My mother me
It was stylish in her day
To pin back your hair
With a purple headband.
That was the style.
But if a woman’s hair
Was more fair than fire
She fastened it with garlands
Made of blooming flowers.
Sappho Fr. 132
I have a lovely daughter
Who looks like golden flowers.
The beloved girl is Kleis.
I would not her
For all of Lydia . . .
“Maybe they’ve persuaded you that Homer was a philosopher, even though they undermine this with the same arguments they marshal in its favor. See, sometimes they turn him into a Stoic, praising only virtue, fleeing pleasures, and never turning from honor, even at the cost of immortality. Other times, he’s an Epicurean, commending the nature of a state at peace, pursuing life among feasts and songs; and yet other times, he is a Peripatetic, categorizing the good into three kinds, or even an Academic, saying that everything is indeterminate.
Clearly, none of these ideas are truly Homer’s, just because they all are found there. These concepts clash with one another! Sure, Homer was a philosopher, but he became wise before he learned any songs. So, let us learn those things that made Homer understand.”
Nisi forte tibi Homerum philosophum fuisse persuadent, cum his ipsis, quibus colligunt, negent. Nam modo Stoicum illum faciunt, virtutem solam probantem et voluptates refugientem et ab honesto ne inmortalitatis quidem pretio recedentem, modo Epicureum, laudantem statum quietae civitatis et inter convivia cantusque vitam exigentis, modo Peripateticum, tria bonorum genera inducentem, modo Academicum, omnia incerta dicentem.
Adparet nihil horum esse in illo, quia omnia sunt. Ista enim inter se dissident. Demus illis Homerum philosophum fuisse; nempe sapiens factus est, antequam carmina ulla cognosceret. Ergo illa discamus, quae Homerum fecere sapientem.
“Sosikrates in his Successions writes that when Pythagoras was asked by Leon the Tyrant of Plius what he was, he said “A philosopher”. And he was in the custom of comparing life to the Great Games because while some go there to compete, others go there to make money, even as some of the best go to watch. In the same way, in life, some grow up in servile positions, Pythagoras used to say, hunting for fame and profit while the philosopher hunts for the truth. That’s enough of that.”
“This will be enough regarding the stained origin of games in idolatry”
Sed haec satis erunt ad originis de idololatria reatum.
“How many ways have we shown that nothing which has to do with these games pleases god!”
Quot adhuc modis probavimus, nihil ex his quae spectaculis deputantur placitum deo esse!
Plutarch, Progress in Virtue 79F
Once when Aeschylus was watching a boxing match at the Isthmian games, one of the men was hit and the audience screamed out. He elbowed Ion of Chios and said, “Do you see what training is like? The man who was hit stays silent and the spectators yell!”
“The story of deeds lives longer than deeds themselves”
ῥῆμα δ’ ἐργμάτων χρονιώτερον βιοτεύει
Cicero, De Senectute 58
“Let others have weapons, horses, spears, fencing-foils, ball games, swimming competitions, races, and leave to the old men dice and knucklebones for games. Or let that go too since old age can be happy without it.”
Sibi habeant igitur arma, sibi equos, sibi hastas, sibi clavam et pilam, sibi natationes1 atque cursus; nobis senibus ex lusionibus multis talos relinquant et tesseras; id ipsum ut2 lubebit, quoniam sine eis beata esse senectus potest.
Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 4.973-984
“And whenever people for many days in a row
Have given endless attention to games, we see that many
Have stopped actually absorbing these things with their senses
Even though there are paths still open in the mind
By which the representations of things may enter.
For many days in this way the same things are seen
Before their eyes and they stay awake so that they might seem
To see dancers moving their gentle limps
Or brush with their ears the liquid song of the lyre
And the talking chords, and to sense again that same concord
And the wild spectacular with its bright scene.”
Et quicumque dies multos ex ordine ludis
adsiduas dederunt operas, plerumque videmus,
cum iam destiterunt ea sensibus usurpare,
relicuas tamen esse vias in mente patentis,
qua possint eadem rerum simulacra venire.
per multos itaque illa dies eadem obversantur
ante oculos, etiam vigilantes ut videantur
cernere saltantis et mollia membra moventis,
et citharae liquidum carmen chordasque loquentis
auribus accipere, et consessum cernere eundem
scenaique simul varios splendere decores.
Horace, Epistles 1.19.48-9
“Sport tends to give rise to heated strife and anger, anger in turns brings savage feuds and war to the death”.
ludus enim genuit trepidum certamen et iram, ira truces inimicitias et funebre bellum.
Xenophanes, Fragment 2. 16-19
“Swiftness of feet—the thing honored most in all of man’s acts of strength in the contest—could never make a city governed well.”
“Muse, send a glorifying wind right at that home–
For songs and stories safeguard noble deeds
When men have passed on.
And these things are not scarce for the Bassidae.
This ancient-famed family
Has a private store of victory songs to fill ships,
Capable of inspiring many a Pieriean plowman
With hymns thanks to their glorious deeds.”
“Older poets found these things
To be an elevated roadway;
I follow it even though I have concern–
The wave that is always turning
Right into the front of the ship
Is said to cause everyone’s heart
The most trouble.”
“I don’t know and it does not seem right to labor over things we haven’t learned”
Οὐκ οἶδ’, οὐδ’ ἐπέοικεν ἃ μὴ μάθομες πονέεσθαι.
Bion fr. 8 [=Stobaeus 4.16.15]
“If my songs are good, then these few
Fate has granted as a safeguard for what I have done.
If they are not pleasing, why should I toil any longer?
If Kronos’ son or devious Fate had granted to us
Two lifetimes, so that we could dedicate
The first to happiness and pleasure and the second to work,
Then it would be right to work first and sample happiness later.
But since the gods have decreed that one time come
For human life and that this is brief and minor too,
How long, wretches, should we toil tirelessly at work.
How long will we throw our soul and hearts into
Profit and skill, longing always for more and greater wealth?
Truly, have we all forgotten that we are mortal?
Have we all forgotten our lifetime is brief?”
“…but the story is from ancient men. If, then, I were to give to you silver as swap of equal worth when you sent me gold, do not value the favor less nor, as Glaukos did, believe that the exchange is harmful, since not even Diomedes would switch silver armor for gold since the former is much more practical than the latter in the way of lead that is shaped for the ends of spears.
I am joking with you! I have assumed a certain freedom of speech based on the example you have written yourself. But, if in truth you want to send me gifts worth more than gold, write and don’t ever stop writing to me! For even a brief note from you is more dear to me than anything someone else might consider good.”
Who knew that the popular Christmas song was inspired by Julian the Apostate?
Julian is referring to the famous scene of exchange between Diomedes and Glaukos in the Iliad (6.230-236)
“Let’s exchange armor with one another so that even these people
May know that we claim to be guest-friends from our fathers’ lines.”
So they spoke and leapt down from their horses,
Took one another’s hands and made their pledge.
Then Kronos’s son Zeus stole away Glaukos’ wits,
For he traded to Diomedes golden arms in exchange for bronze,
weapons worth one hundred oxen traded for those worth nine.”
“Kronos’ son Zeus took Glaukos’ wits away”. Because he was adorning him among his allies with more conspicuous weapons. Or, because they were made by Hephaistos. Or, as Pios claims, so that [the poet?] might amplify the Greek since they do not make an equal exchange—a thing which would be sweet to the audience.
Or, perhaps he credits him more, that he was adorned with conspicuous arms among his own and his allies. For, wherever these arms are, it is a likely place for an enemy attack.”
I always thought that Glaukos got a raw deal from interpreters here. Prior to the stories Diomedes and Glaukos tell each other, Diomedes was just murdering everyone in his path. Glaukos—who already knew who Diomedes was before he addressed him—tells a great tale, gives Diomedes his golden weapons, and actually lives to the end of the poem. I think this is far from a witless move. And, if the armor is especially conspicuous, maybe the plan-within-a-plan is to put a golden target on Diomedes’ back.
“If someone stumbles into good fortune without hard work,
Then many think he is a wise man among fools,
And that he has outfitted his life with well-planned schemes.
But these things aren’t up to men: god controls them.
Sometimes he raises one person up and then brings another down.”
“Thrasyboulos: people in the past
Used to climb onto the chariot
Of the gold-crowned Muses
Armed with a fame-bringing lyre.
Then they would quickly aim their sweet-voiced hymns
At the boys–whoever was cute and
in that sweetest summer season
Of well-throned Aphrodite.
That’s because the Muse wasn’t yet
Too fond of profit nor yet
A working girl.
And sweet songs
From honey-voiced Terpsichore
Weren’t yet sold as pricey tricks.
So now she invites us to remember
The word of the Argive that’s closest
To the truth: “Money,
A man is his money”–
As someone claims when he’s lost
His cash along with his friends.”
“Pindar elaborates his introduction again by referring to his payment for composing the epinician hymn. But he says that ancient lyric poets used to make serious efforts towards noble works without payment, but when money began existing poems were purchased. These comments apply to poets around the time of Alkaios, Ibykos, Anakreon, and some of those before him who seemed to pay a lot of attention to boys. Those poets were older than Pindar. Indeed, when Anacreon was asked why he composed hymns to boys and not to the gods, he answered, “Because they are our gods.”
“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.”