“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”
[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.”
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.”
“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.
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”
[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:
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.”
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:
“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.”
“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.”
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!