Less Strength, More Skill: Homeric Boxing

Quid prodest multos vincere luctatione vel caestu, ab iracundia vinci?

“What good is it to conquer many in boxing or wrestling only to be overcome by own own anger?”  -Seneca the Younger, Moral Epistles 88.19

During the funeral games in the Iliad, the victor in the boxing match, the older Epeios—who is described as the “son of Kapaneus, a man knowledgeable in boxing” (εἰδὼς πυγμαχίης υἱὸς Πανοπῆος ᾿Επειός, 23.665) knocks down Euryalos with a single blow (23.660-699). In the scholia to this passage, we find the comment that “this shows, as is right, that they had an art of boxing–it was not just about strength” (schol. B ad Il. 23.665: ἦν δέ, ὡς ἔοικε, καὶ τέχνη παρ’ αὐτοῖς τῆς πυγμῆς, οὐ μόνον ἡ δύναμις).

In the Odyssey, Odysseus returns home in disguise and is forced to box the local beggar Iros to entertain the suitors who are plaguing his home. In this scene, it is again his intelligence that wins the day.

Odyssey 18.89-100

“They led [Iros and Odysseus] into the middle. Both men raised their hands.
Much-enduring, godly Odysseus deliberated then
whether he would pummel him and make the soul depart his fallen opponent
or just strike him enough to lay him out on the ground.
As he deliberated this seemed better to him,
just to strike him so that the Achaians might not figure out who he was.
And then, when their hands were raised, Iros punched his right shoulder,
but Odysseus hit him on the neck under the ear—the bones within
bent. Immediately, dark blood spat from his mouth
And he fell moaning in the dust as he ground his teeth together
and kicked the ground with his feet. Then the arrogant suitors
nearly died with laughter as they raised their hands….”

ἐς μέσσον δ’ ἄναγον· τὼ δ’ ἄμφω χεῖρας ἀνέσχον.
δὴ τότε μερμήριξε πολύτλας δῖος ᾿Οδυσσεύς,
ἢ ἐλάσει’ ὥς μιν ψυχὴ λίποι αὖθι πεσόντα,
ἦέ μιν ἦκ’ ἐλάσειε τανύσσειέν τ’ ἐπὶ γαίῃ.
ὧδε δέ οἱ φρονέοντι δοάσσατο κέρδιον εἶναι,
ἦκ’ ἐλάσαι, ἵνα μή μιν ἐπιφρασσαίατ’ ᾿Αχαιοί.
δὴ τότ’ ἀνασχομένω ὁ μὲν ἤλασε δεξιὸν ὦμον
῏Ιρος, ὁ δ’ αὐχέν’ ἔλασσεν ὑπ’ οὔατος, ὀστέα δ’ εἴσω
ἔθλασεν· αὐτίκα δ’ ἦλθεν ἀνὰ στόμα φοίνιον αἷμα,
κὰδ δ’ ἔπεσ’ ἐν κονίῃσι μακών, σὺν δ’ ἤλασ’ ὀδόντας
λακτίζων ποσὶ γαῖαν· ἀτὰρ μνηστῆρες ἀγαυοὶ
χεῖρας ἀνασχόμενοι γέλῳ ἔκθανον. αὐτὰρ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς

This post is in honor of Paul Holdengraber and his fabulous interviews with the pugilist Mike Tyson.


A Twitter correspondent aptly added this:


Homer, Eustathius, and the Force of Alastos (“Unforgettable”)

When Thetis comes to Zeus in the 24th book of the Iliad, the father of gods and men seems to empathize with her.

“You have come to Olympus, divine Thetis, though in grief, carrying unforgettable sorrow in your heart. I know this myself.”

ἤλυθες Οὔλυμπον δὲ θεὰ Θέτι κηδομένη περ,
πένθος ἄλαστον ἔχουσα μετὰ φρεσίν· οἶδα καὶ αὐτός· Il. 24.104-105

Eustathius found the use of the adjective alaston here particularly interesting.

Eustathius, Comm ad Il. 4.875

“To have grief unceasing (which is from epalastein, to be troubled) should be translated as “grieving” [as in a funeral], since feeling the affliction of mourning is in these words, grieving. This grief is in fact for Achilles who is still living; Thetis has drawn the dark veil across her face as is appropriate for those mourning over corpses.”

(v. 105) Τὸ δὲ πένθος ἔχειν ἄλαστον, ἐξ οὗ τὸ ἐπαλαστεῖν, ἐφερμηνευτικόν ἐστι τοῦ κήδεσθαι, ἵνα ᾗ ἐν τοῖς ῥηθεῖσι κήδεσθαι τὸ πενθικῶς βλάπτεσθαι. (v. 93 s.) ῞Οτι διὰ πένθος τὸ ἐπὶ ᾿Αχιλλεῖ, καὶ ταῦτα ζῶντι ἔτι, κάλυμμα ἡ Θέτις ἕλε κυάνεον, ὡς εἰκὸς τοὺς ἐπὶ νεκροῖς παθαινομένους. «τοῦ δ’ οὔ τι μελάντερον ἔπλετο ἔσθος».

In an earlier passage, Eustathius acknowledges that this adjective may have a broader semantic field:

Eustath. Comm ad Il II 4.613

“Look how wise and fitting it is that Achilles calls Hecktor alastos, because he is grieving unceasingly. For as he hurries to this task he does not take pleasure in the insult. Not only does the word alastôr (“avenger; sinner”) derive from alastos, but it also provides alastein (ἀλαστεῖν; “to be angry”) and the compound epalastein (ἐπαλαστεῖν; “to be troubled”) which appears in the Odyssey.

῞Ορα δὲ, ὡς ἠρκέσθη νῦν σωφρόνως ὁ ᾿Αχιλλεὺς ἄλαστον εἰπεῖν τὸν ῞Εκτορα, ὡς ἀλάθητα λυπήσαντα. σπεύδων γὰρ εἰς ἔργον ὕβρεσιν οὐκ ἐνευκαιρεῖ. ἐκ δὲ τοῦ ἄλαστος οὐ μόνον ὁ ἀλάστωρ παράγεται, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ ἀλαστεῖν καὶ συνθέτως δὲ ἐπαλαστεῖν, ὅπερ ἐν ᾿Οδυσσείᾳ κεῖται.

The etymology of the adjective might look like this:

ἄλαστος: alastos, likely from the root *lath-, “escape memory”; cf. Gk.  λανθάνω (“escape notice”); ἀληθής (“true”); λήθη (“forgetfulness”).  It is also realted to ἀλάστωρ (alástôr, “avenger”) as “one who does not forget”.  Ancient folk etymologies also relate it falsely to alaomai (“to wander”) and some modern scholars have suggested a visual root (e.g. laô).  See Chaintraine s.v. ἀλάστωρ..

Post-epic, the adjective more often means “cursed” (cf. Soph. Oed. 1483: ἄλαστον ἄνδρ’) and the root is productive in verbs like alastein (ἀλαστεῖν; “to be angry”) and the compound epalastein (ἐπαλαστεῖν; “to be troubled”).

Far Better People than You Have Died (Lucretius and Homer)

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 3.1034-1053

“You may on occasion say this to yourself:
Noble Ancus* loosed the light from his eyes,
A man who was better than imperfect you in many ways.
And from there, many other kings and luminaries
Died too, men who ruled over great nations.
That very man* who once laid a great road across a vast sea
To provide a path for his armies upon the deep
And taught them to dance across the crescent salt
As he pranced with his horses and dismissed the sea’s roar—
He poured out his soul when his body died and he was robbed of the light.
Clan Scipio’s son, the bolt of war, the scourge of Carthage,
Gave his bones to the earth just as a humble servant would.
Add to these men the inventors of theories and beauty,
Add as well the friends of the Muses whose single Homer,
the sceptered lord, has been quieted in sleep like the rest.
Democritus, too, when advanced age finally warned him
That the moving memories of his mind were fading,
He freely offered his own head to his end.
Epicurus as well departed when the light of his life ran its course,
He surpassed the race of man with his genius, who overshown
The light of all men the way the sun washes out the stars—
And now you will hesitate and be angry to die?
You whose life is already nearly dead, though you live and see,
You who squander the greater part of life in sleep
And snore wide-awake, never breaking from seeing dreams,
As you carry a mind tortured by empty fear.
You can’t figure out what ails you, you poor drunk,
When you are oppressed by so many anxieties everywhere
As you wander adrift on the uncertain compulsions of your mind.”

Hoc etiam tibi tute interdum dicere possis.
‘lumina sis oculis etiam bonus Ancus reliquit,
qui melior multis quam tu fuit, improbe, rebus.
inde alii multi reges rerumque potentes
occiderunt, magnis qui gentibus imperitarunt.
ille quoque ipse, viam qui quondam per mare magnum
stravit iterque dedit legionibus ire per altum
ac pedibus salsas docuit super ire lucunas
et contempsit equis insultans murmura ponti,
lumine adempto animam moribundo corpore fudit.
Scipiadas, belli fulmen, Carthaginis horror,
ossa dedit terrae proinde ac famul infimus esset.
adde repertores doctrinarum atque leporum,
adde Heliconiadum comites; quorum unus Homerus
sceptra potitus eadem aliis sopitus quietest.
denique Democritum post quam matura vetustas
admonuit memores motus languescere mentis,
sponte sua leto caput obvius optulit ipse.
ipse Epicurus obit decurso lumine vitae,
qui genus humanum ingenio superavit et omnis
restinxit stellas exortus ut aetherius sol.
tu vero dubitabis et indignabere obire?
mortua cui vita est prope iam vivo atque videnti,
qui somno partem maiorem conteris aevi,
et viligans stertis nec somnia cernere cessas
sollicitamque geris cassa formidine mentem
nec reperire potes tibi quid sit saepe mali, cum
ebrius urgeris multis miser undique curis
atque animo incerto fluitans errore vagaris.’

This passage reminds me in part of Achilles’ famous vaunt to Lykaon (a man he had previously ransomed) in the Iliad (21.106-113)

“But you die too, friend. Really, why are you grieving thus?
Patroklos also died, and he was much better than you.
Don’t you see how handsome and large I am?
I come from a noble father and a goddess mother bore me—
But, even now, death and compelling fate await me.
The time will come at dawn, dusk, or the middle of the day
When someone rips the life even from me with Ares’ power
As he strikes with a spear or an arrow from its string.”

ἀλλὰ φίλος θάνε καὶ σύ· τί ἦ ὀλοφύρεαι οὕτως;
κάτθανε καὶ Πάτροκλος, ὅ περ σέο πολλὸν ἀμείνων.
οὐχ ὁράᾳς οἷος καὶ ἐγὼ καλός τε μέγας τε;
πατρὸς δ’ εἴμ’ ἀγαθοῖο, θεὰ δέ με γείνατο μήτηρ·
ἀλλ’ ἔπι τοι καὶ ἐμοὶ θάνατος καὶ μοῖρα κραταιή·
ἔσσεται ἢ ἠὼς ἢ δείλη ἢ μέσον ἦμαρ
ὁππότε τις καὶ ἐμεῖο ῎Αρῃ ἐκ θυμὸν ἕληται
ἢ ὅ γε δουρὶ βαλὼν ἢ ἀπὸ νευρῆφιν ὀϊστῷ.


*Ancus was the fourth king of Rome

*Xerxes (who built pontoon bridge across the Hellespont to bring an army into Greece c. 480 BCE)


Post-Script: I can’t really say that either passages offer much solace to me. It is a given that everyone dies, true, but however unimpressive I am, it still seems absurd at all to exist rather than not exist. To close the circle by ending it seems, even if appropriate, equally absurd.  I’m with Dylan Thomas, I fear, raging….

Fighting Over Helen Just Might Make Sense

Homer, Iliad 3.3.146-160


The men who were near Priam, Panthoos, Thymoites
Lampos, Klutios, and Hiketaôn, the descendent of Ares,
Were Oukalegôn and Antênôr, two intelligent men.
The council of elders sat there on the Skaian gates
Slowed by old age, but still fine public speakers
Something like cicadas who sit on the leaf
Of a tree trailing along their lily-thin voices.
When they saw Helen approaching the wall,
They addressed each other with winged words:
“There’s no reason to criticize the Trojans and well-greaved Achaeans
For suffering pain for so long for this woman.
She has the terrible appearance of the immortal goddesses.
But, even though she is like this, let her return in the ships,
To prevent more pain from being left for our children.”
Οἳ δ’ ἀμφὶ Πρίαμον καὶ Πάνθοον ἠδὲ Θυμοίτην
Λάμπόν τε Κλυτίον θ’ ῾Ικετάονά τ’ ὄζον ῎Αρηος
Οὐκαλέγων τε καὶ ᾿Αντήνωρ πεπνυμένω ἄμφω
ἥατο δημογέροντες ἐπὶ Σκαιῇσι πύλῃσι,
γήραϊ δὴ πολέμοιο πεπαυμένοι, ἀλλ’ ἀγορηταὶ
ἐσθλοί, τεττίγεσσιν ἐοικότες οἵ τε καθ’ ὕλην
δενδρέῳ ἐφεζόμενοι ὄπα λειριόεσσαν ἱεῖσι·
τοῖοι ἄρα Τρώων ἡγήτορες ἧντ’ ἐπὶ πύργῳ.
οἳ δ’ ὡς οὖν εἴδονθ’ ῾Ελένην ἐπὶ πύργον ἰοῦσαν,
ἦκα πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἔπεα πτερόεντ’ ἀγόρευον·
οὐ νέμεσις Τρῶας καὶ ἐϋκνήμιδας ᾿Αχαιοὺς
τοιῇδ’ ἀμφὶ γυναικὶ πολὺν χρόνον ἄλγεα πάσχειν·
αἰνῶς ἀθανάτῃσι θεῇς εἰς ὦπα ἔοικεν·
ἀλλὰ καὶ ὧς τοίη περ ἐοῦσ’ ἐν νηυσὶ νεέσθω,
μηδ’ ἡμῖν τεκέεσσί τ’ ὀπίσσω πῆμα λίποιτο.

This passage is famous for showing the marginalization of the Trojan elders and for acting as a preface to the famous (and sometimes thought illogical) “viewing from the walls” (Teikhoskopia) when Helen names the Greek warriors for Priam (even though they’ve been fighting before Troy for 9 years). The elders essentially say, yeah, we get it, she’s hot. But, in the wisdom brought by old age, they insist she isn’t worth it.

Perhaps the Trojan elders understand better the insanity of lust than Herodotus (2.110):

“If Helen really were in Ilium, they would have given her back to the Greeks whether Paris wanted them to or not. Priam was not so out of his mind, nor were his other subjects, that they would want to risk their own bodies and children and the city itself just so that Paris could sleep with Helen.”

εἰ ἦν Ἑλένη ἐν Ἰλίῳ, ἀποδοθῆναι ἂν αὐτὴν τοῖσι Ἕλλησι ἤτοι ἑκόντος γε ἢ ἀέκοντοςἈλεξάνδρου. οὐ γὰρ δὴ οὕτω γε φρενοβλαβὴς ἦν ὁ Πρίαμος οὐδὲ οἱ ἄλλοι οἱ προσήκοντες αὐτῷ, ὥστε τοῖσι σφετέροισι σώμασι καὶ τοῖσι τέκνοισι καὶ τῇ πόλι κινδυνεύειν ἐβούλοντο, ὅκως Ἀλέξανδρος Ἑλένῃ συνοικέῃ.

Of course, arguing about Helen was a central part of early Greek responses to myth. Helen received a great deal of blame for the Trojan War,even though from the beginning it is clear that the gods were using her for their own plans. (Her father was blamed by some for her infidelity.) In the Classical period, debating Helen’s fault was an established rhetorical practice. But one of the earlier and more creative responses about the whole affair was a “shaggy” defense: it wasn’t her! It was someone who looked like her:

“This is not the true tale:
You never went in the well-benched ships
You did not go to the towers of Troy…
[It is a fault in Homer that
He put Helen in Troy
And not her image only;
It is a fault in Hesiod
In another: there are two, differing
Recantations and this is the beginning.
Come here, dance loving goddess;
Golden-winged, maiden,
As Khamaileôn put it.
Stesichorus himself says that
an image [eidolon] went to troy
and that Helen stayed back
with Prôteus…”

οὐκ ἔστ’ ἔτυμος λόγος οὗτος,
οὐδ’ ἔβας ἐν νηυσὶν ἐυσσέλμοις
οὐδ’ ἵκεο πέργαμα Τροίας,
[ μέμ-
φεται τὸν ῞Ομηρο[ν ὅτι ῾Ε-
λέ]νην ἐποίησεν ἐν Τ[ροίαι
καὶ οὐ τὸ εἴδωλον αὐτῆ[ς, ἔν
τε τ[ῆι] ἑτέραι τὸν ῾Ησίοδ[ον
μέμ[φετ]αι· διτταὶ γάρ εἰσι πα-
λινωιδλλάττουσαι, καὶ ἔ-
στιν ἡ μὲν ἀρχή· δεῦρ’ αὖ-
τε θεὰ φιλόμολπε, τῆς δέ·
χρυσόπτερε παρθένε, ὡς
ἀνέγραψε Χαμαιλέων· αὐ-
τὸ[ς δ]έ φησ[ιν ὁ] Στησίχορο[ς
τὸ μὲν ε[ἴδωλο]ν ἐλθεῖ[ν ἐς
Τροίαν τὴν δ’ ῾Ελένην π[αρὰ
τῶι Πρωτεῖ καταμεῖν[αι· …

Herodotus tells this story too. But Hesiod blames the whole thing on Helen’s father’s infidelity.

Homer, Odyssey 11.100-117: Teiresias implies that the Arrival of the Suitors is Odysseus’ Fault

[Today the Almeida Theater in the UK is presenting a live reading of the Odyssey. Duly inspired, we are re-posting some of our favorite Odyssey themed posts]

“You seek a thought-softening homecoming, Odysseus: but the god has made it hard for you, since I do not think that the earth-shaker will forget anger he set in his heart, enraged as he is because you blinded his dear son. But still, even now, though you have suffered evils, you may come home, if indeed you wish to save your own life and your companions. When your well-made ship first nears the island of Thrinakia as you wander over the dark sea, you will find the cattle and fat flocks of Helios who oversees and witnesses everything. If you leave them alone and think of your homecoming, then you will return to Ithaca, even though you have suffered evils. If you harm them, that will be a sign of ruin for your ship and companions. Even if you survive yourself, you will come home badly, after losing all of your companions, and you will find pain in your house: arrogant men who consume your household, suitors of your godly wife and bringers of bridegifts.”

‘νόστον δίζηαι μελιηδέα, φαίδιμ’ ᾿Οδυσσεῦ• 100
τὸν δέ τοι ἀργαλέον θήσει θεός. οὐ γὰρ ὀΐω
λήσειν ἐννοσίγαιον, ὅ τοι κότον ἔνθετο θυμῷ,
χωόμενος ὅτι οἱ υἱὸν φίλον ἐξαλάωσας.
ἀλλ’ ἔτι μέν κε καὶ ὧς, κακά περ πάσχοντες, ἵκοισθε,
αἴ κ’ ἐθέλῃς σὸν θυμὸν ἐρυκακέειν καὶ ἑταίρων, 105
ὁππότε κεν πρῶτον πελάσῃς εὐεργέα νῆα
Θρινακίῃ νήσῳ, προφυγὼν ἰοειδέα πόντον,
βοσκομένας δ’ εὕρητε βόας καὶ ἴφια μῆλα
᾿Ηελίου, ὃς πάντ’ ἐφορᾷ καὶ πάντ’ ἐπακούει.
τὰς εἰ μέν κ’ ἀσινέας ἐάᾳς νόστου τε μέδηαι, 110
καί κεν ἔτ’ εἰς ᾿Ιθάκην, κακά περ πάσχοντες, ἵκοισθε•
εἰ δέ κε σίνηαι, τότε τοι τεκμαίρομ’ ὄλεθρον
νηΐ τε καὶ ἑτάροισ’. αὐτὸς δ’ εἴ πέρ κεν ἀλύξῃς,
ὀψὲ κακῶς νεῖαι, ὀλέσας ἄπο πάντας ἑταίρους,
νηὸς ἐπ’ ἀλλοτρίης• δήεις δ’ ἐν πήματα οἴκῳ, 115
ἄνδρας ὑπερφιάλους, οἵ τοι βίοτον κατέδουσι
μνώμενοι ἀντιθέην ἄλοχον καὶ ἕδνα διδόντες.

(1) Some god made your homecoming hard (100); Poseidon is angry (101-102); Helios will be angry (109-110)
(2) You blinded Polyphemos (making Poseidon angry, 103)
(3) Your men might harm the flocks (angering Helios, 108-11)
(4) They will suffer and so will you

The divine actions are positioned as reactions to human action (itself unmotivated by the divine). So if Odysseus had not angered Poseidon then they would not end up on Thrinakia where his companions would not have the option to anger Helios by eating his sacred cows.

All of this is in accord with Zeus’ opening statement in the Odyssey where he complains that Aigisthus ignored divine warnings (1.32-34)

ὢ πόποι, οἷον δή νυ θεοὺς βροτοὶ αἰτιόωνται.
ἐξ ἡμέων γάρ φασι κάκ’ ἔμμεναι• οἱ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ
σφῇσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὑπὲρ μόρον ἄλγε’ ἔχουσιν

Mortals! They are always blaming the gods and saying that evil comes from us when they themselves suffer pain beyond their lot because of their own recklessness.

The Consumption of Metis, Birth of Athena, and Creation of the Aegis (Hes. frag. 343)

The following fragment of Hesiod (343 MW) is preserved by Galen and appears to come out of a tradition presenting a catalog of Zeus’ wives.  In this is overlaps in content with Hesiod’s Theogony (806-901 and following) which has a similar order.  Some of the details, however, are a bit different.  Of special notice is the description of Metis’ hanging out in Zeus’ entrails or the creation of the Aegis.

“Because of that rivalry, [Hera] bore a famous son,
Hephaistos, on her own without aegis-bearing Zeus,
A son who surpassed all of the gods with his hands.
But [Zeus] stretched out next to the daughter of
Ocean and well-tressed Tethys apart from fair-cheeked Hera,
As he surprised Metis, even though she knows much.
He grabbed her with his hands and put her in his belly,
Because he feared that she might bear something stronger than lightning.
This is the reason that Kronos’ royal son who lives in the sky
Suddenly swallowed her whole. She was immediately pregnant
With Pallas Athena, whom the father of men and gods produced
Through his head near the banks of the river Tritôn.
Mêtis sat hidden beneath Zeus’ entrails,
That mother of Athena, creator of just affairs,
The one who knows most of gods and mortal men.
Then the goddess Themis stretched out beside him,
She surpassed all gods who have Olympian homes with her skilled handsl
She made the aegis, that army-routing armor of Athena,
Alongside the one who bore her, Athena dressed in warrior’s arms.”

Galenus, De placitis Hippocr. et Plat. iii. 8 p. 318 Müller
(=Chrysippus fr. 908, Stoic. Vet. Fr. 11. 256 v. Arnim)

ἐκ ταύτης ἔριδος ἣ μὲν τέκε φαίδιμον υἱὸν
῞Ηφαιστον †τέχνηισιν ἄνευ Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο
ἐκ πάντων παλάμηισι κεκασμένον Οὐρανιώνων·
αὐτὰρ ὅ γ’ ᾿Ωκεανοῦ καὶ Τηθύος ἠυκόμοιο
κούρηι νόσφ’ ῞Ηρης παρελέξατο καλλιπαρήου
ἐξαπαφὼν Μῆτιν καίπερ πολύιδριν ἐοῦσαν·
συμμάρψας δ’ ὅ γε χερσὶν ἑὴν ἐγκάτθετο νηδύν,
δείσας μὴ τέξηι κρατερώτερον ἄλλο κεραυνοῦ·
τούνεκά μιν Κρονίδης ὑψίζυγος αἰθέρι ναίων
κάππιεν ἐξαπίνης. ἣ δ’ αὐτίκα Παλλάδ’ ᾿Αθήνην
κύσατο· τὴν μὲν ἔτικτε πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε
πὰρ κορυφήν, Τρίτωνος ἐπ’ ὄχθηισιν ποταμοῖο.
Μῆτις δ’ αὖτε Ζηνὸς ὑπὸ σπλάγχνοις λελαθυῖα
ἧστο, ᾿Αθηναίης μήτηρ, τέκταινα δικαίων,
πλεῖστα θεῶν εἰδυῖα καταθνητῶν τ’ ἀνθρώπων.
†ἔνθα θεὰ παρέλεκτο Θέμις† παλάμαις περὶ πάντων
ἀθανάτων ἐκέκασθ’ οἳ ᾿Ολύμπια δώματ’ ἔχουσιν,
αἰγίδα ποιήσασα φοβέστρατον ἔντος ᾿Αθήνης·
σὺν τῆι ἐγείνατό μιν, πολεμήϊα τεύχε’ ἔχουσαν.

Half is Greater than the Whole: Hesiod on Corruption in the Courtroom

Works and Days, 27-41

“O Perses, keep these things in your mind
and don’t let the evil-hearted strife keep your heart from work
while you lurk about observing conflict in the assembly.
For the season of conflicts and assemblies is a short one
for any man whose life is not abundantly stocked at home
in time, when the earth produces Demeter’s bounty.
After you have made your fill of that, you can reap conflicts and strife
over another’s possessions. It will not be possible for you a second time
to act like this. But let us bring our conflict to a resolution,
with straight judgements, whichever ones are best from Zeus.
For we have already divided up our inheritence, but you
made off with much more as you kowtowed to bribe-taking
kings, the men who long judge this kind of case.
The fools, they do not know how much half is greater than the whole
Nor how much wealth is in mallow and asphodel.”

῏Ω Πέρση, σὺ δὲ ταῦτα τεῷ ἐνικάτθεο θυμῷ,
μηδέ σ’ ῎Ερις κακόχαρτος ἀπ’ ἔργου θυμὸν ἐρύκοι
νείκε’ ὀπιπεύοντ’ ἀγορῆς ἐπακουὸν ἐόντα.
ὤρη γάρ τ’ ὀλίγη πέλεται νεικέων τ’ ἀγορέων τε
ᾧτινι μὴ βίος ἔνδον ἐπηετανὸς κατάκειται
ὡραῖος, τὸν γαῖα φέρει, Δημήτερος ἀκτήν.
τοῦ κε κορεσσάμενος νείκεα καὶ δῆριν ὀφέλλοις
κτήμασ’ ἐπ’ ἀλλοτρίοις. σοὶ δ’ οὐκέτι δεύτερον ἔσται
ὧδ’ ἔρδειν• ἀλλ’ αὖθι διακρινώμεθα νεῖκος
ἰθείῃσι δίκῃς, αἵ τ’ ἐκ Διός εἰσιν ἄρισται.
ἤδη μὲν γὰρ κλῆρον ἐδασσάμεθ’, ἄλλα τε πολλὰ
ἁρπάζων ἐφόρεις μέγα κυδαίνων βασιλῆας
δωροφάγους, οἳ τήνδε δίκην ἐθέλουσι δικάσσαι.
νήπιοι, οὐδὲ ἴσασιν ὅσῳ πλέον ἥμισυ παντὸς
οὐδ’ ὅσον ἐν μαλάχῃ τε καὶ ἀσφοδέλῳ μέγ’ ὄνειαρ.

This passage occurs right after Hesiod has described the two different types of Eris. By implication, a man attended by the better strife works hard to put up his own food and does not have time to be sated by strife and conflict over someone else’s possessions (τοῦ κε κορεσσάμενος νείκεα καὶ δῆριν ὀφέλλοις / κτήμασ’ ἐπ’ ἀλλοτρίοις). Only after establishing these principles does Hesiod turn back to the personal conflict: they have already divided their inheritance (ἤδη μὲν γὰρ κλῆρον ἐδασσάμεθ’) but his brother has engaged bribe-taking officials to make a judgment against him to get more.

Fragmentary Friday III: The Sons Came Second, the Epigonoi

As early as Herodotus (4.32) it was doubted that the epic that told the story of the sons of the Seven Against Thebes was by Homer. Instead, it was attributed later to a man named Antimachus from Teios. We have two lines most people agree on, and a handful of uncertain lines.

Fr. 1 (From the Contest of Homer and Hesiod)

“Now, Muses, let us sing in turn of the younger men”
Νῦν αὖθ’ ὁπλοτέρων ἀνδρῶν ἀρχώμεθα, Μοῦσαι

Fr. 4 (From Clement of Alexandria)

“Many evils come to men from gifts”

ἐκ γὰρ δώρων πολλὰ κάκ’ ἀνθρώποισι πέλονται.

Fr. 6 (Dub. from the Contest of Homer and Hesiod)

“So then they divided the meat of bulls and wiped clean
The sweat-covered necks of horses, since they had their fill of war.”

ὣς οἱ μὲν δαίνυντο βοῶν κρέα, καὐχένας ἵππων
ἔκλυον ἱδρώοντας, ἐπεὶ πολέμοιο κορέσθην.

Fr. 7 (Dub. From Scholia to Aristophanes’ Peace)

“They girded themselves for war once they stopped….
And they poured out of the towers as an invincible cry arose.”

θωρήσσοντ’ ἄρ’ ἔπειτα πεπαυμένοι
πύργων δ’ ἐξεχέοντο, βοὴ δ’ ἄσβεστος ὀρώρει.

Commentary on the Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 8: Lines 99-109

This is the eighth installation of our working Commentary on the Homeric “Battle of Frogs and Mice.” As always, comments, corrections and additions are welcome.

99 ῝Ως εἰπὼν ἀπέπνευσεν ἐν ὕδασι• τὸν δὲ κατεῖδεν
100 Λειχοπίναξ ὄχθῃσιν ἐφεζόμενος μαλακῇσιν•
101 δεινὸν δ’ ἐξολόλυξε, δραμὼν δ’ ἤγγειλε μύεσσιν.
102 ὡς δ’ ἔμαθον τὴν μοῖραν ἔδυ χόλος αἰνὸς ἅπαντας.
103 καὶ τότε κηρύκεσσιν ἑοῖς ἐκέλευσαν ὑπ’ ὄρθρον
104 κηρύσσειν ἀγορήνδ’ ἐς δώματα Τρωξάρταο,
105 πατρὸς δυστήνου Ψιχάρπαγος, ὃς κατὰ λίμνην
106 ὕπτιος ἐξήπλωτο νεκρὸν δέμας, οὐδὲ παρ’ ὄχθαις
107 ἦν ἤδη τλήμων, μέσσῳ δ’ ἐπενήχετο πόντῳ.
108 ὡς δ’ ἦλθον σπεύδοντες ἅμ’ ἠοῖ, πρῶτος ἀνέστη
109 Τρωξάρτης ἐπὶ παιδὶ χολούμενος, εἶπέ τε μῦθον•

Continue reading “Commentary on the Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 8: Lines 99-109”

Odysseus begins his song (Homer, Od. 9.14-20)

“What shall I say first and what shall I say last?
The Ouranian gods gave me so many pains.
But first I will say my name so that you all will know it
since I have avoided a pitiless day and have come
to join you as a guest in these halls.
I am Odysseus, the son of Laertes, known among all men
for tricks: my fame reaches even up to heaven.”

τί πρῶτόν τοι ἔπειτα, τί δ’ ὑστάτιον καταλέξω;
κήδε’ ἐπεί μοι πολλὰ δόσαν θεοὶ Οὐρανίωνες.
νῦν δ’ ὄνομα πρῶτον μυθήσομαι, ὄφρα καὶ ὑμεῖς
εἴδετ’, ἐγὼ δ’ ἂν ἔπειτα φυγὼν ὕπο νηλεὲς ἦμαρ
ὑμῖν ξεῖνος ἔω καὶ ἀπόπροθι δώματα ναίων.
εἴμ’ ᾿Οδυσεὺς Λαερτιάδης, ὃς πᾶσι δόλοισιν
ἀνθρώποισι μέλω, καί μευ κλέος οὐρανὸν ἵκει.