“Windblown dreams and shadows of glory”: Human Life

Arsenius, 17.66

“Windblown dreams and shadows of glory”: A proverb applied to those hoping for things in vain.

῾Υπηνέμια ὀνείρατα καὶ ἐπαίνων σκιαί: ἐπὶ τῶν μάτην ἐλπιζόντων.


Some Words

ἀνεμώδης: “windy”

ἀνεμοσκεπής: “shelter from the wind”

ἀνεμόστρεφος: “whirling in the wind”

ἀνεμόπους: “wind-footed” [i.e. “fast”]

ἀνεμοδούλιον: “Slave to the wind”

ἀνεμαμαχία: “meeting of contrary winds”


Sophocles, fr. 945

“O wretched and mortal race of men:
We are nothing more than image of shadows,
Wandering back and forth, an excessive weight on the earth.”

ὦ θνητὸν ἀνδρῶν καὶ ταλαίπωρον γένος,
ὡς οὐδέν ἐσμεν πλὴν σκιαῖς ἐοικότες,
βάρος περισσὸν γῆς ἀναστρωφώμενοι

The passage from Sophocles above made me think of the following lines from Homer

Homer. Od. 10.495

“Persephone allowed him to have a mind, even though he is dead,
He alone is able to think. The others leap like shadows”

τῷ καὶ τεθνηῶτι νόον πόρε Περσεφόνεια
οἴῳ πεπνῦσθαι· τοὶ δὲ σκιαὶ ἀΐσσουσιν.’

The scholia have a few interesting things to add to this.

Schol. ad Hom. Od. 10.495

“They leap like shadows”: The rest of the dead apart from Teiresias are shadows and they move like shadows, just like the shadows that follow men who are moving. This term is used instead of souls [psukhai]. Certainly the poet has the rest of the dead come forward for comparison in this, but the rest of the dead move like shadows”

τοὶ δὲ σκιαὶ ἀΐσσουσιν] οἱ δὲ ἄλλοι νεκροὶ πλὴν τοῦ Τειρεσίου σκιαί εἰσι καὶ ὡς σκιαὶ ὁρμῶσι, καθάπερ αὗται παρέπονται τοῖς κινουμένοις. Q. ἀντὶ τοῦ αἱ ψυχαί. ὁ μέντοι ποιητὴς πρὸς τοὺς ἄλλους νεκροὺς ποιεῖται τὴν σύγκρισιν ἐν τῷ, οἱ δὲ ἄλλοι νεκροὶ ὡς σκιαὶ ἀΐσσουσιν. B.Q.T.

Boreas abducting Oreithyia

Stobaeus (1.49.54) in discussing shadows and death, notes that “if they meet their near and dear, they cannot see them nor can they converse with them, but they are walled off from aesthetic reality, they appear to them something like shadows”

Εἰ δὴ τοῖς οἰκείοις ἐντυγχάνοντες οὔτε ὁρῶσιν αὐτοὺς οὔτε προσδιαλέγονται, ἀνενέργητοι δέ εἰσιν αἰσθητικὴν ἐνέργειαν, πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἐοικότες εἶεν <ἂν> ταῖς σκιαῖς·

He also brings up the image of smoke evoked in the Iliad (23.100-101)

“He could not grasp him, but his soul went over the earth,
Twisted, just like smoke…”

οὐδ’ ἔλαβε· ψυχὴ δὲ κατὰ χθονὸς ἠΰτε καπνὸς
ᾤχετο τετριγυῖα…


Children, Education, and Open Doors: More Greek Proverbs

Go here for more information about Ancient Greek collections of proverbs.

Arsenius 15.19a

“Milk nourishes infants and conscious children, milk fattens like wisdom”

Γάλα τρέφει νήπια, παῖδα δ’ ἔμφρονα, γάλα πιαίνει σωφροσύνη καθάπερ.

[I want the last phrase to go the other way, e.g. “wisdom fattens like milk” but I can’t justify it completely]


“Whatever love you bear for your parents expect the same kind in old age from your children”

Οἵους ἂν ἐράνους ἐνέγκῃς τοῖς γονεῦσι, τούτους αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ γήρᾳ παρὰ τῶν παίδων προσδέχου Πιττακοῦ.

Zenobius 1.89

“The doors of the muses are open”: a proverb applied to those readily acquiring the best things in their education.”

᾿Ανεῳγμέναι Μουσῶν θύραι: ἐπὶ τῶν ἐξ ἑτοίμου λαμβανόντων τὰ κάλλιστα τῶν ἐν παιδείᾳ.


“Teaching dolphins to swim: [this proverb] is applied to those who are teaching something among people who are already well versed in it.”

Δελφῖνα νήχεσθαι διδάσκεις: ἐπὶ τῶν ἐν ἐκείνοις τινὰ παιδοτριβούντων, ἐν οἷς ἤσκηται.

Michael Apostolios 6.27

“Old men are children twice: A proverb used for those who seem rather simple as they approach old age.”

Δὶς παῖδες οἱ γέροντες: ἐπὶ τῶν πρὸς τὸ γῆρας εὐηθεστέρων εἶναι δοκούντων.

Diogenianus 3.18

“Neither swimming nor letters: thus proverb is applied to those who are unlearned in all regards. For the Athenians were taught swimming and reading from childhood.”

Μήτε νεῖν μήτε γράμματα: ἡ παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ πάντα ἀμαθῶν· οἱ γὰρ ᾿Αθηναῖοι εὐθὺς ἐκ παίδων κολυμβᾶν καὶ γράμματα ἐδιδάσκοντο.

Image result for medieval manuscript children
Ms. Ludwig IX 2, fol. 142

Out of the Smoke, Into the Fire: Some More Greek Proverbs

This week lots of people are graduating. Here are some proverbs for life changes and mistakes.

Diogenianus, 8.45

“When I fled the smoke, I fell into the fire”:  [this proverb is applied] to those who flee rather minor troubles only to fall upon greater ones.

Τὸν καπνὸν φεύγων, εἰς τὸ πῦρ ἐνέπεσον: ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ μικρὰ τῶν δεινῶν φευγόντων, καὶ εἰς μείζονα δεινὰ ἐμπιπτόντων.


Arsenius 4.23f

“It is strange that one who pursues honors avoids the hard work honors come from”

῎Ατοπόν ἐστι διώκοντα τὰς τιμὰς φεύγειν τοὺς πόνους, δι’ ὧν αἱ τιμαί.


Michael Apostolios, 11.15

“You ate some lotus”: [this proverb is applied to those] who are forgetful of things in the household and are slow in matters of hospitality. It is based on the lotus which imbues one who eats it with forgetfulness.”

Λωτοῦ ἔφαγες: ἐπὶ τῶν σχόντων λήθην τῶν οἴκοι, καὶ βραδυνόντων ἐπὶ ξένης. ἔστι δὲ πόα τὸ λωτὸν, λήθην ἐμποιοῦν τῷ φαγόντι.


Arsenius 3.19a

“The man who flees will also fight again”: [this proverb is applied] to those who face a doubtful victory.

᾿Ανὴρ ὁ φεύγων καὶ πάλιν μαχήσεται: ἐπὶ τῶν ἑτεραλκεῖ νίκῃ χρωμένων ταχθείη.


Michael Apostolios 1.26

“Agamemnon’s sacrifice”: [a proverb] applied to the difficult to persuade and the stubborn. For when Agamemnon was making a sacrifice, the bull was scarcely caught after it fled.” Or, it is because Agamemnon wanted to sacrifice his daughter. And she fled.”

᾿Αγαμέμνονος θυσία: ἐπὶ τῶν δυσπειθῶν καὶ σκληρῶν. θύοντος γὰρ ᾿Αγαμέμνονος ὁ βοῦς φυγὼν μόλις ἐλήφθη. ῍Η ὅτι τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἐβούλετο ᾿Αγαμέμνων θυσιάσαι θυγατέρα· ἣ δ’ ἔφυγε.

Image result for medieval manuscript frying pan
Illuminated Manuscript – The Hague, KB, 76 F 13, f. 12v, XIV cent., France

A List of Women Authors from the Ancient World

I am reposting this list for International Women’s day.

Most of the evidence for these authors has been collected only in Wikipedia. We can probably do better by adding more information from ancient sources and modern ‘scholarly’ texts. I have been translating the fragments of some for the website and linking as appropriate

I received a link to the following in an email from my undergraduate poetry teacher the amazing poet and translator Olga Broumas. The post is on tumblr on a page by DiasporaChic, bit the original author who has already won my admiration is Terpsikeraunos.

*denotes comments I have added with this re-post

** denotes names I have added


Women in ancient Greece and Rome with surviving works or fragments



Aesara of Lucania: “Only a fragment survives of Aesara of Lucania’s Book on Human Nature, but it provides a key to understanding the philosophies of Phintys, Perictione, and Theano II as well. Aesara presents a familiar and intuitive natural law theory. She says that through the activity of introspection into our own nature – specifically the nature of a human soul – we can discover not only the natural philosophic foundation for all of human law, but we can also discern the technical structure of morality, positive law, and, it may be inferred, the laws of moral psychology and of physical medicine. Aesara’s natural law theory concerns laws governing three applications of moral law: individual or private morality, laws governing the moral basis of the institution of the family, and, laws governing the moral foundations of social institutions. By analyzing the nature of the soul, Aesara says, we will understand the nature of law and of justice at the individual, familial, and social levels.” – A History of Women Philosophers: Volume I: Ancient Women Philosophers, 600 B.C.-500 A.D., by M.E. Waith

*Wikipedia on Aesara

Melissa: “Melissa (3rd century BC)[1][2] was a Pythagorean philosopher…Nothing is known about her life. She is known only from a letter written to another woman named Cleareta (or Clearete). The letter is written in a Doric Greek dialect dated to around the 3rd century BC.[2] The letter discusses the need for a wife to be modest and virtuous, and stresses that she should obey her husband.[2] The content has led to the suggestion that it was written pseudonymously by a man.[2] On the other hand, the author of the letter does not suggest that a woman is naturally inferior or weak, or that she needs a man’s rule to be virtuous.[1]” –Wikipedia

Perictione (I and II): “Two works attributed to Perictione have survived in fragments: On the Harmony of Women and On Wisdom. Differences in language suggest that they were written by two different people. Allen and Waithe identify them as Perictione I and Perictione II. Plato’s mother was named Perictione, and Waithe argues that she should be identified as the earlier Perictione, suggesting that similarities between Plato’s Republic and On the Harmony of Women may not be the result of Perictione reading Plato, but the opposite–the son learning philosophy from his mother. On the Harmony of Women, however, is written in Ionic prose with occasional Doric forms. This mixed dialect dates the work to the late fourth or third centuries BC. The reference in On the Harmony of Women to women ruling suggests the Hellenistic monarchies of the third century BC or later. On Wisdom is written in Doric and is partly identical with a work by Archytas of the same name. This work should be dated later, to the third or second centuries BC. Both the dates of the works and their dialects mean Perictione as the mother of Plato could not have written them. We then have two Pythagorean texts, attributed to otherwise unknown women named Perictione who should be dated perhaps one hundred years apart.” –Women Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome: An Anthology, by I.M. Plant

*N.B. This account leaves out the the basic narrative from Diogenes Laertius, that Plato’s father Ariston raped his mother Perictione.

Phintys: “Phintys (or Phyntis, Greek: Φίντυς; 4th or 3rd century BC) was a Pythagorean philosopher. Nothing is known about her life, nor where she came from. She wrote a work on the correct behavior of women, two extracts of which are preserved by Stobaeus.” –Wikipedia

*Note, Stobaeus (4.32.61a) calls her the daughter of  Kallikrates the Pythagorean (Φιντύος τᾶς Καλλικράτεος θυγατρὸς Πυθαγορείας). Here are some of her fragments on the prudence befitting women: part 1 and part 2.

Ptolemais of Cyrene: “Ptolemais is known to us through reference to her work by Porphyry in his Commentary on the Harmonics of Ptolemy. He tells us that she came from Cyrene and gives the title of her work, The Pythagorean Principles of Music, which he quotes. She is the only known female musical theorist from antiquity. Her dates cannot be known for sure. She clearly preceded Porphyry, who was born about AD 232; Didymus, who is also quoted by Porphyry, knew Ptolemais’ work and may even have been Porphyry’s source for it. This Didymus is probably the one who lived in the time of Nero, giving us a date for Ptolemais of the first century AD or earlier…One of the problems in dealing with this text is that it is in quotation. Porphyry does not clearly distinguish between the text he quotes from Ptolemais and his own discussion of the issues raised…A second issue is the problem of the accuracy of the quotation. Porphyry says in the introduction to fragment 4 that he has altered a few things in the quotation for the sake of brevity. We should not assume that this is the only quotation to have suffered from editing. On the other hand, where he quotes the same passage twice (fragment 3 is repeated almost verbatim in fragment 4) his consistency is encouraging. Ptolemais’ extant work is a catechism, written as a series of questions and answers. She discusses different schools of thought on harmonic theory, distinguishing between the degree to which they gave importance to theory and perception. Her text prefers the approach of Aristoxenus to that of the Pythagoreans, thus she should not be thought a Pythagorean, despite the title of her work.” –Women Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome: An Anthology, by I.M. Plant

**Theano the Pythagorean (I have collected her words here)

“When Theano the Pythagorean philosopher was asked what eros is, she said ‘the passion of a soul with spare time.’ ”

Θεανὼ ἡ πυθαγορικὴ φιλόσοφος ἐρωτηθεῖσα τί ἐστιν ἔρως ἔφη· ” πάθος ψυχῆς σχολαζούσης.”

“While Theano was walking she showed her forearm and some youth when he saw it said “Nice skin”. She responded, “it’s not communal”.

Θεανὼ πορευομένη ἔξω εἶχε τὸν βραχίονα· νεανίσκος δέ τις ἰδὼν εἶπε· ” καλὸν τὸ δέμας·” ἡ δὲ ἀπεκρίνατο· ” ἀλλ’ οὐ κοινόν.”

Read More

Top Posts of Another Year

Outside of the top few posts, this was a year of guest posts and essays. Erik and I were always willing and interested to share the blog with other people, but we have never really had the time to go out and seek them. So, when people have reached out to us, we have been happy to have them join us.

  1. Diocletian’s Horse Saves the City!

This post wasn’t even from this year! Somehow, it turned into a hot post on Reddit for a while and burned down the house.


2. Newly Discovered Text: Caesar on Forestry in Finland

Dani Bostick’s ‘discovery’ of a fragmentary text responding to fires in California and some of our current President’s more insane comments was politely declined by a few other sites. It found a home here and Dani has shared many more new Latin discoveries since.

3. Head and Heart: A Quotation Falsely Attributed to Aristotle

This one eventually inspired a collection of false-Aristotle quotes I eventually just put in one post: Meme Police, A Collection of Things Aristotle Did not Say

4. “This is Not My Beautiful House”: Classics, Class and Identity

This post was a response to some discussion online and Erik’s post (at #9) about Class and Classics. It seems to have hit a nerve and prompted more discussion. We got a great followup from Brandon Conley: “How Was [the Expensive Classics Event]?”

5. Classics and Theory: A Monday Rant

This started out as a twitter rant and turned into an essay. There are still many, many people who have a naive attitude about what theory is and how it shapes writing, teaching, and just being in the world. There is still an alarmingly stubborn faction in Classics who falsely oppose “Philology” to theory, imagining that the former is not a species of the latter. I think forms of this one will keep coming back.

6. The Humanities: Aristotle in the Sheets, But Xenophon on the Streets

There was a NY Times Op-Ed on the Humanities that got me up in arms. I posted some tweets, wrote a thing. Erik is working on a much deeper and prolonged project on the Humanities and Classics among the Founding Fathers. Since the culture wars continue and the humanities are always already embattled, this subject will probably come back too.

7. A List of Women Authors from the Ancient World

This is a list that needs more work. I am still looking for people to help me expand these entries!

8. Famae Volent: a Personal History

The infamous and hated although obsessively checked classics job bulletin board closed down this year. I wrote a wistful and self-indulgent piece about it. Then I wrote a second one. The successor site is not nearly as interesting.

9. Classics [Itself] Is Not Classist

When Grace Bertelli (The Classics Major is Classist) first wrote on this topic, we had some discussions online and Erik wrote this overview of why the content of Classics is not essentially class-oriented. As with all of his essays, it is sharp and filled with turns of phrase I wish I could think of.

10. Terrible, Wonderful Odysseus, His Epithets, and How We Read Him

This is a hodgpodge of stuff about Odysseus which started out as a twitter discussion because people don’t like my occasional translation of polytropos as shifty. (Don’t @ me! Read the post!)

Some things I love outside the top 10

  1. The Story of Dido in the Aeneid Through Buffy GIFS
  2. Classics For the Fascists
  3. How Was the [Expensive] Classics Event: Income Inequality and the Classics
  4. Exploring Gender and Sexuality in Antiquity
  5. Reclaiming the Story: Ovid’s Mythological Hermaphrodite
  6. Post-Classical Intellectualism in the Latin Classroom


Thanks to Elton BarkerDani Bostick, Brandon ConleyHilary Ilkay, Cassie Garrison, Christian LehmannBen Stevens, and Zachary Taylor for making the past year memorable and special

Two For Tuesday: Proverbs on Speaking and Not

Diogenianus, 2.93

“Silver springs chatter on.” A proverb applied to the uneducated who speak freely thanks to an excess of wealth.”

᾿Αργύρου κρῆναι λαλοῦσιν: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀπαιδεύτων μὲν, δι’ ὑπερβολὴν δὲ πλούτου παῤῥησιαζομένων.

Zenobius, 2.70

“A bull is on your tongue”: A proverb applied to people who are not able to speak freely….

Βοῦς ἐπὶ γλώττης: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν μὴ δυναμένων παῤῥησιάζεσθαι

Two Bonus Proverbs

Zenobius 3.69

“The goats are free of the plows: [a proverb applied] to those who are released from some burden or evils”

᾿Ελεύθεραι αἶγες ἀρότρων: ἐπὶ τῶν βάρους τινὸς ἢ κακῶν ἀπηλλαγμένων.

Diogenianus, 4.87

“freer than Sparta”: due [or applied to] ungovernable and noble thought. For this reason it says that Sparta was not walled.”

     ᾿Ελευθεριώτερος Σπάρτης: διὰ τὸ ἀνυπότακτον καὶ γενναῖον φρόνημα. Διὸ οὐδὲ τειχισθῆναι λέγει τὴν Σπάρτην.

Image result for medieval manuscript goats
Goat nibbling a manuscript border, Luttrell Psalter, England ca. 1325-1340

Fantastic Friday: Giant Grain, Easy Labor, and Sheep Without Bile

Apollonios the Paradoxographer is credited with a text of 51 anecdotes usually dated to the 3rd or 2nd century BCE.  Some of these translations are pretty rough, so suggestions and corrections are welcome.

Apollonios Paradoxographus, Historiae Mirabiles 27-32

28“Aristotle, in his On Animal Matters, says that wax [?] when it develops in ears, once it becomes bitter [when they are about to die] becomes sweat after long illnesses. This, he says, has been observed as occurring on many occasions. He has provided the reason for this occurrence in his Natural Problems.”

28 ᾿Αριστοτέλης ἐν τοῖς ζωϊκοῖς· ὁ ῥύπος, φησίν, ἐν τοῖς ὠταρίοις γιγνόμενος, πικρὸς ὤν, [ὅταν τελευτᾶν μέλλωσιν] ἐν ταῖς μακραῖς νόσοις γλυκὺς γίνεται. τοῦτο δέ, φησίν, παρα-τετήρηται ἐπὶ πολλῶν γιγνόμενον. ἀποδέδωκεν δὲ καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν τοῦ γιγνομένου ἐν τοῖς φυσικοῖς προβλήμασιν.

29“Theophrastos in his work On planting writes that if wombs descend, they should be doused in water mixed with birth-wort for many days.”

29 Θεόφραστος ἐν τῇ περὶ φυτῶν πραγματείᾳ· ἐὰν αἱ μῆτραι, φησίν, προπέσωσιν, ἀριστολοχίᾳ ἐν ὕδατι βεβρεγμένῃ καταντλείσθωσαν πλείονας ἡμέρας.

30“Aristoxenos the scholar says that people who are suffering quartan fever can use woolly grape ground up with olive oil and blended together [?] before taking it to get rid of the sickness”

30 ᾿Αριστόξενος δὲ ὁ μουσικὸς <τοὺς> τεταρταΐζοντας τὴν ἑλξίνην φησὶν βοτάνην μετὰ ἐλαίου τριβομένην καὶ συγχριομένην πρὸ τῆς λήψεως ἀπολύειν τοῦ πάθους.

31“Theophrastos in his work On Plants says that sheep which graze on wormwood in the Black Sea region do not have bile.”

31Θεόφραστος, ἐν τῷ περὶ φυτῶν· τὰ πρόβατα, φησίν, τὰ ἐν τῷ Πόντῳ τὸ ἀψίνθιον νεμόμενα οὐκ ἔχει χολήν.

32“Theophrastos in his work On Plants says that among the Indians there is no vetch, nor fig, nor chick-pea.”

32Θεόφραστος, ἐν τῷ περὶ φυτῶν, ἐν ᾿Ινδοῖς μὴ γίνεσθαι μήτε ἐρέβινθον μήτε φακὸν μήτε κύαμον.

33“Theophrastos, book 7 of his On Plants says that there is grain of such great breeding in certain villages in Baktria that is has the size of an olive pit.”

33 Ετι Θεόφραστος, ἐν τῷ ζ′ περὶ φυτῶν, τῆς Βακτριανῆς [ὁδοῦ] ἔν τισι κώμαις πυρὸν γίγνεσθαι οὕτως εὐγενῆ, ὥστε πυρῆνος ἐλαίας τὸ μέγεθος ἴσχειν.

34“The same philosopher says that in Olynthos and Kêrinthos the earth, when mixed with grain, makes it seem to be of a better kind.” [?]

34 ῾Ο αὐτὸς φιλόσοφος· ἐν ᾿Ολύνθῳ καὶ Κηρίνθῳ γῆ μιγνυμένη, φησί, τῷ σίτῳ εὐγενέστερον ποιεῖ φαίνεσθαι τοῦτον.

35“This is also among those things that have been observed that pregnant women when they are near their husbands constantly give birth easily and without suffering. Aristotle claims this in the 14th book of his inquiries.”

35 Τῶν παρατετηρημένων ἔστιν δὲ καὶ τοῦτο, τὰς ἐγκύους τῶν γυναικῶν συνεχῶς πλησιαζούσας τοῖς ἀνδράσιν εὐκόπως καὶ ἀκακοπαθήτως τίκτειν. εἴρηκεν δὲ τοῦτο καὶ ᾿Αριστοτέλης ἐν τῇ ιδ′ τῶν ἱστοριῶν.

Grazing sheep from the Bodleian Library (MS. Bodley 764, Folio 35v)