Sparta Banned Archilochus. Enough Said.

Sparta has some problems (and a wildly unjustifiable popularity). Here’s another one.

Valerius Maximas, 6.3 Ext 1

“Although it is possible to use the whole planet to offer examples of Roman cruelty, it is not useless to learn of foreign instances in summary. The Spartans ordered that the books of Archilochus were to be expelled from their state because they believed that they were insufficiently modest and were also shameful reading.

They did not want their children’s minds to be filled with these ideas in case they might harm their characters more than it sharpened their wits. For this reason they exiled the greatest or nearly greatest poet because he wounded a household he hated with vulgar curses.”

Ceterum etsi Romanae severitatis exemplis totus terrarum orbis instrui potest, tamen externa summatim cognosse fastidio non sit. Lacedaemonii libros Archilochi e civitate sua exportari iusserunt, quod eorum parum verecundam ac pudicam lectionem arbitrabantur: noluerunt enim ea liberorum suorum animos imbui, ne plus moribus noceret quam ingeniis prodesset. itaque maximum poetam aut certe summo proximum, quia domum sibi invisam obscenis maledictis laceraverat, carminum exsilio multarunt.

The Chiggi Vase

Valerius Maximus’ account is somewhat different from the story most people know. Where he seems to take issue with Archilochus’ invective and his salacious content, others claim the issue was his cowardice. Plutarch claims that Archilochus was expelled from Sparta for this poem:

Fr. 5

“Some Saian takes joy the the shield, that blameless weapon
I left next to a bush unwillingly.
But I rescued myself. What does that shield matter to me?
Fuck it. I’ll buy no worse a shield next time.”

ἀσπίδι μὲν Σαΐων τις ἀγάλλεται, ἣν παρὰ
θάμνῳ, ἔντος ἀμώμητον, κάλλιπον οὐκ ἐθέλων·
αὐτὸν δ᾿ ἐξεσάωσα. τί μοι μέλει ἀσπὶς ἐκείνη;
ἐρρέτω· ἐξαῦτις κτήσομαι οὐ κακίω.

Plutarch also reports:

Spartan Sayings, 241f6

“Another spartan woman as she was passing her son his shield advised him, “child, [come home] either with this or on it.”

῎Αλλη προσαναδιδοῦσα τῷ παιδὶ τὴν ἀσπίδα καὶ παρακελευομένη ‘τέκνον’ ἔφη, ‘ἢ ταύταν ἢ ἐπὶ ταύτας.’

Cleobulina’s Poetic Riddles

The following is not really a single poem but rather a collection of lines cited in Athenaeus, Plutarch and others and attributed to Cleobulina

Cleobulina fr. 3.1

“I have seen a man fashioning bronze on another man with fire
Fitting it so well that he joined them in the blood.
I saw a man stealing and deceiving violently—
To accomplish this with violence is the most just thing.
A donkey corpse struck me on the ear with its horny shin.”

ἄνδρ’ εἶδον πυρὶ χαλκὸν ἐπ’ ἀνέρι κολλήσαντα
οὕτω συγκόλλως ὥστε σύναιμα ποιεῖν.
ἄνδρ’ εἶδον κλέπτοντα καὶ ἐξαπατῶντα βιαίως,
καὶ τὸ βίαι ῥέξαι τοῦτο δικαιότατον.
κνήμηι νεκρὸς ὄνος με κερασφόρωι οὖας ἔκρουσεν·

These lines are poetic riddles: the first one, according to Athenaeus, is about using a cupping glass to draw blood to the surface of the skin) the last one is about a Phrygian flute (which was made from a donkey bone)

Cleobulina 4bpblogspotcomk3VU9hBtRk0T5b6PfaiZzIAAAAAAA

Sappho’s Equal? Some Epigrams Assigned to the Poet Nossis

Nossis is one of the best attested woman poets from the ancient world. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of her.

Greek Anthology, 6.353

“Melinna herself is here. Look how her pure face
Seems to glance gently at me.
How faithfully she looks like her mother in every way.
Whenever children equal their parents it is beautiful.”

Αὐτομέλιννα τέτυκται· ἴδ᾿ ὡς ἀγανὸν τὸ πρόσωπον
ἁμὲ ποτοπτάζειν μειλιχίως δοκέει·
ὡς ἐτύμως θυγάτηρ τᾷ ματέρι πάντα ποτῴκει.
ἦ καλὸν ὅκκα πέλῃ τέκνα γονεῦσιν ἴσα.

7.718

“Stranger, if you sail to the city of beautiful dances, Mytilene,
The city which fed Sappho, the the Graces’ flower,
Tell them that the land of Lokris bore for the Muses
A woman her equal, by the name of Nossis. Go!”

Ὦ ξεῖν᾿, εἰ τύ γε πλεῖς ποτὶ καλλίχορον Μυτιλάναν,
τὰν Σαπφὼ χαρίτων ἄνθος ἐναυσαμέναν,
εἰπεῖν, ὡς Μούσαισι φίλαν τήνᾳ τε Λοκρὶς γᾶ
τίκτεν ἴσαν ὅτι θ᾿ οἱ τοὔνομα Νοσσίς· ἴθι.

6.275

“I expect that Aphrodite will be pleased to receive
As an offering from Samutha, the band that held her hair.
For it is well made and smells sweetly of nektar,
That very nektar she uses to anoint beautiful Adonis.”

Χαίροισάν τοι ἔοικε κομᾶν ἄπο τὰν Ἀφροδίταν
ἄνθεμα κεκρύφαλον τόνδε λαβεῖν Σαμύθας·
δαιδαλέος τε γάρ ἐστι, καὶ ἁδύ τι νέκταρος ὄσδει,
τοῦ, τῷ καὶ τήνα καλὸν Ἄδωνα χρίει.

9.332

“Let’s leave for the temple and go to see Aphrodite’s
Sculpture—how it is made so finely in gold.
Polyarkhis dedicated it after she earned great
wealth from the native glory of her body.”

Ἐλθοῖσαι ποτὶ ναὸν ἰδώμεθα τᾶς Ἀφροδίτας
τὸ βρέτας, ὡς χρυσῷ διαδαλόεν τελέθει.
εἵσατό μιν Πολυαρχίς, ἐπαυρομένα μάλα πολλὰν
κτῆσιν ἀπ᾿ οἰκείου σώματος ἀγλαΐας.

Nossis.jpg
Bust by Francesco Jerace

On Poets and Fishmongers

Xenarchus’ Porphyra fr. 7 (preserved in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists, 6. 224-225)

“Poets are ridiculous. They never invent
anything new—each one of them simply
remixes the same things again and again.
But there is no race more creative or profane
than the fishsellers!
Since it is no longer permitted to them to dampen
Their fish, a practice forbidden by the law,
When some man completely hateful to the gods
Saw that his fish were drying, well,
He started a brawl among them quite intentionally
There were punches; he acted as if he were hit hard,
Fell to the ground pretending to pass out lying
Among his fish. Someone shouted “water, water”!
And a different guy grabbed a pitcher and poured it out—
A little on the man, but the rest on the fish!
You would have claimed they’d just been caught!”

Fish Vase
Google “Ancient Greek Fish Vase”

οἱ μὲν ποιηταὶ (φησὶ) λῆρός εἰσιν· οὐδὲ ἓν
καινὸν γὰρ εὑρίσκουσιν, ἀλλὰ μεταφέρει
ἕκαστος αὐτῶν ταὔτ’ ἄνω τε καὶ κάτω.
τῶν δ’ ἰχθυοπωλῶν φιλοσοφώτερον γένος
οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδὲν οὐδὲ μᾶλλον ἀνόσιον.
ἐπεὶ γὰρ αὐτοῖς οὐκέτ’ ἔστ’ ἐξουσία
ῥαίνειν, ἀπείρηται δὲ τοῦτο τῷ νόμῳ,
εἷς τις θεοῖσιν ἐχθρὸς ἄνθρωπος πάνυ
ξηραινομένους ὡς εἶδε τοὺς ἰχθῦς, μάχην
ἐποίησ’ ἐν αὐτοῖς ἐξεπίτηδες εὖ πάνυ.
ἦσαν δὲ πληγαί, καιρίαν δ’ εἰληφέναι
δόξας καταπίπτει καὶ λιποψυχεῖν δοκῶν
ἔκειτο μετὰ τῶν ἰχθύων. βοᾷ δέ τις
‘ὕδωρ <ὕδωρ.>’ ὃ δ’ εὐθὺς ἐξάρας πρόχουν
τῶν ὁμοτέχνων τις τοῦ μὲν ἀκαρῆ παντελῶς
κατέχει, κατὰ δὲ τῶν ἰχθύων ἁπαξάπαν.
εἴποις γ’ ἂν αὐτοὺς ἀρτίως ἡλωκέναι.

Four Years of Presidential Memories: Plutocrats, Listen Up, Equal is Better Than More

Diodorus Siculus, History 9.12 (Full text on Lacus Curtius)

“There is also the story that when the people of Mitylene allowed Pittacus to have half the land over which he fought in single combat, he would not take it. Instead, he assigned an equal portion to each man, saying that an “equal amount is greater than more”. For, since he took the measure of what was greater by fairness not by profit, he judged wisely. He believed that fame and safety would follow equality while gossip and fear followed greed, and they would have quickly reclaimed his gift.”

12. Ὅτι τῶν Μιτυληναίων διδόντων τῷ Πιττακῷ τῆς χώρας ὑπὲρ ἧς ἐμονομάχησε τὴν ἡμίσειαν οὐκ ἐδέξατο, συνέταξε δὲ ἑκάστῳ κληρῶσαι τὸ ἴσον, ἐπιφθεγξάμενος ὡς τὸ ἴσον ἐστὶ τοῦ πλείονος πλεῖον. μετρῶν γὰρ ἐπιεικείᾳ τὸ πλεῖον, οὐ κέρδει, σοφῶς ἐγίνωσκεν· τῇ μὲν γὰρ ἰσότητι δόξαν καὶ ἀσφάλειαν ἀκολουθήσειν, τῇ δὲ πλεονεξίᾳ βλασφημίαν καὶ φόβον, δι᾿ ὧν ταχέως ἂν αὐτοῦ τὴν δωρεὰν ἀφείλαντο.

Cf. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 1.75

“Then, the Mityleneans honored Pittakos powerfully and gave the rule of the state to him alone. During the ten years he held power, he also corrected the constitution and then surrendered power even though he lived ten years more. The Mityleneans gave him some land, but he donated it as sacred. The plot is called after his name even today. Sôsicrates says that he cut off a little bit for himself, saying that “half is greater than the whole.”

[75] Τότε δ᾽ οὖν τὸν Πιττακὸν ἰσχυρῶς ἐτίμησαν οἱ Μυτιληναῖοι, καὶ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐνεχείρισαν αὐτῷ. ὁ δὲ δέκα ἔτη κατασχὼν καὶ εἰς τάξιν ἀγαγὼν τὸ πολίτευμα, κατέθετο τὴν ἀρχήν, καὶ δέκα ἐπεβίω ἄλλα. καὶ χώραν αὐτῷ ἀπένειμαν οἱ Μυτιληναῖοι: ὁ δὲ ἱερὰν ἀνῆκεν, ἥτις νῦν Πιττάκειος καλεῖται. Σωσικράτης δέ φησιν ὅτι ὀλίγον ἀποτεμόμενος ἔφη τὸ ἥμισυ τοῦ παντὸς πλεῖον εἶναι.

The idea of “half being greater than the whole” is likely proverbial, showing up as well in Hesiod’s Works and Days where the narrator uses it when he complains about how the judges act unfairly in their evaluation of cases (by taking bribes): “the fools don’t know how much greater the half is than the whole” νήπιοι, οὐδὲ ἴσασιν ὅσῳ πλέον ἥμισυ παντὸς.

Diodorus Siculus’ statement that “an equal part is greater than more” is probably a clever departure from the Hesiodic statement. Hesiod’s statement seems to be about greed (wanting more than your due), as glossed by Michael Apostolius:

13.77

“They don’t know how much greater the half is than the whole”: [this is a proverb used] for those who desire more and lose what they have.

Οὐδ’ ἴσασιν ὅσῳ πλέον ἥμισυ παντός: ὅτι οἱ τῶν πλειόνων ἐπιθυμοῦντες καὶ ἃ ἔχουσιν ἀποβάλλουσιν.

A unifying theme between the two versions is that in early Greek culture that which is isos is not fair in terms of being equal but it possesses equity in terms of being proper to the recipient’s social status. So, Diodorus’ isos share can map out onto Hesiod’s “half” share.

Image result for pittacus

Another proverbial moment for Pittakos:

Diodorus Siculus, History 9.12.3 (Full text on Lacus Curtius)

“When Pittacus finally caught up with the poet Alcaeus, a man especially hateful to him who had mocked him savagely in his poems, he released him, remarking that forgiveness is a better choice than vengeance.”

ὅτι καὶ τὸν ποιητὴν Ἀλκαῖον, ἐχθρότατον αὐτοῦ γεγενημένον καὶ διὰ τῶν ποιημάτων πικρότατα λελοιδορηκότα, λαβὼν ὑποχείριον ἀφῆκεν, ἐπιφθεγξάμενος ὡς συγγνώμη τιμωρίας αἱρετωτέρα.

Poets and Audiences

The following anecdotes are taken from the Gnomologium Vaticanum

106

“When Antagoras the poet had a performance at Thebes and obtained no honor, he said “Thebans, Odysseus screwed up when he covered his companions’ ears as he was sailing by the Sirens. It would have been right for him to hire you as sailors.”

᾿Ανταγόρας ὁ ποιητὴς ἀκρόασιν παρέχων ἐν Θήβαις καὶ μηδεμιᾶς τυγχάνων τιμῆς εἶπεν· „ὦ ἄνδρες Θηβαῖοι· ἥμαρτεν ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ἐμφράξας τῶν ἑταίρων τὰς ἀκοάς, ὅτε τὰς Σειρῆνας παρέπλει· ἔδει γὰρ αὐτὸν ὑμᾶς ναύτας μισθώσασθαι.”

 

109

“When Antagoras the Rhodian epic poet was reading his composition the Thebais in Thebes and no one was applauding him, he took the book and said, “You are rightly called Boiotians, for you all have cows’ ears!”

᾿Ανταγόρας ὁ ῾Ρόδιος ἐποποιὸς ἐν Θήβαις ἀναγινώσκων τὸ τῆς Θηβαΐδος σύγγραμμα, ὡς οὐδεὶς ἐπεσημαίνετο, εἱλήσας τὸ βιβλίον εἶπεν· „δικαίως καλεῖσθε Βοιωτοί· βοῶν γὰρ ὦτα ἔχετε.”

 

454

“When Persinos the poet was asked who the best poet is he says “each poet is to himself, but Homer to everyone else.”

Περσῖνος ὁ ποιητὴς ἐρωτηθεὶς τίς ἄριστός ἐστι ποιητὴς „παρ’ ἑαυτῷ μὲν ἕκαστος”, <εἶπε>, „παρὰ δὲ τοῖς ἄλλοις ῞Ομηρος”.

 

468

“Protagoras, when he was slandered by some poet because he didn’t take his poems, said “Wretch—it’s better for me to be slandered by you than to listen to your poems.”

Πρωταγόρας ἐποποιοῦ τινος αὐτὸν βλασφημοῦντος ἐπὶ τῷ μὴ ἀποδέχεσθαι τὰ ποιήματα αὐτοῦ „ὦ τάν”, ἔφη· „κρεῖττόν μοι ἐστι κακῶς ἀκούειν ὑπό σου ἢ τῶν σῶν ποιημάτων ἀκούειν”.

 

Image result for Ancient Greek vase poet performance

Horace’s Minor Madness

Horace, Epistles 2.118-125

“This mistake, this minor madness, still possesses
This many advantages—consider them. The poet is
Not one with a greedy heart. He loves his lines, and desires
This alone. He mocks lost money, the flight of slaves and fires
There’s no thought of fraud against his friend or his ward
He lives as well as thin gruel and dry bread can afford.
Although he’s slow and a bad soldier, he’s still of use,
If you believe this: that grand affairs are helped by small matters too.

Hic error tamen et levis haec insania quantas
virtutes habeat, sic collige. vatis avarus
non temere est animus; versus amat, hoc studet unum;
detrimenta, fugas servorum, incendia ridet;
non fraudem socio puerove incogitat ullam
pupillo; vivit siliquis et pane secundo;
militiae quamquam piger et malus, utilis urbi,
si das hoc, parvis quoque rebus magna iuvari.

Horace reads before Maecenas, by Fyodor Bronnikov

Style as Substance in Ancient Philosophy

Fronto, to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus 162 AD?

“When it comes to poets, who is ignorant that Lucilius has some grace, Albucius to rather dry, Lucretius is sublime, and Pacuvius just average, while Accius’ work is uneven and Ennius is protean? Sallust has also written history in a structured way while Pictor is random, Claudius writes charmingly, and Antias is unpleasant; Sisenna writes too long, Cato has many words in tandem and Caelius leaves them unconnected. When it comes to polemic, Cato rages, Cicero chortles, Gracchus attacks, Calbus picks fights.

Perhaps you don’t think much of these examples. Why? Don’t philosophers use different manners of speaking? Zeno is the most expansive in illustration; Socrates is the most contrary in his arguments; Diogenes is super fast at criticizing; Heraclitus was obscure to the point of clouding up everything; Pythagoras was amazing at making everything sacred with mysterious symbols; Clitomachus so agnostic as to doubt everything. What would these wisest of wise guys do if they were forced away from their individual style and method? What if Socrates could’t argue, if Zeno wouldn’t expatiate, if Diogenes couldn’t carp, if Pythagoras couldn’t make anything sacred, if Heraclitus was forbidden to obfuscate and Clitomachus had to make up his mind?”

In poetis autem quis ignorat ut gracilis sit Lucilius, Albucius aridus, sublimis Lucretius, mediocris Pacuvius, inaequalis Accius, Ennius multiformis? Historiam quoque scripsere Sallustius structe Pictor incondite, Claudius lepide Antias invenuste, Sisenna longinque, verbis Cato multiiugis Caelius singulis. Contionatur autem Cato infeste, Gracchus turbulente, Tullius copiose. Iam in iudiciis saevit idem Cato, triumphat Cicero, tumultuatur Gracchus, Calvus rixatur.

Sed haec exempla fortasse contemnas. Quid? philosophi ipsi nonne diverso genere orationis usi sunt? Zeno ad docendum plenissimus, Socrates ad coarguendum captiosissimus, Diogenes ad | exprobrandum promptissimus, Heraclitus obscurus involvere omnia, Pythagoras mirificus clandestinis signis sancire omnia, Clitomachus anceps in dubium vocare omnia. Quidnam igitur agerent isti ipsi sapientissimi viri, si de suo quisque more atque instituto deducerentur? Socrates ne coargueret, Zeno ne disceptaret, Diogenes ne increparet, ne quid Pythagoras sanciret, ne quid Heraclitus absconderet, ne quid Clitomachus ambigeret?

“This means something”.  from Raphael’s “School of Athens”

Cleobulina’s Poetic Riddles

The following is not really a single poem but rather a collection of lines cited in Athenaeus, Plutarch and others and attributed to Cleobulina

Cleobulina fr. 3.1

“I have seen a man fashioning bronze on another man with fire
Fitting it so well that he joined them in the blood.
I saw a man stealing and deceiving violently—
To accomplish this with violence is the most just thing.
A donkey corpse struck me on the ear with its horny shin.”

ἄνδρ’ εἶδον πυρὶ χαλκὸν ἐπ’ ἀνέρι κολλήσαντα
οὕτω συγκόλλως ὥστε σύναιμα ποιεῖν.
ἄνδρ’ εἶδον κλέπτοντα καὶ ἐξαπατῶντα βιαίως,
καὶ τὸ βίαι ῥέξαι τοῦτο δικαιότατον.
κνήμηι νεκρὸς ὄνος με κερασφόρωι οὖας ἔκρουσεν·

These lines are poetic riddles: the first one, according to Athenaeus, is about using a cupping glass to draw blood to the surface of the skin) the last one is about a Phrygian flute (which was made from a donkey bone)

Cleobulina 4bpblogspotcomk3VU9hBtRk0T5b6PfaiZzIAAAAAAA

Sappho’s Equal? Some Epigrams Assigned to the Poet Nossis

Nossis is one of the best attested woman poets from the ancient world. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of her.

Greek Anthology, 6.353

“Melinna herself is here. Look how her pure face
Seems to glance gently at me.
How faithfully she looks like her mother in every way.
Whenever children equal their parents it is beautiful.”

Αὐτομέλιννα τέτυκται· ἴδ᾿ ὡς ἀγανὸν τὸ πρόσωπον
ἁμὲ ποτοπτάζειν μειλιχίως δοκέει·
ὡς ἐτύμως θυγάτηρ τᾷ ματέρι πάντα ποτῴκει.
ἦ καλὸν ὅκκα πέλῃ τέκνα γονεῦσιν ἴσα.

7.718

“Stranger, if you sail to the city of beautiful dances, Mytilene,
The city which fed Sappho, the the Graces’ flower,
Tell them that the land of Lokris bore for the Muses
A woman her equal, by the name of Nossis. Go!”

Ὦ ξεῖν᾿, εἰ τύ γε πλεῖς ποτὶ καλλίχορον Μυτιλάναν,
τὰν Σαπφὼ χαρίτων ἄνθος ἐναυσαμέναν,
εἰπεῖν, ὡς Μούσαισι φίλαν τήνᾳ τε Λοκρὶς γᾶ
τίκτεν ἴσαν ὅτι θ᾿ οἱ τοὔνομα Νοσσίς· ἴθι.

6.275

“I expect that Aphrodite will be pleased to receive
As an offering from Samutha, the band that held her hair.
For it is well made and smells sweetly of nektar,
That very nektar she uses to anoint beautiful Adonis.”

Χαίροισάν τοι ἔοικε κομᾶν ἄπο τὰν Ἀφροδίταν
ἄνθεμα κεκρύφαλον τόνδε λαβεῖν Σαμύθας·
δαιδαλέος τε γάρ ἐστι, καὶ ἁδύ τι νέκταρος ὄσδει,
τοῦ, τῷ καὶ τήνα καλὸν Ἄδωνα χρίει.

9.332

“Let’s leave for the temple and go to see Aphrodite’s
Sculpture—how it is made so finely in gold.
Polyarkhis dedicated it after she earned great
wealth from the native glory of her body.”

Ἐλθοῖσαι ποτὶ ναὸν ἰδώμεθα τᾶς Ἀφροδίτας
τὸ βρέτας, ὡς χρυσῷ διαδαλόεν τελέθει.
εἵσατό μιν Πολυαρχίς, ἐπαυρομένα μάλα πολλὰν
κτῆσιν ἀπ᾿ οἰκείου σώματος ἀγλαΐας.

Nossis.jpg
Bust by Francesco Jerace