Ah, It Was All Helen’s Fault

This may be one of the strangest poems about Helen. Note that Thetis goes unnamed.

Alcaeus,  fr. 42 (P. Oxy. 1233 fr. 2 ii 1–16)

“The story is that bitter grief from evil deeds
Came to Priam and his children, thanks to you
Helen, and so Zeus destroyed
Holy Troy.

Not like this was the tender virgin
Peleus acquired when he called all the blessed
Gods to his marriage, once he took her from
Nereus’ halls

To the home of Kheiron. He loosened
The girdle of the holy maiden. And the ‘love’
Of Peleus and the best of the Nereids grew
For a year.

And produced a child, the best of the demigods,
A blessed driver of fiery horses.
But they died for Helen, the Phrygians
And their city too.”

ὠς λόγος, κάκων ἄ[χος ἔννεκ᾿ ἔργων
Περράμῳ καὶ παῖσ[ί ποτ᾿, Ὦλεν᾿, ἦλθεν
ἐκ σέθεν πίκρον, π[ύρι δ᾿ ὤλεσε Ζεῦς
Ἴλιον ἴραν.

οὐ τεαύταν Αἰακίδα̣ι̣ [ς ἄγαυος
πάντας ἐς γάμον μάκ̣ [αρας καλέσαις
ἄγετ᾿ ἐκ Νή[ρ]ηος ἔλων [μελάθρων
πάρθενον ἄβραν

ἐς δόμον Χέρρωνος· ἔλ[υσε δ᾿ ἄγνας
ζῶμα παρθένω· φιλό[τας δ᾿ ἔθαλε
Πήλεος καὶ Νηρεΐδων ἀρίστ[ας,
ἐς δ᾿ ἐνίαυτον

παῖδα γέννατ᾿ αἰμιθέων [φέριστον
ὄλβιον ξάνθαν ἐλάτη[ρα πώλων·
οἰ δ᾿ ἀπώλοντ᾿ ἀμφ᾿ Ἐ[λένᾳ Φρύγες τε
καὶ πόλις αὔτων.

Image result for ancient greek helen vase

Whoa, Wednesday–We Still Have Sappho

Sappho, Fr. 5 (P. Oxy. 7 + 2289. 6) 1-8

Kypris and Nereids—let my brother
come here unharmed and grant
Everything he wishes to have happen
In his heart

May he make up for all the things he did wrong before
And become a source of joy for his friends
And grief for his enemies, and may he no longer
Be a pain for us.

Κύπρι καὶ] Νηρήιδες ἀβλάβη[ν μοι
τὸν κασί]γνητον δ[ό]τε τυίδ’ ἴκεσθα[ι
κὤσσα v]ο̣ι̣ θύμωι κε θέληι γένεσθαι
πάντα τε]λέσθην,

ὄσσα δὲ πρ]όσθ’ ἄμβροτε πάντα λῦσα[ι
καὶ φίλοισ]ι vοῖσι χάραν γένεσθαι
<κὠνίαν> ἔ]χθροισι, γένοιτο δ’ ἄμμι
<πῆμ᾿ ἔτι >μ]ηδ’ εἴς·

Image result for ancient greek brother statue
Fourth Century BCE Grave Relief

On Falling in Love in Old Age

87 Plato Parmen. 137a and Ibykos fr. 287

“And I certainly seem to be experiencing the fate of Ibykos’ horse, a prize-winner who, even though old, was about to compete in the chariot race and was trembling because of experience at what was about to happen. Ibykos compared himself to him when he said that he too was old and was being compelled to move towards lust”

καίτοι δοκῶ μοι τὸ τοῦ Ἰβυκείου ἵππου πεπονθέναι ᾧ ἐκεῖνος ἀθλητῇ ὄντι καὶ πρεσβυτέρῳ ὑφ᾿ ἅρματι μέλλοντι ἀγωνιεῖσθαι καὶ δι᾿ ἐμπειρίαν τρέμοντι τὸ μέλλον ἑαυτὸν ἀπεικάζων ἄκων ἔφη καὶ αὐτὸς οὕτω πρεσβευτὴς ὢν εἰς τὸν ἔρωτα ἀναγκάζεσθαι ἰέναι.

schol. ad loc. 

[Scholiast] Here is the saying of Ibykos the lyric poet:

τὸ τοῦ μελοποιοῦ Ἰβύκου ῥητόν·

“Love again, gazing up from under dark lashes,
Throws me down with every kind of spell
Into the Cyprian’s endless nets.
In truth, I tremble at this arrival,
Just as a prize-winning horse on the yoke in old age
Goes into the contest with his swift wheels, but not willingly.”

Ἔρος αὖτέ με κυανέοισιν ὑπὸ
βλεφάροις τακέρ᾿ ὄμμασι δερκόμενος
κηλήμασι παντοδαποῖς ἐς ἀπειρα
δίκτυα Κύπριδος ἐσβάλλει·
ἦ μὰν τρομέω νιν ἐπερχόμενον,
ὥστε φερέζυγος ἵππος ἀεθλοφόρος ποτὶ γήρᾳ
ἀέκων σὺν ὄχεσφι θοοῖς ἐς ἅμιλλαν ἔβα

Image result for ancient greek chariot horse
A force of nature

Tawdry Tuesday Bonus: An Epigram About Sharing

This poem is erotic, in that it is about love and sex. It is tawdry, only if you read ito it.

5.158 Asclepiades

Once I was messing around with compelling Hermione
Who had a girdle decorated with flowers, Paphian goddess,
And inscribed with golden letters. This was written:

‘Love me to completion
And don’t be annoyed if another has me.’

Ἑρμιόνῃ πιθανῇ ποτ᾽ ἐγὼ συνέπαιζον, ἐχούσῃ
ζωνίον ἐξ ἀνθέων ποικίλον, ὦ Παφίη,
χρύσεα γράμματ᾽ ἔχον· “διόλου” δ᾽ ἐγέγραπτο “φίλει με,
καὶ μὴ λυπηθῇς ἤν τις ἔχῃ μ᾽ ἕτερος.”

AN APHRODITE WITH PRIAPOS H. 5.9 cm. Bone Greek, Hellenistic, 3rd-1st cent. B.C. The goddess stands in a relaxed pose, a mantle draped around her waist on a rectangular base. She leans with the left arm on her son Priapos, who is characteristically depicted with an erect phallus and fruit. The precise and detailed rendition show that this is a high-quality piece. Head and right arm of Aphrodite lost.
Statue of Aphrodite with Priapos

“My Soul Tried to Cross Our Lips”: More Platonic Love

Two more love poems attributed to Plato

Diogenes Laertius Vita Phil 1.3 [Plato 31] and Athenaeus 589e

“I have a lover from Kolophôn named Arkheanassa—
Potent lust rests even on her wrinkles
Poor wretches who met her during the first sailing
Of her youth—what a conflagration you passed through!”

Ἀρχεάνασσαν ἔχω τὴν ἐκ Κολοφῶνος ἑταίραν,
ἧς καὶ ἐπὶ ῥυτίδων ἕζετο δριμὺς ἔρως.
ἆ δειλοὶ νεότητος ἀπαντήσαντες ἐκείνης
πρωτοπλόου, δι᾿ ὅσης ἤλθετε πυρκαϊῆς.

The Greek Anth. 7.217 attributes a slightly different version to Asclepiades

“I have Arkheanassa, a lover from Kolophôn—
Sweet lust rests even on her wrinkles
Oh lovers who harvested the fruit of her youth
At first bloom—what a conflagration you passed through!”

Ἀρχεάνασσαν ἔχω, τὰν ἐκ Κολοφῶνος ἑταίραν,
ἇς καὶ ἐπὶ ῥυτίδων ὁ γλυκὺς ἕζετ᾿ Ἔρως.
ἆ νέον ἥβης ἄνθος ἀποδρέψαντες ἐρασταὶ
πρωτοβόλου, δι᾿ ὅσης ἤλθετε πυρκαϊῆς.

D. L = Gr. Anth. 7.78

“When kissing Agathon I felt my soul at my lips.
The wretch—for she was trying to cross between us.”

τὴν ψυχὴν Ἀγάθωνα φιλῶν ἐπὶ χείλεσιν εἶχον·
ἦλθε γὰρ ἡ τλήμων ὡς διαβησομένη.

According to Aelian, Plato’s career as a poet was cut short (Varia Historia 2.30); but note, though there is mention of epic and tragedy, the anecdote makes no claims for lyric and elegy:

“Plato, the son of Ariston, at first pursued poetry and used to write heroic verse. But he soon burned it all because he despised it, since he reckoned that his poetry was far inferior when compared to Homer’s. He then tried tragedy and even completed a tetralogy, and he was about to enter the competition, even to the point of giving the verses to actors. But right before the Dionysia, he went and heard Socrates; and once he was seized by that Siren, he not only withdrew from the competition, but he also gave up the writing of tragedy for good to immerse himself in philosophy.”

Πλάτων ὁ ᾿Αρίστωνος τὰ πρῶτα ἐπὶ ποιητικὴν ὥρμησε, καὶ ἡρωϊκὰ ἔγραφε μέτρα• εἶτα αὐτὰ κατέπρησεν ὑπεριδὼν αὐτῶν, ἐπεὶ τοῖς ῾Ομήρου αὐτὰ ἀντικρίνων ἑώρα κατὰ πολὺ ἡττώμενα. ἐπέθετο οὖν τραγῳδίᾳ, καὶ δὴ καὶ τετραλογίαν εἰργάσατο, καὶ ἔμελλεν ἀγωνιεῖσθαι, δοὺς ἤδη τοῖς ὑποκριταῖς τὰ ποιήματα. πρὸ τῶν Διονυσίων δὲ παρελθὼν ἤκουσε Σωκράτους, καὶ ἅπαξ αἱρεθεὶς ὑπὸ τῆς ἐκείνου σειρῆνος, τοῦ ἀγωνίσματος οὐ μόνον ἀπέστη τότε, ἀλλὰ καὶ τελέως τὸ γράφειν τραγῳδίαν ἀπέρριψε, καὶ ἀπεδύσατο ἐπὶ φιλοσοφίαν.

Image result for ancient greek kissing vase
Louvre G 278 Attributed to Briseis Painter

Tawdry Tuesday Classic: Archilochus in the Meadow (NSFW)

These are the final lines of the so-called Cologne Epode attributed to Archilochus (fr. 196a West=s478a). Here is a full version of the text with some commentary. Here is another short article about it.  And here is another great article about male sexuality and iconography. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for a seminal discussion of Greek vocabulary for ejaculation.

Archilochus Fr. 196a 27-35

“That was all I said. Then I lifted the girl
And laid her down in the blossoming flowers.
I covered her with a soft cloak
And placed my arms around her neck.
As she froze in fear like a fawn,
I lightly held her breasts in my hands
Where her skin exposed the newness of her youth.
And once I felt her fine body all around,
I shot off my white force, messing up her fair hair.

τοσ]αῦτ᾽ ἐφώνεον· παρθένον δ᾽ ἐν ἄνθε[σιν
τηλ]εθάεσσι λαβὼν ἔκλινα
….µαλθακῇ δ[έ µιν
χλαί]νῃ καλύψας, αὐχέν᾽ ἀγκάλῃς ἔχων
δεί]µ̣ατι παυ[σ]αµέ̣ν̣ην τὼς ὥστε νέβρ̣[ον εἱλόµην
µαζ]ῶν τε χ̣ερσὶν ἠπίως ἐφηψάµη̣ν
ᾗπε]ρ̣ ἔφην̣ε νέον ἥβης ἐπήλυ̣σις χρόα̣·
ἅπαν τ]ε̣ σῶµ̣α καλὸν ἀµφαφώµενος
λευκ]ὸν ἀφῆκα µένος, ξανθῆς ἐπιψαύ[ων τριχός.

Image result for ancient greek ejaculation vase

There is some debate about what exactly is going on in the sexual act at the end: is this extra-vaginal ejaculation (with the ξανθῆς…τριχός denoting pubic hair) or is this actually describing the poem’s narrator ejaculating on her hair? See the article mentioned above for a brief discussion.

Here’s another lyric fragment that discusses ejaculation. Note the different verbal vocabulary (ἐσβ[ά]λην instead of ἀφῆκα–both verbs can be used with weapons…):

Alcaeus, fr. 117. 27-8 

“Whatever someone gives to a prostitute he might as well spill  into the waves of the dark sea”

[     ]ται· πόρναι δ’ ὄ κέ τις δίδ[ωι
ἴ]σα κἀ[ς] πολίας κῦμ’ ἄλ[ο]ς ἐσβ[ά]λην.

The language of that poem makes me wonder if Sophocles is playing with language in the following lines from Antigone (648-649):

“Son, never lose your mind for the pleasure of a woman.”

μή νύν ποτ᾽, ὦ παῖ, τὰς φρένας ὑφ᾽ ἡδονῆς
γυναικὸς οὕνεκ᾽ ἐκβάλῃς

[More literally: “never shoot off your thoughts….”]

The descriptive language for ejaculation seems to be deficient in our evidence of Greek. Despite the two examples from Lyric I cite above, Henderson (Maculate Muse, 50) writes:

Henderson

Both of the roots discussed above show up elsewhere in Greek usage. Hippocrates of Cos uses ἵημι compounds for female ejaculation (Generation 4: μεθίει δὲ καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἀπὸ τοῦ σώματος and again πρόσθεν τοῦ ἀνδρὸς ἀφίει) whereas there is a reflex of ball- in Lucian’s phrase “ejaculations of semen” (καταβολὰς σπερμάτων, Ps.-Luc. Amores 19). In Aristotle Generation of Animals 1 (718a) we find:

“Fish and serpents are in this group and they also ejaculate quickly. For, just as it is with people and all creatures of this kind, which have to hold their breath to release their seed, so too fish need to refrain from the sea-water.”

οἱ μὲν γὰρ ἰχθύες ὀχεύουσι παραπίπτοντες καὶ ἀπολύονται ταχέως. ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ πάντων τῶν τοιούτων ἀνάγκη κατασχόντας τὸ πνεῦμα προΐεσθαι τοῦτο δ᾿ἐκείνοις συμβαίνει μὴ δεχομένοις τὴν θάλατταν.

For more ἵημι compounds see Athenaeus 389f (οἱ ὄρτυγες προΐενται… προΐενται τὸ σπέρμα). In Aelian we also find ἐκβάλλειν τὴν γονήν (On Animals 15).

Tawdry Tuesday (NSFW): Hipponax Teaches Us Some new Words

Hipponax, fr. 12 [Tzetz. ad Posthom. 687, “θήπεον”]

“The mother-fucker Boupalos
Was taunting the children of the Eruthraians with these words
While he was about to pull back his accursed foreskin.”

τούτοισι θηπέων τοὺς Ἐρυθραίων παῖδας
ὁ μητροκοίτης Βούπαλος σὺν Ἀρήτῃ
†καὶ ὑφέλξων τὸν δυσώνυμον ἄρτον.†

Most people who know ancient Greek will probably associate ἄρτον with its more typical definition (“bread”) than with foreskin. I think that the explanation for this homonym may have to do with the latter definition developing from τὸ αἴρειν:

Etym. Sym.

ἄρτος: παρὰ τὸ αἴρειν, ὅ ἐστι καθ’ ἑκάστην προσφέρειν

But this etymology is certainly problematic. “Bread” in Greek has an unclear history (Beekes):

bread

More family-safe fun from Hipponax

Fragments. 135, 135a, 135b

“Cock-shaker”

“Exhibitionist”

“Opening of filth”

ἀνασεισίφαλλος

     ἀνασυρτόλις

     βορβορόπη

 

Hipponax fr. 144

“Sister of bullshit”

βολβίτου κασιγνήτην.

Image result for Ancient Greek Phallus vase
Terracotta Vase, Metropolitan Museum of Art (c. 5th Century BCE; 1999.78)

Youth, Brief as a Dream–Two Fragments from Mimnermus

Mimnermus fr. 1

“What life and what pleasure is there without golden Aphrodite?
May I die when I no longer care about these things—
Secrets sex, persuasive gifts, and bed—
The kinds of youthful flowers that bewitch
Men and women. When grievous old age press on
It makes a man equal ugly and foul
And dark worries always wear on his thoughts—
He can’t even take pleasure in seeing the rays of the sun.
But he is hateful to young men, and dishonored by women.
So hard did the god make old age.”

τίς δὲ βίος, τί δὲ τερπνὸν ἄτερ χρυσῆς ᾿Αφροδίτης;
τεθναίην, ὅτε μοι μηκέτι ταῦτα μέλοι,
κρυπταδίη φιλότης καὶ μείλιχα δῶρα καὶ εὐνή,
οἷ’ ἥβης ἄνθεα γίνεται ἁρπαλέα
ἀνδράσιν ἠδὲ γυναιξίν· ἐπεὶ δ’ ὀδυνηρὸν ἐπέλθηι
γῆρας, ὅ τ’ αἰσχρὸν ὁμῶς καὶ κακὸν ἄνδρα τιθεῖ,
αἰεί μιν φρένας ἀμφὶ κακαὶ τείρουσι μέριμναι,
οὐδ’ αὐγὰς προσορῶν τέρπεται ἠελίου,
ἀλλ’ ἐχθρὸς μὲν παισίν, ἀτίμαστος δὲ γυναιξίν·
οὕτως ἀργαλέον γῆρας ἔθηκε θεός.

Mimnermus, fr. 5

“Honored youth is brief as a dream
Old age is hard and ugly old age
Drapes over your head,
As hateful as it is dishonored—and it makes a man
Unrecognizable—it harms your eyes and shadows your mind”

ἀλλ᾿ ὀλιγοχρόνιον γίνεται ὥσπερ ὄναρ
ἥβη τιμήεσσα· τὸ δ᾿ ἀργαλέον καί ἄμορφον
γῆρας ὑπὲρ κεφαλῆς αὐτίχ᾿ ὑπερκρέμεται,
ἐχθρὸν ὁμῶς καὶ ἄτιμον, ὅ τ᾿ ἄγνωστον τιθεῖ ἄνδρα,
βλάπτει δ᾿ ὀφθαλμοὺς καὶ νόον ἀμφιχυθέν

 

Image result for Ancient Greek old man

For Friday, Some Fragments from Phocylides

Some fragments from Phocylides, mostly preserved in Stobaeus

3 Stob. 4.29.28

“What good is it to be noble
For those who are charmless in words and counsel?”

τί πλέον, γένος εὐγενὲς εἶναι,
οἷς οὔτ᾿ ἐν μύθοις ἕπεται χάρις οὔτ᾿ ἐνὶ βουλῇ;

Φωκυλίδου (fr. 9 B. p. 4473).

“Many men certainly seem to be sound of mind
Because they walk around in good order, even though they’re airheads”

Πολλοί τοι δοκέουσι σαόφρονες ἔμμεναι ἄνδρες,
σὺν κόσμῳ στείχοντες, ἐλαφρόνοοί περ ἐόντες.

Ps. Phoc. 113

“Everyone is equal as a corpse and god is king of the dead.
The land is common to all, both paupers and their kings.”

Πάντες ἴσον νέκυες, ψυχῶν δὲ θεὸς βασιλεύει.
κοινὸς χῶρος ἅπασι, πένησί τε καὶ βασιλεῦσιν.

Fr. 4

“A city lived in order on high ground
Though small is better than brainless Ninevah”

πόλις ἐν σκοπέλῳ κατὰ κόσμον
οἰκέουσα σμικρὴ κρέσσων Νίνου ἀφραινούσης.

Related image
Temple of Apollo at Didyma

Hipponax fr. 182: Nice Words about Marriage?

 

“The strongest marriage for a wise man
Is to take a woman of noble character—
This dowry alone safeguards a home.
[But whoever takes a fancy woman home…]
<sees his house fall into ruin>
The wise man has a partner instead of a mistress
A woman with a good mind, reliable for a lifetime.”

γάμος κράτιστός ἐστιν ἀνδρὶ σώφρονι
τρόπον γυναικὸς χρηστὸν ἕδνον λαμβάνειν·
αὕτη γὰρ ἡ προὶξ οἰκίαν σώιζει μόνη.
ὅστις δὲ †τρυφῶς τὴν γυναῖκ’ ἄγει λαβών

<                                 >

συνεργὸν οὗτος ἀντὶ δεσποίνης ἔχει
εὔνουν, βεβαίαν εἰς ἅπαντα τὸν βίον.

This fragment has missing lines and a textual problem in line four. But it is clear that it is similar in sentiment to ideas expressed about marriage in Hesiod and other archaic poets (see below for two characteristic passages from Hesiod). I made up an English line to fill out the general idea of the missing Greek. There’s nothing pretty about it!