Greek Nostos and English Nostalgia

Someone asked me to put together a post on nostos. Here’s what I got. I am happy to add anything someone else can find. This is far from exhaustive.

The Greek noun nostos (“homecoming”) is mostly reconstructed as a reflex of a verbal root neomai (“to come or go”) but its semantic range drifts to include ideas of salvation and rescue.

From Beekes’ Etymological Dictionary of Ancient Greek (2010)

nostos beeks

In early Greek poetry, nostos is a song that is about homecoming. On this, see Nagy 1999 [1997], 97; Murnaghan 2002, 147. Douglas Frame (1978) argues that it also means “return to light and life” whereas Anna Bonifazi adds “salvation not death”. For more on the nostoi as a tradition, see the discussion and bibliography in Barker and Christensen 2015. Gregory Nagy surveys the meaning of the term nostos in the Odyssey as return and a song of homecoming in his Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours.

In later Greek, the term retained much of this meaning but, as I will show below, it can also mean “sweetness”. The thematic and proverbial power of the poetic tradition seems to have kept this specialized meaning as primary as the language developed.

From E.A. Sophocles “Dictionary of Byzantine Greek”

nostos med

Our English word nostalgia comes from a post-classical Latin compound which has deep resonance with Greek epic, especially Odysseus. Odysseus has thematic associations with algea (neuter plural for algos, “grief, pain”). Our modern meaning of “acute longing for familiar surroundings” or “sentimental longing for a period of the past (OED online)” may draw on ancient poetic associations. A nostos is a return to the home, which is symbolically a return to the past. Ultimately, it is partly a futile wish because neither home nor person (neither the past, nor the rememberer) remain the same.

Nostalgia was originally coined by Johannes Hofer in 1688 for a pathological mental disorder, a type of mania that involved longing for the past. Some modern psychological studies still examine the phenomenon. It has been described as both parafunctional in undermining a sense of well-being and rootedness in the future (Verplanken 2012) and as a useful resource of memory which can help reinforce identity against existential threats (Routledge et al 2012 and Sedikedis and Wildschut 2016).

The ancient etymological dictionaries pretty much provide the same information as the Byzantine Suda:

Suda, Nu 500

“Nostos: The return to home. From the sweetness of a homeland. Or it comes from the giving of flavor. But also “the poets who sang the songs of Return follow Homer to the extent they are capable. It seems that not only one poet composed and wrote the homecoming of the Achaeans, but some others did too.

Νόστος: ἡ οἴκαδε ἐπάνοδος. παρὰ τὸ τῆς πατρίδος ἡδύ.

ἢ ἡ ἀνάδοσις τῆς γεύσεως. καὶ οἱ ποιηταὶ δὲ οἱ τοὺς Νόστους ὑμνήσαντες ἕπονται τῷ ῾Ομήρῳ ἐς ὅσον εἰσὶ δυνατοί. φαίνεται ὅτι οὐ μόνος εἷς εὑρισκόμενος ἔγραψε νόστον ᾿Αχαιῶν, ἀλλὰ καί τινες ἕτεροι.

Nu 501

“Homecoming: in regular use it is “sweetness”, applied to edibles. This comes from the [sweetness] of returning and coming back again home. From the sweetness of your homeland, for nothing is sweeter than your fatherland, according to Homer. From nostos in customary use we also have nostimon, which can mean “pleasant”, “sweet”. And there is a certain god, Eunostos, a divinity of the mill. The poetic term nostos comes from neô [to go], in, for example “now I am not going home.” This means “I do not return” [epanerkhomai]. There is also the form nostô, which provides the compounds palinostô, and aponostô.”

Νόστος: παρὰ τῇ συνηθείᾳ ὁ γλυκασμός, ἐπὶ τῶν ἐδεσμάτων. ὡς ἀπὸ τῆςοἴκαδε ἀνακομιδῆς καὶ ἀναστροφῆς· παρὰ τὸ τῆς πατρίδος γλυκύ. οὐδὲν γὰρ γλύκιον ἧς πατρίδος, καθ’ ῞Ομηρον. ἐκ δὲ τοῦ κατὰ τὴν συνήθειαν νόστου καὶ νόστιμον, τὸ ἡδύ. καὶ Εὔνοστος, θεός τις, φασίν, ἐπιμύλιος. ὁ δὲ ποιητικὸς  νόστος παρὰ τὸ νέω γίνεται. οἷον, νῦν δ’ ἐπεὶ οὐ νέομαι γε. ἤγουν οὐκ ἐπανέρχομαι. ἔστι δὲ καὶ ῥῆμα νοστῶ, οὗ σύνθετα παλινοστῶ καὶ ἀπονοστῶ

 

Some things cited in this post:

Barker, Elton T. E. and Christensen, Joel P. 2015. “Odysseus’s Nostos and the Odyssey’s Nostoi,” in G. Scafoglio, Studies on the Epic Cycle. Rome. 85–110.

Bonifazi, A. 2009. “Inquiring into nostos and its cognates.” American Journal of Philology 130: 481–510.

Frame, Douglas. 1978. The Myth of Return in Early Greek Epic. New Haven.

Murnaghan, Sheila. 2002. “The Trials of Telemachus: Who Was the Odyssey Meant for?” Arethusa 35: 133–153.

Nagy, Gregory. 1979. The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry. Baltimore.

Routledge, Clay, Wildschut Tim, Sedikides, Constantine, Juhl, Jacob, , and  Arndt, Jamie. 2012”The power of the past: Nostalgia as a meaning-making resource.” Memory, 1-9.

Sedikides, Constantine and Wildschut, Tim. 2016. ”Nostalgia: A Bittersweet Emotion that Confers Psychological Health Benefits.” The Wiley Handbook of Positive Clinical  Psychology, 126–136.

Verplanken, Bas. 2012. “When bittersweet turns sour: Adverse effects of nostalgia on habitual worriers.” European Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 285–289.

Beforehand: Some “Fore” Compounds for No Particular Reason

In case it might be useful, some words to go with Greek and Latin passages for treason.

προβουλεύω: “to contrive beforehand”

προβουλόπαις: “pre-plotting child”

προγάστηρ: “gut, paunch”

προγευματίζω: “to taste beforehand”

προγιγνώσκω: “to have prior knowledge”

πρόγνωσις: “foreknowledge”

προγλωσσεύω: “to speak beforehand”

προγνωστής: “one who has foreknowledge”

προδακρύω: “to weep beforehand”

πρόδηλος: “clear before”

προδιαμαρτύρομαι: “to furnish as a witness beforehand”

προδιασκευή: “prior edition”

προδιαφθείρω: “to destroy beforehand”

πρόδοτος: “betrayed”

προδουλόω: “to enslave beforehand”

προθυμία: “eagerness”

προίστωρ: “one with foreknowledge”

προκαταλήγω: “to foreclose beforehand”

προκατηγορία: “prior accusation”

προλιχνεύομαι: “to lick beforehand”

προμηθεία: “forethought”

προμιαίνω: “to defile beforehand”

προμίγνυμι: “to screw beforehand”

προξενία: “a treaty or compact between a state and a foreigner”

Speculum Humanae Salvationis, Westfalen oder Köln, um 1360. ULB Darmstadt, Hs 2505, fol. 37r

Speculum Humanae Salvationis, Westfalen oder Köln, um 1360. ULB Darmstadt, Hs 2505, fol. 37r

Tawdry Tuesday: Medicine, Magic, and Erections (Ancient Greek Viagra)

Last year a tweet from the always entertaining Greek History Podcast (.@greekhistorypod) directed me to learn some new words: “To have an erection whenever you wish, mix up crushed pepper in honey and smear on your thing” —Greek Magical Papyri, 7.185. Also, I don’t advise trying the following formulas.  This post has been ‘enhanced’ from the original. Here we go…

The full passage also has a prescription for sexual performance

Magical Papyri, 7.185

“To be able to fuck a lot: mix fifty [pine nuts] with two measures of honey and seeds of pepper and drink it. To have an erection whenever you want: mix pepper with honey and rub it on your thing.”

Πολλὰ βι[ν]εῖν δύνασθαι· στροβίλια πεντήκοντα μετὰ δύο κυά[θ]ων γλυκέος καὶ κόκκους πεπέρεως τρίψας πίε. Στ[ύ]ειν, ὅτε θέλεις· πέπερι μετὰ μέλιτος τρίψας χρῖέ σου τὸ πρᾶ̣γ̣μ̣α.

  1. Complications: this might just be a metaphor. στροβίλια can be phallic; κόκκος can mean “testicles” or female genitals. Also, seeds are, well, seminal. So there is some associative magic going on here.

2. I was a little unsure about στροβίλια, but I checked Galen (De Simp. Medic. 12.55.7) and it seems to be a pine nut (Κώνου ὁ καρπὸς, ὃν δὴ καὶ κόκαλον ὀνομάζουσι καὶ στρόβιλον). I am happy for a botanist’s help.

3. τὸ πρᾶ̣γ̣μ̣α: There is a variant attributed to Democritus τὸ π[έλ]μα, which looks like we could treat as a diminutive of τὸ πέος (“penis”) if we wanted to. So, you know, “spread pepper and honey on your little prick”. In Modern Greek, “thing” can still mean genitals.

4. Pepper and honey are prescribed by Aelian for persuading livestock to breed. In Dioscorides, pepper is suggested as a birth control method and as a a way of stimulating the libido:

Aelian, Nature of the Animals  9.48

“Guardians who want the reproduction of their animals to increase when it is time to mate take handfuls of salt and sodium carbonate and rub them on the genitals of female sheep, and goats and horses. From these [animals] get more eager for sex. Others rub them down with pepper and honey; and others with sodium carbonate and nettle-seed. Some even rub them down with myrrh. From this kind of stimulation the females lose control and go crazy for the males.”

  1. ‘Υπὲρ τοῦ πλείονα τὴν ἐπιγονὴν τῶν ζῴων σφίσι γίνεσθαι οἱ τούτων μελεδωνοὶ τὰ ἄρθρα τῶν θηλειῶν καὶ οἰῶν καὶ αἰγῶν καὶ ἵππων ἀνατρίβουσι κατὰ τὸν τῆς ὀχείας καιρὸν ἁλῶν καὶ λίτρουτὰς χεῖρας ἀναπλήσαντες. ἐκ τούτων ὄρεξις αὐτοῖς γίνεται περὶ τὴν ἀφροδίτην μᾶλλον. ἕτεροι δὲ πεπέριδι καὶ μέλιτι τὰ αὐτὰ χρίουσι, λίτρῳ δὲ ἄλλοι καὶ κνίδης καρπῷ· σμυρνίῳ δὲ ἤδη τινὲς ἔχρισαν καὶ λίτρῳ. ἐκ δὴ τοῦδε τοῦ ὀδαξησμοῦ ἀκράτορες ἑαυτῶν γίνονται αἱ θήλειαι ποῖμναι, καὶ ἐπιμαίνονται τοῖς ἄρρεσιν.

Dioscorides, De materia medica 2.159:2-3

“Both kinds of pepper commonly have the following effects:, digestive, uretic, absorbent [antidiarrheal], pro-perspirant and a purgative for things which overshadow girls. It also treats those who drink it and rub it on for periodic shakes and helps those bitten by wild beasts and also compels [out?] fetuses. It seems to make someone not pregnant when applied after sex.

It helps with coughs and aids with all kinds of ailments in the chest cavity, when it is taken in lozenges and suspensions, and it helps with sore throats when rubbed in with honey. It also treats constricted bowels when drunk with young laurel leaves. When it is crushed with stavesacre, it helps to produces phlegm, which is both painless and healthy to do. It stimulates your libido and helps as well in a soup mixed over heat. When it is prepared with pitch it helps neck swelling, and it darkens white spots with washing. Like lentils, pepper jumps in a pan right on the coals when it is roasting.”

δύναμιν δὲ ἔχει κοινῶς θερμαντικήν, πεπτικήν, οὐρητικήν, ἐπισπαστικήν, διαφορητικήν, σμηκτικὴν τῶν ταῖς κόραις ἐπισκοτούντων· ἁρμόζει καὶ ῥίγεσι περιοδικοῖς πινόμενον καὶ συγχριόμενον, καὶ θηριοδήκτοις ἀρήγει, ἄγει καὶ ἔμβρυα. ἀτόκιον δὲ εἶναι δοκεῖ μετὰ συνουσίαν προστιθέμενον, βηξί τε καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς περὶ θώρακα πάθεσιν ἁρμόζει, ἔν τε ἐκλεικτοῖς καὶ ποτήμασι λαμβανόμενον, καὶ συνάγχαις ἁρμόζει διαχριόμενον σὺν μέλιτι, καὶ στρόφους λύει πινόμενον μετὰ δάφνης φύλλων ἁπαλῶν. ἀποφλεγματίζει δὲ σὺν σταφίδι διαμασηθέν, ἀνώδυνόν τέ ἐστι καὶ ὑγιεινόν, καὶ ὄρεξιν κινεῖ καὶ πέψει συνεργεῖ μειγνύμενον ἐμβάμμασιν. ἀναλημφθὲν δὲ πίσσῃ χοιράδας διαφορεῖ, σμήχει δὲ ἀλφοὺς σὺν νίτρῳ. φώγνυται δὲ ἐν ὀστράκῳ καινῷ ἐπ’ ἀνθράκων κινούμενον ὡς φακοί.

Some Explanations for Erections, Courtesy of ‘Aristotle’. thanks to Ryan Blank (@drawingablank87) for Reminding me of these.

Aristotle, Problems 879a-b

20 “Sexual excitement is also due to an exiting of breath. If its rush finds some exit while arousal is ongoing then it does not make the semen ejaculate. But instead, it cools. Then, it ruins the rigidity of the penis.”

ἔστι δὲ καὶ ὁ ἀφροδισιασμὸς μετὰ πνεύματος ǁ ἐξόδου. εἰ οὖν ὁδοποιεῖται ἡ ὁρμὴ γινομένου αὐτοῦ, οὐ ποιεῖ ὁρμᾶν τὸ σπέρμα, ἀλλὰ καταψύχεται· μαραίνει οὖν τὴν συντονίαν τοῦ αἰδοίου.

4.23 “Why does rigidity and increase happen to the penis? Is it for two reasons? First, is it because that weight develops on the bottom of the testicles, raising it—for the testicles are like a fulcrum? And is it because the veins become full of breath [pneuma]? Or does the mass become bigger because of an increase in moisture or some change in position or from the development of moisture itself? Extremely large things are raised less when the wight of the fulcrum is far away.”

Διὰ τί ἡ σύντασις γίνεται τοῦ αἰδοίου καὶ ἡ αὔξησις; ἢ διὰ δύο, διά τε τὸ βάρος ἐπιγίνεσθαι ἐν τῷ ὄπισθεν τῶν ὄρχεων αἴρεσθαι (ὑπομόχλιον γὰρ οἱ ὄρχεις γίνονται) καὶ διὰ τὸ πνεύματος πληροῦσθαι τοὺς πόρους; ἢ τοῦ ὑγροῦ αὐξανομένου καὶ μεθισταμένου ἢ ἐξ ὑγροῦ γινομένου ὁ ὄγκος | μείζων γίνεται; τὰ λίαν δὲ μεγάλα ἧττον αἴρεται διὰ τὸ πορρωτέρω τὸ βάρος τοῦ ὑπομοχλίου γίνεσθαι.

Erectile Enhancements

For the verb βι[ν]εῖν, see this earlier post. For masturbation in ancient Greek, go here.

Etymologicum Magnum

Anaphlân: to rub genitals with your hand. Some, instead, say stuein.

     ᾿Αναφλᾶν: Χειροτρίβειν τὸ αἰδοῖον. Οἱ δὲ, στύειν.

Aristophanes, Birds 1255-56

“Iris herself—so you’ll be surprised how erect I am
Even though I am an old man, three times as good as a ship’s ram!”

τὴν ῏Ιριν αὐτήν, ὥστε θαυμάζειν ὅπως
οὕτω γέρων ὢν στύομαι τριέμβολον.

Suda, for the gloss

“Triembolon: able to strike a lot. Aristophanes”

Τριέμβολον: πολλάκις ἐμβάλλεσθαι δυνάμενον. ᾿Αριστοφάνης·

Aristophanes, Acharnians 1220

“I want to sleep. And I am erect.
And I will fuck in the dark.”

Κἀγὼ καθεύδειν βούλομαι καὶ στύομαι
καὶ σκοτοβινιῶ.

According to J. Henderson (The Maculate Muse 1991: 112) this verb is the vulgar way to talk about erections:

stuein

Image result for Ancient Greek Phallic vase

Athenaeus, Deipn. 1.32 [=BNJ8135b]

“Phularkhos says that Sandrokottos, the king of the Indians, sent along with other gifts to Seleukos some drugs with erectile powers, the kind of which, when they are applied beneath feet of those who are going to have sex, give the the urge like birds, while some people lose their ability [for sex].”

Φύλαρχος δὲ Σανδρόκοττόν φησι τὸν ᾽Ινδῶν βασιλέα Σελεύκωι μεθ᾽ ὧν ἔπεμψε δώρων ἀποστεῖλαί τινας δυνάμεις στυτικὰς τοιαύτας ὡς ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας τιθεμένας τῶν συνουσιαζόντων οἷς μὲν ὁρμὰς ἐμποιεῖν ὀρνίθων δίκην, οὓς δὲ καταπαύειν.

A Priapic plant [=BNJ 81 F17]

“Phularkhos writes in the eighth book of his Histories that near the Arabian Gulf there is a spring of water from which if anyone ever anoints their feet what transpires miraculously is that their penis becomes enormously erect.  For some it never contracts completely, while others are put back in shape with great suffering and medical attention.”

14 Φύλαρχος ἐν τῇ η′ τῶν ἱστοριῶν [καὶ] κατὰ τὸν ᾿Αράβιόν φησι κόλπον πηγὴν εἶναι ὕδατος, ἐξ οὗ εἴ τις τοὺς πόδας χρίσειεν, συμβαίνειν εὐθέως ἐντείνεσθαι ἐπὶ πολὺ τὸ αἰδοῖον, καί τινων μὲν μηδ’ ὅλως συστέλλεσθαι, τινῶν δὲ μετὰ μεγάλης κακοπαθείας καὶ θεραπείας ἀποκαθίστασθαι.

Idiot Words

 

From the Suda

Idiôtai: Private individuals, used in place of citizens [politai]. This is how Thucydides uses it. But in the Frogs, Aristophanes calls idiots the people who are your own—“regarding strangers and idiots. It is derived from the word idios. And so idiôtês is what they call someone who is related to you by clan; but it is also an unlearned person. And in his Wealth, Aristophanes also uses idiôtikon as that which belongs to a person privately or idion as one’s own.

᾿Ιδιῶται: ἀντὶ τοῦ πολῖται. οὕτως Θουκυδίδης. ᾿Αριστοφάνης δὲ ἐν Βατράχοις ἰδιώτας τοὺς ἰδίους λέγει· περὶ τοὺς ξένους καὶ τοὺς ἰδιώτας· κατὰ παραγωγὴν ἴδιος, ἰδιώτης. ἰδιώτης δὲ λέγεται, ὁ πρὸς γένος ἴδιος, καὶ ὁ ἀμαθής. καὶ ἐν Πλούτῳ ἴδιον τὸ ἰδιωτικόν φησιν.

Some Words

ἰδιάζω: “to live as a private person”

ἰδιασμός: “peculiarity”

ἰδιόβιος: “living by or for oneself”

ἰδιόγλωσσος: “of distinct, peculiar tongue”

ἰδιογνώμων: “private opinion”

ἰδιοθανέω: “to die in a peculiar way”

ἰδιολογία: “private conversation”

ἰδιοξενία: “private friendship”

ἰδιοπάθεια: “feeling for oneself alone”

Also from the Suda

Idiôtês: someone who is illiterate. Damaskios writes about Isidore: “of all the idiots and all the philosophers of his time he was equally tight-lipped generally and he hid his thoughts. But he poured his mind out into the shared increase of virtue and the limit of vice.

᾿Ιδιώτης: ὁ ἀγράμματος. Δαμάσκιος περὶ ᾿Ισιδώρου φησί·  πάντων τῶν καθ’ αὑτὸν ἰδιωτῶν ὁμοίως καὶ φιλοσόφων ἐχέμυθος ἐς τὰ μάλιστα καὶ κρυψίνους ἦν, ἀλλ’ εἴς γε συναύξησιν τῆς ἀρετῆς καὶ τῆς κακίας μείωσιν ὅλην ἐξεκέχυτο τὴν ψυχήν.

Some More Words

ἰδιοποιέω: “to make separately” in the middle: “to appropriate to oneself”

ἰδιόσημος: “peculiar in signification”

ἰδιόστολος: “equipt at private expense”

ἰδιοσύγκριτος: “Peculiarly composed”

ἰδιόφωνος: “with one’s own voice”

ἰδιοφυής: “of peculiar nature”

ἰδιόχειρος: “written by one’s own hand”

ἰδίωμα: “a peculiarity”

Andocides, On His Return 2

“These men must be the dumbest of all people or they are the most inimical to the state. If they believe that it is also better for their private affairs when the state does well, then they are complete fools in pursuing something opposite to their own advantage right now. If they do not believe that they share common interests with you, then they must be enemies of the state”

δεῖ γὰρ αὐτοὺς ἤτοι ἀμαθεστάτους εἶναι πάντων ἀνθρώπων, ἢ τῇ πόλει ταύτῃ δυσμενεστάτους. εἰ μέν γε νομίζουσι τῆς πόλεως εὖ πραττούσης καὶ τὰ ἴδια σφῶν αὐτῶν ἄμεινον ἂν φέρεσθαι, ἀμαθέστατοί εἰσι τὰ ἐναντία νῦν τῇ ἑαυτῶν ὠφελείᾳ σπεύδοντες· εἰ δὲ μὴ ταὐτὰ ἡγοῦνται σφίσι τε αὐτοῖς συμφέρειν καὶ τῷ ὑμετέρῳ κοινῷ, δυσμενεῖς ἂν τῇ πόλει εἶεν·

Still, More Words

ἰδιωματικός: “characteristic”

ἰδίωσις: “distinction between things”

ἰδιωτεία: “private life or business”

ἰδιωτεύω: “to be a private person”

ἰδιώτης: “a private person, an individual” 2cL “unpracticed, unskilled, ignoant, ill-informed”

ἰδιωτίζω, “to put into a common language”

ἰδιωτικός: “of or for a private person”; 2: “unprofessional, rude”

ἰδιώτις: “inconsiderable”

ἰδιωτισμός: “the way or fashion of a common person”

ἰδιωφελής: “privately profitable”

 mrw boss tells task priority GIF

Epictetus, Encheiridion, 48

“The state and character of an ‘idiot’ is this: he never expects harm or help from himself, but he always looks elsewhere. This is the state and character of a philosopher: he expects all help and harm to come from himself

These are signs of someone making progress: he blames no one; praises no one; criticizes no one; impugns no one; and says nothing about himself as if he were someone or knew something. Whenever he meets an obstacle or is held back, he takes the blame. Whenever anyone praises him, he chuckles to himself while they praise. If someone criticizes him, he offers no defense. He proceeds just like the feeble, taking care not to disturb anything he is developing before it grows firm.

He has banished every desire from himself and he has admitted to disinclination only those aspects of nature which are under our control, He applies a disinterested impulse toward all things. Should he seem to be simple or unlearned, he doesn’t care. In sum, he guards against himself as if he were an enemy conspirator.”

48. Ἰδιώτου στάσις καὶ χαρακτήρ· οὐδέποτε ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ προσδοκᾷ ὠφέλειαν ἢ βλάβην, ἀλλ᾿ ἀπὸ τῶν ἔξω. φιλοσόφου στάσις καὶ χαρακτήρ· πᾶσαν ὠφέλειαν καὶ βλάβην ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ προσδοκᾷ.

Σημεῖα προκόπτοντος· οὐδένα ψέγει, οὐδένα ἐπαινεῖ, οὐδένα μέμφεται, οὐδενὶ ἐγκαλεῖ, οὐδὲν περὶ ἑαυτοῦ λέγει ὡς ὄντος τινὸς ἢ εἰδότος τι. ὅταν ἐμποδισθῇ τι ἢ κωλυθῇ, ἑαυτῷ ἐγκαλεῖ. κἄν τις αὐτὸν ἐπαινῇ, καταγελᾷ τοῦ ἐπαινοῦντος αὐτὸς παρ᾿ ἑαυτῷ· κἂν ψέγῃ, οὐκ ἀπολογεῖται. περίεισι δὲ καθάπερ οἱ ἄρρωστοι, εὐλαβούμενός τι κινῆσαι τῶν καθισταμένων, πρὶν πῆξιν λαβεῖν.

ὄρεξιν ἅπασαν ἦρκεν ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ· τὴν δ᾿ ἔκκλισιν εἰς μόνα τὰ παρὰ φύσιν τῶν ἐφ᾿ ἡμῖν μετατέθεικεν. ὁρμῇ πρὸς ἅπαντα ἀνειμένῃ χρῆται. ἂν ἠλίθιος ἢ ἀμαθὴς δοκῇ, οὐ πεφρόντικεν. ἑνί τε λόγῳ, ὡς ἐχθρὸν ἑαυτὸν παραφυλάσσει καὶ ἐπίβουλον.

From Beekes 2010

idiot

 

 

F.A.R.T: A Panfarticon of Classical Topoi for Current Events

A good suggestion for a better title:

A draft bill to leave the World Trade Organization is being called the F.air A.nd R.eciprocal T.rade Act. Here’s an aggregation of Classical passages which may or may not lend support to such esteemed and properly named legislation.

Suetonius, Divus Claudius 32

“He is even said to have considered passing an edict, by which he would give license to farting at dinner, because he had heard of a man who had nearly killed himself by holding it in for shame.”

Dicitur etiam meditatus edictum, quo veniam daret flatum crepitumque ventris in convivio emittendi, cum periclitatum qvendam prae pudore ex continentia repperisset.

Aristophanes, Clouds, 293

“I revere you, men of much honor, and I want to fart in reply”

καὶ σέβομαί γ’, ὦ πολυτίμητοι, καὶ βούλομαι ἀνταποπαρδεῖν

Erasmus, Adagia 3.4.2:

Everyone enjoys the smell of their own farts.’ Suus cuique crepitus bene olet

Ἕχαστος αὑτοῦ τὸ βδέμα μήλου γλύκιον ἡγεἶται ‘Each person thinks that the smell of his own fart is sweeter than an apple,’ This is to say: there is no one who doesn’t consider his own faults to be something more like virtues. Aristotle, in the ninth book of his Nichomachean Ethics, writes, ‘In many cases, those who have a thing and those who simply wish to have a thing do not value it equally. One’s own possessions, and those which he gives to others, appear to be far more valuable.’ This passage corresponds well to the famous proverb, ‘One’s own thing is beautiful to him,’ but that page has escaped my hands. I actually suspect that Apostolius drew this proverb about farting from the shit you hear among the common crowd, because I have never met anyone who enjoyed the smell of his own farts. Yet, it is true that people tend to feel more violently repulsed by someone else’s shit and farts than by the smell of their own.”

Suus cuique crepitus bene olet

Ἕχαστος αὑτοῦ τὸ βδέμα μήλου γλύκιον ἡγεἶται, id est Unusquisque suum ipsius crepitum malo suaviorem existimat. Hoc est: Nemo est, cui sua mala non videantur vel optima. Aristoteles Moralium Nicomachiorum nono: Σὰ πολλὰ γὰρ οὐ τὸ ἴσον τιμῶσιν οἱ ἔχοντες καὶ οἱ βουλόμενοι λαβεἶν. Σὰ γὰρ οἰκεἶα καὶ ἃ διδόασιν ἑκάστοις φαίνεται πολλοῦ ἄξια, id est Pleraque enim non eodem pretio aestimantur ab his qui habent et ab his qui cupiunt accipere. Nam sua cuique et quae dat videntur esse multi pretii. Hic locus magis congruebat proverbio Suum cuique pulchrum, sed ea pagina jam exierat manus meas. Proverbium de crepitu suspicor ab Apostolio e vulgi fece haustum ; nondum enim quemquam reperi, cui suus crepitus bene oleret. Illud verum est homines vehementius abhorrere ab alienis excrementis et crepitu quam a suis.

Aristophanes, Peace 335

“I am in joy, and I am delighted! and I fart and I laugh…”

ἥδομαι γὰρ καὶ γέγηθα καὶ πέπορδα καὶ γελῶ

Cicero, de Divinatione 1.30

“Plato therefore encourages people to go to sleep with their bodies thus disposed that there be nothing which could introduce any wandering from or disturbance of sleep. From which it is thought that the Pythagoreans prohibited the consumption of beans, because that food causes a great flatulence which is contrary to the tranquility of a mind seeking the truth.”

Iubet igitur Plato sic ad somnum proficisci corporibus adfectis, ut nihil sit, quod errorem animis perturbationemque adferat. Ex quo etiam Pythagoreis interdictum putatur, ne faba vescerentur, quod habet infiationem magnam is cibus tranquillitati mentis quaerenti vera contrariam.

Nicarchus, Greek Anth. 395

“A fart with nowhere to go kills many men
a fart even saves when its hisses as it sings.
If, then, a fart can save or kill again,
a fart has power the equal of kings.”

Πορδὴ ἀποκτέννει πολλοὺς ἀδιέξοδος οὖσα·
πορδὴ καὶ σώζει τραυλὸν ἱεῖσα μέλος.
οὐκοῦν εἰ σώζει, καὶ ἀποκτέννει πάλι πορδή,
τοῖς βασιλεῦσιν ἴσην πορδὴ ἔχει δύναμιν.

Illuminated MSS

Athenaeus, 3 (102 F = Damoxenus, fr. 2)

“take each thing and fart on it in turn”

….λαβὼν / ἕκαστον αὐτῶν κατὰ μέρος προσπαρδέτ᾿.

Martial, Epigrams 40.3

“You fart, I ignore it….”

pedis: dissimulo….

Popular Mime, Fr. 6

“Throw a fart”

πορδὴν βάλε

The Greek verb for farting, perdesthai, is cognate with Latin podex (“anus”) and the English verb fart. Greek has several synonyms on a sliding scale of politeness. This restores my faith in the expressive range of Ancient Greek so shaken by the absence of words for “sleep-walking” or “sleep-talking”.

Bdennusthai: This means to evacuate one’s stomach, not to fart. This is also used locally in our time, for we say “he farts” (bdei)

Βδέννυσθαι: ἐκκενοῦσθαι τὴν κοιλίαν σημαίνει, οὐ τὸ πέρδεσθαι. ὃ καὶ ἐπιχωριάζει μέχρι τοῦ νῦν: βδέει γὰρ λέγομεν.

Skordinâsthai: This means to stretch ones limbs beyond the limits of nature nwhile yawning from weariness. Aristophanes says in the Acharnians: “I groan, I yawn, I stretch, I fart.” Some people use this verb for people waking from sleep, when they yawn and stretch their limbs. This is also used of people who twist their timbs and test them in every direction”

Σκορδινᾶσθαι: τὸ παρὰ φύσιν ἀποτείνειν τὰ μέλη μετὰ τοῦ χασμᾶσθαι διακλώμενον. Ἀριστοφάνης Ἀχαρνεῦσι: στένω, κέχηνα, σκορδινῶμαι, πέρδομαι. τινὲς δὲ περὶ τοὺς ἐγειρομένους ἐξ ὕπνου, ὅταν χασμώδεις ὄντες ἐκτείνουσι τὰ μέλη: ὅπερ συμβαίνει καὶ περὶ τοὺς ἄλλως πως βασανιζομένους καὶ διαστρεφομένους τὰ μέλη.

Apopnein and diapnein: “breathing out” and “releasing air”. These words mean to fart, but they are more polite than apopsophein (“breaking wind”).

Ἀποπνέω: γενικῇ. Ἀποπνεῖν καὶ διαπνεῖν τὸ πέρδεσθαι, εὐσχημονέστερον τοῦ ἀποψοφεῖν.

Apopsophiein: This means “to fart”, but it is more respectable. Even more polite are the words diapnein and apopnein.

᾿Αποψοφιεῖν: τὸ πέρδεσθαι, εὐσχήμως λέγων. εὐσχημονέστερον δὲ διαπνεῖν καὶ ἀποπνεῖν.

Petronius, Satyricon 47

“Pardon me, friends. My stomach has not been well for days, and the doctors don’t know what they’re about. Yet, pomegranate and pine with vinegar have done me good. Yet, I hope that my bowels will resume their old sense of shame. Otherwise, my stomach will sound so loud that you’d think it was a bull! So, if any of you wish to attend to personal business, don’t feel ashamed. No one of us is solidly born, and I think that there is no greater torment than to hold it in. Farting is the one thing which even Jupiter cannot forbid. I see you laughing, Fortunata, but you often wake me up at night with your blasts. So, I don’t forbid anyone in the dining room to do what will come as a relief, and doctors urge us not to hold it in. And, if anything more than just a fart should come upon you, everything is ready outside: water, some pots, and other accessories. Believe me, if a vapor wafts up into your brain, it will make a wave in your entire body. I know that many have died because they did not wish to speak the truth.”

“Ignoscite mihi, inquit, amici, multis iam diebus venter mihi non respondit. Nec medici se inveniunt. Profuit mihi tamen maleicorium et taeda ex aceto. Spero tamen, iam veterem pudorem sibi imponet. Alioquin circa stomachum mihi sonat, putes taurum. Itaque si quis vestrum voluerit sua re causa facere, non est quod illum pudeatur. Nemo nostrum solide natus est. Ego nullum puto tam magnum tormentum esse quam continere. Hoc solum vetare ne Iovis potest. Rides, Fortunata, quae soles me nocte desomnem facere? Nec tamen in triclinio ullum vetuo facere quod se iuvet, et medici vetant continere. Vel si quid plus venit, omnia foras parata sunt: aqua, lasani et cetera minutalia. Credite mihi, anathymiasis si in cerebrum it, et in toto corpore fluctum facit. Multos scio periisse, dum nolunt sibi verum dicere.”

From A Little Hill to Shameful Touching: Clitoral Etymologies

Bill Beck has a good article on Eidolon about the way ancient (and eventually Modern) etymology and “word science” manipulates the concept of the original meaning of words in order to reinforce various types of dominant cultural discourse.

Here is another example, the history of the word clitoris. I have arranged the examples in roughly chronological order.

Hesychius

“Kleitoris: the over-covering skin [lit. of hypodoris?] of a woman’s genitals. From where we get the word kleitoriazein, which means to rub or touch [as in to masturbate].”

κλειτορίς· τοῦ γυναικείου αἰδοίου ἡ ὑποδορίς, ἔνθεν καὶ τὸ κλειτοριάζειν τὸ ψηλαφᾶν

Etymologicum Magnum

Klitorion:… it also means a woman’s genitals. From this we also find the verb klitoriazein which means “touching shamefully”

Σημαίνει δὲ καὶ τὸ αἰδοῖον τῆς γυναικός· ὅθεν καὶ κλιτοριάζειν λέγεται τὸ αἰσχρῶς ἅπτεσθαι.

Suda, mu 1462

Murton: “myrtle berry” The form of the female genitalia in the middle of which is the clitoris. From this we get the word kleitorizesthai which means to touch oneself licentiously. The lip is the hupodoris and the sides the myrtle-lips

Μύρτον: τὸ σχῆμα τοῦ γυναικείου αἰδοίου, οὗ τὸ μεταξὺ κλειτορίς. ἀφ’ οὗ τὸ ἀκολάστως ἕπεσθαι κλειτορίζεσθαι. τὸ δὲ χεῖλος ὑποδορίς, τὸ δὲ σύμπτωμα μυρτοχείλη.

Note in the following and the former the difference between the active and middle  voices

Michael Apostolios

Klitoriazein: applied to pedarasts. Or for those who are licentious towards women [or “to licentious behavior for women”?]

Κλιτοριάζειν: ἐπὶ τῶν παιδεραστῶν· ἢ ἐπὶ τῶν γυναιξὶν ἀκολάστων.

kleitoris

The LSJ is a little bashful about this:

kleitoris lsj

 

Tawdry Tuesday: Proctological Proverb Edition

Arsenius, 34a1

“May you fall into Hades’ asshole”: [a curse]: may you die.

῞Αιδου πρωκτῷ περιπέσῃς: ἤγουν τελευτήσῃς.

Note: Even though Ancient Greek prôktos can merely mean “rear end” (as in butt), it most often means ‘anus’ in comedy and insults. Also, I wanted to use something profane and given the British/American divide on arse/ass, I decided just to go with “asshole” because it is funnier.

Diogenianus (v.1 e cod. Marz. 2.42)

“I wish you’d fall into Hades’ asshole”: this is clear

῞Αιδου πρωκτῷ περιπέσοις: δῆλον.

Diogenianus (v.2 e cod. Vindob. 133, 1.97 )

“I wish you’d fall into Hades’ asshole”: Used for cursing someone

Αἵδου πρωκτῷ περιπέσοις: ἐπὶ τῶν καταρωμένων τινί.

Diogenianus, 3.58

“The asshole survives the bath” [or, “Ass surpasses the bath”]. Whenever someone is not able to wash himself, but his bowels still assail him. This is a proverb used for things done uselessly.

Πρωκτὸς λουτροῦ περιγίνεται: ὅταν τις μὴ δύνηται ἀπονίψασθαι, ἀλλ’ ἡ κοιλία αὐτῷ ἐπιφέρηται. λέγεται ἡ παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνωφελῶς πραττομένων.

Michael Apostolius, 14.78

“The asshole survives the bath”: This proverb is used for things done uselessly and done for show. For people with thick asses and potbellies are not able to wash themselves off easily.”

Πρωκτὸς λουτροῦ περιγίνεται: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνωφελῶν καὶ εἰκῇ πραττομένων ἐλέγετο· οἱ γὰρ παχύπρωκτοι καὶ προγάστορες οὐ δύνανται ἑαυτοὺς ἀπονίψασθαι εὐπετῶς.

Zenobius, Vulg. 1.52

“It was cured by Akesias”: this is a proverb for when things are healed for the worse. Aristotle provides the proverb in tetrameters: “Akesias healed his asshole.”

Ἀκεσίας ἰάσατο· ἐπὶ τῶν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον ἰωμένων. ὅλην δὲ Ἀριστοφάνης ἐν τετραμέτροις τὴν παροιμίαν ἐκφέρει, λέγων· Ἀκεσίας τὸν πρωκτὸν ἰάσατο.

Suda, s.v. Ἀφευθεὶς

“Singed around the asshole:” Aristophanes has this instead of being “all burned up”

Ἀφευθεὶς τὸν πρωκτόν: Ἀριστοφάνης ἀντὶ τοῦ φλογισθείς.

Balneum Tripergulae – particolare da miniatura del Codice Angelico del “De Balneis Puteolanis� di Pietro da Eboli.

Bonus: Suda on defecation (And there is more of this)

Apopatêma: this is the same as ‘dung’ Eupolis has in his Golden Age: “What is that man? Shit of a fox.” And Kratinus has in Runaway Slaves: I knocked Kerkyon out at dawn when I found him shitting in the vegetables.” We also find the participle apopatêsomenoi (“they are about to shit”) which means they are going to evacuate the feces from their bodies. But patos also means path.

Aristophanes writes “No one sacrifices the old way any more or even enters the temple except for the more than ten thousand who want to shit. So, apopatos is really the voiding of the bowels. Aristophanes also says about Kleonymous: “He went off to shit after he got he army and shat for ten months in the golden mountains? For how long was he closing his asshole? A whole turn of the moon?”

Ἀποπάτημα: αὐτὸ τὸ σκύβαλον. Εὔπολις Χρυσῷ γένει: τί γάρ ἐστ’ ἐκεῖνος; ἀποπάτημ’ ἀλώπεκος. Κρατῖνος Δραπέτισι: τὸν Κερκύονά τε ἕωθεν ἀποπατοῦντ’ ἐπὶ τοῖς λαχάνοις εὑρὼν ἀπέπνιξα. καὶ Ἀποπατησόμενοι, τὴν κόπρον κενώσοντες. πάτος δὲ ἡ ὁδός. Ἀριστοφάνης: οὐδεὶς θύει τοπαράπαν οὐδ’ εἰσέρχεται, πλὴν ἀποπατησόμενοί γε πλεῖν ἢ μύριοι. Ἀπόπατος γὰρ ἡ κένωσις τῆς γαστρός. καὶ Ἀριστοφάνης περὶ Κλεωνύμου φησίν: εἰς ἀπόπατον ᾤχετο στρατιὰν λαβὼν κἄχεζεν ὀκτὼ μῆνας ἐπὶ χρυσῶν ὄρων. πόσου δὲ τὸν πρωκτὸν χρόνου ξυνήγαγε; τῇ πανσελήνῳ.

From Henderson’s Maculate Muse

proktos

The Consent of the Damned: Homeric Scholia and the Lotus-Eaters

In Odysseus’ tale of his wanderings he recounts how he saved his men from the temptations of the land of the Lotus-Eaters

Odyssey 9.82-97

“From there for nine days I was carried by ruinous winds
over the fish-bearing sea. On the tenth we came to the land
of the Lotus-Eaters where they eat the florid food.
There we disembarked to the shore and we drew water;
soon my companions made dinner around the swift ships.
But after we had shared the food and drink
I sent out companions to go and discover
whatever men there were who ate the fruit of the earth.
I chose two men and sent a herald as a third.
They went and met the Lotus-eating men.
The Lotus-Eaters didn’t bring any harm to my companions,
but they gave them their lotus to share.
Whoever ate the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus
no longer wished to report back or return home,
but just longed to stay there among the Lotus-eating men
to wait and pluck the lotus, forgetting his homecoming.”

ἔνθεν δ’ ἐννῆμαρ φερόμην ὀλοοῖσ’ ἀνέμοισι
πόντον ἐπ’ ἰχθυόεντα• ἀτὰρ δεκάτῃ ἐπέβημεν
γαίης Λωτοφάγων, οἵ τ’ ἄνθινον εἶδαρ ἔδουσιν.
ἔνθα δ’ ἐπ’ ἠπείρου βῆμεν καὶ ἀφυσσάμεθ’ ὕδωρ,
αἶψα δὲ δεῖπνον ἕλοντο θοῇς παρὰ νηυσὶν ἑταῖροι.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ σίτοιό τ’ ἐπασσάμεθ’ ἠδὲ ποτῆτος,
δὴ τότ’ ἐγὼν ἑτάρους προΐην πεύθεσθαι ἰόντας,
οἵ τινες ἀνέρες εἶεν ἐπὶ χθονὶ σῖτον ἔδοντες,
ἄνδρε δύω κρίνας, τρίτατον κήρυχ’ ἅμ’ ὀπάσσας.
οἱ δ’ αἶψ’ οἰχόμενοι μίγεν ἀνδράσι Λωτοφάγοισιν•
οὐδ’ ἄρα Λωτοφάγοι μήδονθ’ ἑτάροισιν ὄλεθρον
ἡμετέροισ’, ἀλλά σφι δόσαν λωτοῖο πάσασθαι.
τῶν δ’ ὅς τις λωτοῖο φάγοι μελιηδέα καρπόν,
οὐκέτ’ ἀπαγγεῖλαι πάλιν ἤθελεν οὐδὲ νέεσθαι,
ἀλλ’ αὐτοῦ βούλοντο μετ’ ἀνδράσι Λωτοφάγοισι
λωτὸν ἐρεπτόμενοι μενέμεν νόστου τε λαθέσθαι.

The scholia present reactions to this passage that are not altogether alien from some arguments in the debate about drug enforcement and addiction.

One scholiast quotes Heraclitus the Paradoxographer with approval, noting that this scene is about how the wise man can resist pleasure.

Schol. T ad. Od. 9 89

“From Herakleitos. If someone wishes to examine Odysseus’ wanderings precisely, he will find an allegorical tale. For he has set up Odysseus as something of a vehicle of every kind of virtue through which has philosophized: and then he resists the vices that corrupt human life: the land of the Lotus-eaters represents pleasure, a land of foreign corruption which Odysseus masterfully passes by, and then he settles the wild heart of each man with either chastisement or persuasion.”

ἐκ τοῦ ῾Ηρακλείτου. καθόλου δὲ τὴν ᾿Οδυσσέως πλάνην εἴ τις ἀκριβῶς ἐθέλει σκοπεῖν, ἠλληγορημένην εὑρήσει. πάσης γὰρ ἀρετῆς καθάπερ ὄργανόν τι τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα παραστησάμενος ἑαυτῷ διὰ τοῦτο πεφιλοσόφηκεν, ἐπειδήπερ τὰς ἐκνεμομένας τὸν ἀνθρώπινον βίον ἤχθηρε κακίας, ἡδονὴν μέν γε τὸ Λωτοφάγων χωρίον, ξένης γεωργὸν ἀπολαύσεως, ἣν ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ἐγκρατῶς παρέπλευσε, τὸν δ’ ἄγριον ἑκάστου θυμὸν ὡσπερεὶ καυτηρίῳ τῇ παραινέσει τῶν λόγων ἐπήρωσε.

Another commentator actually speaks of the Lotus-eaters as just men. This author implies that Odysseus’ men choose to take the drugs. Therefore, the blame is on them.

Schol. Q ad Od. 9.92

“Because they are righteous men, the [Lotus-eaters] do not restrain anyone by force, but by persuasion. For in the word “they were devising” it is clear that the ruin which attends these men does not happen without their consent. For, because the Lotus-eaters are righteous men, they were detaining no one by force but they were bewitching them with words alone.”

οὐδ’ ἄρα Λωτοφάγοι] δίκαιοι ὄντες ἄνδρες βίᾳ τινι οὐ κατεῖχον, ἀλλὰ πειθοῖ. τὸ δὲ “μήδοντο” δηλοῖ ὅτι οὐχ ἑκούσιος ἦν ἐκείνων ὁ γενόμενος ὄλεθρος. καὶ γὰρ οἱ Λωτοφάγοι δίκαιοι ὄντες βίᾳ οὐδένα κατεῖχον, ἀλλὰ τῷ λόγῳ μόνῳ ἔθελγον. Q.

And another comment explains that the men who partake of the lotus don’t actually forget their homecoming, but they merely stop worrying about it. Because, you know, it is their fault.

Schol. HQ ad Od. 9.97

“They forgot their homecoming” This follows from their nature, as it happens with the irrational animals, that the Lotus brings them forgetfulness and because of pleasure they spurn their homecoming. The sentiment is similar to the Iliad’s “they forgot their rushing valor”—they did not really forget it, but they stopped fostering it.”

νόστου τε λαθέσθαι] ἀκολούθως τῇ φύσει, ὡς ἐπὶ ἀλόγων ζῴων, οὐχ ὡς μέντοι τοῦ λωτοῦ λήθην ἐμποιοῦντος, ἀλλὰ διὰ τὴν ἡδονὴν καταφρονούντων τοῦ νόστου. ὅμοιον δέ ἐστι τῷ “λάθοντο δὲ θούριδος ἀλκῆς” (Il. ο, 322.). οὐ γὰρ ἐπελάθοντο, ἀλλὰ κατημέλησαν.

In these three cases, drug addiction is treated as an individual responsibility and not as either a biological challenge [e.g. addiction as a disease] or a social problem [an act of oblivion in a society with no collective meaning or sense of belonging].

(Maybe they were all on drugs anyway)

Ancient Greek may not have had a word for the concept of addiction.

 

Stupidity, Evil’s Sibling.

μωρολογία: properly, “stupid-talking” or “the talk of fools”. But why not: “the science of stupidity”?

Sophocles, fr. 924

“Stupidity is a terrible opponent to wrestle”

ὡς δυσπάλαιστόν <ἐστιν> ἀμαθία κακόν

Terence, Phormio, 659-660

“Whether I claim he does this because of stupidity or

malice—whether this is a knowing plot, or incompetence, I am unsure.”

utrum stultitia facere ego hunc an malitia
dicam, scientem an imprudentem, incertu’ sum.

Sophocles, fr. 925

“Stupidity really is evil’s sibling”

ἡ δὲ μωρία
μάλιστ᾿ ἀδελφὴ τῆς πονηρίας ἔφυ

Suetonius, Divus Claudius 38

“But he did not stay quiet even about his own stupidity: but claimed that he had faked it on purpose under Gaius because he would have not escaped and advanced to his eventual position otherwise—and that this was supported by certain oracles. But he persuaded no one. And after a brief time, a book was published with the title “The Ascension of Fools” which posited that no one can pretend stupidity.”

Ac ne stultitiam quidem suam reticuit simulatamque a se ex industria sub Gaio, quod aliter evasurus perventurusque ad susceptam stationem non fuerit, quibusdam oratiunculis testatus est; nec tamen49 persuasit, cum intra breve tempus liber editus sit, cui index erat μωρῶν ἐπανάστασις, argumentum autem stultitiam neminem fingere.

Plutarch, Rational Beasts 998a

“Note that a lack of intelligence or stupidity in some animals emerges in contrast with the abilities and sharpness of others as you might compare an ass or a sheep with a fox, a wolf or a bee. It would be the same if you would compare Polyphemos or that idiot Koroibos to your grandfather Autolykos. For I do not think that there is so great a difference between beasts as there is between individual people in thinking, using reason, and in memory.”

ἐννόησον δ᾿ ὅτι τὰς ἐνίων ἀβελτερίας καὶ βλακείας ἐλέγχουσιν ἑτέρων πανουργίαι καὶ δριμύτητες, ὅταν ἀλώπεκι καὶ λύκῳ καὶ μελίττῃ παραβάλῃς ὄνον καὶ πρόβατον· ὥσπερ εἰ σαυτῷ τὸν Πολύφημον ἢ τῷ πάππῳ σου τῷ Αὐτολύκῳ τὸν Κόροιβον ἐκεῖνον τὸν μωρόν οὐ γὰρ οἶμαι θηρίου πρὸς θηρίον ἀπόστασιν εἶναι τοσαύτην, ὅσον ἄνθρωπος ἀνθρώπου τῷ φρονεῖν καὶ λογίζεσθαι καὶ μνημονεύειν ἀφέστηκεν.

Andocides, On His Return 2

“These men must be the dumbest of all people or they are the most inimical to the state. If they believe that it is also better for their private affairs when the state does well, then they are complete fools in pursuing something opposite to their own advantage right now. If they do not believe that they share common interests with you, then they must be enemies of the state”

δεῖ γὰρ αὐτοὺς ἤτοι ἀμαθεστάτους εἶναι πάντων ἀνθρώπων, ἢ τῇ πόλει ταύτῃ δυσμενεστάτους. εἰ μέν γε νομίζουσι τῆς πόλεως εὖ πραττούσης καὶ τὰ ἴδια σφῶν αὐτῶν ἄμεινον ἂν φέρεσθαι, ἀμαθέστατοί εἰσι τὰ ἐναντία νῦν τῇ ἑαυτῶν ὠφελείᾳ σπεύδοντες· εἰ δὲ μὴ ταὐτὰ ἡγοῦνται σφίσι τε αὐτοῖς συμφέρειν καὶ τῷ ὑμετέρῳ κοινῷ, δυσμενεῖς ἂν τῇ πόλει εἶεν·

Seneca the Elder, Suasoriae, 21

“A special recognition for stupidity needs to be given to the rhetorician Corvus who said, “Since Xerxes is already sailing against us on his sea, shouldn’t we flee before the earth is taken from us””

Corvo rhetori testimonium stuporis reddendum est, qui dixit: “quidni, si iam Xerses ad nos suo mari navigat, fugiamus, ntequam nobis terra subripiatur?”

Image result for ancient greek stupidity

Clodius The Monster and the Origin of “Cui Bono”

Cicero, Pro Milone 32

“How, then, is it possible to prove that Clodius conspired against Milo? For such an audacious, nefarious monster it is enough to show that he had a great reason, that great hope resided in the death of Milo, and that there was great purpose to it. And so, let that proverb of Cassius “Who profited from it?” [cui bono fuerit] frame the players on the stage, if truly good men are compelled to deception by no prize while the wicked often are moved by a small one.

Once Milo was killed, Clodius advanced in these ways: not only was he as a praeter under no consul who would do something about his crime, but he was also a praeter serving under consuls with whose plans if not their actually help he hoped that he would be able to get away with his planned insanities. These men, as I am sure we were thinking, would not want to restrain his actions if they could, since they would think about the great benefit they owed him; men who, even if they wanted to, would hardly be capable of squashing the boldness of the most criminal person, an audacity fully strengthened by time.”

Quonam igitur pacto probari potest insidias Miloni fecisse Clodium? Satis est in illa quidem tam audaci, tam nefaria belua docere, magnam ei causam, magnam spem in Milonis morte propositam, magnas utilitates fuisse. Itaque illud Cassianum, “cui bono fuerit,” in his personis valeat, etsi boni nullo emolumento impelluntur in fraudem, improbi saepe parvo. Atqui Milone interfecto Clodius haec adsequebatur, non modo ut praetor esset non eo consule, quo sceleris nihil facere posset, sed etiam ut eis consulibus praetor esset, quibus si non adiuvantibus, at coniventibus certe speraret posse se eludere in illis suis cogitatis furoribus: cuius illi conatus, ut ipse ratiocinabatur, nec cuperent reprimere, si possent, cum tantum beneficium ei se debere arbitrarentur, et, si vellent, fortasse vix possent frangere hominis sceleratissimi conroboratam iam vetustate audaciam.

The Cassius in question is L. Cassius Longinus, Tribune of the Plebs in 127 BCE . We have mentioned the polarizing P. Clodius Pulcher before.

Cicero was a fan of this saying.

Cicero, Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino, 84

The famous Lucius Cassius, whom the Roman people used to consider the most truthful and wisest judge, often used to say in evaluating cases “who stood to profit” [cui bono fuisset]. This is the human way: no one pursues a crime without the hope of some profit.”

Cassius ille, quem populus Romanus verissimum et sapientissimum iudicem putabat, identidem in causis quaerere solebat, “cui bono” fuisset. Sic vita hominum est, ut ad maleficium nemo conetur sine spe atque emolumento accedere.

Roman Coin depicting Vestal Virgin on one side and L. Cassius on the other (he famously prosecuted the Vestal Virgins for not being chaste)

 

 

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