Naked Graces and Noble Foxes: Some Proverbs on Gifts

Zenobius 1.71

“A Fox can’t be bribed” this is applied to those who are not easily captured by gifts

᾿Αλώπηξ οὐ δωροδοκεῖται: ἐπὶ τῶν οὐ ῥᾳδίως δώροις ἁλισκομένων.

Zenobius 3.42

“Praise any gift someone gives you.”

Δῶρον δ’ ὅ τι δῷ τις ἐπαίνει

Zenobius, 4.4

“An enemy’s gifts are not gifts, and bring no benefit.” This proverb is mentioned by Sophokles in his Ajax. Euripides also says something similar in the Medea: “the gift of a wicked man brings no benefit”.

᾿Εχθρῶν ἄδωρα δῶρα κοὐκ ὀνήσιμα [=Soph. Ajax 665] μέμνηται τῆς παροιμίας ταύτης Σοφοκλῆς ἐν Αἴαντι μαστιγοφόρῳ. Λέγει δὲ καὶ Εὐριπίδης ἐν τῇ Μηδείᾳ,K Κακοῦ ἀνδρὸς δῶρον ὄνησιν οὐκ ἔχει.

Diogenianus, 4.21

“Gifts persuade the gods and reverent kings. This is applied to those who twist judgments because of bribes.”

Δῶρα θεοὺς πείθει, καὶ αἰδοίους βασιλῆας: ἐπὶ τῶν διὰ δῶρα τὰς δίκας ἀντιστρεφόντων.

Michael Apostolios 1.82

“The Graces are Naked”: [a phrase asserting that] it is right to give thanks for a gift without envy or vanity.”

Αἱ Χάριτες γυμναί: ὅτι δεῖ τὴν δωρεὰν ἀφειδῶς ἢ ἀκενοδόξως χαρίζεσθαι.

gifts

Michael Apostolios, 7.65

“You come, bearing sleepover gifts.” This proverb is applied to those who give many things. That are called sleepover gifts from the practice where on the day after a wedding gifts are carried from the bride’s father to the bridegroom and the bride in procession. A child leads, bearing a white cloak and a burning lamp and a basket-bearer follows him. After them come the rest of the women in order carrying golden items, basins, perfumes, litters, combs, alabaster jars, sandals, chests. Sometimes they take the dowry at the same time.”

᾿Επαύλια δῶρα φέρειν ἥκεις: ἐπὶ τῶν πολλὰ δωρουμένων. ᾿Επαύλια δὲ καλεῖται τὰ μετὰ τὴν ἐχομένην ἡμέραν τῶν γάμων παρὰ τοῦ τῆς νύμφης πατρὸς δῶρα φερόμενα τῷ νυμφίῳ καὶ τῇ νύμφῃ ἐν πομπῆς σχήματι· παῖς γὰρ ἡγεῖται χλανίδα λευκὴν ἔχων καὶ λαμπάδα καιομένην, ἔπειτα μετὰ τοῦτον κανηφόρος· εἶθ’ αἱ λοιπαὶ ἀκολουθοῦσιν ἐφεξῆς, φέρουσαι χρυσία, λεκανίδας, σμήγματα, φορεῖα, κτένας, κοίτας, ἀλαβάστρους, σανδάλια, μυράλιτρα. ἐνίοτε δὲ καὶ τὴν προῖκα ἅμα τῶν νυμφίων φέρουσιν.

Michael Apostolios, 8.66

“Heraklean bath.” This is applied to people who take gifts. For Hephaistos gave a bath to Herakles as a gift.”

῾Ηράκλεια λουτρά: ἐπὶ τῶν δῶρα λαμβανόντων. κατὰ δωρεὰν γὰρ ὁ ῞Ηφαιστος ἀνέδωκε λουτρὰ τῷ ῾Ηρακλεῖ.

Arsenius, 13.151

“I, a poor man, don’t want to give a wealthy man a gift.”

Οὐ βούλομαι πλουτοῦντι δωρεῖσθαι πένης·

Arsenius, 15.95a

“Great gifts bring fear of chance.”

Τὰ μεγάλα δῶρα τῆς τύχης ἔχει φόβον,

Seneca on Why Presents Should be Opened RIGHT AWAY

Seneca, De Beneficiis 2.2

When the spirit is worn out and begins to hate a benefit while it waits for it, is it possible to still be grateful? Just as it is the most bitter cruelty which makes a punishment last longer and that killing quickly is a kind of mercy since torment supplies its own final end and the time which comes before death is the greatest period of suffering, so too gratitude for a gift will be greater the shorter the duration of suspense.

For the expectation of good things is upsetting too and since most gifts bring relief from some kind of thing, if anyone allows someone else to be tortured for a while when he was able to free him of burden or if he is slow to rejoice, he has added a punitive slap to his good deed. All generosity should move quickly—someone who acts quickly is someone who acts voluntarily. If someone drags his feet day to day, he does not act according to his spirit. He has thus lost two precious things: time and the demonstration of willing friendship. Consenting slowly is an indication of someone who is unwilling.”

Ubi in taedium adductus animus incipit beneficium odisse, dum expectat, potest ob id gratus esse? Quemadmodum acerbissima crudelitas est, quae trahit poenam, et misericordiae genus est cito occidere, quia tormentum ultimum finem sui secum adfert, quod antecedit tempus, maxima venturi supplicii pars est, ita maior est muneris gratia, quo minus diu pependit. Est enim etiam bonarum rerum sollicita expectatio, et cum plurima beneficia remedium alicuius rei adferant, qui aut diutius torqueri patitur, quem protinus potest liberare, aut tardius gaudere, beneficio suo manus adfert. Omnis benignitas properat, et proprium est libenter facientis cito facere; qui tarde et diem de die extrahens profuit, non ex animo fecit. Ita duas res maximas perdidit, et tempus et argumentum amicae voluntatis; tarde velle nolentis est.

Gift Meme

Gift-Giving is Like Getting Drunk: Fronto with Seasonal Advice

Cornelius Fronto, To Appian from Fronto 7

“The person who sends rather weighty gifts causes no less grief than the one who throws the ball too hard to his teammate or offers a big cup to his fellow drinker in toast. For the latter seems to toast not for pleasure but for getting drunk. Just as in wise drinking parties we see that the wine is mixed with a little pure alcohol and a lot of water, so too are gifts mixed best with a lot of thought and a little expenditure.

For who should we say gets the benefit from expensive gifts? Is it the poor? They are not capable of giving them. The rich? They don’t need to get them. In addition, it is not possible to constantly give expensive gifts—there will be a failure of resources if someone should often send out immense gifts. It is possible, however, to give small gifts endlessly and without regret—since someone owes only small thanks to the one who gave a small gift.”

  1. Ὁ δὲ τὰ βαρύτερα δῶρα πέμπων οὐχ ἧττον λυπεῖ τοῦ βαρεῖαν πέμποντος ἐπὶ τὸν συσφαιρίζοντα ἢ μεγάλην κύλην προπίνοντος τῷ συμπότῃ・ εἰς γὰρ μέθην οὐκ εἰς ἡδονὴν προπίνειν ἔοικεν. ὥσπερ δὲ τὸν οἶνον ἐν τοῖς σώφροσιν συμποσίοις ὁρῶμεν κιρνάμενον ἀκράτῳ μὲν πάνυ ὀλίγῳ, πλείστῳ δὲ τῷ ὕδατι, οὕτω δὴ καὶ τὰ δῶρα κιρνάναι προσῆκεν πολλῇ μὲν φιλοφροσύνῃ, ἐλαχίστῳ δὲ ἀναλώματι. τίσιν γὰp ἂν Φαίημεν ἁρμόττειν τὰ πολυτελῆ δῶρα; ἆρά γε τοῖς πένησιν; ἀλλὰ πέμπειν οὐ δύνανται・ ἢ τοῖς πλουσίοις; ἀλλά λαμβάνειν οὐ δέονται. τοῖς μὲν οὖν μεγάλοις δώροις τὸ συνεχὲς οὐ πρόσεστιν, ἢ ἐκπεσεῖν ἀναγκὴ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων, εἴ τις μεγάλα τε πέμποι καὶ πολλάκις. τοῖς δὲ μικροῖς δώροις τό τε συνεχὲς πρόσεστιν καί τὸ ἀμεταγνωστόν, εἰ <καὶ μικρὰ δεῖ τε>λέσαι μικρὰ πέμψαντι.†

 

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Hermit at work on a manuscript, from the Estoire del Saint Graal, France

December Debates on Gifts: Some Classical Warnings

Epigonoi Fr. 4 (From Clement of Alexandria)

“Many evils come to men from gifts”

ἐκ γὰρ δώρων πολλὰ κάκ’ ἀνθρώποισι πέλονται.

Ovid, Ars Amatoria 2.275

“Poems are certainly praised, but great gifts are what is sought.”

carmina laudantur sed munera magna petuntur.

Sophocles, Ajax, 664-5

“But the old saying is true: the gifts of enemies are no gifts, and sure to yield no profit.”

ἀλλ᾽ ἔστ᾽ ἀληθὴς ἡ βροτῶν παροιμία,
ἐχθρῶν ἄδωρα δῶρα κοὐκ ὀνήσιμα

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Aeschylus, fr. 279a2

“Alone of the gods, Death doesn’t long for gifts.”

μόνος θεῶν γὰρ Θάνατος οὐ δώρων ἐρᾶι·

 

Solon, 13.64

“The gifts of the gods must not be rejected”

δῶρα δ᾿ ἄφυκτα θεῶν γίγνεται ἀθανάτων

 

Nostoi, fr. 8.1

“Gifts debase the minds and actions of men”

δῶρα γὰρ ἀνθρώπων νόον ἤπαφεν ἠδὲ καὶ ἔργα

 

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.1430-1439

“The race of man, then, labors uselessly and in vain
as we always consume our time in empty concerns
because we don’t understand that there’s a limit to having—
and there’s an end to how far true pleasure can grow.
This has dragged life bit by bit into the deep sea
and has stirred at its bottom great blasts of war.
But the guardian of the earth turns around the great sky
and teaches men truly that the year’s seasons come full circle
and that all must be endured with a sure reason and order.”

Ergo hominum genus in cassum frustraque laborat
semper et [in] curis consumit inanibus aevom,
ni mirum quia non cognovit quae sit habendi
finis et omnino quoad crescat vera voluptas;
idque minutatim vitam provexit in altum
et belli magnos commovit funditus aestus.
at vigiles mundi magnum versatile templum
sol et luna suo lustrantes lumine circum
perdocuere homines annorum tempora verti
et certa ratione geri rem atque ordine certo.

December Debates: Should We Accept Gifts from Bad People?

Seneca, De Beneficiis 1.14

“Indeed, I think that we should not look for an advantage from any person whose public esteem is low. Why? Shouldn’t what Claudius offered have been accepted? It should have been, but just as something given by chance which you know might immediately turn bad.

Why do we distinguish between these two instances just combined? A gift is not beneficial when its best part is missing—when it is given because of high esteem. A lot of money, if it is not given rightly or freely, is no more beneficial than a warehouse. There are many gifts which should be accepted but create no obligations.”

Ego vero nullius puto expetendum esse beneficium, cuius vile iudicium est. Quid ergo? Non erat accipiendum a Claudio, quod dabatur? Erat, sed sicut a fortuna, quam scires posse statim malam fieri. Quid ista inter se mixta dividimus? Non est beneficium, cui deest pars optima, datum esse iudicio: alioqui pecunia ingens, si non ratione nec recta voluntate donata est, non magis beneficium est quam thesaurus. Multa sunt autem, quae oportet accipere nec debere.

 

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Bishop Engilmar Celebrating Mass, benedictional, Regensburg, about 1030-40

Excessive Expenditure: Aristotle on the Ethics of Gift-Giving

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 4 (1121a-b)

“Most people who spend too much, as it is said, both take what is not right and are cheap because of that. They become greedy because they want to spend but cannot do this easily because their funds quickly escape them. They are therefore compelled to procure from elsewhere. In addition, because they don’t think at all about nobility of action, they take from everywhere. They desire to give and it makes no difference how or where to them. For this reason, their giving is not liberal. For the gifts are not noble or given for nobility’s sake, nor in the way that it correct. Sometimes they make those rich who ought to be poor and they will give nothing to those humble in character, but they provide much to their flatterers and those who please them.”

ἀλλ᾿ οἱ πολλοὶ τῶν ἀσώτων, καθάπερ εἴρηται, καὶ λαμβάνουσιν ὅθεν μὴ δεῖ, καὶ εἰσὶ κατὰ τοῦτο ἀνελεύθεροι. ληπτικοὶ δὲ γίνονται διὰ τὸ βούλεσθαι μὲν ἀναλίσκειν, εὐχερῶς δὲ τοῦτο ποιεῖν μὴ δύνασθαι, ταχὺ γὰρ ἐπιλείπει αὐτοὺς τὰ ὑπάρχοντα· ἀναγκάζονται οὖν ἑτέρωθεν πορίζειν. ἅμα δὲ καὶ διὰ τὸ μηθὲν τοῦ καλοῦ φροντίζειν ὀλιγώρως καὶ πάντοθεν λαμβάνουσιν· διδόναι γὰρ ἐπιθυμοῦσι, τὸ δὲ πῶς ἢ πόθεν οὐθὲν αὐτοῖς διαφέρει. διόπερ οὐδ᾿ ἐλευθέριοι αἱ δόσεις αὐτῶν εἰσίν· οὐ γὰρ καλαί, οὐδὲ τούτου ἕνεκα, οὐδὲ ὡς δεῖ· ἀλλ᾿ ἐνίοτε οὓς δεῖ πένεσθαι, τούτους πλουσίους ποιοῦσι, καὶ τοῖς μὲν μετρίοις τὰ ἤθη οὐδὲν ἂν δοῖεν, τοῖς δὲ κόλαξιν ἤ τιν᾿ ἄλλην ἡδονὴν πορίζουσι πολλά.

 

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Silver For Gold: Strategic Gift Exchange for the Holiday Season

Julian, Letter 63 (To Hecebolus)

“…but the story is from ancient men. If, then, I were to give to you silver as swap of equal worth when you sent me gold, do not value the favor less nor, as Glaukos did, believe that the exchange is harmful, since not even Diomedes would switch silver armor for gold since the former is much more practical than the latter in the way of lead that is shaped for the ends of spears.

I am joking with you! I have assumed a certain freedom of speech based on the example you have written yourself. But, if in truth you want to send me gifts worth more than gold, write and don’t ever stop writing to me! For even a brief note from you is more dear to me than anything someone else might consider good.”

ἀλλὰ παλαιῶν ἀνδρῶν ὁ λόγος ἐστίν. εἰ δέ σοι τοῦ πεμφθέντος ὑπὸ σοῦ χρυσοῦ νομίσματος εἰς τὸ ἴσον τῆς τιμῆς ἕτερον ἀργύρεον ἀντιδίδομεν, μὴ κρίνῃς ἥττω τὴν χάριν, μηδὲ ὥσπερ τῷ Γλαύκῳ πρὸς τὸ ἔλαττον οἰηθῇς εἶναι τὴν ἀντίδοσιν, ἐπεὶ μηδὲ ὁ Διομήδης ἴσως ἀργυρᾶ χρυσῶν ἀντέδωκεν ἄν,1 ἅτε δὴ πολλῷ τῶν ἑτέρων ὄντα χρησιμώτερα καὶ τὰς αἰχμὰς οἱονεὶ μολίβδου δίκην ἐκτρέπειν εἰδότα. ταῦτά σοι προσπαίζομεν, ἀφ᾿ ὧν αὐτὸς γράφεις τὸ ἐνδόσιμον εἰς σὲ τῆς παρρησίας λαμβάνοντες. σὺ δὲ εἰ τῷ ὄντι χρυσοῦ τιμιώτερα ἡμῖν δῶρα ἐθέλεις ἐκπέμπειν, γράφε, καὶ μὴ λῆγε συνεχῶς τοῦτο πράττων· ἐμοὶ γὰρ καὶ γράμμα παρὰ σοῦ μικρὸν ὅτου περ ἂν εἴπῃ τις ἀγαθοῦ κάλλιον εἶναι κρίνεται.

Who knew that the popular Christmas song was inspired by Julian the Apostate?

Julian is referring to the famous scene of exchange between Diomedes and Glaukos in the Iliad (6.230-236)

“Let’s exchange armor with one another so that even these people
May know that we claim to be guest-friends from our fathers’ lines.”

So they spoke and leapt down from their horses,
Took one another’s hands and made their pledge.
Then Kronos’s son Zeus stole away Glaukos’ wits,
For he traded to Diomedes golden arms in exchange for bronze,
weapons worth one hundred oxen traded for those worth nine.”

τεύχεα δ’ ἀλλήλοις ἐπαμείψομεν, ὄφρα καὶ οἷδε
γνῶσιν ὅτι ξεῖνοι πατρώϊοι εὐχόμεθ’ εἶναι.
῝Ως ἄρα φωνήσαντε καθ’ ἵππων ἀΐξαντε
χεῖράς τ’ ἀλλήλων λαβέτην καὶ πιστώσαντο·
ἔνθ’ αὖτε Γλαύκῳ Κρονίδης φρένας ἐξέλετο Ζεύς,
ὃς πρὸς Τυδεΐδην Διομήδεα τεύχε’ ἄμειβε
χρύσεα χαλκείων, ἑκατόμβοι’ ἐννεαβοίων.

Schol. ad. Il. 6.234b ex.

“Kronos’ son Zeus took Glaukos’ wits away”. Because he was adorning him among his allies with more conspicuous weapons. Or, because they were made by Hephaistos. Or, as Pios claims, so that [the poet?] might amplify the Greek since they do not make an equal exchange—a thing which would be sweet to the audience.

Or, perhaps he credits him more, that he was adorned with conspicuous arms among his own and his allies. For, wherever these arms are, it is a likely place for an enemy attack.”

ex. ἔνθ’ αὖτε Γλαύκῳ <Κρονίδης> φρένας ἐξέλετο: ὅτι κατὰ τῶν συμμάχων ἐκόσμει λαμπροτέροις αὐτὸν ὅπλοις. ἢ ὡς ῾Ηφαιστότευκτα. ἢ, ὡς Πῖος (fr. 2 H.), ἵνα κἀν τούτῳ αὐξήσῃ τὸν ῞Ελληνα μὴ ἐξ ἴσου ἀπηλ<λ>αγμένον, ὅπερ ἡδὺ τοῖς ἀκούουσιν. T
ἢ μᾶλλον αἰτιᾶται αὐτόν, ὅτι λαμπροῖς ὅπλοις ἐκοσμεῖτο κατὰ ἑαυτοῦ καὶ τῶν συμμάχων· ὅπου γὰρ ταῦτα, εὔκαιρος ἡ τῶν πολεμίων ὁρμή. b(BE3E4)

I always thought that Glaukos got a raw deal from interpreters here. Prior to the stories Diomedes and Glaukos tell each other, Diomedes was just murdering everyone in his path. Glaukos—who already knew who Diomedes was before he addressed him—tells a great tale, gives Diomedes his golden weapons, and actually lives to the end of the poem. I think this is far from a witless move. And, if the armor is especially conspicuous, maybe the plan-within-a-plan is to put a golden target on Diomedes’ back.

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