Of Fish & Men

Septuagint. Book of Habakkuk. 1.13-16.

Does your pure eye not see wrong? Can’t it see suffering? Why do you look on the deceitful and stay silent while the ungodly devour the righteous?

You’ve made humans like the fish of the sea, and like beasts without a master.  

He [the enemy] pulls up the lot of them with his fish-hook, hauls them out with his net, and collects them in his seine.  This makes him glad; his heart rejoices. 

And so he makes offerings to his seine, and he burns incense to his net. For after all, thanks to them he has bettered his portion and his victuals are excellent.

Philo. On the Creation. XXI. 65-66.

Of the forms of life, the most undeveloped and least formed is the race of fish, and the most complete and the best in all respects is the race of humans . . .

Of living things, God created fish first. Their essence, however, is more that of a body than a living thing. In a way they are alive and not alive. They are capable of movement yet lacking in life. The principle of life is scattered in them as if by chance and solely for the preservation of their bodies–just as they say salt is put on meat to prevent it easily spoiling.

Habakkuk.

καθαρὸς ὀφθαλμὸς τοῦ μὴ ὁρᾶν πονηρά, καὶ ἐπιβλέπειν ἐπὶ πόνους οὐ δυνήσῃ: ἵνα τί ἐπιβλέπεις ἐπὶ καταφρονοῦντας; παρασιωπήσῃἐν τῷ καταπίνειν ἀσεβῆ τὸν δίκαιον; καὶ ποιήσεις τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ὡς τοὺς ἰχθύας τῆς θαλάσσης καὶ ὡς τὰ ἑρπετὰ τὰ οὐκ ἔχοντα ἡγούμενον.  συντέλειαν ἐν ἀγκίστρῳ ἀνέσπασεν καὶ εἵλκυσεν αὐτὸν ἐν ἀμφιβλήστρῳ καὶ συνήγαγεν αὐτὸν ἐν ταῖς σαγήναις αὐτοῦ: ἕνεκεν τούτου εὐφρανθήσεται καὶ χαρήσεται ἡ καρδία αὐτοῦ: ἕνεκεν τούτου θύσει τῇ σαγήνῃ αὐτοῦ καὶ θυμιάσει τῷ ἀμφιβλήστρῳ αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἐναὐτοῖς ἐλίπανεν μερίδα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὰ βρώματα αὐτοῦ ἐκλεκτά.

Philo.

φυχής γάρ ή μέν άργοτάτη καΐ ήκιστα τετυπωμένη τω γένει τών Ιχθύων προσκεκλήρωται, ή δ ‘ ακριβέστατη και κατά πάντα άριστη τω τών ανθρώπων . . . διό τών έμφύχων πρώτους έγέννησεν ιχθύας, πλέον μετέχοντας σωματικής ή φυχικής ουσίας, τρόπον τινά ζώα καΐ ού ζώα, κινητά άφυχα, προς αυτό μόνον τήν τών σωμάτων διαμονήν παρασπαρέντος αύτοΐς του φυχοειδοΰς, καθάπερ φασι τούς άλας τοις κρέασιν, Ινα μή ραδίως φθείροιντο.

  1. Black and white photograph of a young girl looking down at a fish, vertical in her hands
    Ingar Krauss. Untitled (Hannah with Fish). 2001

    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.

Frying Fish and Accepting People as they Are

Terence, Adelphoe 420-432

“JFC, I don’t have the time to listen to you.
I have the fish I was thinking about and now
My main concern is that they don’t go bad.
That would be as big a crime on our part, Demea,
As ignoring everything you were just talking about.

As far as I can, I give my fellow enslaved friends this advice
“Too much salt or overcooked or undercleaned, ooh that’s perfect–
Remember what you did next time!
I am serious about giving them as much wisdom as I can.

Finally, I say “gaze into the saucepan as if into a mirror!”
And I tell them what they should do as practice.

I know that all these things we do are foolish—
But what would you do? You need to take each person as they are.
What else do you want?”

… non hercle otiumst
nunc mi auscultandi. piscis ex sententia
nactus sum. hi mihi ne corrumpantur cautiost.
nam id nobis tam flagitiumst quam illa, Demea,
non facere vobis quae modo dixti. et quod queo
conservis ad eundem istunc praecipio modum.
“hoc salsumst, hoc adustumst, hoc lautumst parum.
illud recte, iterum sic memento.” sedulo
moneo quae possum pro mea sapientia.
postremo tamquam in speculum in patinas, Demea,
inspicere iubeo et moneo quid facto usu’ sit.
inepta haec esse nos quae facimus sentio.
verum quid facias? ut homost, ita morem geras.
numquid vis?

color photograph of a fish filet fried brown on a skillet

Frying Fish and Accepting People as they Are

Terence, Adelphoe 420-432

“JFC, I don’t have the time to listen to you.
I have the fish I was thinking about and now
My main concern is that they don’t go bad.
That would be as big a crime on our part, Demea,
As ignoring everything you were just talking about.

As far as I can, I give my fellow enslaved friends this advice
“Too much salt or overcooked or undercleaned, ooh that’s perfect–
Remember what you did next time!
I am serious about giving them as much wisdom as I can.

Finally, I say “gaze into the saucepan as if into a mirror!”
And I tell them what they should do as practice.

I know that all these things we do are foolish—
But what would you do? You need to take each person as they are.
What else do you want?”

… non hercle otiumst
nunc mi auscultandi. piscis ex sententia
nactus sum. hi mihi ne corrumpantur cautiost.
nam id nobis tam flagitiumst quam illa, Demea,
non facere vobis quae modo dixti. et quod queo
conservis ad eundem istunc praecipio modum.
“hoc salsumst, hoc adustumst, hoc lautumst parum.
illud recte, iterum sic memento.” sedulo
moneo quae possum pro mea sapientia.
postremo tamquam in speculum in patinas, Demea,
inspicere iubeo et moneo quid facto usu’ sit.
inepta haec esse nos quae facimus sentio.
verum quid facias? ut homost, ita morem geras.
numquid vis?

color photograph of a fish filet fried brown on a skillet

A Terrible, Awful Poem from Martial (NSFW)

Martial, Epigrams 11.21

“Lydia is as wide as the ass of a bronze rider’s horse,
Or a fast hoop that sounds its clattering bronze,
Or a wheel crossed untouched by an acrobat,
Or an old shoe wet with muddy water,
Or as the wide nets that wait for wandering birds,
Or the awnings which close Pompey’s theater to the South Wind,
Or as arm-jewelry slipped off a diseased male-hooker,
Or a mattress separated from its Leuconian stuffing,
Or the old trousers of a British pauper,
Or the foul throat of a Revennian Pelican.
I am reputed to have fucked her in a salty fishpond.
I am not sure: I think I fucked the fishpond.”

Lydia tam laxa est equitis quam culus aeni,
quam celer arguto qui sonat aere trochus,
quam rota transmisso totiens inpacta petauro,
quam vetus a crassa calceus udus aqua,
quam quae rara vagos expectant retia turdos,
quam Pompeiano vela negata Noto,
quam quae de pthisico lapsa est armilla cinaedo,
culcita Leuconico quam viduata suo,
quam veteres bracae Brittonis pauperis, et quam
urpe Ravennatis guttur onocrotali.
Hanc in piscina dicor futuisse marina.
Nescio; piscinam me futuisse puto.

 

Image result for ancient Roman fish

 

 

A Terrible, Awful Poem from Martial (NSFW)

Martial, Epigrams 11.21

“Lydia is as wide as the ass of a bronze rider’s horse,
Or a fast hoop that sounds its clattering bronze,
Or a wheel crossed untouched by an acrobat,
Or an old shoe wet with muddy water,
Or as the wide nets that wait for wandering birds,
Or the awnings which close Pompey’s theater to the South Wind,
Or as arm-jewelry slipped off a diseased male-hooker,
Or a mattress separated from its Leuconian stuffing,
Or the old trousers of a British pauper,
Or the foul throat of a Revennian Pelican.
I am reputed to have fucked her in a salty fishpond.
I am not sure: I think I fucked the fishpond.”

Lydia tam laxa est equitis quam culus aeni,
quam celer arguto qui sonat aere trochus,
quam rota transmisso totiens inpacta petauro,
quam vetus a crassa calceus udus aqua,
quam quae rara vagos expectant retia turdos,
quam Pompeiano vela negata Noto,
quam quae de pthisico lapsa est armilla cinaedo,
culcita Leuconico quam viduata suo,
quam veteres bracae Brittonis pauperis, et quam
urpe Ravennatis guttur onocrotali.
Hanc in piscina dicor futuisse marina.
Nescio; piscinam me futuisse puto.

 

Image result for ancient Roman fish

 

 

On Poets and Fishmongers

Xenarchus’ Porphyra fr. 7 (preserved in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists, 6. 224-225)

“Poets are ridiculous. They never invent
anything new—each one of them simply
remixes the same things again and again.
But there is no race more creative or profane
than the fishsellers!
Since it is no longer permitted to them to dampen
Their fish, a practice forbidden by the law,
When some man completely hateful to the gods
Saw that his fish were drying, well,
He started a brawl among them quite intentionally
There were punches; he acted as if he were hit hard,
Fell to the ground pretending to pass out lying
Among his fish. Someone shouted “water, water”!
And a different guy grabbed a pitcher and poured it out—
A little on the man, but the rest on the fish!
You would have claimed they’d just been caught!”

Fish Vase
Google “Ancient Greek Fish Vase”

οἱ μὲν ποιηταὶ (φησὶ) λῆρός εἰσιν· οὐδὲ ἓν
καινὸν γὰρ εὑρίσκουσιν, ἀλλὰ μεταφέρει
ἕκαστος αὐτῶν ταὔτ’ ἄνω τε καὶ κάτω.
τῶν δ’ ἰχθυοπωλῶν φιλοσοφώτερον γένος
οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδὲν οὐδὲ μᾶλλον ἀνόσιον.
ἐπεὶ γὰρ αὐτοῖς οὐκέτ’ ἔστ’ ἐξουσία
ῥαίνειν, ἀπείρηται δὲ τοῦτο τῷ νόμῳ,
εἷς τις θεοῖσιν ἐχθρὸς ἄνθρωπος πάνυ
ξηραινομένους ὡς εἶδε τοὺς ἰχθῦς, μάχην
ἐποίησ’ ἐν αὐτοῖς ἐξεπίτηδες εὖ πάνυ.
ἦσαν δὲ πληγαί, καιρίαν δ’ εἰληφέναι
δόξας καταπίπτει καὶ λιποψυχεῖν δοκῶν
ἔκειτο μετὰ τῶν ἰχθύων. βοᾷ δέ τις
‘ὕδωρ <ὕδωρ.>’ ὃ δ’ εὐθὺς ἐξάρας πρόχουν
τῶν ὁμοτέχνων τις τοῦ μὲν ἀκαρῆ παντελῶς
κατέχει, κατὰ δὲ τῶν ἰχθύων ἁπαξάπαν.
εἴποις γ’ ἂν αὐτοὺς ἀρτίως ἡλωκέναι.

Patroklos Talking About Oysters

Schol A. ad Il. 16.747a

This man would feed many by seeking oysters. He uses this word “oyster” only once. It is a kind of marine shellfish. See the Separatists on this. For they claim that the poet of the Iliad does not present heroes using fish at food, while the Odyssey poet does. But it is clear that, if he did not present them as using them, they knew it, from the fact that Patroklos talks about oysters. Note how the poet tends to avoid the trivial. And surely, he does not show people eating greens. But, nevertheless, he does say “The enslaved women using shit to fertilize his great property”

πολλοὺς ἂν κορέσειεν ἀνὴρ <ὅδε τήθεα διφῶν>: ὅτι ἅπαξ εἴρηκε τήθεα. ἔστι δὲ εἶδος τῶν θαλασσίων ὀστρέων. πρὸς τοὺς Χωρίζοντας φασὶ γὰρ ὅτι ὁ τῆς ᾿Ιλιάδος ποιητὴς οὐ παρεισάγει τοὺς ἥρωας χρωμένους ἰχθύσιν, ὁ δὲ τῆς ᾿Οδυσσείας (cf. δ 368. μ 331). φανερὸν δὲ ὅτι, εἰ καὶ μὴ παράγει χρωμένους, ἴσασιν, ἐκ τοῦ τὸν Πάτροκλον ὀνομάζειν τήθεα. νοητέον δὲ τὸν ποιητὴν διὰ τὸ μικροπρεπὲς παρῃτῆσθαι. καὶ μὴν οὐδὲ λαχάνοις παρεισάγει χρωμένους. ἀλλ’ ὅμως φησὶ „δμῶες ᾿Οδυσσῆος τέμενος μέγα κοπρήσοντες” (ρ 299).

Schol T ad 16.784

“The poet also does not show heroes eating fish or birds, but still Odysseus’ companions do try to under compulsion. Generally, the poet avoids this kind of habit because of its triviality, but he has [heroes] eat roasted meat.”

οὐδὲ γὰρ ἰχθύσι χρωμένους εἰσήγαγεν ἢ ὄρνισιν, ἀλλ’ ὅμως δι’ ἀνάγκην καὶ τοῖς τοιούτοις ἐπεχείρουν οἱ ᾿Οδυσσέως ἑταῖροι (cf. δ 368. μ 331)· καθόλου γὰρ τὴν τοιαύτην χρῆσιν διὰ τὸ μικροπρεπὲς παρῃτήσατο, κρέασι δὲ ὀπτοῖς χρῆσθαι αὐτούς φησιν.

Suda, 477 Tau

“têthea: Oysters. Know that the ancients also ate these even though they do not provide much pleasure or nourishment.”

Τήθεα: ὄστρεα. ἰστέον ὅτι καὶ τούτοις ἐχρῶντο οἱ παλαιοί, καίτοι τῆς τούτων ἐδωδῆς οὐ πολὺ ἐχούσης τὸ ἡδὺ καὶ ὠφέλιμον.

Ostreidae ja 20090114.JPG

 

Tawdry Tuesday: Martial’s Poem with, uh, Wide Appeal (NSFW)

Martial, Epigrams 11.21

As usual, these Tuesday entries will seem truly abominable to some. Caveat Lector.

“Lydia is as wide as the ass of a bronze rider’s horse,
Or a fast hoop that sounds its clattering bronze,
Or a wheel crossed untouched by an acrobat,
Or an old shoe wet with muddy water,
Or as the wide nets that wait for wandering birds,
Or the awnings which close Pompey’s theater to the South Wind,
Or as arm-jewelry slipped off a diseased male-hooker,
Or a mattress separated from its Leuconian stuffing,
Or the old trousers of a British pauper,
Or the foul throat of a Revennian Pelican.
I am reputed to have fucked her in a salty fishpond.
I am not sure: I think I fucked the fishpond.”

Lydia tam laxa est equitis quam culus aeni,
quam celer arguto qui sonat aere trochus,
quam rota transmisso totiens inpacta petauro,
quam vetus a crassa calceus udus aqua,
quam quae rara vagos expectant retia turdos,
quam Pompeiano vela negata Noto,
quam quae de pthisico lapsa est armilla cinaedo,
culcita Leuconico quam viduata suo,
quam veteres bracae Brittonis pauperis, et quam
urpe Ravennatis guttur onocrotali.
Hanc in piscina dicor futuisse marina.
Nescio; piscinam me futuisse puto.

Image result for ancient Roman fish

 

 

Patroklos Talking About Oysters

Schol A. ad Il. 16.747a

This man would feed many by seeking oysters. He uses this word “oyster” only once. It is a kind of marine shellfish. See the Separatists on this. For they claim that the poet of the Iliad does not present heroes using fish at food, while the Odyssey poet does. But it is clear that, if he did not present them as using them, they knew it, from the fact that Patroklos talks about oysters. Note how the poet tends to avoid the trivial. And surely, he does not show people eating greens. But, nevertheless, he does say “The enslaved women using shit to fertilize his great property”

πολλοὺς ἂν κορέσειεν ἀνὴρ <ὅδε τήθεα διφῶν>: ὅτι ἅπαξ εἴρηκε τήθεα. ἔστι δὲ εἶδος τῶν θαλασσίων ὀστρέων. πρὸς τοὺς Χωρίζοντας φασὶ γὰρ ὅτι ὁ τῆς ᾿Ιλιάδος ποιητὴς οὐ παρεισάγει τοὺς ἥρωας χρωμένους ἰχθύσιν, ὁ δὲ τῆς ᾿Οδυσσείας (cf. δ 368. μ 331). φανερὸν δὲ ὅτι, εἰ καὶ μὴ παράγει χρωμένους, ἴσασιν, ἐκ τοῦ τὸν Πάτροκλον ὀνομάζειν τήθεα. νοητέον δὲ τὸν ποιητὴν διὰ τὸ μικροπρεπὲς παρῃτῆσθαι. καὶ μὴν οὐδὲ λαχάνοις παρεισάγει χρωμένους. ἀλλ’ ὅμως φησὶ „δμῶες ᾿Οδυσσῆος τέμενος μέγα κοπρήσοντες” (ρ 299).

Schol T ad 16.784

“The poet also does not show heroes eating fish or birds, but still Odysseus’ companions do try to under compulsion. Generally, the poet avoids this kind of habit because of its triviality, but he has [heroes] eat roasted meat.”

οὐδὲ γὰρ ἰχθύσι χρωμένους εἰσήγαγεν ἢ ὄρνισιν, ἀλλ’ ὅμως δι’ ἀνάγκην καὶ τοῖς τοιούτοις ἐπεχείρουν οἱ ᾿Οδυσσέως ἑταῖροι (cf. δ 368. μ 331)· καθόλου γὰρ τὴν τοιαύτην χρῆσιν διὰ τὸ μικροπρεπὲς παρῃτήσατο, κρέασι δὲ ὀπτοῖς χρῆσθαι αὐτούς φησιν.

Suda, 477 Tau

“têthea: Oysters. Know that the ancients also ate these even though they do not provide much pleasure or nourishment.”

Τήθεα: ὄστρεα. ἰστέον ὅτι καὶ τούτοις ἐχρῶντο οἱ παλαιοί, καίτοι τῆς τούτων ἐδωδῆς οὐ πολὺ ἐχούσης τὸ ἡδὺ καὶ ὠφέλιμον.

Ostreidae ja 20090114.JPG

 

A Terrible, Awful Poem from Martial (NSFW)

Martial, Epigrams 11.21

As usual, these Tuesday entries will seem truly abominable to some. Caveat Lector.

“Lydia is as wide as the ass of a bronze rider’s horse,
Or a fast hoop that sounds its clattering bronze,
Or a wheel crossed untouched by an acrobat,
Or an old shoe wet with muddy water,
Or as the wide nets that wait for wandering birds,
Or the awnings which close Pompey’s theater to the South Wind,
Or as arm-jewelry slipped off a diseased male-hooker,
Or a mattress separated from its Leuconian stuffing,
Or the old trousers of a British pauper,
Or the foul throat of a Revennian Pelican.
I am reputed to have fucked her in a salty fishpond.
I am not sure: I think I fucked the fishpond.”

Lydia tam laxa est equitis quam culus aeni,
quam celer arguto qui sonat aere trochus,
quam rota transmisso totiens inpacta petauro,
quam vetus a crassa calceus udus aqua,
quam quae rara vagos expectant retia turdos,
quam Pompeiano vela negata Noto,
quam quae de pthisico lapsa est armilla cinaedo,
culcita Leuconico quam viduata suo,
quam veteres bracae Brittonis pauperis, et quam
urpe Ravennatis guttur onocrotali.
Hanc in piscina dicor futuisse marina.
Nescio; piscinam me futuisse puto.

 

Image result for ancient Roman fish