Turnabout’s Example and Fair Play

Phaedrus Fabulae 26, Fox and Stork

“You mustn’t harm anyone–but if you are to blame
This story warns that you will suffer the same.

The story goes that a fox invited a stork to dine
And offered her a thin soup on a marble table
Which the hungry story had no way to taste.

So the stork invited the fox to eat in turn
And served him a narrow jar stuff with food
And slipped her beak in to torture her guest
With hunger while she satisfied herself.

While the fox lapped at the jar’s neck in vain,
The bird–as we have heard–said to him, please
Everyone should suffer their own example in peace.”

Nulli nocendum; si quis vero laeserit,
multandum simili iure fabella admonet.
Ad cenam vulpes dicitur ciconiam
prior invitasse, et liquidam in patulo marmore
posuisse sorbitionem, quam nullo modo
gustare esuriens potuerit ciconia.
quae vulpem cum revocasset, intrito cibo
plenam lagonam posuit; huic rostrum inserens
satiatur ipsa et torquet convivam fame,
quae cum lagonae collum frustra lamberet,
peregrinam sic locutam volucrem accepimus:
“Sua quisque exempla debet aequo animo pati.”

Author: Colley, Thomas, fl. 1780-1783, printmaker.
Title: The fox and stork / T. Colley fecet [sic].
Published: [London] : Pubd. by W. Humphrey Jany. 14, 1783, No. 227 Strand, [14 Jan. 1783].

From the Restroom: He Thunders Beneath the Earth

Suetonius, Life of Lucan

“When he was at the beginning of adolescence and learned that his father lived in the country because of a terrible marriage…Although when he was recalled from Athens by Nero he was included among his group of friends and even honored with a quaestorship, he still did not remain in his good graces.

Because he took it badly when Nero suddenly left while he was giving a reading for the sake of holding a senate meeting but for no other real reason accept for chilling the reading, he did not later on restrain himself from either words or deeds against the prince, some of which are well-known.

For instance, once when he was in the public restrooms, he followed a rather clear and loud fart to empty his bowels with a half-line written by Nero as the great crowd of those around him fled: “you could believe that it thundered beneath the earth.”

Hic initio adolescentiae, cum ob infestum matrimonium patrem suum ruri agere longissime cognovisset*** Revocatus Athenis a Nerone cohortique amicorum additus atque etiam quaestura honoratus, non tamen permansit in gratia. Siquidem aegre ferens, recitante se subito ac nulla nisi refrigerandi sui causa indicto senatu recessisse, neque verbis adversus principem neque factis exstantibus post haec temperavit, adeo ut quondam in latrinis publicis clariore cum strepitu ventris emissi hemistichium Neronis magna consessorum fuga pronuntiarit: Sub terris tonuisse putes.

Nero 1.JPG
An Epoch defining neck-beard

Words and Glory

Pindar, Nemean 6.28-30

“Come, Muse, send straight to that house
A glorifying wind of words .
For when men have passed away
Songs and words preserve their noble deeds…”

εὔθυν᾿ ἐπὶ τοῦτον, ἄγε, Μοῖσα,
οὖρον ἐπέων
εὐκλέα· παροιχομένων γὰρ ἀνέρων
ἀοιδαὶ καὶ λόγοι τὰ καλά σφιν ἔργ᾿ ἐκόμισαν

Bacchylides, Ode 5. 195-197

“I am easily convinced to send
A glorifying word to Hiero, one [not outside] the path—
For this is how the roots of good things grow full
And may Zeus, the greatest father, safeguard them
Immoveable in peace.”

Πείθομαι εὐμαρέως εὐ-
κλέα κελεύθου γλῶσσαν οὐ[]
πέμπειν ῾Ιέρωνι· τόθεν γὰ[ρ]
πυθμένες θάλλουσιν ἐσθλ[ῶν,]
τοὺς ὁ μεγιστοπάτωρ
Ζεὺς ἀκινήτους ἐν εἰρήν[ᾳ φυλάσσοι.]

A watercolor painting with mountains in the background capped by swirling winds and white-capped waves in the foreground
“Wind Mountain”, watercolor painting by James W. Alden (ca 1860)

The Soul and Its Heroic Return, Two Fragments from Pindar

Pindar, Dirges Fr. 131b [= Plut. consol. ad Apoll. 35.120C]

“Every human’s body is a servant to death–
Yet a shadow of life goes on living still.
This part alone
Comes from the gods. It sleeps while our limbs move
But when we sleep it shows us
in multiple dreams a choice of things to come,
Some of pleasure, some of pain.”

σῶμα μὲν πάντων ἕπεται θανάτῳ περισθενεῖ,
ζωὸν δ᾿ ἔτι λείπεται αἰῶνος εἴδωλον·
τὸ γάρ ἐστι μόνον
ἐκ θεῶν· εὕδει δὲ πρασσόντων μελέων, ἀτὰρ εὑδόντεσσιν
ἐν πολλοῖς ὀνείροις
δείκνυσι τερπνῶν ἐφέρποισαν χαλεπῶν τε κρίσιν.

Pindar, Dirges Fr. 133 [=Plat. Men. 81B]

“When Persephone has taken the payment for that ancient pain,
From people, after nine years she gives their souls back
To the light of the sun above and from them come

Proud kings and men fast in strength and best in mind
And people call them holy heroes
for all that remains of time.”

οἷσι δὲ Φερσεφόνα ποινὰν παλαιοῦ πένθεος
δέξεται, ἐς τὸν ὕπερθεν ἅλιον κείνων ἐνάτῳ ἔτεϊ
ἀνδιδοῖ ψυχὰς πάλιν, ἐκ τᾶν βασιλῆες ἀγαυοί
καὶ σθένει κραιπνοὶ σοφίᾳ τε μέγιστοι
ἄνδρες αὔξοντ᾿· ἐς δὲ τὸν λοιπὸν χρόνον ἥροες ἁ-
γνοὶ πρὸς ἀνθρώπων καλέονται.

A somewhat impressionistic oil painting with outlines of two partial figures. One looks down and left, the other is seen only by an elbow in the upper right. The canvas is split between dark blue on top and tan on the bottom
“The freedom of new thinking”, by Erik Pevernagie, oil on canvas,80 x 100 cm

Wine Makes You King of the World

Bacchylides, fr. 20B [=P. Oxy. 1361 frr. 1 al]

To Alexander, son of Amyntas*

“Lyre, don’t hang on your peg any longer,
Keeping your seven-toned voice still–
Here are my hands! I want to send
Alexander something, a golden wing of the Muses,
A centerpiece for the parties to end the month,
When the sweet pressure of fast cups
Warms the sensitive hearts of young men,
And expectation of Aphrodite mixed up
with Dionysian gifts shakes up their thoughts.

Wine makes the thoughts of men blast off!
Suddenly one is tearing down a city’s walls,
And another thinks he is king of the world!”

ὦ βάρβιτε, μηκέτι πάσσαλον φυ[σων
ἑπτάτονον λ[ι]γυρὰν κάππαυε γᾶρυν·
δεῦρ᾿ ἐς ἐμὰς χέρας· ὁρμαίνω τι πέμπ[ειν
χρύεον Μουσᾶν Ἀλεξάνδρωι πτερό
καὶ συμπο[ίαι]σιν ἄγαλμ᾿ [ἐν] εἰκάδε[σιν,
εὖτε νέων ἁ[παλὸν γλυκεῖ᾿ ἀ]νάγκα
σευομενᾶν κ[υλίκων θάλπη]σι θυμ[όν,
Κύπριδος τ᾿ ἐλπ[ὶς <δι>αιθύσσηι φρέ]νας,
ἀμμειγνυμέν[α Διονυσίοισι] δώροις·
ἀνδράσι δ᾿ ὑψο[τάτω πέμπει] μερίμν[ας·
αὐτίκ[α] μὲν π[ολίων κράδε]μνα λ[ύει,
πᾶσ[ι δ᾿ ἀνθρώποις μοναρ]χήσ[ειν δοκεῖ·

*This Alexander was King of Macedon from 498-456

inside of a shallow drinking vessel. Black background. One red figure stands over a nude man who is drunk and confused/sick
Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles, California: Roman, Greek, and Etruscan Antiquities. Kylix, red figure

Come, Be A Wise Guy Like Me

Epicharmea, fr. 2

“There are many kinds of useful notions in this book,
Against a friend or an enemy, when speaking in court or assembly
Addressing a scoundrel or someone good and noble, for a stranger
Or someone in a rage, for someone drunk, or violent
Or anything bad that happens–this book has a sharp point for them.

It also has wise sayings– whoever heeds them becomes
Better and readier for every situation.
You don’t need to say a lot, just one of these words.
Steer any subject to whichever one of them fits.

Even though I was ready for many things, I used to be blamed
Because I was long winded, and could not give my opinion concisely.
So I listened to this complaint and I composed this craft
So that anyone may say “Epicharmus was a smart dude.
He spoke many clever ideas in short verses and now
He is letting us try to speak briefly as he does too!”

Everyone who learns these things will appear to be wise,
He won’t talk nonsense ever, if he remembers every word.

If someone is annoyed by something in these words,
Not because he has acted wrongly or is in disagreement with them,
Let him know that it is a good misfortune to nurture a broadly-informed mind.”

τεῖδ᾿ ἔνεστι πολλὰ καὶ παν[τ]οῖα, τοῖς χρήσαιό κα,
ποτὶ φίλον, ποτ᾿ ἐχθρόν, ἐν δίκαι λέγων, ἐν ἁλίαι,
ποτὶ πονηρόν, ποτὶ καλόν τε κἀγαθόν, ποτὶ ξένον,
ποτὶ δύσηριν, ποτὶ πάροινον, ποτὶ βάναυσον,αἴτε τις
ἄλλ᾿ ἔχει κακόν τι, καὶ τούτοισι κέντρα τεῖδ᾿ ἔνο.

ἐν δὲ καὶ γνῶμαι σοφαὶ τεῖδ᾿, αἷσιν αἰπίθοιτό τις,
δεξιώτερός τέ κ᾿ εἴη βελτίων τ᾿ ἐς πά[ν]τ᾿ ἀνήρ.
κο]ὔτι πολλὰ δεῖ λέγειν, ἀλλ᾿ ἓν μόνον [τ]ούτων ἔπος,
ποττὸ πρᾶγμα περιφέροντα τῶνδ᾿ ἀεὶ τὸ συμφέρον.
αἰτίαν γὰρ ἦχον ὡς ἄλλως μὲν εἴην δεξιός,
μακρολόγος δ᾿ οὔ κα δυναίμαν ἐν β[ρ]αχεῖ γνώμα[ς λέγ]ειν.
ταῦτα δὴ ᾿γὼν εἰσακούσας συντίθημι τὰν τέχναν
τάνδ᾿, ὅπως εἴπηι τις, Ἐπίχαρμος σοφός τις ἐγένετο,
πόλλ᾿ ὃς εἶ]π᾿ ἀστεῖα καὶ παντοῖα καθ᾿ ἓν ἔπος [λέγων,
πεῖραν] αὐταυτοῦ διδοὺς ὡς καὶ β[ραχέα καλῶς λέγοι.
εὖ δὲ τάδ]ε μαθὼν ἅπας ἀνὴρ φαν[ήσεται σοφός,
οὐδὲ ληρ]ήσει ποτ᾿ οὐδέν, ἔπος ἅπ[αν μεμναμένος.
εἰ δὲ τὸν λαβ]όντα λυπήσει τι τῶνδ[ε τῶν λόγων,
οὔτι μὰν ἄσκεπτ]α δρῶντα τοῖσδ[έ θ᾿ ἧσσον ὁμότροπα,
ἀγαθὸν ἴστω σύμφ]ορόν τε πολυμαθῆ [νόον τρέφειν

poster of barnum and bailey circus
This is the greatest show

Like People who Cannot Be Saved

Theognis, Elegies 61-68

“Don’t make any of these citizens your friend, Polypaides
At least not in your heart for any real need.
But seem to be friendly to all in your speech,
While sharing your business with no one, especially not
Anything serious. For then, you would know the thoughts of vile men,
How there is nothing trustworthy in their actions,
But they adore tricks, deceptions, and conspiracies,
Just like people who cannot be saved.”

μηδένα τῶνδε φίλον ποιεῦ, Πολυπαΐδη, ἀστῶν
ἐκ θυμοῦ χρείης οὕνεκα μηδεμιῆς·
ἀλλὰ δόκει μὲν πᾶσιν ἀπὸ γλώσσης φίλος εἶναι,
χρῆμα δὲ συμμείξῃς μηδενὶ μηδ᾿ ὁτιοῦν
σπουδαῖον· γνώσῃ γὰρ ὀιζυρῶν φρένας ἀνδρῶν,
ὥς σφιν ἐπ᾿ ἔργοισιν πίστις ἔπ᾿ οὐδεμία,
ἀλλὰ δόλους ἀπάτας τε πολυπλοκίας τ᾿ ἐφίλησαν
οὕτως ὡς ἄνδρες μηκέτι σῳζόμενοι.

- description A: youth and bearded man in padded costumes dancing - B: man playing auloi, dancing youth with cup
Athens – painter: Komast Group, KX Painter – period / date: early archaic, ca. 580-570 – Beazley Archive Pottery Database 300303

A Treatise on Human Beings, Rejected by a Life of Virtue

Suda, s.v. Theognis,[=ii .692 Adler]

“Theognis of Megara, from Megara in Sicily. He lived around the time of the 59th Olympiad [ c/ 540 BCE]. He composed elegy for those who were saved from the Syracusans during the siege, around 2800 elegiac proverbs, a group of elegiac advice addressed to his lover Kyrnos, and other kinds of advisory lines. Theognis is useful because he wrote advice, but in the midst of this are interwoven foul and pederastic erotic lines too and many other things rejected by clean living.”

Θέογνις, Μεγαρεύς, τῶν ἐν Σικελίᾳ Μεγάρων, γεγονὼς ἐν τῇ νθ΄ ὀλυμπιάδι. ἔγραψεν ἐλεγείαν εἰς τοὺς σωθέντας τῶν Συρακουσίων ἐν τῇ πολιορκίᾳ, γνώμας δι᾿ ἐλεγείας ὡς (εἰς ed. pr.) ἔπη ̗βω΄, καὶ πρὸς Κύρ<ν>ον τὸν αὐτοῦ ἐρώμενον γνωμολογίαν δι᾿ ἐλεγείων, καὶ ἑτέρας ὑποθήκας παραινετικάς, τὰ πάντα ἐπικῶς (ἔπη ̗βω΄ Ditzen). ὅτι μὲν παραινέσεις ἔγραψε Θέογνις, <χρήσιμος·> ἀλλ᾿ ἐν μέσῳ τούτων παρεσπαρμέναι μιαρίαι καὶ παιδικοὶ ἔρωτες καὶ ἄλλα ὅσα ὁ ἐνάρετος ἀποστρέφεται βίος.

Harpocration 126-7

Theognis: This dude is Megarian, from Megara in Attica. The poet says this himself [783]. Plato didn’t acknowledge this when he claimed in Laws Book 1 that Theognis was from MEgara in Sicily. Not a few have followed Plato in this.”

Θέογνις· οὗτος δ᾿ ἦν Μεγαρεύς, ἀπὸ τῶν πρὸς τῇ Ἀττικῇ Μεγάρων. αὐτὸς γάρ φησιν ὁ ποιητής (v. 783). ὃ μὴ ἐπιστήσας Πλάτων ἐν α΄ Νόμων (test. 2) τῶν ἐν Σικελίᾳ Μεγαρέων πολίτην ἔφασκεν. κατηκολούθησαν δὲ τῷ Πλάτωνι οὐκ ὀλίγοι.

Stobaeus, 4.29.53

“This is what Xenophon says about Theognis: “The words of Megarian Theognis: This poet has composed about nothing else except for human excellence and wickedness. This poetry is a treatise on people, as if an equestrian were to write about horses.”

Ξενοφῶντος ἐκ τοῦ περὶ Θεόγνιδος. “Θεόγνιδός ἐστιν ἔπη τοῦ Μεγαρέως” (22–23). οὗτος δὲ ὁ ποιητὴς περὶ οὐδενὸς ἄλλου λόγον πεποίηται ἢ περὶ ἀρετῆς καὶ κακίας ἀνθρώπων, καί ἐστιν ἡ ποίησις σύγγραμμα περὶ ἀνθρώπων, ὥσπερ εἴ τις ἱππικὸς ὢν συγγράψειεν περὶ ἱππικῆς. 

Black and white picture of a scrap of papyrus containing parts of fifteen lines of greek poetry
P.Berol.21220 This is one of the two papyrus fragments of Theognis. It contains the verses 917-933 (Bekker’s numbering)

Why Bother with Work?

Phocylides (Fr.9) gives seemingly sensible advice about life and work:

Pursue a career,
And when you’ve settled in,
Pursue distinction too.

Palladas (Greek Anthology 10.58) pushes back. Given the nature of life, he needs a reason to bother:

I stepped onto the earth, naked,
And under the ground I’ll go, naked;
Why then do I work hard, pointlessly,
Seeing that the end is nakedness?

Theognis (463-465) says let the epic ideal of glory be the motivation:

The gods don’t give you anything,
Bad or good, just like that.
No, distinction rests on hard work.

Hesiod (Works & Days 309) says let the gods be reason enough:

Those who work are more loved by the immortals.

But Zora Neale Hurston (Letter to Burroughs Mitchell. Aug. 23, 1950) has a simple take most of us can relate to:

Tried to loaf but work haunts me.

Phocylides. Fr.9.

δίζησθαι βιοτήν, ἀρετὴν δ᾽ ὅταν ᾖ βίος ἤδη

Palladas. 10.58

γῆς ἐπέβην γυμνός, γυμνός θ᾽ ὑπὸ γαῖαν ἄπειμι:
καὶ τί μάτην μοχθῶ, γυμνὸν ὁρῶν τὸ τέλος;

Theognis. 463-465.

εὐμαρέως τοι χρῆμα θεοὶ δόσαν οὔτε τι δειλὸν
οὔτ ἀγαθόν: χαλεπῷ δ᾽ ἔργματι κῦδος ἔπι.

Hesiod. W&D. 309.

καὶ ἐργαζόμενοι πολὺ φίλτεροι ἀθανάτοισιν.

Why not get some writing done wherever
You happen to be, naked?

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

Dreaming the World Into Being

Aristotle, On Prophecy in Sleep 463a

“But it is not completely illogical to imagine that some of the fantasies that arise during sleep are to blame for deeds that are related to them.

For just as when we are about to do something or in the middle of some action or have just finished it, we are deeply engaged with those deeds and we also carry them out in a dream–and this is because the inspiration that comes from the events of the day has made space for it–so too the stimulus that arises in sleep may be the initial cause of daytime deeds, because the possibility of doing these things found its own space at night.

This is why dreams can be both indications of things and the causes of them as well.”

Ἀλλὰ μὴν καὶ ἔνιά γε τῶν καθ᾿ ὕπνον φαντασμάτων αἴτια εἶναι τῶν οἰκείων ἑκάστῳ πράξεων οὐκ ἄλογον· ὥσπερ γὰρ μέλλοντες πράττειν καὶ ἐν ταῖς πράξεσιν ὄντες ἢ πεπραχότες πολλάκις εὐθυονειρίᾳ τούτοις σύνεσμεν καὶ πράττομεν (αἴτιον δ᾿ ὅτι προωδοποιημένη τυγχάνει ἡ κίνησις ἀπὸ τῶν μεθ᾿ ἡμέραν ἀρχῶν), οὕτω πάλιν ἀναγκαῖον καὶ τὰς καθ᾿ ὕπνον κινήσεις πολλάκις ἀρχὴν εἶναι τῶν μεθ᾿ ἡμέραν πράξεων διὰ τὸ προωδοποιῆσθαι πάλιν καὶ τούτων τὴν διάνοιαν ἐν τοῖς φαντάσμασι τοῖς νυκτερινοῖς. οὕτω μὲν οὖν ἐνδέχεται τῶν ἐνυπνίων ἔνια καὶ σημεῖα καὶ αἴτια εἶναι.

Shakespeare, Hamlet

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.

The Rock Horry Picture Show

Don’t dream it, be it

In a dream by Charles Victor Thirion