Don’t. Betray. Sappho.

Sappho, fr. 55

“When you die you will lie there and no one will remember you.
And there will no longing for you later on. You will not receive
Any roses from Pieria. But you will wander unseen through Hades’ home
Flitting away from the dirty corpses.”

κατθάνοισα δὲ κείσηι οὐδέ ποτα μναμοσύνα σέθεν
ἔσσετ’ οὐδὲ πόθα εἰς ὔστερον· οὐ γὰρ πεδέχηις βρόδων
τὼν ἐκ Πιερίας· ἀλλ’ ἀφάνης κἀν ᾿Αίδα δόμωι
φοιτάσηις πεδ’ ἀμαύρων νεκύων ἐκπεποταμένα.

Image result for ancient greek underworld scene sarcophagus
Roman Sarcophagus, Abduction of Persephone

“Two Beautiful Girls”: The Song of Achilles and Deidamia

I really wish antiquity had bequeathed to us this entire poem…

Bion, The Wedding song of Achilles and Deidamia

Mursôn
Lukidas, will you sing me some sweet Sicilian song,
A love song full of sweetness and longing—the very kind
The Kyklôps Polyphemos once sang on the shore for Galatea?

Lucidas
I’d love to play too, Myrsôn, but what should I sing?

Mursôn
The love story of Skyros, which you used to be praised for singing,
Peleus’ son’s secret kisses, his secret love affair,
how the boy dressed in a robe to disguise his form
And how among those daughters of Lucomêdes who had no worries
Dêidameia knew Achilles in her bedroom.

Lucidas
When the cowboy Paris kidnapped Helen and took her to Ida
It was terrible for Oinônê. And Sparta was filled with rage,
Enough to gather the whole Achaean host—no Greek
From Mycenaea or Elis or Sparta was staying
At his own home to flee miserable Ares.

But Achilles all alone escaped notice among the daughters of Lykomêdes
Where he learned about weaving instead of weapons
And held a maiden’s tools in his white hand—he looked just like a girl.
For he acted as feminine as the daughters did—the bloom
Which reddened on his white cheeks was as great, he walked
With a maiden’s step, and he covered his hair with a veil.

But he possessed a man’s heart and he had a man’s lust too.
From dawn until dusk he used to sit next to Deidameia—
Then he used to kiss her hands and often he would
Lift the fine warp and compliment her intricate weaving,
He never ate with another friend and did everything he could
To get her to sleep with him. He actually used to say this to her,

“Other sisters sleep in bed with one another,
But I sleep alone and you, princess, you sleep alone.
We are two girls of the same age, two beautiful girls,
But we sleep along in separate beds—that wicked
Space keeps me carefully distant from you…”

ΜΥΡΣΩΝ
Λῇς νύ τί μοι, Λυκίδα, Σικελὸν μέλος ἁδὺ λιγαίνειν,
ἱμερόεν γλυκύθυμον ἐρωτικόν, οἷον ὁ Κύκλωψ
ἄεισεν Πολύφαμος ἐπ’ ᾐόνι <τᾷ> Γαλατείᾳ;

ΛΥΚΙΔΑΣ
κἠμοὶ συρίσδεν, Μύρσων, φίλον, ἀλλὰ τί μέλψω;

ΜΥΡΣΩΝ
Σκύριον <ὅν>, Λυκίδα, ζαλώμενος ᾆδες ἔρωτα,
λάθρια Πηλεΐδαο φιλάματα, λάθριον εὐνάν,
πῶς παῖς ἕσσατο φᾶρος, ὅπως δ’ ἐψεύσατο μορφάν,
χὤπως ἐν κώραις Λυκομηδίσιν οὐκ ἀλεγοίσαις
ἠείδη κατὰ παστὸν Ἀχιλλέα Δηιδάμεια.

ΛΥΚΙΔΑΣ
ἅρπασε τὰν Ἑλέναν πόθ’ ὁ βωκόλος, ἆγε δ’ ἐς Ἴδαν,
Οἰνώνῃ κακὸν ἄλγος. ἐχώσατο <δ’> ἁ Λακεδαίμων
πάντα δὲ λαὸν ἄγειρεν Ἀχαϊκόν, οὐδέ τις Ἕλλην,
οὔτε Μυκηναίων οὔτ’ Ἤλιδος οὔτε Λακώνων,
μεῖνεν ἑὸν κατὰ δῶμα φυγὼν δύστανον Ἄρηα.
λάνθανε δ’ ἐν κώραις Λυκομηδίσι μοῦνος Ἀχιλλεύς,
εἴρια δ’ ἀνθ’ ὅπλων ἐδιδάσκετο, καὶ χερὶ λευκᾷ
παρθενικὸν κόρον εἶχεν, ἐφαίνετο δ’ ἠύτε κώρα·
καὶ γὰρ ἴσον τήναις θηλύνετο, καὶ τόσον ἄνθος
χιονέαις πόρφυρε παρηίσι, καὶ τὸ βάδισμα
παρθενικῆς ἐβάδιζε, κόμας δ’ ἐπύκαζε καλύπτρῃ.
θυμὸν δ’ ἀνέρος εἶχε καὶ ἀνέρος εἶχεν ἔρωτα·
ἐξ ἀοῦς δ’ ἐπὶ νύκτα παρίζετο Δηιδαμείᾳ,
καὶ ποτὲ μὲν τήνας ἐφίλει χέρα, πολλάκι δ’ αὐτᾶς
στάμονα καλὸν ἄειρε τὰ δαίδαλα δ’ ἄτρι’ ἐπῄνει·
ἤσθιε δ’ οὐκ ἄλλᾳ σὺν ὁμάλικι, πάντα δ’ ἐποίει
σπεύδων κοινὸν ἐς ὕπνον. ἔλεξέ νυ καὶ λόγον αὐτᾷ·
“ἄλλαι μὲν κνώσσουσι σὺν ἀλλήλαισιν ἀδελφαί,
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ μούνα, μούνα δὲ σύ, νύμφα, καθεύδεις.
αἱ δύο παρθενικαὶ συνομάλικες, αἱ δύο καλαί,
ἀλλὰ μόναι κατὰ λέκτρα καθεύδομες, ἁ δὲ πονηρά
†νύσσα† δολία με κακῶς ἀπὸ σεῖο μερίσδει.
οὐ γὰρ ἐγὼ σέο. . . . .”

What was Achilles’ name when he was living as a girl?

Achilles on Skyros, 1656 painting by Nicolas Poussin

“Two Beautiful Girls”: The Song of Achilles and Deidamia

I really wish antiquity had bequeathed to us this entire poem…

Bion, The Wedding song of Achilles and Deidamia

Mursôn
Lukidas, will you sing me some sweet Sicilian song,
A love song full of sweetness and longing—the very kind
The Kyklôps Polyphemos once sang on the shore for Galatea?

Lucidas
I’d love to play too, Myrsôn, but what should I sing?

Mursôn
The love story of Skyros, which you used to be praised for singing,
Peleus’ son’s secret kisses, his secret love affair,
how the boy dressed in a robe to disguise his form
And how among those daughters of Lucomêdes who had no worries
Dêidameia knew Achilles in her bedroom.

Lucidas
When the cowboy Paris kidnapped Helen and took her to Ida
It was terrible for Oinônê. And Sparta was filled with rage,
Enough to gather the whole Achaean host—no Greek
From Mycenaea or Elis or Sparta was staying
At his own home to flee miserable Ares.

But Achilles all alone escaped notice among the daughters of Lykomêdes
Where he learned about weaving instead of weapons
And held a maiden’s tools in his white hand—he looked just like a girl.
For he acted as feminine as the daughters did—the bloom
Which reddened on his white cheeks was as great, he walked
With a maiden’s step, and he covered his hair with a veil.

But he possessed a man’s heart and he had a man’s lust too.
From dawn until dusk he used to sit next to Deidameia—
Then he used to kiss her hands and often he would
Lift the fine warp and compliment her intricate weaving,
He never ate with another friend and did everything he could
To get her to sleep with him. He actually used to say this to her,

“Other sisters sleep in bed with one another,
But I sleep alone and you, princess, you sleep alone.
We are two girls of the same age, two beautiful girls,
But we sleep along in separate beds—that wicked
Space keeps me carefully distant from you…”

ΜΥΡΣΩΝ
Λῇς νύ τί μοι, Λυκίδα, Σικελὸν μέλος ἁδὺ λιγαίνειν,
ἱμερόεν γλυκύθυμον ἐρωτικόν, οἷον ὁ Κύκλωψ
ἄεισεν Πολύφαμος ἐπ’ ᾐόνι <τᾷ> Γαλατείᾳ;

ΛΥΚΙΔΑΣ
κἠμοὶ συρίσδεν, Μύρσων, φίλον, ἀλλὰ τί μέλψω;

ΜΥΡΣΩΝ
Σκύριον <ὅν>, Λυκίδα, ζαλώμενος ᾆδες ἔρωτα,
λάθρια Πηλεΐδαο φιλάματα, λάθριον εὐνάν,
πῶς παῖς ἕσσατο φᾶρος, ὅπως δ’ ἐψεύσατο μορφάν,
χὤπως ἐν κώραις Λυκομηδίσιν οὐκ ἀλεγοίσαις
ἠείδη κατὰ παστὸν Ἀχιλλέα Δηιδάμεια.

ΛΥΚΙΔΑΣ
ἅρπασε τὰν Ἑλέναν πόθ’ ὁ βωκόλος, ἆγε δ’ ἐς Ἴδαν,
Οἰνώνῃ κακὸν ἄλγος. ἐχώσατο <δ’> ἁ Λακεδαίμων
πάντα δὲ λαὸν ἄγειρεν Ἀχαϊκόν, οὐδέ τις Ἕλλην,
οὔτε Μυκηναίων οὔτ’ Ἤλιδος οὔτε Λακώνων,
μεῖνεν ἑὸν κατὰ δῶμα φυγὼν δύστανον Ἄρηα.
λάνθανε δ’ ἐν κώραις Λυκομηδίσι μοῦνος Ἀχιλλεύς,
εἴρια δ’ ἀνθ’ ὅπλων ἐδιδάσκετο, καὶ χερὶ λευκᾷ
παρθενικὸν κόρον εἶχεν, ἐφαίνετο δ’ ἠύτε κώρα·
καὶ γὰρ ἴσον τήναις θηλύνετο, καὶ τόσον ἄνθος
χιονέαις πόρφυρε παρηίσι, καὶ τὸ βάδισμα
παρθενικῆς ἐβάδιζε, κόμας δ’ ἐπύκαζε καλύπτρῃ.
θυμὸν δ’ ἀνέρος εἶχε καὶ ἀνέρος εἶχεν ἔρωτα·
ἐξ ἀοῦς δ’ ἐπὶ νύκτα παρίζετο Δηιδαμείᾳ,
καὶ ποτὲ μὲν τήνας ἐφίλει χέρα, πολλάκι δ’ αὐτᾶς
στάμονα καλὸν ἄειρε τὰ δαίδαλα δ’ ἄτρι’ ἐπῄνει·
ἤσθιε δ’ οὐκ ἄλλᾳ σὺν ὁμάλικι, πάντα δ’ ἐποίει
σπεύδων κοινὸν ἐς ὕπνον. ἔλεξέ νυ καὶ λόγον αὐτᾷ·
“ἄλλαι μὲν κνώσσουσι σὺν ἀλλήλαισιν ἀδελφαί,
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ μούνα, μούνα δὲ σύ, νύμφα, καθεύδεις.
αἱ δύο παρθενικαὶ συνομάλικες, αἱ δύο καλαί,
ἀλλὰ μόναι κατὰ λέκτρα καθεύδομες, ἁ δὲ πονηρά
†νύσσα† δολία με κακῶς ἀπὸ σεῖο μερίσδει.
οὐ γὰρ ἐγὼ σέο. . . . .”

What was Achilles’ name when he was living as a girl?

Achilles on Skyros, 1656 painting by Nicolas Poussin

A Curse on a Lover: Or, Sappho Goes Goth

Sappho, fr. 55

“When you die you will lie there and no one will remember you.
And there will no longing for you later on. You will not receive
Any roses from Pieria. But you will wander unseen through Hades’ home
Flitting away from the dirty corpses.”

κατθάνοισα δὲ κείσηι οὐδέ ποτα μναμοσύνα σέθεν
ἔσσετ’ οὐδὲ πόθα εἰς ὔστερον· οὐ γὰρ πεδέχηις βρόδων
τὼν ἐκ Πιερίας· ἀλλ’ ἀφάνης κἀν ᾿Αίδα δόμωι
φοιτάσηις πεδ’ ἀμαύρων νεκύων ἐκπεποταμένα.

Image result for ancient greek underworld scene sarcophagus
Roman Sarcophagus, Abduction of Persephone

Crazy Love: Aelian on Strange Affairs

Varia Historia 9.39

 

“How could someone deny that the following types of love affairs are ridiculous and incredible? They say that Xerxes fell in love with a plane tree. An Athenian youth from a noble family was in love with a statue of Good fortune that stood near the Prytany. He used to show his affection by putting embracing the statue and then, out of mind and struck by desire, he went to the council-chamber and pleaded that he was prepared to spend however much money was needed to buy the statue. When he could not persuade them, he decorated the statue with crowns and garlands and he made a sacrifice, wrapped even more decoration around it, and then ended his own life after weeping endlessly. Some men say that a dog loved Glaukê the Kithara-player; others say it was a ram or a goose. Among the Soloi in Kilikia, a dog was loved by a boy named Xenophon; and at Sparta, a crow fell in love with a good-looking boy.”

Πῶς δὲ οὐκ ἂν φαίη τις γελοίους ἅμα καὶ παραδόξους τούσδε τοὺς ἔρωτας; τὸν μὲν Ξέρξου, ὅτι πλατάνου ἠράσθη. νεανίσκος δὲ ᾿Αθήνησι τῶν εὖ γεγονότων πρὸς τῷ πρυτανείῳ ἀνδριάντος ἑστῶτος τῆς ᾿Αγαθῆς Τύχης θερμότατα ἠράσθη. κατεφίλει γοῦν τὸν ἀνδριάντα περιβάλλων, εἶτα ἐκμανεὶς καὶ οἰστρηθεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ πόθου, παρελθὼν ἐς τὴν βουλὴν καὶ λιτανεύσας ἕτοιμος ἦν πλείστων χρημάτων τὸ ἄγαλμα πρίασθαι. ἐπεὶ δὲ οὐκ ἔπειθεν, ἀναδήσας πολλαῖς ταινίαις καὶ στεφανώσας τὸ ἄγαλμα καὶ θύσας καὶ κόσμον αὐτῷ περιβαλὼν πολυτελῆ εἶτα ἑαυτὸν ἀπέκτεινε, μυρία προκλαύσας. Γλαύκης δὲ τῆς κιθαρῳδοῦ οἳ μέν φασιν ἐρασθῆναι κύνα, οἳ δὲ κριόν, οἳ δὲ χῆνα. καὶ ἐν Σόλοις δὲ τῆς Κιλικίας παιδὸς Ξενοφῶντος ἠράσθη κύων, ἄλλου δὲ ὡραίου μειρακίου ἐν Σπάρτῃ κολοιός.

 

An Athenian Soap Opera: He Married the Girl And Then Impregnated Her Mother

In conversations with the great Festus about the historicity of an Athenian decree to increase the ravaged population by allowing men to have two wives, I was directed to look at the minor orator Andocides.  I didn’t finish or truly start my fact-finding mission because I was came upon the following anecdote.

(The Kallias in question here was a partisan of Perikles)

 

Andocides, On the Mysteries, 124-125

But look at the way that his child—whom he thought better to have assigned to the daughter of Epilykos—was born and how he [Kallias] fathered him. For this is really worth hearing, men.  First, he married the daughter of Isomakhos. After living with her for not even a year, he took her mother as a lover and this most wicked of all men lived with mother and daughter—he was priest for both mother and daughter and he had them both in his home.

And this man was not ashamed enough to fear the god. But Isomakhos’ daughter, when she understood what was happening, decided to die rather than live. She was rescued in the middle of hanging herself and when she survived, she left, kicked out of his house: the mother drove out the daughter!  But when he had his fill of her, he drove the mother out too! But she claimed she was pregnant by him. And he swore that the child did not come from him.”

᾿Αλλὰ γὰρ τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τοῦτον, ᾧ λαχεῖν ἠξίωσε τῆς ᾿Επιλύκου θυγατρός, σκέψασθε πῶς γέγονε, καὶ πῶς ἐποιήσατ’ αὐτόν· ταῦτα γὰρ καὶ ἄξιον ἀκοῦσαι, ὦ ἄνδρες. Γαμεῖ μὲν ᾿Ισχομάχου θυγατέρα· ταύτῃ δὲ συνοικήσας οὐδ’ ἐνιαυτὸν τὴν μητέρα αὐτῆς ἔλαβε, καὶ συνῴκει ὁ πάντων σχετλιώτατος ἀνθρώπων τῇ μητρὶ καὶ τῇ θυγατρί, ἱερεὺς ὢν τῆς μητρὸς καὶ τῆς θυγατρός, καὶ εἶχεν ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἀμφοτέρας.

Καὶ οὗτος μὲν οὐκ ᾐσχύνθη οὐδ’ ἔδεισε τὼ θεώ· ἡ δὲ τοῦ ᾿Ισχομάχου θυγάτηρ τεθνάναι νομίσασα λυσιτελεῖν ἢ ζῆν ὁρῶσα τὰ γιγνόμενα, ἀπαγχομένη μεταξὺ κατεκωλύθη, καὶ ἐπειδὴ ἀνεβίω, ἀποδρᾶσα ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας ᾤχετο, καὶ ἐξήλασεν ἡ μήτηρ τὴν θυγατέρα. Ταύτης δ’ αὖ διαπεπλησμένος ἐξέβαλε καὶ ταύτην. ῾Η δ’ ἔφη κυεῖν ἐξ αὐτοῦ· καὶ ἐπειδὴ ἔτεκεν υἱόν, ἔξαρνος ἦν μὴ εἶναι ἐξ αὑτοῦ τὸ παιδίον.

 

mother vase.jpg
Is there an Ancient Greek word for “mother-in-law-f*cker”?

Crazy Love: Xerxes Fell in Love with a Tree (Aelian, Varia Historia 9.39)

“How could someone deny that the following types of love affairs are ridiculous and incredible? They say that Xerxes fell in love with a plane tree. An Athenian youth from a noble family was in love with a statue of Good fortune that stood near the Prytany. He used to show his affection by putting embracing the statue and then, out of mind and struck by desire, he went to the council-chamber and pleaded that he was prepared to spend however much money was needed to buy the statue. When he could not persuade them, he decorated the statue with crowns and garlands and he made a sacrifice, wrapped even more decoration around it, and then ended his own life after weeping endlessly. Some men say that a dog loved Glaukê the Kithara-player; others say it was a ram or a goose. Among the Soloi in Kilikia, a dog was loved by a boy named Xenophon; and at Sparta, a crow fell in love with a good-looking boy.”

Πῶς δὲ οὐκ ἂν φαίη τις γελοίους ἅμα καὶ παραδόξους τούσδε τοὺς ἔρωτας; τὸν μὲν Ξέρξου, ὅτι πλατάνου ἠράσθη. νεανίσκος δὲ ᾿Αθήνησι τῶν εὖ γεγονότων πρὸς τῷ πρυτανείῳ ἀνδριάντος ἑστῶτος τῆς ᾿Αγαθῆς Τύχης θερμότατα ἠράσθη. κατεφίλει γοῦν τὸν ἀνδριάντα περιβάλλων, εἶτα ἐκμανεὶς καὶ οἰστρηθεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ πόθου, παρελθὼν ἐς τὴν βουλὴν καὶ λιτανεύσας ἕτοιμος ἦν πλείστων χρημάτων τὸ ἄγαλμα πρίασθαι. ἐπεὶ δὲ οὐκ ἔπειθεν, ἀναδήσας πολλαῖς ταινίαις καὶ στεφανώσας τὸ ἄγαλμα καὶ θύσας καὶ κόσμον αὐτῷ περιβαλὼν πολυτελῆ εἶτα ἑαυτὸν ἀπέκτεινε, μυρία προκλαύσας. Γλαύκης δὲ τῆς κιθαρῳδοῦ οἳ μέν φασιν ἐρασθῆναι κύνα, οἳ δὲ κριόν, οἳ δὲ χῆνα. καὶ ἐν Σόλοις δὲ τῆς Κιλικίας παιδὸς Ξενοφῶντος ἠράσθη κύων, ἄλλου δὲ ὡραίου μειρακίου ἐν Σπάρτῃ κολοιός.