Assailing the Salted Sea

Euripides, Trojan Women 86–97

“These things will happen: for the favor needs
No long speeches. I will assail the salted Aigaian sea.
The cliffs of Mykonos and the Delian reefs,
The reefs of Skyros and Lemnos and the Kaphêrian peaks
Will bear the bodies of many dying corpses.

So go to Olympos and grab your father’s
Lightning bolts from his hand and keep a careful watch
For the time when the Greek army leaves in ease.

It is fool who tries to sack mortals’ cities,
Their shrines and tombs, the sacred places of the dead.
Eventually he gives himself to a desert when he dies.”

ἔσται τάδ᾽: ἡ χάρις γὰρ οὐ μακρῶν λόγων
δεῖται: ταράξω πέλαγος Αἰγαίας ἁλός.
ἀκταὶ δὲ Μυκόνου Δήλιοί τε χοιράδες
Σκῦρός τε Λῆμνός θ᾽ αἱ Καφήρειοί τ᾽ ἄκραι
πολλῶν θανόντων σώμαθ᾽ ἕξουσιν νεκρῶν.
ἀλλ᾽ ἕρπ᾽ Ὄλυμπον καὶ κεραυνίους βολὰς
λαβοῦσα πατρὸς ἐκ χερῶν καραδόκει,
ὅταν στράτευμ᾽ Ἀργεῖον ἐξιῇ κάλως.
μῶρος δὲ θνητῶν ὅστις ἐκπορθεῖ πόλεις,
ναούς τε τύμβους θ᾽, ἱερὰ τῶν κεκμηκότων,
ἐρημίᾳ δοὺς αὐτὸς ὤλεθ᾽ ὕστερον.

File:Hecuba.jpg
Hecuba kills Polymestor, by Giuseppe Crespi

“Nothing Wakes the Dead”: Your Weekly Reminder that Life is Short

IG IX,2 640 from Thessaly, c. ? from PHI

“They say either the Fates’ thread or some god’s rage
raged terribly at me, Parmonis, and violently
Rushed me out of bed unwillingly
when I was longing for my sweet husband Epitunkhanos.

If there is any memory for the dead, well, I led a blameless life—
Abandoning only my husband, a man I beg to stop
Torturing his heart with terrible grief and the terrible struggle.

For this is nothing more—since nothing wakes the dead—
Than wearing down the soul of those who still live. For there is nothing else.”

1 ἢ μίτος ὥς φασιν Μοιρῶν ἢ δαίμονος ὀργή,
ἥτις ἐμοὶ δεινῶς ἐχολώσατο καί με βιαίως
ἐξ εὐνῆς ποθέουσαν ἐμῆς ἀνδρὸς γλυκεροῖο
Παρμονὶν ἐξεδίωξε Ἐπιτυνχάνου οὐκ ἐθέλουσα[ν].

5 εἴ γέ τις οὖν μνήμη θνητοῖς, βίον ἔσχον ἄ[μ]εμπτον,
ἄνδρα μόνον στέρξασα, ὃν εἰσέτι θυμὸν ἀνώγω
παύσασθαι δεινοῦ πένθους δεινοῦ τε κυδοιμοῦ.
οὐδὲν γὰρ πλέον ἐστί —— θανόντα γὰρ οὐδὲν ἐγείρει ——
ἢ τείρει ψυχὴν ζώντων μόνον· ἄλλο γὰρ οὐδέν.
10 {²duae rosae partim deletae}²

Not quite sure about Παρμονὶν here, but I think it is her name…

Related image
A different Epitaph from the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.

 

Words, Friends, and the Future: Solace and Distraction for the Pain

Of late, the number of events that send us reeling and looking for comfort, solace, and, too often, just distraction seem to be increasing and intensifying. I will leave it for future generations to debate whether or not this is objectively true-the feeling of being under siege is enough to require some type of response.

I was in my first semester of graduate school in lower Manhattan on September 11th, 2001. I am uncomfortable claiming any sort of trauma as my own since many others lost loved ones and many more saw their worlds overturned. Nevertheless, the first weeks after were surreal. I can say without a doubt that when I decided to stop reading for my classes and just read-the Iliad from opening to close in GreekI found some solace and comfort in a ragged world.

I still turn to Classical texts for context and understanding. The comfort they bring, however, is not a warm one. A twitter friend today asked for some classical topoi on solace in a time of suffering and I am embarrassed at the poverty of my offerings when I can rattle off words for excrement and flatulence with no effort. Here are some meager words for a mean world. I will happily post better ones when they are offered.

From the Suda

“Pharmakon [medicine]: conversation, consoling, it comes from pherein [bringing] akos [relief/cure]. But it is also said to come from flowers.”

Φάρμακον: παραμυθία, ὁμιλία, εἴρηται δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦ φέρειν τὴν ἄκεσιν: εἴρηται δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθέων

 

Euripides, Helen 698-699

“if you find good luck in the time that is left
Perhaps it will be solace for the things in the past”

εἰ καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ τῆς τύχης εὐδαίμονος
τύχοιτε, πρὸς τὰ πρόσθεν ἀρκέσειεν ἄν.

Basil, Letter 131

“Since we both need consolation, may we be solace to one another.”

ἐπεὶ οὖν ἀμφότεροι χρῄζομεν παρακλήσεως, ἀλλήλοις γενώμεθα παραμυθία

Letter 302

“Since he has left you a memory of his particular virtue, believe that this is a sufficient solace for your pain.”

Ἐπεὶ οὖν κατέλιπέ σοι τὴν μνήμην τῆς οἰκείας αὐτοῦ4ἀρετῆς, ἀρκοῦσαν νόμιζε ἔχειν παραμυθίαν τοῦ πάθους.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 9

“If you want a private passage at hand to soothe your heart, the knowledge of the world around you will give you some solace at death, the world you leave and the kind of people your soul will no longer be associated with…..”

Εἰ δὲ καὶ ἰδιωτικὸν παράπηγμα ἁψικάρδιον ἐθέλεις, μάλιστά σε εὔκολον πρὸς τὸν θάνατον ποιήσει ἡ ἐπίστασις ἡ ἐπὶ τὰ ὑποκείμενα, ὧν μέλλεις ἀφίστασθαι, καὶ μεθ᾿ οἵων ἠθῶν οὐκέτι ἔσται ἡ <σὴ ψυχὴ> συμπεφυρμένη…

Thucydides, book 5

“Hope is indeed a comfort in danger: it may harm people who use it from abundance it does not destroy them. But for those who risk everything on one chance—since hope is expensive by nature—they will only know her nature when they suffer…”

Ἐλπὶς δέ, κινδύνῳ παραμύθιον οὖσα, τοὺς μὲν ἀπὸ περιουσίας χρωμένους αὐτῇ, κἂν βλάψῃ, οὐ καθεῖλε, τοῖς δὲ ἐς ἅπαν τὸ ὑπάρχον ἀναρριπτοῦσι (δάπανος γὰρ φύσει) ἅμα τε γιγνώσκεται σφαλέντων…

Plutarch, Dion, 53

“…for whom daily feasts and distractions provide are a consolation for their labors and risks.”

οἷς αἱ καθ᾿ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν πλησμοναὶ καὶ ἀπολαύσεις παραμυθία τῶν πόνων καὶ τῶν κινδύνων εἰσίν

This last bit reminds me of Thetis’ words to Achilles (24.128-132)

“My child, how long will you consume your heart
Grieving and mourning, thinking little of food
Or of sleep? It is good too to join a woman in love—
For you will not live with me long, but already
Death and strong fate loom around you.”

τέκνον ἐμὸν τέο μέχρις ὀδυρόμενος καὶ ἀχεύων
σὴν ἔδεαι κραδίην μεμνημένος οὔτέ τι σίτου
οὔτ’ εὐνῆς; ἀγαθὸν δὲ γυναικί περ ἐν φιλότητι
μίσγεσθ’· οὐ γάρ μοι δηρὸν βέῃ, ἀλλά τοι ἤδη
ἄγχι παρέστηκεν θάνατος καὶ μοῖρα κραταιή.

Whether we accomplish a little or a lot–as Achilles complains in book 9–we still will die. The modern horror of mass killings is especially disorienting and terrifying because it seems to strip us of agency over what happens between birth and death. And though it may be hard to remember it, the words Athenaeus attributes to the epitaph of Ashurbanipal are still not untrue:

“Know well that you are mortal: fill your heart
By delighting in the feasts: nothing is useful to you when you’re dead.
I am ash, though I ruled great Ninevah as king.
I keep whatever I ate, the insults I made, and the joy
I took from sex. My wealth and many blessings are gone.
[This is wise advice for life: I will never forget it.
Let anyone who wants to accumulate limitless gold.]

εὖ εἰδὼς ὅτι θνητὸς ἔφυς σὸν θυμὸν ἄεξε,
τερπόμενος θαλίῃσι· θανόντι σοι οὔτις ὄνησις.
καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ σποδός εἰμι, Νίνου μεγάλης βασιλεύσας·
κεῖν’ ἔχω ὅσσ’ ἔφαγον καὶ ἐφύβρισα καὶ σὺν ἔρωτι
τέρπν’ ἔπαθον· τὰ δὲ πολλὰ καὶ ὄλβια πάντα λέλυνται.
[ἥδε σοφὴ βιότοιο παραίνεσις, οὐδέ ποτ’ αὐτῆς
λήσομαι· ἐκτήσθω δ’ ὁ θέλων τὸν ἀπείρονα χρυσόν.]

Image result for Greek mourning vase
Terracotta Funeral Plague, Metropolitan Museum of Art

From an Earlier post:

Some Proverbs from Arsenius, Paroemiographer

“Only words [reason] is medicine for grief”

Λόγος μέν ἐστι φάρμακον λύπης μόνος.

“Conversation [ or ‘reason’] is the doctor for suffering in the soul”

Λόγος ἰατρὸς τοῦ κατὰ ψυχὴν πάθους.

Euripides, fr. 1079

“Mortals have no other medicine for pain
Like the advice of a good man, a friend
Who has experience with this sickness.
A man who troubles then calms his thoughts with drinking,
Finds immediate pleasure, but laments twice as much later on.”

Οὐκ ἔστι λύπης ἄλλο φάρμακον βροτοῖς
ὡς ἀνδρὸς ἐσθλοῦ καὶ φίλου παραίνεσις.
ὅστις δὲ ταύτῃ τῇ νόσῳ ξυνὼν ἀνὴρ
μέθῃ ταράσσει καὶ γαληνίζει φρένα,
παραυτίχ’ ἡσθεὶς ὕστερον στένει διπλᾶ.

Menander (fr. 591 K.).

“The man who is sick in the body needs a doctor;
someone who is sick in the mind needs a friend
For a well-meaning friend knows how to treat grief.”

Τῷ μὲν τὸ σῶμα † διατεθειμένῳ κακῶς
χρεία ‘στ’ ἰατροῦ, τῷ δὲ τὴν ψυχὴν φίλου·
λύπην γὰρ εὔνους οἶδε θεραπεύειν φίλος.

Attributed to Socrates (in Stobaeus)

“The sick need doctors; the unlucky need encouragement from friends.”

Τοῖς μὲν νοσοῦσιν ἰατρούς, τοῖς δ’ ἀτυχοῦσι φίλους δεῖ παραινεῖν.

Kallinos, Fr. 1.18-21

“The loss is felt by the whole country when a brave man dies,

A man the equal of heroes;

Someone they see as a fortress before their eyes;

Someone who does the work of many even when alone.”

 

λαῶι γὰρ σύμπαντι πόθος κρατερόφρονος ἀνδρὸς

θνήσκοντος, ζώων δ’ ἄξιος ἡμιθέων·

ὥσπερ γάρ μιν πύργον ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ὁρῶσιν·

ἔρδει γὰρ πολλὼν ἄξια μοῦνος ἐών.