as they grow grey.”

῞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.]

Gellius also adds to Pacuvius’, an epitaph of a more commonly known comedian, Plautus:
“Now that Plautus has found death, Comedy weeps,
Abandoned on the stage. And then, Laughter, Play and Jest
mourn together with all the uncountable Measures.”

postquam est mortem aptus Plautus, Comoedia luget,
scaena est deserta, dein Risus, Ludus Iocusque
et Numeri innumeri simul omnes conlacrimarunt

And we do have collections of Roman epitaphs that seem both real and literary:

“You are human: pause a moment and contemplate my grave.
As a young man, I stretched myself that I might have what I could use.
I did injustice to no one, my duty to many;
Live well, and do it soon – this must come to you too.”

Homo es: resiste et tumulum contempla meum.
iuenis tetendi ut haberem quod uterer.
iniuriam feci nulli, officia feci pluribus.
bene vive, propera, hoc est veniundum tibi.

(Roman Epitaphs B 83)

But despite all this weight and seriousness, I think that Naevius’ epitaph (also reported by Gellius) is the best:

“If it were right for gods to mourn for mortals
Then the Muses would mourn the poet Naevius.
And when he was brought down to death’s warehouse
Rome would forget how to speak the Latin tongue.”

Immortales mortales si foret fas fiere
Fierent divae Camenae Naevium poetam
Itaque postquamst Orchi traditus thesauro
Obliti sunt Romae loquier lingua latina.

Too-Late Tuesday: Poetic Epitaphs

Some literary epitaphs from Greece and Rome:

“If it were right for gods to mourn for mortals
Then the Muses would mourn the poet Naevius.
And when he was brought down to death’s warehouse
Rome would forget how to speak the Latin tongue.”

Immortales mortales si foret fas fiere
Fierent divae Camenae Naevium poetam
Itaque postquamst Orchi traditus thesauro
Obliti sunt Romae loquier lingua latina.

Naevius? A Roman poet who flourished between he first two Punic wars. According to Aulus Gellius, here is the epitaph of Pacuvius (Gellius I.24.4)

“Young man, even though you hurry by, this stone
asks you to look on it and then to read what is written.
Here is where you find interred the bones of the poet
Marcus Pacuvius. I desire that you know this. Farewell.”

Adulescens, tam etsi properas te hoc saxum rogat
Ut sese aspicias, deinde quod scriptum est legas.
Hic sunt poetae Pacuvi Marci sita
Ossa. Hoc volebam nescius ne esses. Vale.

 

The Romans, of course, were not the only ones in on this game. Famous as well is Callimachus, epigram 21.

“Whoever you are lifting your foot near my grave
Know that I am the child and father both of Cyrenian Callimachus.
You would know both men. One led the soldiers of his country,
And the other sang songs beyond envy.
Don’t be surprised: whomever the Muses behold at birth
Are not abandoned friends as they grow grey.”

῞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.]

 

Gellius also adds to Pacuvius’, an epitaph of a more commonly known comedian, Plautus:
“Now that Plautus has found death, Comedy weeps,
Abandoned on the stage. And then, Laughter, Play and Jest
mourn together with all the uncountable Measures.”

postquam est mortem aptus Plautus, Comoedia luget,
scaena est deserta, dein Risus, Ludus Iocusque
et Numeri innumeri simul omnes conlacrimarunt,

 

Ennius, Varia 17-18

“Let no one honor me with tears nor celebrate my funeral
with weeping. Why? Alive I fly on the mouths of men.”

Nemo me lacrimis decoret nec funera fletu
faxit. cur?  volito vivos per ora virum.

 

epitaph
A real epitaph