Don’t Sleep on Plutarch: Sourcing a Mysterious Hexameter

Plutarch, Life of Lucullus 499

“After he was brought to the Troad, he set up camp in the shrine of Aphrodite. Once he fell asleep at night, he dreamed he say that goddess standing over him and speaking: “Why are you sleeping, great-hearted lion? The fawns are near [for you]”.

After he woke up and called his friends, he explained the dream while it was still night. And then there were some men from Troy who were announcing that thirteen of the king’s ships had been seen sailing near the harbor of the Achaeans going toward Lemnos. Lucuss then went out immediately and captured them and killed their general Isodorus, and then he was sailing after the other captains.

εἰς δὲ Τρῳάδα καταχθεὶς ἐσκήνωσε μὲν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ τῆς Ἀφροδίτης, κατακοιμηθεὶς δὲ νύκτωρ ἐδόκει τὴν θεὰν ὁρᾶν ἐφεστῶσαν αὐτῷ καὶ λέγουσαν·

Τί κνώσσεις, μεγάθυμε λέον; νεβροὶ δε τοι ἐγγύς.

ἐξαναστὰς δὲ καὶ τοὺς φίλους καλέσας διηγεῖτο τὴν ὄψιν ἔτι νυκτὸς οὔσης. καὶ παρῆσαν ἐξ Ἰλίου τινὲς ἀπαγγέλλοντες ὦφθαι περὶ τὸν Ἀχαιῶν λιμένα τρισκαίδεκα πεντήρεις τῶν βασιλικῶν ἐπὶ Λῆμνον πλεούσας. εὐθὺς οὖν ἀναχθεὶς τούτους μὲν εἷλε καὶ τὸν στρατηγὸν αὐτῶν Ἰσίδωρον ἀπέκτεινεν, ἐπὶ δὲ τοὺς ἄλλους ἔπλει πρῳρέας.

I received an email about this passage from a friend (Aaron Beek) who was wondering where this line came from. Plutarch is famous for his quotation of other ancient others. His Lives are filled with figures who quote constantly; his own essays in the Moralia sometimes seem to be mere thin pretext for the assemblage of ancient sententiae. So, it is more than reasonable to imagine that when he places Lucullus near Troy and has that Trojan-loving Aphrodite speak in a dream, she might speak a line from a Trojan tale of Old.

The problem Aaron and I face that this line seems to have no attestation beyond this scene. The Suda lists this line twice (s.v. Κνώσσω and Λούκουλλος) and it appears in the Oracular Appendix of the Greek Anthology (231). All three appearances undoubtedly have Plutarch as the source. But what was Plutarch’s source? Rather than keeping this question to ourselves, we are bringing it to the world….

Others may contemplate the content of this line and how it might pertain to some moment in the Trojan War narrative (Aaron has suggested that it might work as something said by Aphrodite to Hektor when the Greeks first appear which would be a cool intertext). Since I am a Homeric philologist by training, I need to start by looking at the language.

The thing the strikes me first about this is the epithet. It shows up twice in the Iliad when Glaukos and Asteropaios respond to Diomedes and Achilles (respectively: 6.145, 21.153). Indeed, the epithet is rather popular after Homer too. Here are the lines with the vocative:

Τυδεΐδη μεγάθυμε τί ἢ γενεὴν ἐρεείνεις; Il. 6.145
Πηλεΐδη μεγάθυμε τί ἦ γενεὴν ἐρεείνεις; Il. 21.153

Κοιαντίς, μεγάθυμε, πολυλλίστη βασίλεια, Orph. Hym. 35 (To Leto)
Αἴγυπτε μεγάθυμε· ἀτὰρ πάλι ταῦτα βοήσω, Orac. Sib. 11.119 (2nd BCE=4th CE)
«Πριαμίδη μεγάθυμε, δέμας μακάρεσσιν ἐοικώς, Q.S 6.309
«Κλῦθι, θεὰ μεγάθυμε, σάου δ’ ἐμὲ καὶ τεὸν ἵππον.», Q.S. 12.153
Σεῖο βίβλους μεγάθυμε Κομητὰς ῞Ομηρε δύ’ ἄρδην, Anth. Gr. 15.37
ῥηιδίως, μεγάθυμε, καὶ ἐσσύμενον κατερύκων, Anth. Gr. 16.65

There are other aspects of this line, however, which make me doubt an Archaic or even classical origin. The first is the meter. Here’s how to get six feet (Unless I have missed something here)* Τί κνώ / σσεις ‖ μεγά / θυμε λέ /ον; νεβ / ροὶ δε τοι / ἐγγύς. The adverb ἐγγύς can end the line in Homer, but the combination δε τοι as part of the fifth foot is just dreadful. We do have this combination, however much I hate it. (e.g. Il. 7.48Q ἦ ῥά νύ μοί τι πίθοιο, κασίγνητος δέ τοί εἰμι·cf. 8.104: ἠπεδανὸς δέ νύ τοι θεράπων, βραδέες δέ τοι ἵπποι.)

A second problem for me is the verb κνώσσω, which is highly defective and does not seem to appear much in hexameter (although it appears twice in Pindar [κνώσσοντί, Ol. 13.72; κνώσσων, Pyth. 1.9] and once in Epic. Adesp.[ 2.34: εὖτε νέους κνώσσοντας̣ [ἐποτρύνειε κατ’ αὖλιν]]).

Here’s Beekes on the verb:

knosso

Other brief observations: heroes are called lion-hearted in early poetry (in the Iliad: Agenor, Hektor, Achilles and Epeios):, but lions are not really called “great hearted”. To me, this looks like later “paint-by-number” versification: so, the work of a literate writer imitating oral composition rather than a genuinely early line. To add to this–the address “great-hearted lion, there are fawns…” is the use of a metaphor in a way we don’t really find in early epic. There are lots of antecedents in similes etc, but this device seems more Hellenistic. I don’t think I would claim that Plutarch composed this–the fact that he does not provide a source implies that (1) it is so well known that he does not need to or (2) there isn’t one and Plutarch is presenting this as the oracular content of a dream (or it is in fact part of a tradition handed down in the annals of Lucullus).

So, just to recap: to me, this line seems post-classical because of its meter, its address of the figure as a lion, and its diction. That said: my sense is based on privileging the Homeric epics we have (which are Ionian and then standardized a bit to Attic). Other localized traditions might have slightly different vocabulary and conventions. So, if for example, this line did come from the Cypria, it might indeed exhibit different qualities.

Any other ideas?

Some responses from twitter below. My impression of this being post-classical is, as I suspected, a bit warped by my strict focus to Homer. The passage might be typical of oracle speech. In this case, it might not then hail from a Trojan War narrative, unless of course it comes from a section of the narrative that draws on oracular language

Image result for medieval manuscript lion and fawns
Detail of a miniature of a manticore from the Rochester Bestiary, England (Rochester?), c. 1230, Royal MS 12 F XIII, f. 24v

Internet Proverb Sleuth: Parmenides and the Apparatus Criticus

When I was in graduate school I had a job working for the editor of the Classical World and I would receive odd assignments like transcribing some Greek from a 19th century German letter (almost always New Testament stuff) to assembling a bibliography on the Roman poet Sulpicia. I am still haunted by a failed quest to review the origins of an apocryphal quote attributed to Plato before the advent of Google.

Over the past few years a few proverbsfalse quotations or mangled lines have been brought to my attention. I love this because I get to play detective and there is nothing like a mystery to get me going. (In fact, I suspect that the basic plot of a sci-fi mystery is so thoroughly embedded in my psyche that it actually drives most of what I call scholarship.

Anyway, the following came to me this morning and I only partially answered on twitter with help from some friends (most importantly Peter Gainsford):

(I totally had to look up John Toland’s Clidophorus. I had no idea what that was.)

So this is Parmenides fr. 1.28-30 DK:

χρεὼ δέ σε πάντα πυθέσθαι
ἠμὲν ᾿Αληθείης εὐκυκλέος ἀτρεμὲς ἦτορ,
ἠδὲ βροτῶν δόξας, ταῖς οὐκ ἔνι πίστις ἀληθής.

I want you to learn all things (by inquiry):
Both the unwavering heart of well-rounded Truth
And the opinions of men in which there is no credible truth.

Here is what was in the epigraph on twitter:

χρεὼ δέ σε πάντα πυθέσθαι
ἠμὲν ᾿Αληθείης εὐπειθέος ἀτρεκὲς ἦτορ,
ἠδὲ βροτῶν δόξας, τῆς οὐκ ἔτι πίστις ἀληθής.

I want you to learn all things (by inquiry):
Both the genuine heart of well-persuasive Truth
And the opinions of mortals, of which there is no longer credible truth.

I actually like ἀτρεκὲς here: it seems rather archaic to me (also poetic, consider Pin. Nem. 5.17: φαίνοισα πρόσωπον ἀλάθει’ ἀτρεκές). But the adjective ἀτρεμὲς  is rather common among presocratic philosophers. I am not really convinced that ἔτι is a much worse reading than ἔνι (although ταῖς is clearly better for reasons of grammatical number). One does not need the ἔνι for ἔνεστι for this to construe.

Here is what is printed in the app. Crit of the new Loeb (LCL 528: 36-37):

29 εὐπειθέος Plut. Adv. Col. 1114D, Clem. Alex. Strom.5.59.6, Diog. Laert. 9.22: εὐκυκλέος Simpl.: εὐφεγγέος Procl. In Tim. 2. 105bpost v. 30 hab. Sextus D8.2–6a = B7.2–6 D.–K.32 χρῆν DE: χρὴν A: χρὴ Karstenπερῶντα A: περ ὄντα DEF

But on another page through a footnote we find ἀτρεμὲς NLE: ἀτρεκὲς ABVR (which implies multiple manuscripts or manuscript traditions [one for each letter, LCL 528: 98-99).

In any case, this is a condition of manuscript variants. The version in the original tweet comes from Parmenides’ fragment as found in Diogenes Laertius Lives of the Eminent Philosophers. The second comes from Sextus Empiricus (7.111). In most versions available online, the ‘corrected’ version in Sextus has been ‘restored’ to the Diogenes Laertius (Peter Gainsford explains this in the tweet below). Without access to a proper apparatus criticus, it would be difficult for anyone to know this.

Fortunately, Diels-Krantz Fragmente Der Vorsokratiker is available online. Unfortunately, this edition (1902?) does not have the good apparatus of the most recent version.

Appcrit

Anyway, one of the most frustrating things about online corpora of edited texts is that critical editions are either still covered by copyright or they are awkwardly presented. Also, we don’t do a great job of educating people about what a critical edition is.

Tessered Latin and Greek: A Lexical “Wrinkle in Time”

There is a great story in the Daily Beast about Greek (and a little Latin) in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. This blog has a little cameo…

Sometimes when I talk to students about my childhood I get the sense that it seems almost as distant and different from theirs as some of the texts from Ancient Greece I encourage them to read. I listened to the radio play of Empire Strikes Back on the radio. I remember getting cable installed. I never sent an email until I went to college. I used to check out vinyl records from the library to listen to Cinderella and the JungleBook!

Ah, the library. I grew up in rural Maine and the local free libraries were, in a way, the center of my childhood. My father was deaf from birth; reading was what we all did as a family. And it was the one realm in which I never felt limited. My parents never told me what to read, when to read or, more importantly, what not to read. We just went to the library every week and they set me free.

At some point in elementary school, I took it upon myself to read the entire collection of Newbery award books. There was a list prominently displayed in the kids’ room at a few different libraries we frequented. I am pretty sure I read Lloyd Alexander’s The High King first and soon after Robert Obrien’s Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. I love both books and when I noticed the medal on the cover, connected it to the list and just started in on it.

I connected with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time almost immediately. That famous start: “IT was a dark and stormy night.” My father used these very words all the time before he would start telling us some ridiculous tale. The world in this book was also one like mine: it was dark (as often the case in rural Maine) and, with our long winters, it was also stormy.

It also deploys that initial scale that works so well–it starts small and simple: Margaret in her room or at the kitchen table, complaining of school, lovingly tolerating her precocious brother. But it was also a world that promised that the stark simplicity it presented was a mere facade over something much more complex–that behind the austere and disappointing world, there were other worlds. In short, the promise of a tale like L’Engle’s was the very promise of the libraries I so loved–that there are ways out of this world into countless others.

I have never reread this book as an adult, but every time I think of it: it is dark, I am in third grade, but there is a light dawning on the horizon. So, when the journalist Mimi Kramer (@nhmeems) contacted me over twitter to ask about the Greek and Latin in A Wrinkle in Time, my first reaction was shock. There is Greek and Latin in L’Engle’s novel? There is, and, as she tells in her fine story on it, it is messed up. And how it has stayed messed up itself is a story worth reading and telling. It is, a bit depressingly, a very adult and mundane mystery, but, for me at least, it provides a passage through time.

The author J.S. Bangs–to my knowledge–was the first to post online about the problems with the Greek. As you can read there or in Kramer’s article, whoever transcribed the quotation from Euripides (most likely from a quotation book cribbed poorly from Stobaeus) confused lamdas for etas and nus for upsilons, giving us the aesthetically displeasing fairly impossible: “Αεηπου οὐδὲν, πὰντα δ’ εηπἰζειυ χρωετ for the text printed as Euripides fr. 761 in Stobaeus: ἄελπτον οὐδέν, πάντα δ’ ἐλπίζειν χρεών. The book’s translation, moreover, “Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything” obscures what I see in the Greek which is a near koan, “nothing is unexpected, and one must expect everything.”

The story of trying to fix this has its own story. The Greek is off in the blog post (to be pedantic): the initial breathing and the vowel in the final participle need adjustment: ἄελπτον οὐδέν, πάντα δ’ ἐλπίζειν χρεών, (not the displayed Ἅελπτον οὐδέν, πάντα δ’ ἐλπίζειν χρηῶν). And even in a recent edition where the Greek has been mostly fixed, the rough breathing on that initial Alpha remains.

But that is a quibble. I am surprised (but not overly so) that I remember nothing of this; but a little shock that this bad Greek has lasted over 60 years! (And that is the story Mimi Kramer tells, much better than I could do so. And she keys us into another mystery. In the same scene, but a little earlier, the mysterious Mrs. Who speaks Latin!

“Finxerunt animi, raro et perpauca loquentis,” Mrs. Who
intoned. “Horace. To action little, less to words inclined.”

The translation she quotes, however, does not match up well with the Latin provided. To be fair, Horace is a bit of a punk: I think he is virtually untranslatable–but, for those readers who know Latin well, can we bring any light to this dark night?

Here are the full lines from Loeb’s translation by Rushton Fairclough

Horace Sermones 1.4

“The gods be praised for fashioning me of meagre wit and lowly spirit, of rare and scanty speech.”

di bene fecerunt, inopis me quodque pusilli
finxerunt animi, raro et perpauca loquentis.

More literally (but with a much inferior rhythm, I would suggest “The gods have done well: they made me of a small and minor spirit, one who speaks rarely and little”. The proffered translation in A Wrinkle In Time is “To action little, less to words inclined”, which seems to be a combination of only the second halves of the couplet (…inopis me quodque pusilli…raro et perpauca loquentis).

So, a working theory Kramer and I discussed for this is simply that someone who didn’t know Latin picked this Horace out of a quote book where there were two lines each of Latin and English and, because only the second line of English was selected, selected only the second line of Latin too. The translation first appears in a 19th century anthology of Richard Steele’s essays for The Spectator and The Tattler, as a reprint of Spectator No. 19 (March 22, 1711). In the typical fashion of 18th-century literary essayists, Steele and Addison prefixed a Latin epigraph to each of their essays without translation. The English version, then, was provided by the compiler of the anthology as a service to those readers without Latin. The English rendering must have made an impression on someone, because it reappears at the beginning of the 20th century in a dictionary of phrases and classical quotations. The full English translation is;

Thank Heaven that made me of a humble mind;
to action little, less to words inclined.

Guess what else is in that very dictionary? You guessed it, the Euripides fragment on page 129 with the correct Greek with the very translation offered in A Wrinkle in Time.

So, we have a half couplet plucked from Horace and a line poorly transcribed from Euripides. Can any lovers of language (and L’Engle) propose something more generous? Is she reading the Latin differently? Am I reading it wrongly?

As someone who loves literature, I take perverse pleasure in not allowing there to be mistakes. So, for instance, where our Horace above has famously declares that even Homer nods (that is, loses track of stuff), many interpreters instead have declared, no, impossible! And we engage in mental acrobatics to show how even mistakes are actually signs of hidden deeper meaning.

So, maybe the ‘wrong’ Greek is not wrong at all. Perhaps it is really an invitation to contemplation of absurd erudition. Or, even more importantly, perhaps it is a secret message–an anagram or something, which, if decoded, will open up for us passages to universes unknown.

(Ok. I was a kid again there, still hoping to skip dimensions….)

Image result for a wrinkle in time cover
This is the over of the book I read.

“I Believe God is Like This…” Three Sophoklean Fragments on Mysteries

fr. 745

“Pursuits hidden well at home
Should never be heard outside the doors.”

σπουδὴ γὰρ ἡ κατ’ οἶκον ἐγκεκρυμμένη
οὐ πρὸς θυραίων οὐδαμῶς ἀκουσίμη.

Fr. 771

“I believe that god is like this:
He always prophesies to the wise in riddles;
But he teaches fools poorly and briefly”

καὶ τὸν θεὸν τοιοῦτον ἐξεπίσταμαι,
σοφοῖς μὲν αἰνικτῆρα θεσφάτων ἀεί,
σκαιοῖς δὲ φαῦλον κἀν βραχεῖ διδάσκαλον

fr. 843

“I learn what can be taught; I seek what
can be found; and I seek in the gods what must be prayed for.”

τὰ μὲν διδακτὰ μανθάνω, τὰ δ’ εὑρετὰ
ζητῶ, τὰ δ’ εὐκτὰ παρὰ θεῶν ᾐτησάμην

Knowing How to Be Silent is as Important as Knowing When to Speak (Plutarch, On the Education of Children, 10-11)

“Ruling your tongue, then, remains of the subjects about which I have set out to speak. If anyone thinks that this is a small or foolish matter, than he has strayed very far from the truth. For silence at the right time is a skill and stronger than all speech. For this reason it seems to me that the ancients established the mystery rights as they did, that, in becoming accustomed to silence during them, we may translate that fear from the gods to the safekeeping of human secrets. For, in turn, no one who was silent ever felt remorse about it; but countless chattering men felt regret. The word unsaid, moreover, is easy to speak out; but a spoken word cannot be taken back. I have heard of ten thousand men who have suffered the greatest misfortunes thanks to a loose tongue…”

Τὸ τοίνυν τῆς γλώττης κρατεῖν (περὶ τούτου γάρ, ὧνπερ ὑπεθέμην, εἰπεῖν λοιπόν) εἴ τις μικρὸν καὶ φαῦλον ὑπείληφε, πλεῖστον διαμαρτάνει τῆς ἀληθείας. σοφὸν γὰρ εὔκαιρος σιγὴ καὶ παντὸς λόγου κρεῖττον. καὶ διὰ τοῦτό μοι δοκεῖ τὰς μυστηριώδεις τελετὰς οἱ παλαιοὶ κατέδειξαν, ἵν’ ἐν ταύταις σιωπᾶν ἐθισθέντες ἐπὶ τὴν τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων μυστηρίων πίστιν τὸν ἀπὸ τῶν θείων μεταφέρωμεν φόβον. καὶ γὰρ αὖ σιωπήσας μὲν οὐδεὶς μετενόησε, λαλήσαντες δὲ παμπληθεῖς. καὶ τὸ μὲν σιγηθὲν ἐξειπεῖν ῥᾴδιον, τὸ δὲ ῥηθὲν ἀναλαβεῖν ἀδύνατον. μυρίους δ’ ἔγωγ’ οἶδ’ ἀκούσας ταῖς μεγίσταις συμφοραῖς περιπεσόντας διὰ τὴν τῆς γλώττης ἀκρασίαν.

Today Plutarch might say that not sending an email or a tweet is often better than sending one. My mother used to say “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say something at all”. It is not difficult to imagine Plutarch’s reactions to our constant invitations to commentary in the modern world. I do not think he would want people to be silent about corruption and injustice–this is a ‘manual’ for the raising of children–but instead that they learn the value of well-applied and strategic speech.

Not that Plutarch is necessarily a master of this. He left us enough words that “timeliness” of speech seems to have been his universal condition.

Homer, Odyssey (15.361-370) Odysseus’ Family

(This post is a bit longer than our usual fare, but I am almost as interested in Odysseus’ sister as in his death by feces! How many other Odysseis are out there?)

 

“So long as she was alive, even though she was grieving, it was dear to me to ask about her because she herself raised me along with slender-robed Ktimene, her strong daughter, the youngest of the children she bore. I was raised with her, and her mother honored me little less. But when we both arrived at much-desired youth, they sent her to Same and received innumerable gifts in return. She gave me a tunic, a cloak, and sandals—wonderful clothing, and sent me to the field. She loved me more in her heart.”

 

 

ὄφρα μὲν οὖν δὴ κείνη ἔην, ἀχέουσά περ ἔμπης,

τόφρα τί μοι φίλον ἔσκε μεταλλῆσαι καὶ ἐρέσθαι,

οὕνεκά μ’ αὐτὴ θρέψεν ἅμα Κτιμένῃ τανυπέπλῳ,

θυγατέρ’ ἰφθίμῃ, τὴν ὁπλοτάτην τέκε παίδων·

τῇ ὁμοῦ ἐτρεφόμην, ὀλίγον δέ τί μ’ ἧσσον ἐτίμα.

αὐτὰρ ἐπεί ῥ’ ἥβην πολυήρατον ἱκόμεθ’ ἄμφω,

τὴν μὲν ἔπειτα Σάμηνδ’ ἔδοσαν καὶ μυρί’ ἕλοντο,

αὐτὰρ ἐμὲ χλαῖνάν τε χιτῶνά τε εἵματ’ ἐκείνη

καλὰ μάλ’ ἀμφιέσασα ποσίν θ’ ὑποδήματα δοῦσα

ἀγρόνδε προΐαλλε· φίλει δέ με κηρόθι μᾶλλον.

 

Odysseus had a sister who was married to one of the nobles (presumably) of Same, a nearby Island that produced some of the suitors (see, e.g., 16.123-4). It seems doubly strange, then, that Telemachus and Penelope have so few allies and other help. Also strange, but probably in line with the patrilineal thinking, is the emphasis in the Odyssey on Odysseus’ line being “single” (Od. 16. 117-120):

 

ὧδε γὰρ ἡμετέρην γενεὴν μούνωσε Κρονίων·

μοῦνον Λαέρτην ᾿Αρκείσιος υἱὸν ἔτικτε,

μοῦνον δ’ αὖτ’ ᾿Οδυσῆα πατὴρ τέκεν· αὐτὰρ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς

μοῦνον ἔμ’ ἐν μεγάροισι τεκὼν λίπεν, οὐδ’ ἀπόνητο.

 

(go here for a translation)

 

But the scholia have a nice solution to this problem: they report that Eurylochus—the companion Odysseus thinks about killing at 10.441—was married to her!

Κτιμένην γὰρ γεγαμήκει τὴν ᾿Οδυσσέως ἀδελφήν. Q.V. γαμβρῷ

μοι ὄντι ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδελφῇ Κτιμένῃ. B.

 

Although, a scholion to the Iliad seems perplexed that Odysseus doesn’t mention her himself (Schol, ad Il. 16.175c1 A ex. 9-10).

 

Anyone know anything else about Odysseus’ sister?