Profiteers Tearing Apart the Republic

Ps. Sallust Against Cicero

“Where should I protest, whom should I implore, Senators, because the republic is being torn apart for any kind of audacious profiteer? Should I complain to the Roman people? They are so corrupted by bribes that they offer themselves and their fortunes for sale.

Should I appeal to you, Senators? You whose authority is a joke to any kind of criminal miscreant in this place where Marcus Tullius defends the laws, the courts and the state and acts like he is in charge here as if he were the only man left from a family of the most famous man, Scipio Africanus, and not some orphan found on the street, summoned here, and only just recently rooted in this city?”

Ubi querar, quos implorem, patres conscripti, diripi rem publicam atque audacissimo cuique esse praedae? apud populum Romanum? qui ita largitionibus corruptus est, ut se ipse ac fortunas suas venales habeat. an apud vos, patres conscripti? quorum auctoritas turpissimo cuique et sceleratissimo ludibrio est; ubi M. Tullius leges, iudicia, rem publicam defendit atque in hoc ordine ita moderatur quasi unus reliquus e familia viri clarissimi, Scipionis Africani, ac non reperticius, accitus, ac paulo ante insitus huic urbi civis.

Morgan Library, MS M.81, Folio 79r

Have You Heard about Lesbia?

Catullus 58a

Caelius, our Lesbia, that Lesbia,
that Lesbia, whom alone Catullus loved
more than himself and all of his family,
now, at street corners and in alleyways
pleasures the grandsons of great-souled Remus.

*Pleasures: the latin is “glubit,” and whether this vulgarity involves the hands or the mouth is anybody’s guess.

Caeli, Lesbia nostra, Lesbia illa,
illa Lesbia, quam Catullus unam
plus quam se atque suos amauit omnes,
nunc in quadriuiis et angiportis
glubit magnanimi Remi nepotes.

Picasso. Bust of a Woman. 1931. Not especially subtle.

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.

O Yuck, Archilochus

The First Cologne Epode, the longest fragment attributed to the archaic poet Archilochus, offends modern sensibilities and no doubt it had something like shock value in the poet’s own time.

The opening lines are lost. There’s no consensus on how to fill the most meaningful of the text’s many lacunae. There are also colloquialisms, euphemisms, allusions and irresolvable ambiguities which challenge, and charm. (The “glossary” following the poem should answer a few questions.)

Nonetheless, we can discern enough to say: the poem takes the form of a carefully constructed dialogue in which an unmarried young woman tries to turn a sexually eager man’s attention to someone else–unsuccessfully.

Archilochus: fr. 196a West

“…while you abstain completely, wait for requited love.
But, if you’re in a rush, your passion in charge,
There’s someone in our house brimming with yearning,
A lovely virgin, and tender. Her figure’s flawless,
I would say. Make her your beloved.”

That’s what she said. And I replied with this:
“Daughter of Amphimedo, that noble woman
Whom the moldy earth now holds:
Young men have many pleasures from the goddess,
Beside the divine thing. One of them will do.

You and I will plan this calmly, with god’s help.
I’ll do what you say, eager as I am
To be first under your cornice and inside your gate.
Don’t begrudge me this, my dear,
For I’ll keep to your grassy meadow.

And know this: as for that Neoboule,
Another man can have her! She’s too ripe.
Her virgin bloom, her former loveliness,
Have fallen away. She’s not reined in her lust.
The raving woman’s shown the scale of her madness.

Damn her! May Zeus not make me a joke to my neighbors,
With such a wife. I prefer you: one not inconstant
or two-faced. She’s biting, and as for all her men…
I fear fathering blind, untimely children with her,
My zeal and rush to blame, just like the famed bitch.”

That’s what I said, and clutched the virgin girl—
Laid her down among the blooming flowers—
Covered her with my soft cloak—
Cradled her neck in my arms—
A girl as frightened as a fawn.

My hands gently clasped her breasts
And exposed youth’s fresh flesh.
As I felt up her gorgeous body
I discharged my white might,
Lightly touching her fair hair.

A glossary of archaic smut:

“Under your cornice and inside your gate”: Euphemism for sex.

“Pleasures from the goddess/Beside the divine thing”: Aphrodite’s gifts are the amorous pleasures, with intercoutse presumably the highest of them (“the divine thing”).

“I’ll keep to your grassy meadow”: Euphemism for a sex act short of penetration but involving the pubic area.

”I fear fathering blind, untimely children . . . like the famed bitch”: Allusion to what’s regarded as the world’s oldest proverb–“the hasty bitch [female dog] brings forth blind puppies.” The expression means something done without due care produces a bad result.

“πάμπαν ἀποσχόμενος· ἶσον δὲ τόλμ[ησον ποθεῖν.]
εἰ δ ̓ ὦν ἐπείγεαι καί σε θυμὸς ἰθύει,
ἔστιν ἐν ἡμετέρου, ἣ νῦν μέγ ̓ ἱμείρε[ι ]
καλὴ τέρεινα παρθένος· δοκέω δέ μι[ν]
εἶδος ἄμωμον ἔχειν τὴν δὴ σὺ ποίη[σαι φίλην.”] [5]
Tοσαῦτ ̓ ἐφώνει· τὴν δ ̓ἐγὼ ἀνταμει[βόμην·]
“Ἀμφιμεδοῦς θύγατερ, ἐσθλῆς τε καὶ [ ]
γυναικός, ἣν̣ νῦν γῆ κατ’ εὐρώεσσ’ ἔ[χει,]
[τ]έρψιές εἰσι θεῆς πολλαὶ νέοισιν ἀνδ[ράσιν]
π̣αρὲξ τὸ θεῖον χρῆμα· τῶν τ̣ι̣ς ἀρκέσε[ι.] [10]
τ]αῦτα δ’ ἐπ’ ἡσυχίης εὖτ’ ἂν μελανθη[ ]
[ἐ]γώ τε καὶ σὺ σὺν θεῷ βουλεύσομε[ν·]
[π]είσομαι ὣς με κέλεαι· πολλόν μ’ ἐ[ποτρύνει πόθος]
[θρ]ιγκοῦ δ’ ἔνερθε καί πυλέων ὑποφ[θάνειν]
[μ]ή τι μέγαιρε, φίλη· σχήσω γὰρ ἐς ποη[φόρους] [15]
κ]ήπους. τὸ δὴ νῦν γνῶθι· Νεοβούλη[ν μὲν ὦv]
[ἄ]λλος ἀνὴρ ἐχέτω· αἰαῖ, πέπειρα δ[ὴ πέλει,]
[ἄν]θος δ’ἀπερρύηκε παρθενήϊον
[κ]αὶ χάρις ἣ πρὶν ἐπῆν· κόρον γὰρ οὐ κ[ατέσχε πω],
[ατ]ης δὲ μέτρ’ ἔφηνε μαινόλ̣ι̣ς̣ γυνή·[20]
[ἐς] κόρακας ἄπεχε· μὴ τοῦτ’ ἐφεῖτ’ ἄν[αξ θεῶν]
[ὅπ]ως ἐγὼ γυναῖκα τ[ο]ιαύτην ἔχων
[γεί]τοσι χάρμ’ ἔσομαι· πολλὸν σὲ βούλο[μαι ]·
[σὺ] μὲν γὰρ οὔτ’ ἄπιστος οὔτε διπλόη,
[ἡ δ]ὲ μάλ ̓ ὀξυτέρη, πολλοὺς δὲ ποιεῖτα[ι ] [25]
[δέ]δοιχ ̓ ὅπως μὴ τυφλὰ κἀλιτήμερα
[σπ]ουδῇ ἐπειγόμενος τὼς ὤσπερ ἡ κ[ύων τέκω.”]
[τοσ]αῦτ ̓ ἐφώνεον· παρθένον δ ̓ ἐν ἄνθε[σιν]
[τηλ]εθάεσσι λαβὼν ἔκλινα· μαλθακῇ δ[έ μιν]
[χλαί]νῃ καλύψας, αὐχέν ̓ ἀγκάλῃς ἔχω[ν] [30]
[δεί]μ̣ατι πα[ ]μέ̣ν̣ην τὼς ὥστε νέβρ̣[ον ]
[μαζ]ῶν τε χ̣ερσὶν ἠπίως ἐφηψάμη̣ν
[ ]ρ̣ ἔφην̣ε νέον ἥβης ἐπήλυ̣σις χρόα·̣
[ τ]ε̣ σῶμ̣α καλὸν ἀμφαφώμενος
[λευκ]ὸν ἀφῆκα μένος, ξανθῆς ἐπιψαύ[ων τριχός.] [35]

 

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.

Throwing Some Homeric Shade: Sparta is Teucer to an Athenian Ajax

Aelius Aristides, Panathenaic Oration, 282-285

“But [the Spartans] dealt with those who entrusted their safety to them so that they defended themselves best of all people against those charges which at certain times were brought against our city. The explanation for this is not their savagery nor any of those common things which one might easily say to fault them, but the basic failure of their nature to measure up to ours. While the Athenians, furthermore, were in control for more than 70 years, the Spartans could not even hold their empire for three Olympiads. And this would not have even been a true statement if they had not taken over while the first Olympiad period ongoing!

This is why I get annoyed at those who want to compare the two cities. I might in fact seem strange to some of you in criticizing them and then proceeding to do the same thing myself all while saying these things for the very same reasons that I claim they shouldn’t be said. But this illustrates clearly that whatever favor they believe they bestow on the city is not at all remarkable and that these sorts of arguments are not be made freely. So, if someone thinks that I should not have said these things, this is why I said them. In addition, these statements were made without personal attack and because of a pressing need—for there was no other way to show what I wanted to and I was compelled to say what I said for the very reasons I tried not to.

For the Spartans seem to me to have suffered in comparison to this city what Teucer did from Ajax at Homer’s hands. For Teucer retreats to Ajax when he risks his life in front of the rest and at the same time is famous and then sullied by this. In the same way, the Spartans, who stood in front and endangered themselves for the Greeks in a time of need, are still children when compared to our city.”

οἱ δ’ οὕτω τοὺς παραδόντας αὑτοὺς διέθηκαν ὥστε κάλλιστ’ ἀνθρώπων ἀπελογήσαντο ὑπὲρ τῶν κατὰ καιρούς τινας αἰτιῶν γενομένων παρ’ ἐνίων τῇ πόλει. αἴτιον δ’ οὐκ ὠμότης οὐδ’ ἅ τις ἂν φαίη τῶν ῥᾳδίως εἰωθότων ἐπιτιμᾶν, ἀλλὰ τὸ μὴ ἐξικνεῖσθαι τὰς φύσεις ἄχρι τοῦ ἴσου. καὶ μὴν οἱ μὲν πλέον ἢ ἑβδομήκοντα ἔτη κατέσχον, οἱ δ’ οὐδ’ εἰς τρεῖς Ὀλυμπιάδας διεφύλαξαν τὴν ἀρχήν. οὔκουν ὡς ἀληθῶς ἄλλως γε ἂν εἴη, εἰ μὴ τὸ πρῶτον Ὀλυμπίων προσαγόντων παρέλαβον.

ταῦτ’ ἐστὶν ἁγὼ τοῖς παρεξετάζειν βουλομένοις ἄχθομαι. ἴσως μὲν οὖν κἀγώ τισι ποιεῖν ἄτοπον δοκῶ, μεμφόμενος μὲν, αὐτὸς δ’ εἰς τοὺς ὁμοίους λόγους προεληλυθώς, καὶ δι’ αὐτά γε ταῦτ’ εἰρηκὼς αὐτοὺς δι’ ἅ φημι δεῖν μὴ λέγειν. οὐ μὴν ἀλλ’ ἐξ αὐτῶν τούτων καὶ μάλιστ’ ἄν τις κατίδοι ὡς οὔτε ἡ χάρις θαυμαστή, ἣν οἴονται τῇ πόλει κατατίθεσθαι, οὔτ’ ἐξεπίτηδες τά γε τοιαῦτα ἀγωνιστέον. ὥστ’ εἴ τις ἀξιοῖ καὶ ἡμῖν ἄρρητα ταῦτ’ εἶναι, σχεδὸν τούτου χάριν εἴρηται. χωρὶς δὲ τούτων ἄνευ βλασφημίας οἱ λόγοι γεγόνασι καὶ τῆς παραπεσούσης χρείας ἕνεκα. οὐ γὰρ ἦν ἄλλως ὃ προειλόμην ἀποδεῖξαι, ὥστ’ ἐξ ὧν ἔφευγον, ἐκ τούτων προήχθην εἰπεῖν.

δοκοῦσι γάρ μοι Λακεδαιμόνιοι τὸ τοῦ παρ’ Ὁμήρῳ Τεύκρου πρὸς τὸν Αἴαντα πεπονθέναι πρὸς τὴν πόλιν. καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνος τῶν ἄλλων προκινδυνεύων ὡς τὸν Αἴαντα ἀναχωρεῖ καὶ δι’ ἐκείνου φαίνεται, ὡς δ’ αὕτως καὶ κρύπτεται, καὶ Λακεδαιμόνιοι οἱ τῶν Ἑλλήνων προέχοντες καὶ προκινδυνεύοντες ἐν ταῖς χρείαις παῖδες τῇ πόλει παραβαλεῖν εἰσίν.

Image result for teucer and ajax
Statue of Teucer by Sir William Hamo Thornycroft

A Fine Poem on Friendship

Martial 12.40

“You lie, I trust you. You recite terrible poems, I praise them.
You sing, I sing. You drink, Pontilianus and I drink too.
You fart, I ignore it. You want to play a board game, I am defeated.
You do one thing without me, I’ll be quiet too.
You do no duty for me at all: You say, “when you’re dead”
I will take good care of you. I don’t want anything, but you can die.”

Mentiris: credo. recitas mala carmina: laudo.
cantas: canto. bibis, Pontiliane: bibo.
pedis: dissimulo. gemma vis ludere: vincor.
res una est sine me quam facis: et taceo.
nil tamen omnino praestas mihi. ‘mortuus’ inquis
‘accipiam bene te.’ nil volo: sed morere.

Image result for medieval manuscript friendship
Royal 19 C II f. 59v

A Poem Your [Heart?] Desires

Martial, Epigrams 12.61

“Ligurra, you fear that I might compose
Verses against you, a brief, intense poem—
Oh how you long to seem worthy of this fear.
But you fear in vain, in vain you long.
The Libyan lions growl at bulls;
They do not pester butterflies.

I will advise you—if you are in pain to be read,
Find a drunk alley poet who writes
with broken coal or dusty chalk
the poems people read while shitting.
This face of yours can’t be known by my touch.”

Versus et breve vividumque carmen
in te ne faciam times, Ligurra,
et dignus cupis hoc metu videri.
sed frustra metuis cupisque frustra.
in tauros Libyci fremunt leones,
non sunt papilionibus molesti.
quaeras censeo, si legi laboras,
nigri fornicis ebrium poetam,
qui carbone rudi putrique creta
scribit carmina quae legunt cacantes.
frons haec stigmate non meo notanda est

Image result for medieval manuscript defecation
Gorleston Psalter, f 61r

The Sweetest Day and the Marriage of the Sun

Homer, Od. 6.181-185

“May the gods grant as much as you desire in your thoughts,
A husband and home, and may they give you fine likemindness,
For nothing is better and stronger than this
When two people who are likeminded in their thoughts share a home,
A man and a wife—this brings many pains for their enemies
And joys to their friends. And the gods listen to them especially”

σοὶ δὲ θεοὶ τόσα δοῖεν, ὅσα φρεσὶ σῇσι μενοινᾷς,
ἄνδρα τε καὶ οἶκον, καὶ ὁμοφροσύνην ὀπάσειαν
ἐσθλήν· οὐ μὲν γὰρ τοῦ γε κρεῖσσον καὶ ἄρειον,
ἢ ὅθ’ ὁμοφρονέοντε νοήμασιν οἶκον ἔχητον
ἀνὴρ ἠδὲ γυνή· πόλλ’ ἄλγεα δυσμενέεσσι,
χάρματα δ’ εὐμενέτῃσι· μάλιστα δέ τ’ ἔκλυον αὐτοί.

Hipponax, Fr. 68

“A woman has two days which are the sweetest:
When someone marries her and when someone carries her out dead.”

δύ᾿ ἡμέραι γυναικός εἰσιν ἥδισται,
ὅταν γαμῇ τις κἀκφέρῃ τεθνηκυῖαν.

Babrius, Fable 24: Frogs at the Sun’s Wedding

“It was the time of the wedding of the summer Sun
And the animals held charming revels for the god.
Even the frogs were putting on choruses in their pond.
But a toad stopped and said to them, “this is no time
For our hymns of praise! This is for worry and grief.
For the sun nearly dries up every pool when he is alone—
What kind of evils we will suffer if, once he’s married,
He fathers a child who is something like himself?

Many people, thanks to an excess of empty-headedness
Delight at things which in the future they will not love, to the extreme.”

Γάμοι μὲν ἦσαν Ἡλίου θέρους ὥρῃ,
τὰ ζῷα δ᾿ ἱλαροὺς ἦγε τῷ θεῷ κώμους.
καὶ βάτραχοι δὲ λιμνάδας χοροὺς ἦγον·
οὓς εἶπε παύσας φρῦνος “οὐχὶ παιάνων
τοῦτ᾿ ἐστὶν ἡμῖν, φροντίδων δὲ καὶ λύπης·
ὃς γὰρ μόνος νῦν λιβάδα πᾶσαν αὐαίνει,
τί μὴ πάθωμεν τῶν κακῶν ἐὰν γήμας
ὅμοιον αὑτῷ παιδίον τι γεννήσῃ;”
Χαίρουσι πολλοὶ τῶν ὑπερβολῇ κούφων
ἐφ᾿ οἷς ἄγαν μέλλουσιν οὐχὶ χαιρήσειν.

Euripides,  Fr. 464

“Get married already, get married, and then die
Either by poison or a trick from your wife.”

γαμεῖτε νῦν, γαμεῖτε, κᾆτα θνῄσκετε
ἢ φαρμάκοισιν ἐκ γυναικὸς ἢ δόλοις.

Hipponax Fr. 182

“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…]

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.

Image result for Ancient Greek wedding vase
Wedding Procession on an oil flask

Sparta Banned Archilochus. Enough Said.

Sparta has some problems (and a wildly unjustifiable popularity). Here’s another one.

Valerius Maximas, 6.3 Ext 1

“Although it is possible to use the whole planet to offer examples of Roman cruelty, it is not useless to learn of foreign instances in summary. The Spartans ordered that the books of Archilochus were to be expelled from their state because they believed that they were insufficiently modest and were also shameful reading.

They did not want their children’s minds to be filled with these ideas in case they might harm their characters more than it sharpened their wits. For this reason they exiled the greatest or nearly greatest poet because he wounded a household he hated with vulgar curses.”

Ceterum etsi Romanae severitatis exemplis totus terrarum orbis instrui potest, tamen externa summatim cognosse fastidio non sit. Lacedaemonii libros Archilochi e civitate sua exportari iusserunt, quod eorum parum verecundam ac pudicam lectionem arbitrabantur: noluerunt enim ea liberorum suorum animos imbui, ne plus moribus noceret quam ingeniis prodesset. itaque maximum poetam aut certe summo proximum, quia domum sibi invisam obscenis maledictis laceraverat, carminum exsilio multarunt.

The Chiggi Vase

Valerius Maximus’ account is somewhat different from the story most people know. Where he seems to take issue with Archilochus’ invective and his salacious content, others claim the issue was his cowardice. Plutarch claims that Archilochus was expelled from Sparta for this poem:

Fr. 5

“Some Saian takes joy the the shield, that blameless weapon
I left next to a bush unwillingly.
But I rescued myself. What does that shield matter to me?
Fuck it. I’ll buy no worse a shield next time.”

ἀσπίδι μὲν Σαΐων τις ἀγάλλεται, ἣν παρὰ
θάμνῳ, ἔντος ἀμώμητον, κάλλιπον οὐκ ἐθέλων·
αὐτὸν δ᾿ ἐξεσάωσα. τί μοι μέλει ἀσπὶς ἐκείνη;
ἐρρέτω· ἐξαῦτις κτήσομαι οὐ κακίω.

Plutarch also reports:

Spartan Sayings, 241f6

“Another spartan woman as she was passing her son his shield advised him, “child, [come home] either with this or on it.”

῎Αλλη προσαναδιδοῦσα τῷ παιδὶ τὴν ἀσπίδα καὶ παρακελευομένη ‘τέκνον’ ἔφη, ‘ἢ ταύταν ἢ ἐπὶ ταύτας.’

Cicero had a Reason to Lament, You Don’t

Martial, Epigrams 9.70 (Full Latin text on the Scaife Viewer)

“Cicero once said “What customs, what times!”
As Cataline laid out his sinful designs
And when a son and father-in-law met with dread arms
And dyed the ground red with civil blood.
But why do you repeat “What Customs, What times” now
What can displease you now? Caecilianus, what is it?
We have no clash of kings or insanity of sword.
Our customs don’t make you hate your own times,
but your own do, Caecilianus.”

Dixerat ‘O mores! O tempora!’ Tullius olim,
sacrilegum strueret cum Catilina nefas,
cum gener atque socer diris concurreret armis
maestaque civili caede maderet humus.
cur nunc ‘O mores!’ cur nunc ‘O tempora!’ dicis? 5
quod tibi non placeat, Caeciliane, quid est?
nulla ducum feritas, nulla est insania ferri;
pace frui certa laetitiaque licet.
Non nostri faciunt tibi quod tua tempora sordent,
sed faciunt mores, Caeciliane, tui.

Cicero throws up his Brief like a Gentleman (from The Comic History of Rome, c. 1850)

A Beggar King

Plutarch, Stoics Talk More Paradoxically than Poets 6

“And then, while the Ithakan King begs for money because he wants to hide his identity and he is attempting to make himself as much as possible “like a pathetic beggar,”  this guy shouts from the Stoa, screaming out, “I alone am king, I alone am wealthy” and is often seen crying at other people’s doors, “Give Hipponax a cloak. I am cold and my teeth are chattering.”

Καὶ ὁ μὲν Ἰθακησίων βασιλεὺς προσαιτεῖ λανθάνειν ὅς ἐστι βουλόμενος καὶ ποιῶν ἑαυτὸν ὡς μάλιστα “πτωχῷ λευγαλέῳ ἐναλίγκιον,” ὁ δ᾿ ἐκ τῆς Στοᾶς βοῶν μέγα καὶ κεκραγὼς “ἐγὼ μόνος εἰμὶ βασιλεύς, ἐγὼ μόνος εἰμὶ πλούσιος” ὁρᾶται πολλάκις ἐπ᾿ ἀλλοτρίαις θύραις λέγων

δὸς χλαῖναν Ἱππώνακτι· κάρτα γὰρ ῥιγῶκαὶ βαμβακύζω.

Image result for ancient greek beggar king
Odysseus from the Vatican Museum