Now is the time

Now is the time

ὡς ἐνταῦθ᾽ †ἐμέν
ἵν᾽ οὐκέτ᾽ ὀκνεῖν καιρός, ἀλλ᾽ ἔργων ἀκμή. (Sophocles, Electra 21-22)

We’re at the point
where it’s no longer the time to shrink back, but the moment for action.

Thus the Paidagogus, the nameless “Tutor” in Sophocles’s play, ends his introductory address to Orestes (and to us, the audience) in the prologue to Electra. It sets the tone for the play. Soon after we hear Orestes—the ever willing student out to impress—repeat back his tutor’s language, as he brings his own opening declaration to an end with the words: “The two of us will go; for it is the time, which is for men the greatest leader of every action” (νὼ δ᾽ ἔξιμεν· καιρὸς γάρ, ὅσπερ ἀνδράσιν / μέγιστος ἔργου παντός ἐστ᾽ ἐπιστάτης, 75-76).

And shortly after this, when Orestes is yet moved to shrink back as he hears the offstage cries of his sister, the Paidagogus urges him on, ventriloquizing Aeschylus’s Pylades in his injunction to obey Apollo’s commands: for Orestes there are libations to be poured to his father, victory and power to be won. (80-85). No communal libation here, as in Aeschylus’s Choephoroi; here Electra and the chorus enter, only after Orestes and his support team have already departed. These men are doers. The women follow in their wake.

3_Electra+chorus

I watched a performance of Sophocles’s tragedy this summer in Greece’s second city, Thessaloniki (all photographs are taken from the production stills). It was the second time that I had seen the play, after the 2001 Cambridge Greek play (co-starring a pre-Loki Tom Hiddleston) which was memorable for creating a stage like a petri dish, as if the actors were under a microscope, their actions and arguments open for dissection. Aristotle famously relegates spectacle, or opsis (ὄψις), to the least important of the six component parts of a tragedy (after plot, character, diction, thought and song: Poetics 1450a9-10). “Spectacle”, he writes, “while highly seductive, is the least technical [of the parts] and the one that is least to do with poetry” (ἡ δὲ ὄψις ψυχαγωγικὸν μέν, ἀτεχνότατον δὲ καὶ ἥκιστα οἰκεῖον τῆς ποιητικῆς, 1450b18-20).

Aristotle’s terms of reference here (his emphasis on poetry) must play a role in the downgrading of spectacle, as too must his concern to recoup tragedy from Plato’s criticism of the art form as leading aside the soul (cf. ψυχαγωγικὸν). And spectacle, arguably, still continues to attract less comment, even though reception studies and the use of performance theory (as in Rush Rehm’s Play of Space) have gone some way to refocusing attention on to the play in (as) action.

It was the spectacle of the Greek national theatre company’s Electra (under the direction of Thanos Papakonstantinos) that took my breath away. On the surface it appeared quite a traditional adaptation: it wasn’t located in a contemporary setting; the costumes were simple, bordering on the stylised; it used music throughout; the chorus sung *and* danced; the text wasn’t excised or adapted in any way (other than it being a modern Greek translation). But it was like no other adaptation of Greek tragedy that I had seen. The director’s vision of the tragedy drew on elements that are only ever hinted at in the text, and showed to me, a textual scholar, the life and power of a play beyond the text. Let me give two examples that go back to that opening scene I discussed above.

Papakonstantinos’s play began before the first lines of Sophocles’s script were even delivered. Out came the musicians, the chorus, and two actors (Orestes and Pylades), who proceeded to parade sombrely around the stage to a funereal drumbeat, led by the Paidagogus, who all the time very slowly, and very deliberately, turned his head this way and that to glare at the audience seated in the theatre, challenging us to hold his gaze (or to look away). We immediately fell under the thrall of this imposing figure, as Orestes does in Sophocles’s play. As for Orestes: when the musicians and chorus had taken up their positions, Pylades (notably mute again after his brief, but momentous, pronouncement of Apollo’s command in Aeschylus’s Choephoroi) makes a performance of binding the hero and blindfolding him. All this before the play (as in Sophocles’s text of the play) had actually begun!

1_Beginning_Paidagogus+Orestes

Even after this point, the director’s “extra-textual” imagination continued to frame our response to the events on stage: for, rather than disappearing from view as in Sophocles’s play (when the actor would have had to play another role) Orestes, still blindfolded and bound, is led back around the stage by Pylades to that same funereal beat, while the action unfolds around them. It was only when meeting his sister, some two thirds of the way through the play that his bonds and blindfold are removed, as if offering a very concrete instantiation of his psychology: he has been trained (blinded and bound) to kill his mother; these bonds fall from him as meeting his sister reveals repressed ties of affection for her.

But this is only a fleeting glimpse of his humanity, as the Paidagogus suddenly reappears to berate the two “stupid unthinking children” (ὦ πλεῖστα μῶροι καὶ φρενῶν τητώμενοι, 1326), for talking a lot (τῶν μακρῶν λόγων, 1335) when “it is the moment to be delivered from these matters” (ἀπηλλάχθαι δ᾽ ἀκμή, 1338). As Electra desperately tries to engage in dialogue also with him, the Paidagogus firmly slaps her down: “That’s enough, I think” (ἀρκεῖν δοκεῖ μοι, 1364). In our performance, his reappearance at the top of the stage encapsulated once again his dominance over, and orchestration of, the proceedings.

As you’ll see from the photographs, the stage was stark in its simplicity, an effect that was further amplified by the simple, almost abstract costuming of all the actors. Not only did this help focus attention on the gestures, movement and interactions of the actors; it also helped to defamiliarise the action and detach it from any particular setting, whether classical (as when actors wear chitons) or modern. This is something, I think, that Greek tragedy generally manages to do: that is, to speak to audiences not bound by a particular place or time. But one costume did possibly have a contemporary resonance: the clothing of the chorus seemed to me, at least, to be a pristine white version of the clothing worn by the handmaids in the renowned TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale.

The chorus were the other significant reason for the impact of this drama. Controlled and in control, this was a chorus of and for our time, gaining power through their collective action. Unlike every other chorus I’ve ever seen, this chorus sung and chanted in metre throughout in unison. They spoke, as it were, with one voice, though that voice sometimes seemed to be stretched to the absolute limit, to the point of almost fracturing, using the technique of close dissonant harmonies familiar from Balkan singing. They also moved as one, like polished mannequins, often with minimal gesture of forefinger touching the thumb, as if a Greek orthodox Christ were blessing his congregation. Then, as the play hurtles towards its terrifying climax (the matricide; the forever deferred murder of Aegisthus), they transform, as Electra’s hatred and bitterness finally comes to affect and infect them. A *spoiler alert* #metoo movement with bite.

2_Electra+Chrysothemis_chorus

I had always read the chorus in the final scenes of the play as providing the only lingering vestige of empathy in an increasingly desperate and hateful (hate-filled) world. As Orestes does his thing (murdering his mother) offstage, and Electra comments on, and incites, the violence onstage in shockingly impersonal terms (“someone shouts within… someone screams”, 1406, 1409: the someone in question being her mother), it’s the chorus who remind us of what’s at stake: “I heard a cry that shouldn’t have been heard, enough to make me shiver” (1407); “o city, o wretched family” (1414). They sum up this fractured replaying of Aeschylus’s trilogy (Sophocles’s Clytemnestra “quotes” Aeschylus’s Agamemnon as she is struck, and struck again: ὤμοι πέπληγμαι / ὤμοι μάλʼ αὖθις, 1415-1417; cf. Aesch. Ag. 1343-45), by recalling the curses of those previously murdered (1419-21):

τελοῦσʼ ἀραί· ζῶσιν οἱ γᾶς ὑπαὶ κείμενοι.
παλίρρυτον γὰρ αἷμʼ ὑπεξαιροῦσι τῶν
κτανόντων οἱ πάλαι θανόντες.
The curses are working out. They who lie under the earth live.
For those who died long ago are draining the blood
—blood that flows in recompense—from their killers.

In a manner that again strongly evokes Aeschylus, this time the sarcastic reply by the Choephoroi Orestes’s to his mother: “I think that the dead are killing the living” (Aesch. Cho. 886), the chorus’s mention of curses reworks the language of generational violence and familial revenge that dominates that trilogy. Those earlier plays culminate in the instantiation of the curses in the form of the Furies/Erinyes of the Eumenides. One of the insoluble problems of Sophocles’s Electra is, precisely, the absence of the Erinyes from the drama. Although they are mentioned on four occasions (112, 276, 491, 1080) and alluded to once (1388), the fact that they don’t seem to appear after Clytemnestra’s murder has led many critics to conclude that Sophocles sanctions the matricide (as if it’s ever ok to kill your mother).

The masterstroke of Thanos Papakonstantinos in his direction of the play was, again, to make real what is only ever hinted at in the text. Thus, as the chorus attempt to make sense of the matricide and Electra’s conducting of the events offstage, they transform into the very curses to which they refer. At this very moment in the performance, they discarded their pristine white cloaks and began to writhe on the ground before Electra, sullying their inner garments on a stage that was slowly filling up with a viscous oily liquid—a black blood slick. They became in appearance like Electra herself, dreadful and deranged. They became, in essence, the Erinyes.

4_Orestes+Aegisthus+chorus

This transformation of the chorus into Sophocles’s missing Furies—as if the Eumenides‘s chorus had been invoked and brought back on stage by the constant incantations of Aeschylus’s earlier plays—was both utterly mesmeric and breathtakingly terrifying. It reminded me more of a horror film than a conventional tragedy, and it struck me that horror, too, must have played a role in these plays’ impact. And it wasn’t only a gut reaction; the horror-inflected climax got me thinking a lot harder about what *was* in the text. And, reading the play again at home, I noticed how the chorus from this point on assume a far more active role, first warning the siblings of Aegisthus’s arrival (1429), and then offering advice how to get him to drop his guard (1439-41). Even in their customarily generic last words, the chorus evoke the urgency (τῇ νῦν ὁρμῇ τελεωθέν, 1510) on which the Paidagogus has constantly insisted.

But—and this is important—their cue came not from him but from Electra. It’s when the men go off stage to do their thing and leave the women shut out onstage that they—the women—take control. It’s Electra’s commentary on the matricide that is the focus, not the event itself. It’s the sister, so long left home alone and shut off from the plot as soon as the play begins, who, forced to testify about her experience, her suffering before a (hostile?) hearing of male judges (us, the audience), dominates the play. And she dominates its ending with a group of women whose furious shedding of their demure costumes presages their transformation into curses, as if she, and not the Paidagogus, were now the orchestrator of the action.

Beware all transgressors. #wetoo are coming for you.

chorus+orestes

Tawdry Tuesday: Medicine, Magic, and Erections (Ancient Greek Viagra)

Last year a tweet from the always entertaining Greek History Podcast (.@greekhistorypod) directed me to learn some new words: “To have an erection whenever you wish, mix up crushed pepper in honey and smear on your thing” —Greek Magical Papyri, 7.185. Also, I don’t advise trying the following formulas.  This post has been ‘enhanced’ from the original. Here we go…

The full passage also has a prescription for sexual performance

Magical Papyri, 7.185

“To be able to fuck a lot: mix fifty [pine nuts] with two measures of honey and seeds of pepper and drink it. To have an erection whenever you want: mix pepper with honey and rub it on your thing.”

Πολλὰ βι[ν]εῖν δύνασθαι· στροβίλια πεντήκοντα μετὰ δύο κυά[θ]ων γλυκέος καὶ κόκκους πεπέρεως τρίψας πίε. Στ[ύ]ειν, ὅτε θέλεις· πέπερι μετὰ μέλιτος τρίψας χρῖέ σου τὸ πρᾶ̣γ̣μ̣α.

  1. Complications: this might just be a metaphor. στροβίλια can be phallic; κόκκος can mean “testicles” or female genitals. Also, seeds are, well, seminal. So there is some associative magic going on here.

2. I was a little unsure about στροβίλια, but I checked Galen (De Simp. Medic. 12.55.7) and it seems to be a pine nut (Κώνου ὁ καρπὸς, ὃν δὴ καὶ κόκαλον ὀνομάζουσι καὶ στρόβιλον). I am happy for a botanist’s help.

3. τὸ πρᾶ̣γ̣μ̣α: There is a variant attributed to Democritus τὸ π[έλ]μα, which looks like we could treat as a diminutive of τὸ πέος (“penis”) if we wanted to. So, you know, “spread pepper and honey on your little prick”. In Modern Greek, “thing” can still mean genitals.

4. Pepper and honey are prescribed by Aelian for persuading livestock to breed. In Dioscorides, pepper is suggested as a birth control method and as a a way of stimulating the libido:

Aelian, Nature of the Animals  9.48

“Guardians who want the reproduction of their animals to increase when it is time to mate take handfuls of salt and sodium carbonate and rub them on the genitals of female sheep, and goats and horses. From these [animals] get more eager for sex. Others rub them down with pepper and honey; and others with sodium carbonate and nettle-seed. Some even rub them down with myrrh. From this kind of stimulation the females lose control and go crazy for the males.”

  1. ‘Υπὲρ τοῦ πλείονα τὴν ἐπιγονὴν τῶν ζῴων σφίσι γίνεσθαι οἱ τούτων μελεδωνοὶ τὰ ἄρθρα τῶν θηλειῶν καὶ οἰῶν καὶ αἰγῶν καὶ ἵππων ἀνατρίβουσι κατὰ τὸν τῆς ὀχείας καιρὸν ἁλῶν καὶ λίτρουτὰς χεῖρας ἀναπλήσαντες. ἐκ τούτων ὄρεξις αὐτοῖς γίνεται περὶ τὴν ἀφροδίτην μᾶλλον. ἕτεροι δὲ πεπέριδι καὶ μέλιτι τὰ αὐτὰ χρίουσι, λίτρῳ δὲ ἄλλοι καὶ κνίδης καρπῷ· σμυρνίῳ δὲ ἤδη τινὲς ἔχρισαν καὶ λίτρῳ. ἐκ δὴ τοῦδε τοῦ ὀδαξησμοῦ ἀκράτορες ἑαυτῶν γίνονται αἱ θήλειαι ποῖμναι, καὶ ἐπιμαίνονται τοῖς ἄρρεσιν.

Dioscorides, De materia medica 2.159:2-3

“Both kinds of pepper commonly have the following effects:, digestive, uretic, absorbent [antidiarrheal], pro-perspirant and a purgative for things which overshadow girls. It also treats those who drink it and rub it on for periodic shakes and helps those bitten by wild beasts and also compels [out?] fetuses. It seems to make someone not pregnant when applied after sex.

It helps with coughs and aids with all kinds of ailments in the chest cavity, when it is taken in lozenges and suspensions, and it helps with sore throats when rubbed in with honey. It also treats constricted bowels when drunk with young laurel leaves. When it is crushed with stavesacre, it helps to produces phlegm, which is both painless and healthy to do. It stimulates your libido and helps as well in a soup mixed over heat. When it is prepared with pitch it helps neck swelling, and it darkens white spots with washing. Like lentils, pepper jumps in a pan right on the coals when it is roasting.”

δύναμιν δὲ ἔχει κοινῶς θερμαντικήν, πεπτικήν, οὐρητικήν, ἐπισπαστικήν, διαφορητικήν, σμηκτικὴν τῶν ταῖς κόραις ἐπισκοτούντων· ἁρμόζει καὶ ῥίγεσι περιοδικοῖς πινόμενον καὶ συγχριόμενον, καὶ θηριοδήκτοις ἀρήγει, ἄγει καὶ ἔμβρυα. ἀτόκιον δὲ εἶναι δοκεῖ μετὰ συνουσίαν προστιθέμενον, βηξί τε καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς περὶ θώρακα πάθεσιν ἁρμόζει, ἔν τε ἐκλεικτοῖς καὶ ποτήμασι λαμβανόμενον, καὶ συνάγχαις ἁρμόζει διαχριόμενον σὺν μέλιτι, καὶ στρόφους λύει πινόμενον μετὰ δάφνης φύλλων ἁπαλῶν. ἀποφλεγματίζει δὲ σὺν σταφίδι διαμασηθέν, ἀνώδυνόν τέ ἐστι καὶ ὑγιεινόν, καὶ ὄρεξιν κινεῖ καὶ πέψει συνεργεῖ μειγνύμενον ἐμβάμμασιν. ἀναλημφθὲν δὲ πίσσῃ χοιράδας διαφορεῖ, σμήχει δὲ ἀλφοὺς σὺν νίτρῳ. φώγνυται δὲ ἐν ὀστράκῳ καινῷ ἐπ’ ἀνθράκων κινούμενον ὡς φακοί.

Some Explanations for Erections, Courtesy of ‘Aristotle’. thanks to Ryan Blank (@drawingablank87) for Reminding me of these.

Aristotle, Problems 879a-b

20 “Sexual excitement is also due to an exiting of breath. If its rush finds some exit while arousal is ongoing then it does not make the semen ejaculate. But instead, it cools. Then, it ruins the rigidity of the penis.”

ἔστι δὲ καὶ ὁ ἀφροδισιασμὸς μετὰ πνεύματος ǁ ἐξόδου. εἰ οὖν ὁδοποιεῖται ἡ ὁρμὴ γινομένου αὐτοῦ, οὐ ποιεῖ ὁρμᾶν τὸ σπέρμα, ἀλλὰ καταψύχεται· μαραίνει οὖν τὴν συντονίαν τοῦ αἰδοίου.

4.23 “Why does rigidity and increase happen to the penis? Is it for two reasons? First, is it because that weight develops on the bottom of the testicles, raising it—for the testicles are like a fulcrum? And is it because the veins become full of breath [pneuma]? Or does the mass become bigger because of an increase in moisture or some change in position or from the development of moisture itself? Extremely large things are raised less when the wight of the fulcrum is far away.”

Διὰ τί ἡ σύντασις γίνεται τοῦ αἰδοίου καὶ ἡ αὔξησις; ἢ διὰ δύο, διά τε τὸ βάρος ἐπιγίνεσθαι ἐν τῷ ὄπισθεν τῶν ὄρχεων αἴρεσθαι (ὑπομόχλιον γὰρ οἱ ὄρχεις γίνονται) καὶ διὰ τὸ πνεύματος πληροῦσθαι τοὺς πόρους; ἢ τοῦ ὑγροῦ αὐξανομένου καὶ μεθισταμένου ἢ ἐξ ὑγροῦ γινομένου ὁ ὄγκος | μείζων γίνεται; τὰ λίαν δὲ μεγάλα ἧττον αἴρεται διὰ τὸ πορρωτέρω τὸ βάρος τοῦ ὑπομοχλίου γίνεσθαι.

Erectile Enhancements

For the verb βι[ν]εῖν, see this earlier post. For masturbation in ancient Greek, go here.

Etymologicum Magnum

Anaphlân: to rub genitals with your hand. Some, instead, say stuein.

     ᾿Αναφλᾶν: Χειροτρίβειν τὸ αἰδοῖον. Οἱ δὲ, στύειν.

Aristophanes, Birds 1255-56

“Iris herself—so you’ll be surprised how erect I am
Even though I am an old man, three times as good as a ship’s ram!”

τὴν ῏Ιριν αὐτήν, ὥστε θαυμάζειν ὅπως
οὕτω γέρων ὢν στύομαι τριέμβολον.

Suda, for the gloss

“Triembolon: able to strike a lot. Aristophanes”

Τριέμβολον: πολλάκις ἐμβάλλεσθαι δυνάμενον. ᾿Αριστοφάνης·

Aristophanes, Acharnians 1220

“I want to sleep. And I am erect.
And I will fuck in the dark.”

Κἀγὼ καθεύδειν βούλομαι καὶ στύομαι
καὶ σκοτοβινιῶ.

According to J. Henderson (The Maculate Muse 1991: 112) this verb is the vulgar way to talk about erections:

stuein

Image result for Ancient Greek Phallic vase

Athenaeus, Deipn. 1.32 [=BNJ8135b]

“Phularkhos says that Sandrokottos, the king of the Indians, sent along with other gifts to Seleukos some drugs with erectile powers, the kind of which, when they are applied beneath feet of those who are going to have sex, give the the urge like birds, while some people lose their ability [for sex].”

Φύλαρχος δὲ Σανδρόκοττόν φησι τὸν ᾽Ινδῶν βασιλέα Σελεύκωι μεθ᾽ ὧν ἔπεμψε δώρων ἀποστεῖλαί τινας δυνάμεις στυτικὰς τοιαύτας ὡς ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας τιθεμένας τῶν συνουσιαζόντων οἷς μὲν ὁρμὰς ἐμποιεῖν ὀρνίθων δίκην, οὓς δὲ καταπαύειν.

A Priapic plant [=BNJ 81 F17]

“Phularkhos writes in the eighth book of his Histories that near the Arabian Gulf there is a spring of water from which if anyone ever anoints their feet what transpires miraculously is that their penis becomes enormously erect.  For some it never contracts completely, while others are put back in shape with great suffering and medical attention.”

14 Φύλαρχος ἐν τῇ η′ τῶν ἱστοριῶν [καὶ] κατὰ τὸν ᾿Αράβιόν φησι κόλπον πηγὴν εἶναι ὕδατος, ἐξ οὗ εἴ τις τοὺς πόδας χρίσειεν, συμβαίνειν εὐθέως ἐντείνεσθαι ἐπὶ πολὺ τὸ αἰδοῖον, καί τινων μὲν μηδ’ ὅλως συστέλλεσθαι, τινῶν δὲ μετὰ μεγάλης κακοπαθείας καὶ θεραπείας ἀποκαθίστασθαι.

Lucky if Blessed By Dionysus

Euripides’ Bacchae, First Chorus (part 1): 64-119

From the Asian land
After leaving sacred Tmôlos I speed— 65

A toil for Bromios that is sweet,
And a worn but happy weariness—
Crying out to the Bacchic god.

Who is in the road? Who is on the road?
Who is in the palace? Have every person come out!
Have each one hold a quiet tongue in sacred silence. 70

I am hymning Dionysus
In the customs that are always used.

You are blessed if you are lucky
To know the rites of the gods
And lead a pure life;
And join your soul to the band 75
Of Bacchic revelers on the mountains
In the sacred cleansing worship.
Taking care of the Great mother’s mysteries
Shaking the thyrsus all about 80
once you are wreathed in ivy,
you tend to Dionysus!

Go, Bacchae, Go Bacchae,
Lead on this Bromios, a divine child of a god,
Dionysus 85
From the Phrygian mountains on
To the streets of Greece, wide-enough for dances.

Once, his mother went
Into the forced labors of birth
From Zeus’ thunder in flight 90
She released him from her womb
Too early, and lost her life
At the lightning’s strike.

But Zeus, Kronos’ son
Immediately welcomed him
Into his hands
And hid him in his thigh—
He sewed him up with golden pins
To keep him a secret from Hera.
When the Fates made him grow,
He gave birth 100
To a bull-horned god
And crowned him with wreaths of snakes.

This is why the Maenads weave
Beast-eating serpents in their hair.

Thebes, the nurse of Semele, 105
Crown yourselves with ivy!
Flourish, Grow with the green
Leaves flush with fruit.
Make yourselves Bacchae too
With branches of oak or pine. 110
Adorn your clothes of stitched fawn
With strands of white wool.
Make sacred the arrogant wands.
Right now the whole earth will dance
As Bromios leads out his bands 115
To the mountain, to the mountain where
the woman-born mob stands
driven mad from their shuttles and looms
by Dionysus.

᾿Ασίας ἀπὸ γαίας
ἱερὸν Τμῶλον ἀμείψασα θοάζω
Βρομίωι πόνον ἡδὺν
κάματόν τ’ εὐκάματον, Βάκ-
χιον εὐαζομένα.
τίς ὁδῶι, τίς ὁδῶι; τίς
μελάθροις; ἔκτοπος ἔστω,
στόμα τ’ εὔφημον ἅπας ἐξοσιούσθω·
τὰ νομισθέντα γὰρ αἰεὶ
Διόνυσον ὑμνήσω.
ὦ μάκαρ, ὅστις εὐδαί-
μων τελετὰς θεῶν εἰ-
δὼς βιοτὰν ἁγιστεύει
καὶ θιασεύεται ψυ-
χὰν ἐν ὄρεσσι βακχεύ-
ων ὁσίοις καθαρμοῖσιν,
τά τε ματρὸς μεγάλας ὄρ-
για Κυβέλας θεμιτεύων
ἀνὰ θύρσον τε τινάσσων
κισσῶι τε στεφανωθεὶς
Διόνυσον θεραπεύει.
ἴτε βάκχαι, ἴτε βάκχαι,
Βρόμιον παῖδα θεὸν θεοῦ
Διόνυσον κατάγουσαι
Φρυγίων ἐξ ὀρέων ῾Ελλάδος εἰς εὐ-
ρυχόρους ἀγυιάς, τὸν Βρόμιον·
ὅν ποτ’ ἔχουσ’ ἐν ὠδί-
νων λοχίαις ἀνάγκαι-
σι πταμένας Διὸς βροντᾶς
νηδύος ἔκβολον μά-
τηρ ἔτεκεν, λιποῦσ’ αἰ-
ῶνα κεραυνίωι πλαγᾶι·
λοχίαις δ’ αὐτίκα νιν δέ-
ξατο θαλάμαις Κρονίδας Ζεύς,
κατὰ μηρῶι δὲ καλύψας
χρυσέαισιν συνερείδει
περόναις κρυπτὸν ἀφ’ ῞Ηρας.
ἔτεκεν δ’, ἁνίκα Μοῖραι
τέλεσαν, ταυρόκερων θεὸν
στεφάνωσέν τε δρακόντων
στεφάνοις, ἔνθεν ἄγραν θηρότροφον μαι-
νάδες ἀμφιβάλλονται πλοκάμοις.
ὦ Σεμέλας τροφοὶ Θῆ-
βαι, στεφανοῦσθε κισσῶι·
βρύετε βρύετε χλοήρει
μίλακι καλλικάρπωι
καὶ καταβακχιοῦσθε δρυὸς
ἢ ἐλάτας κλάδοισι,
στικτῶν τ’ ἐνδυτὰ νεβρίδων
στέφετε λευκοτρίχων πλοκάμων
μαλλοῖς· ἀμφὶ δὲ νάρθηκας ὑβριστὰς
ὁσιοῦσθ’· αὐτίκα γᾶ πᾶσα χορεύσει,
Βρόμιος εὖτ’ ἂν ἄγηι θιάσους
εἰς ὄρος εἰς ὄρος, ἔνθα μένει
θηλυγενὴς ὄχλος
ἀφ’ ἱστῶν παρὰ κερκίδων τ’
οἰστρηθεὶς Διονύσωι.

 

Inanes esse mutosque: To Speak With(Out) Vergil’s Voice

Fr. 3 Seneca the Elder ( Donat. Vita Vergilii, 29.)

“Seneca reports that Julius Montanus was in the habit of saying that he would have stolen certain things from Vergil if he could have his voice, and comportment, and dramatic ability. [He added] that the same verses sounded beautifuly when Vergil was reciting but without him they were meaningless and mute.”

3. Et Seneca tradidit Iulium Montanum poetam solitum dicere involaturum se Vergilio quaedam, si et vocem posset et os et hypocrisin; eosdem enim versus ipso pronuntiante bene sonare, sine illo inanes esse mutosque.

Ancient Greek Viagra: Medicine, Magic, and Erections

I apologize to the world for this. But a tweet directed me to learn some new words. Also, I don’t advise trying the following formulas. Here we go…

I added the Greek, someone responded:

https://twitter.com/FDR68UK/status/918904043602313216

The full passage also has a prescription for sexual performance

Magical Papyri, 7.185

“To be able to fuck a lot: mix fifty [pine nuts] with two measures of honey and seeds of pepper and drink it. To have an erection whenever you want: mix pepper with honey and rub it on your thing.”

Πολλὰ βι[ν]εῖν δύνασθαι· στροβίλια πεντήκοντα μετὰ δύο κυά[θ]ων γλυκέος καὶ κόκκους πεπέρεως τρίψας πίε. Στ[ύ]ειν, ὅτε θέλεις· πέπερι μετὰ μέλιτος τρίψας χρῖέ σου τὸ πρᾶ̣γ̣μ̣α.

  1. Complications: this might just be a metaphor. στροβίλια can be phallic; κόκκος can mean “testicles” or female genitals. Also, seeds are, well, seminal. So there is some affiliative magic going on here.

2. I was a little unsure about στροβίλια, but I checked Galen (De Simp. Medic. 12.55.7) and it seems to be a pine nut (Κώνου ὁ καρπὸς, ὃν δὴ καὶ κόκαλον ὀνομάζουσι καὶ στρόβιλον). I am happy for a botanist’s help.

3. τὸ πρᾶ̣γ̣μ̣α: There is a variant attributed to Democritus τὸ π[έλ]μα, which looks like we could treat as a diminutive of τὸ πέος (“penis”) if we wanted to. So, you know, “spread pepper and honey on your little prick”)

Enhancements

For the verb βι[ν]εῖν, see this earlier post. For masturbation in ancient Greek, go here.

Etymologicum Magnum

Anaphlân: to rub genitals with your hand. Some, instead, say stuein.

     ᾿Αναφλᾶν: Χειροτρίβειν τὸ αἰδοῖον. Οἱ δὲ, στύειν.

Aristophanes, Birds 1255-56

“Iris herself—so you’ll be surprised how erect I am
Even though I am an old man, three times as good as a ship’s ram!”

τὴν ῏Ιριν αὐτήν, ὥστε θαυμάζειν ὅπως
οὕτω γέρων ὢν στύομαι τριέμβολον.

Suda, for the gloss

“Triembolon: able to strike a lot. Aristophanes”

Τριέμβολον: πολλάκις ἐμβάλλεσθαι δυνάμενον. ᾿Αριστοφάνης·

 

Aristophanes, Acharnians 1220

“I want to sleep. And I am erect.
And I will fuck in the dark.”

Κἀγὼ καθεύδειν βούλομαι καὶ στύομαι
καὶ σκοτοβινιῶ.

According to J. Henderson (The Maculate Muse 1991: 112) this verb is the vulgar way to talk about erections:

stuein

Image result for Ancient Greek Phallic vase

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