Have You Seen My Special Chair?

A former dean of mine once sent an email to the faculty announcing a large grant to the college by a local business, providing for endowed chairs in the liberal arts. He had the temerity to announce in the very same email that he was giving himself one of these chairs. And he had a chair made with an inscription. The following is a slightly more humble epigraph.

 Constantinus of Sicily, Greek Anthology 15.13

“If you are wise, sit on me. But if you’ve tasted the muse
Only with the tip of your finger…..
Move far away and find a different seat.
I am a chair who bears the burden of men who seek wisdom.”

Εἰ μέν τις σοφὸς ἐσσί, ἐφέζεο· εἰ δέ γε Μούσης
δακτύλῳ ἀκροτάτῳ ἀπεγεύσαο, . . . .
πόρρω στῆθ᾿ ἀπ᾿ ἐμεῖο, καὶ ἄλλοθι δίζεο ἕδρην·
κλισμὸς ἐγὼ φορέων σοφίης ἐπιΐστορας ἄνδρας.

Image result for Ancient Greek chair scholar

Did You Say Love or Death?

Joel sings “love is a battlefield” at every department holiday party, and yet no general ever says at muster, “troops, war is loving.” We don’t, that is, ordinarily reverse the terms of a metaphor. In practice, one term stands still and the other term does the work of elucidating it. 

But what if metaphor flowed both ways (metaphorically speaking), such that on one occasion X elucidated Y, and on another occasion Y elucidated X? That is what we find in the Greek Anthology when we compare epigrams across their sepulchral and amatory boundaries. 

It’s a dissonant reading, but one we’re justified in making when topoi arranged to make a poem about death are rearranged to make an equally effective poem about love. Furthermore, I think we can say that when responsibility for clarifying terms (love, death) passes back and forth between the terms themselves, the end result is a body of poems whose referents are one another. 

Here are two pairings of an amatory and sepulchral epigram. In the first, it is the imagery of the sea, and in the second the imagery of robbery, that are employed to account for the phenomenologically distinct experiences of loving and dying. With each pairing, try to think not only of how death is a metaphor for love, but how love is a metaphor for death:

[1] The Sea

Meleager 5.190

Bitter wave of desire,
Restless winds of jealousy,
And a wintry sea of celebrations:
Where to, am I being carried?
Since my heart’s tiller swings this way and that,
Will I see that tender Scylla again?

Leonidas 5.273

The East wind’s savage, sudden gusts,
Night, and waves from Orion’s dark setting
Did me in: I, Callaeschrus, lost my hold on life
While sailing in the middle of the Libyan sea.
Tumbling about in the water, prey for fish,
I died. And so, this gravestone is a liar.

[2] Robbery

Anonymous 7.737

Here I am, a wretched man three times over:
Overpowered by a thief’s violence,
Prostrate, and wept for by no one.

Diophanes of Myrina 5.309

A thief three times over,
That’s what Desire should really be called:
He’s watchful, he’s brazen, he strips you bare.

Meleager 5.190

κῦμα τὸ πικρὸν Ἔρωτος, ἀκοίμητοί τε πνέοντες
ζῆλοι, καὶ κώμων χειμέριον πέλαγος,
ποῖ φέρομαι; πάντῃ δὲ φρενῶν οἴακες ἀφεῖνται,
ἦ πάλι τὴν τρυφερὴν Σκύλλαν ἐποψόμεθα;

Leonidas 5.273

Εὔρου με τρηχεῖα καὶ αἰπήεσσα καταιγίς,
καὶ νύξ, καὶ δνοφερῆς κύματα πανδυσίης [p. 150]
ἔβλαψ᾽ Ὠρίωνος: ἀπώλισθον δὲ βίοιο
Κάλλαισχρος, Λιβυκοῦ μέσσα θέων πελάγευς.
κἀγὼ μὲν πόντῳ δινεύμενος, ἰχθύσι κύρμα,
οἴχημαι: ψεύστης δ᾽ οὗτος ἔπεστι λίθος.

Anonymous 7.737

ἐνθάδ᾽ ἐγὼ λῃστῆρος ὁ τρισδείλαιος ἄρηι
ἐδμήθην κεῖμαι δ᾽ οὐδενὶ κλαιόμενος.

Diophanes of Myrina 5.309

τρὶς λῃστὴς ὁ Ἔρως καλοῖτ᾽ ἂν ὄντως:
ἀγρυπνεῖ, θρασύς ἐστιν, ἐκδιδύσκει.

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.

Gratitude for a Recovery

Greek Anthology 6.300, Leonidas [Lathria = Aphrodite]

“Lathrian, please take this from the wanderer, the pauper,
The man of little flour, Leonidas, as thanks:
Moist cakes of barely and well-stored olive oil,
Along with this green fig straight from the tree.
Lady, take these five grapes from a cluster good for wine
And this final libation from the bottom of the cup.
And if you save me from hateful poverty as you saved me
From sickness, expect a young goat too.”

Λαθρίη, ἐκ πλανίου ταύτην χάριν ἔκ τε πενέστεω
κἠξ ὀλιγησιπύου δέξο Λεωνίδεω,
ψαιστά τε πιήεντα καὶ εὐθήσαυρον ἐλαίην,
καὶ τοῦτο χλωρὸν σῦκον ἀποκράδιον,
κεὐοίνου σταφυλῆς ἔχ᾿ ἀποσπάδα πεντάρραγον,
πότνια, καὶ σπονδὴν τήνδ᾿ ὑποπυθμίδιον.
ἢν δέ μέ γ᾿, ὡς ἐκ νούσου ἀνειρύσω, ὧδε καὶ ἐχθρῆς
ἐκ πενίης ῥύσῃ, δέξο χιμαιροθύτην.

File:Greek - Oinochoe in the Camirus, or "Wild Goat" Style - Walters 482108 - Detail.jpg
“Wild Goat Style”

Cometas Scholasticus, Greek Anthology 9.597

“I was struck immobile from my hips to the bottom of my feet
Completely denied my life’s work for so long,
Halfway between life and death, Hades’ neighbor,
Merely breathing, but a corpse in every other way.
But wise Philippos, whom you view in the picture,
Brought me back to life by healing the dread disease.
And Antoninus walks on the earth again as before!
I tread on it with my feet and I feel whole.”

Νωθρὸς ἐγὼ τελέθεσκον ἀπ᾿ ἰξύος ἐς πόδας ἄκρους
τῆς πρὶν ἐνεργείης δηρὸν ἀτεμβόμενος,
ζωῆς καὶ θανάτοιο μεταίχμιον, Ἄϊδι γείτων,
μοῦνον ἀναπνείων, τἄλλα δὲ πάντα νέκυς.
ἀλλὰ σοφός με Φίλιππος, ὃν ἐν γραφίδεσσι δοκεύεις,
ζώγρησεν, κρυερὴν νοῦσον ἀκεσσάμενος·
αὖθις δ᾿ Ἀντωνῖνος, ἅπερ πάρος, ἐν χθονὶ βαίνω:
καὶ ποσὶ πεζεύω, καὶ ὅλος αἰσθάνομαι.

Words of Mourning: Some Poems of Anyte of Tegea

The following epigrams are attributed to the poet Anyte of Tegea, one of a handful of Hellenistic women preserved in the Greek Anthology.

Gr. Anth. 7.490

“I mourn for the virgin Antibia, to whose father’s home
Many suitors came longing to marry,
Thanks to the fame of her beauty and wisdom.
But ruinous fate made all their hopes turn in the dust.”

Παρθένον Ἀντιβίαν κατοδύρομαι, ἇς ἐπὶ πολλοὶ
νυμφίοι ἱέμενοι πατρὸς ἵκοντο δόμον,
κάλλευς καὶ πινυτᾶτος ἀνὰ κλέος· ἀλλ᾿ ἐπὶ πάντων
ἐλπίδας οὐλομένα Μοῖρ᾿ ἐκύλισε πρόσω.

7.208

“Dâmis built this grave for his battle-fierce but dead
Horse, after murderous Ares pierce his chest.
The blood spurted black from his thick-hided skin
And he dyed the earth with his painful life’s blood.”

Μνᾶμα τόδε φθιμένου μενεδαΐου εἵσατο Δᾶμις
ἵππου, ἐπεὶ στέρνον τοῦδε δαφοινὸς Ἄρης
τύψε· μέλαν δέ οἱ αἷμα ταλαυρίνου διὰ χρωτὸς
ζέσσ᾿, ἐπὶ δ᾿ ἀργαλέᾳ βῶλον ἔδευσε φονᾷ.

7.724

“Your courage, Proarkhos, killed you in the fight and dying
You put the home of your father Pheidias into dark grief.
Yet this rock above you sings out a noble song:
That you died in a struggle for your dear homeland.”

Ἦ ῥα μένος σε, Πρόαρχ᾿, ὄλεσ᾿ ἐν δαΐ, δῶμά τε πατρὸς
Φειδία ἐν δνοφερῷ πένθει ἔθου φθίμενος·
ἀλλὰ καλόν τοι ὕπερθεν ἔπος τόδε πέτρος ἀείδει,
ὡς ἔθανες πρὸ φίλας μαρνάμενος πατρίδος.

7.538

“When he was alive this man was once Manês.
But now that’s dead, he can be equal to great Dareios.”

Μάνης οὗτος ἀνὴρ ἦν ζῶν ποτέ· νῦν δὲ τεθνηκὼς
ἶσον Δαρείῳ τῷ μεγάλῳ δύναται.

Image result for Ancient tegea
Tegea from Wikipedia

Just a Hole in the Ground

Callimachus 13 (Gow-Page 31)

Does Charidas really lie dead beneath you?
“You mean Arimma’s son from Cyrenaica?
Then yes, he’s underneath me.”
O Charidas, what’s down there?
“Much darkness.”
But what about the ways up?
“Lies.”
And Pluto?
“Myth.”
Ah, nothing remains of us.
“What I’ve given you is my truthful account.
But if you want the pleasing version, here goes:
even small sums buy a big bull in Hades!”

Note: the final line of the Greek is likely corrupt, and therefore while I’ve followed Markovitch in assuming the questionable word is a reference to money (an “obol,” which I’ve freely rendered as “small sums”)–and amending the Greek to reflect that–others assume a reference to the bull’s place of origin (“Pella”).

‘Η ῥ᾽ ὑπὸ σοὶ Χαρίδας ἀναπαύεται; ‘εἰ τὸν Ἀρίμμα
τοῦ Κυρηναίου παῖδα λέγεις, ὑπ᾽ ἐμοί.’
ὦ Χαρίδα, τί τὰ νέρθε; ‘πολὺ σκότοσ᾽. αἱ δ᾽ ἄνοδοι τί;
‘ψεῦδοσ᾽. ὁ δὲ Πλούτων; ‘μῦθοσ᾽. ἀπωλόμεθα.
‘οὗτος ἐμὸς λόγος ὔμμιν ἀληθινός: εἰ δὲ τὸν ἡδύν
βούλει, <χαν> +πελανου βοῦς μέγας εἰν Ἀίδηι.

 

A still from Bergman’s the Seventh Seal in which our Everyman plays chess with Death. To the despair of chess fans, Bergman never reveals whether Death played a cautious opening, like the Ruy Lopez, or something daring, like the Danish Gambit.

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.

What A Little Moonlight Can Do

Philodemus 5.123 (Greek Anthology)

Lady of the night,
Two-horned lover of nocturnal revels,
Shine, Selene!
Shine, and as you beam through latticed shutters
Illume golden Kallistion.
There’s no wrong in a goddess watching
The doings of lovers.
To you, she and I are happy, I know, Selene.
For your soul was inflamed by Endymion too.

Note: Selene, the moon, is described as crescent shaped (“two-horned”). She fell in love with, and made love with, Endymion while he slept. The speaker of the epigram seems to suggest that he too will accost his beloved, Kallistion, while she sleeps.

Νυκτερινή, δίκερως, φιλοπάννυχε, φαῖνε, Σελήνη,
φαῖνε, δι᾽ εὐτρήτων βαλλομένη θυρίδων
αὔγαζε χρυσέην Καλλίστιον ἐς τὰ φιλεύντων
ἔργα κατοπτεύειν οὐ φθόνος ἀθανάτῃ.
ὀλβίζεις καὶ τήνδε καὶ ἡμέας, οἶδα, Σελήνη:
καὶ γὰρ σὴν ψυχὴν ἔφλεγεν Ἐνδυμίων.

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.

When No means No

Philodemus 5.308 (Greek Anthology)

Fancy lady, wait for me!
What’s your lovely name?
Where can I see you?
I’d give you what you want,
But you’re not talking.
Where will you be?
I’ll send someone with you.
You’re taken—is that it?
Snooty lady, take care.
You won’t even say “goodbye”?
I’ll come to you again and again—
I know how to soften
Even harder women than you.
Goodbye, lady, for now.

ἡ κομψή, μεῖνόν με. τί σοι καλὸν οὔνομα,; ποῦ σε
ἔστιν ἰδεῖν; ὃ θέλεις δώσομεν. οὐδὲ λαλεῖς.
ποῦ γίνῃ; πέμψω μετὰ σοῦ τινα. μή τις ἔχει σε;
ὦ σοβαρή, ὑγίαιν᾽. οὐδ᾽ ‘ὑγίαινε ’ λέγεις;
καὶ πάλι καὶ πάλι σοιπροσελεύσομαι: οἶδα μαλάσσειν
καὶ σοῦ σκληροτέρας. νῦν δ᾽ ὑγίαινε, γύναι.

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.

“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.

“The Rest Can Go to Hell”: Some Funerary Epigrams for a Friday

Julian 33

“You died from drinking too much, Anacreon.”
“Yes, it was fun! You’ll die too, even though you didn’t drink”

Πολλὰ πιὼν τέθνηκας, Ἀνάκρεον. β. Ἀλλὰ
τρυφήσας· καὶ σὺ δὲ μὴ πίνων ἵξεαι εἰς Ἀΐδην.

Julian

“I have sung this much and I will sing it from eternal rest:
Drink before you don this dusty dress!”

Πολλάκι μὲν τόδ᾿ ἄεισα, καὶ ἐκ τύμβου δὲ βοήσω·
“Πίνετε, πρὶν ταύτην ἀμφιβάλησθε κόνιν

Antipater 15

“My name is Sappho—and I surpassed women in song
As much as Homer did the men.”

Οὔνομά μευ Σαπφώ. τόσσον δ᾿ ὑπερέσχον ἀοιδὰν
θηλειᾶν, ἀνδρῶν ὅσσον ὁ Μαιονίδας.

Anonymous, 28

‘Stranger going by this tomb of Anakreon,
Pour me some wine as you pass by. For I am a drinker.”

Ὦ ξένε, τόνδε τάφον τὸν Ἀνακρείοντος ἀμείβων,
σπεῖσόν μοι παριών· εἰμὶ γὰρ οἰνοπότης.

Anonymous 63 

“Ferryman of the corpses, take me, the dog Diogenes
Who exposed all of life’s affectations.”

Τὸν κύνα Διογένη, νεκυοστόλε, δέξο με, πορθμεῦ,
γυμνώσαντα βίου παντὸς ἐπισκύνιον.

Anonymous  84

“This grave is small, but its fame is equal to heaven
For this is the memorial of the brilliant Thales”

Ἦ ὀλίγον τόδε σᾶμα, τὸ δὲ κλέος οὐρανόμηκες
τοῦ πολυφροντίστου τοῦτο Θάλητος ὅρη.

Anonymous  134

“Here lies the head of the Cynic Gorgias,
No longer coughing or blowing my nose”

Ἐνθάδε Γοργίου ἡ κεφαλὴ κυνικοῦ κατάκειμαι,
οὐκέτι χρεμπτομένη, οὔτ᾿ ἀπομυσσομένη.

Anonymous 348

“After eating little, drinking little, and being sick a lot
Eventually I died. Go to hell the rest of you too!”

Βαιὰ φαγὼν καὶ βαιὰ πιὼν καὶ πολλὰ νοσήσας,
ὀψὲ μέν, ἀλλ᾿ ἔθανον. ἔρρετε πάντες ὁμοῦ.

Image result for Ancient Greek epitaph

Erycius 377

“Even though he lies in the ground, pour out pitch
In the filthy mouth of Parthenius
Because he puked meaningless myriad floods on the muses
And his refuse of his repugnant poems.
”He was so absolutely crazy that he called
The Odyssey mud and the Iliad a mess.
That’s why he is chained by the dusky Furies
In the middle of hell with a dog collar on his neck”

Εἰ καὶ ὑπὸ χθονὶ κεῖται, ὅμως ἔτι καὶ κατὰ πίσσαν
τοῦ μιαρογλώσσου χεύατε Παρθενίου,
οὕνεκα Πιερίδεσσιν ἐνήμεσε μυρία κεῖνα
φλέγματα καὶ μυσαρῶν ἀπλυσίην ἐλέγων.
ἤλασε καὶ μανίης ἐπὶ δὴ τόσον, ὥστ᾿ ἀγορεῦσαι
πηλὸν Ὀδυσσείην καὶ βάτον Ἰλιάδα.
τοιγὰρ ὑπὸ ζοφίαισιν Ἐρινύσιν ἀμμέσον ἧπται
Κωκυτοῦ κλοιῷ λαιμὸν ἀπαγχόμενος.

 

 

 

To Hell With Grammarians!

The following poems are taken from the Greek Anthology.

Philippos, 11.321

“Grammarians, children of hateful Blame, thorn-worms
Book-monsters, whelps of Zenodotus,
Soldiers of Kallimakhos, a man you project like a shield
But do not spare from your tongue,
Hunters of grievous conjunctions who take pleasure
In min or sphin* and in asking if the Cyclops kept dogs,
May you wear out your lives, wretches, muttering over the abuse
Of others. Come sink your arrow in me!”

Γραμματικοὶ Μώμου στυγίου τέκνα, σῆτες ἀκανθῶν,
τελχῖνες βίβλων, Ζηνοδότου σκύλακες,
Καλλιμάχου στρατιῶται, ὃν ὡς ὅπλον ἐκτανύσαντες,
οὐδ’ αὐτοῦ κείνου γλῶσσαν ἀποστρέφετε,
συνδέσμων λυγρῶν θηρήτορες, οἷς τὸ „μὶν” ἢ „σφὶν”
εὔαδε καὶ ζητεῖν, εἰ κύνας εἶχε Κύκλωψ,
τρίβοισθ’ εἰς αἰῶνα κατατρύζοντες ἀλιτροὶ
ἄλλων· ἐς δ’ ἡμᾶς ἰὸν ἀποσβέσατε.

Antiphanes, 11.322

“Useless race of grammarians, digging at the roots of
Someone else’s poetry, luckless worms who walk on thorns,
Perverters of great art, boasting over your Erinna*,
Bitter, parched watchdogs of Kallimakhos,
Rebukes to poets, death’s shade to children learning,
Go to hell, you fleas that secretly bite eloquent men.”

Γραμματικῶν περίεργα γένη, ῥιζωρύχα μούσης
ἀλλοτρίης, ἀτυχεῖς σῆτες ἀκανθοβάται,
τῶν μεγάλων κηλῖδες, ἐπ’ ᾿Ηρίννῃ δὲ κομῶντες,
πικροὶ καὶ ξηροὶ Καλλιμάχου πρόκυνες,
ποιητῶν λῶβαι, παισὶ σκότος ἀρχομένοισιν,
ἔρροιτ’, εὐφώνων λαθροδάκναι κόριες.

*An Alexandrian poet.

Philippus, 11.347

“Goodbye, men whose eyes have wandered over the universe,
And you thorn-counting worms of Aristarchus.
What’s it to me to examine which paths the Sun takes
Or whose son Proteus was or who was Pygmalion?
I would know as many works whose texts are clean. But let
The dark inquiry rot away the Mega-Kallimakheis!”

Χαίροιθ’, οἱ περὶ κόσμον ἀεὶ πεπλανηκότες ὄμμα
οἵ τ’ ἀπ’ ᾿Αριστάρχου σῆτες ἀκανθολόγοι.
ποῖ γὰρ ἐμοὶ ζητεῖν, τίνας ἔδραμεν ῞Ηλιος οἴμους
καὶ τίνος ἦν Πρωτεὺς καὶ τίς ὁ Πυγμαλίων;
γινώσκοιμ’, ὅσα λευκὸν ἔχει στίχον· ἡ δὲ μέλαινα
ἱστορίη τήκοι τοὺς Περικαλλιμάχους.

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