A Sweet Evil: Schadenfreude in Ancient Greek

From the Suda

Epikhairekakía: is pleasure at someone else’s troubles”

ἐπιχαιρεκακία δὲ ἡδονὴ ἐπ’ ἀλλοτρίοις κακοῖς

Diogenes Laertius, Vita Philosophorum 7. 114

“Pleasure is irrational excitement at gaining what seems to be needed. As a subset of pleasure, are elation, pleasure at someone else’s pain (epikhairekakía) and delight, which is similar to turning (trepsis), a mind’s inclination to weakness. The embrace of pleasure is the surrender of virtue.”

῾Ηδονὴ δέ ἐστιν ἄλογος ἔπαρσις ἐφ’ αἱρετῷ δοκοῦντι ὑπάρχειν, ὑφ’ ἣν τάττεται κήλησις, ἐπιχαιρεκακία, τέρψις, διάχυσις. κήλησις μὲν οὖν ἐστιν ἡδονὴ δι’ ὤτων κατακηλοῦσα· ἐπιχαιρεκακία δὲ ἡδονὴ ἐπ’ ἀλλοτρίοις κακοῖς· τέρψις δέ, οἷον τρέψις, προτροπή τις ψυχῆς ἐπὶ τὸ ἀνειμένον· διάχυσις δ’ ἀνάλυσις ἀρετῆς.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1107a 8-11

“There are some vices whose names are cloaked with evil, for instance, pleasure at evils [epikhairekakía], shamelessness, and envy; and there are deeds too: adultery, theft, and manslaughter. All these things and those of this sort are called evil on their own, it is not an indulgence in them or an improper use that is wrong.”

ἔνια γὰρ εὐθὺς ὠνόμασται συνειλημμένα μετὰ τῆς φαυλότητος, οἷον ἐπιχαιρεκακία
ἀναισχυντία φθόνος, καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν πράξεων μοιχεία κλοπὴ ἀνδροφονία· πάντα γὰρ ταῦτα καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα λέγεται τῷ αὐτὰ φαῦλα εἶναι, ἀλλ’ οὐχ αἱ ὑπερβολαὶ αὐτῶν οὐδ’ αἱ ἐλλείψεις.

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Forget the Fountain of Youth–We Need the Stone of Relief

Pseudo-Plutarch, On Rivers, 11.1-2

“The Strymon is a Thracian River by the city Edonis. Previously, it was called Palaistinos after the son of Poseidon, Palaistinos. That one, when he was warring with his neighbors and got sick, sent his son Haliakmôn as general. But he was rather impetuous and was killed while fighting.

Once Palaistinos heard this and escaped his bodyguards, he hurled himself into the river Konozos because of his extreme grief. Then Strymon, the child of Ares and Helike, once he heard about the death of Rhesus and was overcome by sorrow, hurled himself into the river Palaistinos whose name was changed to Strymon because of this.

A stone created by this river is called the pausilypos [“grief-stopper”]. Anyone grieving who finds this stone is immediately relieved of the pain which holds him.  That’s the story Jason of Byzantion tells in his Tragika.”

Στρυμὼν ποταμός ἐστι τῆς Θρᾴκης κατὰ πόλιν Ἠδωνίδα· προσηγορεύετο δὲπρότερον Παλαιστῖνος ἀπὸ Παλαιστίνου τοῦ Ποσειδῶνος. οὗτος γὰρ πρὸς τοὺς ἀστυγείτονας ἔχων πόλεμον καὶ εἰς ἀσθένειαν ἐμπεσὼν τὸν υἱὸν Ἁλιάκμονα στρατηγὸν ἔπεμψεν· ὁ δὲ προπετέστερον μαχόμενος ἀνῃρέθη. περὶ δὲ τῶν συμβεβηκότων ἀκούσας Παλαιστῖνος καὶ λαθὼν τοὺς δορυφόρους, διὰ λύπης ὑπερβολὴν ἑαυτὸν ἔρριψεν εἰς ποταμὸν Κόνοζον, ὃς ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ Παλαιστῖνος ὠνομάσθη. Στρυμὼν δὲ, Ἄρεως παῖς καὶ Ἡλίκης, ἀκούσας περὶ τῆς Ῥήσου τελευτῆς καὶ ἀθυμίᾳ συσχεθεὶς ἑαυτὸν ἔρριψεν εἰς ποταμὸν Παλαιστῖνον, ὃς ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ Στρυμὼν μετωνομάσθη. γεννᾶται δ’ ἐν αὐτῷ λίθος παυσίλυπος καλούμενος· ὃν ἐὰν εὕρῃ τις πενθῶν, παύεται παραχρῆμα τῆς κατεχούσης αὐτὸν συμφορᾶς, καθὼς ἱστορεῖ Ἰάσων Βυζάντιος ἐν τοῖς Τραγικοῖς.

This is a different type of relief from Grief

There’s always drugs too. Morphine, “Cure for Pain”

“Someday there’ll be a cure for pain
That’s the day I throw my drugs away”

 

Weekend Plans with Alcaeus

Alcaeus, Fr. 38A (P. Oxy. 1233 fr. 1 ii 8–20 + 2166(b)1)

“Drink and get drunk with me, Melanippos.
Why would you say that once you cross the great eddying
River of Acheron you will see the pure light of the sun again?
Come on, don’t hope for great things.

For even the son of Aiolos, Sisyphos used to claim
He was better than death because he knew the most of men.
Even though he was so very wise, he crossed
The eddying river Acheron twice thanks to fate
And Kronos’ son granted that he would have toil
Beneath the dark earth. So don’t hope for these things.

As long as we are young, now is the time we must
Endure whatever of these things the god soon grants us to suffer.”

πῶνε [καὶ μέθυ᾿ ὦ] Μελάνιππ᾿ ἄμ᾿ ἔμοι· τί [φαῖς †
ὄταμε[. . . .]διννάεντ᾿ † Ἀχέροντα μέγ[αν πόρον
ζάβαι[ς ἀ]ελίω κόθαρον φάος [ἄψερον
ὄψεσθ᾿; ἀλλ᾿ ἄγι μὴ μεγάλων ἐπ[ιβάλλεο·
καὶ γὰρ Σίσυφος Αἰολίδαις βασίλευς [ἔφα
ἄνδρων πλεῖστα νοησάμενος [θανάτω κρέτην·
ἀλλὰ καὶ πολύιδρις ἔων ὐπὰ κᾶρι [δὶς
δ̣ιννάεντ᾿ Ἀχέροντ᾿ ἐπέραισε, μ[έμηδε δ᾿ ὦν
αὔτῳ μόχθον ἔχην Κρονίδαις βα [σίλευς κάτω
ελαίνας χθόνος· ἀλλ᾿ ἄγι μὴ τά[δ᾿ ἐπέλπεο·
θᾶς] τ᾿ ἀβάσομεν αἴ ποτα κἄλλοτα ν [ῦν χρέων
φέρ]ην ὄττινα τῶνδε πάθην τά[χα δῷ θέος.

Image result for medieval manuscript acheron
Dante Being rowed across Acheron, 5th c, Yates Thompson MS 36, f. 6r. B.L.

Some of us can’t say this any more…

The Most Evil Pain: A Lot of Knowledge, But No Power

Herodotus, Histories 9.16

After dinner when they were drinking together, the Persian next to him asked [Thersander] in Greek what country was his and Thersander said Orkhomenos. Then he responded “Since you are my dinner companion and have had a drink with me I want to leave a memorial of my belief so that you may understand and be able to make some advantageous plans.

Do you see these Persians dining and the army we left in camp by the river? In a short time you will see that few of these men remain.” The Persian stopped saying these things and cried a lot.

After he was surprised at this confession, he responded, “Isn’t it right to tell these things to Mardonios and those noble Persians around him?”

Then he responded, “Friend, whatever a god decrees is impossible for humans to change: for they say that no one wants to believe what is true. Many of us Persians know this and follow because we are bound by necessity. This is most hateful pain for human beings: when someone knows a lot but has no power.”

I heard these things from Thersander of Orkhomnos and he also told me that he said them to people before the battle occurred at Plataea.”

2] ὡς δὲ ἀπὸ δείπνου ἦσαν, διαπινόντων τὸν Πέρσην τὸν ὁμόκλινον Ἑλλάδα γλῶσσαν ἱέντα εἰρέσθαι αὐτὸν ὁποδαπός ἐστι, αὐτὸς δὲ ὑποκρίνασθαι ὡς εἴη Ὀρχομένιος. τὸν δὲ εἰπεῖν ‘ἐπεὶ νῦν ὁμοτράπεζός τέ μοι καὶ ὁμόσπονδος ἐγένεο, μνημόσυνά τοι γνώμης τῆς ἐμῆς καταλιπέσθαι θέλω, ἵνα καὶ προειδὼς αὐτὸς περὶ σεωυτοῦ βουλεύεσθαι ἔχῃς τὰ συμφέροντα. ’

‘ [3] ὁρᾷς τούτους τοὺς δαινυμένους Πέρσας καὶ τὸν στρατὸν τὸν ἐλίπομεν ἐπὶ τῷ ποταμῷ στρατοπεδευόμενον: τούτων πάντων ὄψεαι ὀλίγου τινὸς χρόνου διελθόντος ὀλίγους τινὰς τοὺς περιγενομένους.’ ταῦτα ἅμα τε τὸν Πέρσην λέγειν καὶ μετιέναι πολλὰ τῶν δακρύων.

[4] αὐτὸς δὲ θωμάσας τὸν λόγον εἰπεῖν πρὸς αὐτὸν ‘οὐκῶν Μαρδονίῳ τε ταῦτα χρεόν ἐστι λέγειν καὶ τοῖσι μετ᾽ ἐκεῖνον ἐν αἴνῃ ἐοῦσι Περσέων;’ τὸν δὲ μετὰ ταῦτα εἰπεῖν ‘ξεῖνε, ὅ τι δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀμήχανον ἀποτρέψαι ἀνθρώπῳ: οὐδὲ γὰρ πιστὰ λέγουσι ἐθέλει πείθεσθαι οὐδείς. ’

‘ [5] ταῦτα δὲ Περσέων συχνοὶ ἐπιστάμενοι ἑπόμεθα ἀναγκαίῃ ἐνδεδεμένοι, ἐχθίστη δὲ ὀδύνη ἐστὶ τῶν ἐν ἀνθρώποισι αὕτη, πολλὰ φρονέοντα μηδενὸς κρατέειν.’ ταῦτα μὲν Ὀρχομενίου Θερσάνδρου ἤκουον, καὶ τάδε πρὸς τούτοισι, ὡς αὐτὸς αὐτίκα λέγοι ταῦτα πρὸς ἀνθρώπους πρότερον ἢ γενέσθαι ἐν Πλαταιῇσι τὴν μάχην.

 

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Fragmentary Friday: A Poem of (Life’s) Mixed Evils

Archilochus, fr. 13

 “Neither citizen nor city, Perikles, will delight in the feast
And find fault in the pain of our mourning
For the waves of the much-resounding sea consumed
Such great men, and we have lungs swollen
With pain. But the gods, dear friend, have set
Powerful endurance as our medicine for untreatable
Evils. Different people have this at different times.
Now it has fallen to us and we lament a blooded wound,
But it will go to others in turn. Now, bear up quickly
Once you have pushed away womanly grief.”

κήδεα μὲν στονόεντα Περίκλεες οὔτέ τις ἀστῶν
μεμφόμενος θαλίηις τέρψεται οὐδὲ πόλις·
τοίους γὰρ κατὰ κῦμα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης
ἔκλυσεν, οἰδαλέους δ’ ἀμφ’ ὀδύνηις ἔχομεν
πνεύμονας. ἀλλὰ θεοὶ γὰρ ἀνηκέστοισι κακοῖσιν
ὦ φίλ’ ἐπὶ κρατερὴν τλημοσύνην ἔθεσαν
φάρμακον. ἄλλοτε ἄλλος ἔχει τόδε· νῦν μὲν ἐς ἡμέας
ἐτράπεθ’, αἱματόεν δ’ ἕλκος ἀναστένομεν,
ἐξαῦτις δ’ ἑτέρους ἐπαμείψεται. ἀλλὰ τάχιστα
τλῆτε, γυναικεῖον πένθος ἀπωσάμενοι.

 

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Some Thoughts on Reflecting on Another Year Gone By

Heraclitus, fr. 111

“Sickness makes health sweet and good [just as] hunger makes fullness and fatigue makes rest.”

νοῦσος ὑγιείην ἐποίησεν ἡδὺ καὶ ἀγαθόν, λιμὸς κόρον, κάματος ἀνάπαυσιν.

Od. 15.398-401

“Now let us dine and drink in my home
And take pleasure while we recall to one another
Our grievous pains. For a man may take pleasure even in pain,
Later, when he has suffered and come through so many things.”

νῶϊ δ’ ἐνὶ κλισίῃ πίνοντέ τε δαινυμένω τε
κήδεσιν ἀλλήλων τερπώμεθα λευγαλέοισι
μνωομένω· μετὰ γάρ τε καὶ ἄλγεσι τέρπεται ἀνήρ,
ὅς τις δὴ μάλα πολλὰ πάθῃ καὶ πόλλ’ ἐπαληθῇ.

Euripides, Fr. 133

“It is certainly sweet to recall your struggles after you’ve been saved”

ἀλλ’ ἡδύ τοι σωθέντα μεμνῆσθαι πόνων.

Archippus, fr. 45

“Mother, it is sweet to see the sea from the land
when you don’t have to sail any longer.”

ὡς ἡδὺ τὴν θάλατταν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ὁρᾶν
ὦ μῆτερ ἐστι, μὴ πλέοντα μηδαμοῦ

Od. 12.212

“But when we escape from here thanks to my virtue,
my planning, and my mind, I think we will  recall these things, perhaps.”

ἀλλὰ καὶ ἔνθεν ἐμῇ ἀρετῇ βουλῇ τε νόῳ τε
ἐκφύγομεν, καί που τῶνδε μνήσεσθαι ὀΐω.

Vergil, Aeneid 1.203

“Perhaps one day it will be a joy to remember even these things”

forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit

AMPHORA DEPICTING ULYSSES, ATHENA

Plato, Hippias Minor 372a-c: Willingness to Learn is My Sole Good Quality

“Can you see, Hippias, that I am earnest when I say I am obsessed with questioning wise men? I probably have only this one good quality, since I exhibit others that are plainly wretched: for I stumble over facts and don’t know what they are. This is a sufficient sign of it for me, that whenever I meet one of the men famed for his wisdom or those all the Greeks recognize for their wisdom, I seem to know nothing…

And what greater sign of ignorance is there than differing from wise men? But I do have one wondrous quality that saves me: I am not ashamed to learn; no I investigate and ask questions and have much gratitude for anyone who answers—I have never deprived someone of thanks. For I have never denied that I learned something and pretended that the thing learned was some personal discovery. Instead, I praise the one who taught me because he is wise and I show off what I have learned from him.”

latin-teacher

ὁρᾷς, ὦ Ἱππία, ὅτι ἐγὼ ἀληθῆ λέγω, λέγων ὡς λιπαρής εἰμι πρὸς τὰς ἐρωτήσεις τῶν σοφῶν; καὶ κινδυνεύω ἓν μόνον ἔχειν τοῦτο ἀγαθόν, τἆλλα ἔχων πάνυ φαῦλα: τῶν μὲν γὰρ πραγμάτων ᾗ ἔχει ἔσφαλμαι, καὶ οὐκ οἶδ᾽ ὅπῃ ἐστί. τεκμήριον δέ μοι τούτου ἱκανόν, ὅτι ἐπειδὰν συγγένωμαί τῳ ὑμῶν τῶν εὐδοκιμούντων ἐπὶ σοφίᾳ καὶ οἷς οἱ Ἕλληνες πάντες μάρτυρές εἰσι τῆς σοφίας, φαίνομαι οὐδὲν εἰδώς:…

καίτοι τί μεῖζον ἀμαθίας τεκμήριον ἢ ἐπειδάν τις σοφοῖς ἀνδράσι διαφέρηται; ἓν δὲ τοῦτο θαυμάσιον ἔχω ἀγαθόν, ὅ με σῴζει: οὐ γὰρ αἰσχύνομαι μανθάνων, ἀλλὰ πυνθάνομαι καὶ ἐρωτῶ καὶ χάριν πολλὴν ἔχω τῷ ἀποκρινομένῳ, καὶ οὐδένα πώποτε ἀπεστέρησα χάριτος. οὐ γὰρ πώποτε ἔξαρνος ἐγενόμην μαθών τι, ἐμαυτοῦ ποιούμενος τὸ μάθημα εἶναι ὡς εὕρημα: ἀλλ᾽ ἐγκωμιάζω τὸν διδάξαντά με ὡς σοφὸν ὄντα, ἀποφαίνων ἃ ἔμαθον παρ᾽ αὐτοῦ

A Lot of Knowledge, But No Power: Herodotus on the Most Evil Pain

Because this conversation happens after a shared meal, it is thematically appropriate for this month.

Herodotus, Histories 9.16

After dinner when they were drinking together, the Persian next to him asked [Thersander] in Greek what country was his and Thersander said Orkhomenos. Then he responded “Since you are my dinner companion and have had a drink with me I want to leave a memorial of my belief so that you may understand and be able to make some advantageous plans.

Do you see these Persians dying and the army we left in camp by the river? In a short time you will see that few of these men remain.” The Persian stopped saying these things and cried a lot.

After he was surprised at this confession, he responded, “Isn’t it right to tell these things to Mardonios and those noble Persians around him?”

Then he responded, “Friend, whatever a god decrees is impossible for humans to change: for they say that no one wants to believe what is true. Many of us Persians know this and follow because we are bound by necessity. This is most hateful pain for men: when someone knows a lot but has no power.”

I heard these things from Thersander of Orkhomnos and he also told me that he said them to people before the battle occurred at Plataea.”

2] ὡς δὲ ἀπὸ δείπνου ἦσαν, διαπινόντων τὸν Πέρσην τὸν ὁμόκλινον Ἑλλάδα γλῶσσαν ἱέντα εἰρέσθαι αὐτὸν ὁποδαπός ἐστι, αὐτὸς δὲ ὑποκρίνασθαι ὡς εἴη Ὀρχομένιος. τὸν δὲ εἰπεῖν ‘ἐπεὶ νῦν ὁμοτράπεζός τέ μοι καὶ ὁμόσπονδος ἐγένεο, μνημόσυνά τοι γνώμης τῆς ἐμῆς καταλιπέσθαι θέλω, ἵνα καὶ προειδὼς αὐτὸς περὶ σεωυτοῦ βουλεύεσθαι ἔχῃς τὰ συμφέροντα. ’

‘ [3] ὁρᾷς τούτους τοὺς δαινυμένους Πέρσας καὶ τὸν στρατὸν τὸν ἐλίπομεν ἐπὶ τῷ ποταμῷ στρατοπεδευόμενον: τούτων πάντων ὄψεαι ὀλίγου τινὸς χρόνου διελθόντος ὀλίγους τινὰς τοὺς περιγενομένους.’ ταῦτα ἅμα τε τὸν Πέρσην λέγειν καὶ μετιέναι πολλὰ τῶν δακρύων.

[4] αὐτὸς δὲ θωμάσας τὸν λόγον εἰπεῖν πρὸς αὐτὸν ‘οὐκῶν Μαρδονίῳ τε ταῦτα χρεόν ἐστι λέγειν καὶ τοῖσι μετ᾽ ἐκεῖνον ἐν αἴνῃ ἐοῦσι Περσέων;’ τὸν δὲ μετὰ ταῦτα εἰπεῖν ‘ξεῖνε, ὅ τι δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀμήχανον ἀποτρέψαι ἀνθρώπῳ: οὐδὲ γὰρ πιστὰ λέγουσι ἐθέλει πείθεσθαι οὐδείς. ’

‘ [5] ταῦτα δὲ Περσέων συχνοὶ ἐπιστάμενοι ἑπόμεθα ἀναγκαίῃ ἐνδεδεμένοι, ἐχθίστη δὲ ὀδύνη ἐστὶ τῶν ἐν ἀνθρώποισι αὕτη, πολλὰ φρονέοντα μηδενὸς κρατέειν.’ ταῦτα μὲν Ὀρχομενίου Θερσάνδρου ἤκουον, καὶ τάδε πρὸς τούτοισι, ὡς αὐτὸς αὐτίκα λέγοι ταῦτα πρὸς ἀνθρώπους πρότερον ἢ γενέσθαι ἐν Πλαταιῇσι τὴν μάχην.

 

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