Out of the Smoke, Into the Fire: Some More Greek Proverbs

Diogenianus, 8.45

“When I fled the smoke, I fell into the fire”:  [this proverb is applied] to those who flee rather minor troubles only to fall upon greater ones.

Τὸν καπνὸν φεύγων, εἰς τὸ πῦρ ἐνέπεσον: ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ μικρὰ τῶν δεινῶν φευγόντων, καὶ εἰς μείζονα δεινὰ ἐμπιπτόντων.

 

Arsenius 4.23f

“It is strange that one who pursues honors avoids the hard work honors come from”

῎Ατοπόν ἐστι διώκοντα τὰς τιμὰς φεύγειν τοὺς πόνους, δι’ ὧν αἱ τιμαί.

 

Michael Apostolios, 11.15

“You ate some lotus”: [this proverb is applied to those] who are forgetful of things in the household and are slow in matters of hospitality. It is based on the lotus which imbues one who eats it with forgetfulness.”

Λωτοῦ ἔφαγες: ἐπὶ τῶν σχόντων λήθην τῶν οἴκοι, καὶ βραδυνόντων ἐπὶ ξένης. ἔστι δὲ πόα τὸ λωτὸν, λήθην ἐμποιοῦν τῷ φαγόντι.

 

Arsenius 3.19a

“The man who flees will also fight again”: [this proverb is applied] to those who face a doubtful victory.

᾿Ανὴρ ὁ φεύγων καὶ πάλιν μαχήσεται: ἐπὶ τῶν ἑτεραλκεῖ νίκῃ χρωμένων ταχθείη.

 

Michael Apostolios 1.26

“Agamemnon’s sacrifice”: [a proverb] applied to the difficult to persuade and the stubborn. For when Agamemnon was making a sacrifice, the bull was scarcely caught after it fled.” Or, it is because Agamemnon wanted to sacrifice his daughter. And she fled.”

᾿Αγαμέμνονος θυσία: ἐπὶ τῶν δυσπειθῶν καὶ σκληρῶν. θύοντος γὰρ ᾿Αγαμέμνονος ὁ βοῦς φυγὼν μόλις ἐλήφθη. ῍Η ὅτι τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἐβούλετο ᾿Αγαμέμνων θυσιάσαι θυγατέρα· ἣ δ’ ἔφυγε.

Image result for medieval manuscript frying pan
Illuminated Manuscript – The Hague, KB, 76 F 13, f. 12v, XIV cent., France

Fire, Fools, and Lesser Fates: A Heatwave Special

CW: Profanity. This revised re-post goes out to all the politicians, plutocrats, and CEOs who continue to do nothing about climate change. Special recognition for the party of stupidity that denies climate change science.

Anonymous, Greek Anthology, 7.704

“When I’m dead, the earth can be fucked by fire.
It means nothing to me since I’ll be totally fine.”

Ἐμοῦ θανόντος γαῖα μιχθήτω πυρί·
οὐδὲν μέλει μοι· τἀμὰ γὰρ καλῶς ἔχει.

An interlude

Euripides, Hippolyus 916

“Oh humanity! You pointlessly fuck up so often!”

ὦ πόλλ᾽ ἁμαρτάνοντες ἄνθρωποι μάτην

This phrase is attributed to the Roman Emperors Tiberius and Nero.

Suda tau 552 [cribbing Dio Cassius]

“And Tiberius uttered that ancient phrase, “when I am dead, the earth can be fucked with fire”, and he used to bless Priam because he died with his country and his palace.”

τοῦτο δὲ τὸ ἀρχαῖον ἐφθέγξατο· ἐμοῦ θανόντος γαῖα μιχθήτω πυρί. καὶ τὸν Πρίαμον ἐμακάριζεν, ὅτι μετὰ τῆς πατρίδος καὶ τῆς βασιλείας ἀπώλετο.

Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta
From Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta

Here’s one explanation:

Appendix Proverbiorum 2.56

“When I am dead, the earth can be fucked by fire.” Note that this [proverb is used] to express that it isn’t necessary to think or worry about the future

᾿Εμοῦ θανόντος γαῖα μιχθήτω πυρί: ὅτι οὐ δεῖ περὶ τῶν μελλόντων φροντίζειν ἢ δεδιέναι.

The saying seems to predate the Roman Emperors, however. Cicero riffs on this sentiment.

Cicero, De Finibus 3.64

“In turn, they believe that the universe is ruled by the will of the gods and that it is like a city or state shared by humans and gods and that everyone of us is a member of this universe. This is the reason that it is natural for us to put shared good before the personal. Truly, just as the laws prefer the safety of the collective over that of individuals, so too a good and wise person, obedient to the laws and not ignorant of his civic duty, pursues the advantage of the collective over that of an individual or himself.

A traitor to a state need not be hated more than one who undermines common advantage or safety on account of his own. This is why the person who faces death for the republic must be praised, because it bestows glory upon us to care more for our country than ourselves. And this is why it seems an inhuman and criminal voice when people say that they don’t care if all of everything burns when they are dead—as it is typically construed with that common Greek verse—and it is also certainly true that we must care for those who will live in the future for their own sake.”

Mundum autem censent regi numine deorum eumque esse quasi communem urbem et civitatem hominum et deorum, et unumquemque nostrum eius mundi esse partem; ex quo illud natura consequi ut communem utilitatem nostrae anteponamus. Ut enim leges omnium salutem singulorum saluti anteponunt, sic vir bonus et sapiens et legibus parens et civilis offici non ignarus utilitati omnium plus quam unius alicuius aut suae consulit. Nec magis est vituperandus proditor patriae quam communis utilitatis aut salutis desertor propter suam utilitatem aut salutem. Ex quo fit ut laudandus is sit qui mortem oppetat pro re publica, quod deceat cariorem nobis esse patriam quam nosmet ipsos. Quoniamque illa vox inhumana et scelerata ducitur eorum qui negant se recusare quo minus ipsis mortuis terrarum omnium deflagratio consequatur (quod vulgari quodam versu Graeco pronuntiari solet), certe verum est etiam iis qui aliquando futuri sint esse propter ipsos consulendum.

Homer, Odyssey 1.32–34

“Fools! Mortals are always blaming the gods.
They say that sufferings come from us but they have pain
Beyond their fate thanks to their own stupidity.”

“ὢ πόποι, οἷον δή νυ θεοὺς βροτοὶ αἰτιόωνται.
ἐξ ἡμέων γάρ φασι κάκ’ ἔμμεναι· οἱ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ
σφῇσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὑπὲρ μόρον ἄλγε’ ἔχουσιν

A note about the translation: I use the English profane “fuck” for mikhthênai here for two reasons. First, mignumi is often used in periphrases or euphemism for sex. Second, I think the speaker is effecting a dismissive and aggressively narcissistic stance towards the world which will exist after his death. Such narcissism and self-absorption is so perverse and twisted and yet so utterly common as to demand obscenity and plunge us all into the painfully profane.

We are living in a perverse and obscene time. Effective language, a man once said, is when the sound is an echo of the sense.

Seneca gets the same sense, but makes it a bit more active in his Medea.

Seneca, Medea 426–428

“…The only rest
Is if I see the whole world uprooted along with my ruin.
Let everything depart with me. It is pleasing to destroy while you die.”

…Sola est quies,
mecum ruina cuncta si video obruta;
mecum omnia abeant. trahere, cum pereas, libet.

 

Tawdry Tuesday: Proctological Proverb Edition

Arsenius, 34a1

“May you fall into Hades’ asshole”: [a curse]: may you die.

῞Αιδου πρωκτῷ περιπέσῃς: ἤγουν τελευτήσῃς.

Note: Even though Ancient Greek prôktos can merely mean “rear end” (as in butt), it most often means ‘anus’ in comedy and insults. Also, I wanted to use something profane and given the British/American divide on arse/ass, I decided just to go with “asshole” because it is funnier.

Diogenianus (v.1 e cod. Marz. 2.42)

“I wish you’d fall into Hades’ asshole”: this is clear

῞Αιδου πρωκτῷ περιπέσοις: δῆλον.

Diogenianus (v.2 e cod. Vindob. 133, 1.97 )

“I wish you’d fall into Hades’ asshole”: Used for cursing someone

Αἵδου πρωκτῷ περιπέσοις: ἐπὶ τῶν καταρωμένων τινί.

Diogenianus, 3.58

“The asshole survives the bath” [or, “Ass surpasses the bath”]. Whenever someone is not able to wash himself, but his bowels still assail him. This is a proverb used for things done uselessly.

Πρωκτὸς λουτροῦ περιγίνεται: ὅταν τις μὴ δύνηται ἀπονίψασθαι, ἀλλ’ ἡ κοιλία αὐτῷ ἐπιφέρηται. λέγεται ἡ παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνωφελῶς πραττομένων.

Michael Apostolius, 14.78

“The asshole survives the bath”: This proverb is used for things done uselessly and done for show. For people with thick asses and potbellies are not able to wash themselves off easily.”

Πρωκτὸς λουτροῦ περιγίνεται: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνωφελῶν καὶ εἰκῇ πραττομένων ἐλέγετο· οἱ γὰρ παχύπρωκτοι καὶ προγάστορες οὐ δύνανται ἑαυτοὺς ἀπονίψασθαι εὐπετῶς.

Zenobius, Vulg. 1.52

“It was cured by Akesias”: this is a proverb for when things are healed for the worse. Aristotle provides the proverb in tetrameters: “Akesias healed his asshole.”

Ἀκεσίας ἰάσατο· ἐπὶ τῶν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον ἰωμένων. ὅλην δὲ Ἀριστοφάνης ἐν τετραμέτροις τὴν παροιμίαν ἐκφέρει, λέγων· Ἀκεσίας τὸν πρωκτὸν ἰάσατο.

Suda, s.v. Ἀφευθεὶς

“Singed around the asshole:” Aristophanes has this instead of being “all burned up”

Ἀφευθεὶς τὸν πρωκτόν: Ἀριστοφάνης ἀντὶ τοῦ φλογισθείς.

Balneum Tripergulae – particolare da miniatura del Codice Angelico del “De Balneis Puteolanis� di Pietro da Eboli.

Bonus: Suda on defecation (And there is more of this)

Apopatêma: this is the same as ‘dung’ Eupolis has in his Golden Age: “What is that man? Shit of a fox.” And Kratinus has in Runaway Slaves: I knocked Kerkyon out at dawn when I found him shitting in the vegetables.” We also find the participle apopatêsomenoi (“they are about to shit”) which means they are going to evacuate the feces from their bodies. But patos also means path.

Aristophanes writes “No one sacrifices the old way any more or even enters the temple except for the more than ten thousand who want to shit. So, apopatos is really the voiding of the bowels. Aristophanes also says about Kleonymous: “He went off to shit after he got he army and shat for ten months in the golden mountains? For how long was he closing his asshole? A whole turn of the moon?”

Ἀποπάτημα: αὐτὸ τὸ σκύβαλον. Εὔπολις Χρυσῷ γένει: τί γάρ ἐστ’ ἐκεῖνος; ἀποπάτημ’ ἀλώπεκος. Κρατῖνος Δραπέτισι: τὸν Κερκύονά τε ἕωθεν ἀποπατοῦντ’ ἐπὶ τοῖς λαχάνοις εὑρὼν ἀπέπνιξα. καὶ Ἀποπατησόμενοι, τὴν κόπρον κενώσοντες. πάτος δὲ ἡ ὁδός. Ἀριστοφάνης: οὐδεὶς θύει τοπαράπαν οὐδ’ εἰσέρχεται, πλὴν ἀποπατησόμενοί γε πλεῖν ἢ μύριοι. Ἀπόπατος γὰρ ἡ κένωσις τῆς γαστρός. καὶ Ἀριστοφάνης περὶ Κλεωνύμου φησίν: εἰς ἀπόπατον ᾤχετο στρατιὰν λαβὼν κἄχεζεν ὀκτὼ μῆνας ἐπὶ χρυσῶν ὄρων. πόσου δὲ τὸν πρωκτὸν χρόνου ξυνήγαγε; τῇ πανσελήνῳ.

From Henderson’s Maculate Muse

proktos

Happy Monday! Some Proverbs for Bad Things

Arsenius 3.64c

“All these evils are the responsibility of nature.”

ἅπαντα ταῦτ’ ἐπίθετα τῇ φύσει κακά

 

Appendix Proverbium 2.22

“You’re burning incense over bullshit”: a proverb for those who are trying to change evil things”

Εἰς κόπρον θυμιᾷς: ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ κακὰ μεταβαλεῖν ἐπιχειρούντων.

 

Arsenius 7.7a

“People suffer less because of their enemies than their friends. For they guard against their enemies because they fear them while they remain open to their friends. They too are slippery and likely to conspire.”

᾿Ελάσσω κακὰ πάσχουσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι ὑπὸ τῶν ἐχθρῶν ἢ ὑπὸ τῶν φίλων· τοὺς μὲν γὰρ ἐχθροὺς δεδιότες φυλάσσονται, τοῖς δὲ φίλοις ἀνεῳγμένοι εἰσί. καὶ γίνονται σφαλεροὶ καὶ εὐεπιβούλευτοι

 

Zenobius 4.43

“An Iliad of Evils”: this proverb is uses for great evils. This is because there were myriad evils in Ilium”

᾿Ιλιὰς κακῶν: ἀπὸ παροιμίας τοῦτο ἐλέγετο ἐπὶ τῶν μεγάλων κακῶν· παρόσον ἐν ᾿Ιλίῳ μυρία κακὰ συνέβη γενέσθαι.

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Mouth of Hell: MS Tanner 184

Wau! It’s Wednesday: A Few Proverbs

The Greek letter digamma (Ϝ), closest to our glide –w– existed in Mycenaean Greek (wanax instead of anaks) and its force can be felt in Homeric formulae (e.g. Il. 1.39: Κίλλάν τε ζαθέην Τενέδοιό τε ἶφι ἀνάσσεις where hiatus is twice  preserved because the line may have been τε Ϝἶφι Ϝἀνάσσεις ) and seen in inscriptions.

Digama image

For this reason, I can’t do the ever-clever thing where I pluck proverbs from the Suda that begin with the Greek letter that corresponds to the English day of the week. Lazily, I am reverting to upsilon. The results are, uber-interesting. And, since in late antiquity once a seven-day week was adopted in Greece our Wednesday was dedicated to Hermes, why not perform a ridiculous translation?

Not a proverb, but funny:

“Oo, oo, oo, oo…: A surprised utterance which we typically make when we smell some savory smoke.”

Ϋϋ ϋϋ, ϋϋ ϋϋ, ϋϋ ϋϋ: ἐπίρρημα θαυμαστικόν: ὅπερ ἐν τῇ συνηθείᾳ λέγομεν, ὀσφραινόμενοί τινος κνίσους.

 

Healthy Insects?

“Healthier than a tick”: A proverb used for people who are entirely healthy. It comes from the animal, the tick which is completely smooth and has neither blemish nor injury.”

Ὑγιέστερος Κρότωνος: ἐπὶ τῶν πάνυ ὑγιαινόντων ἡ παροιμία. ἀπὸ τοῦ ζῴου τοῦ κρότωνος: λεῖον γάρ ἐστιν ὅλον καὶ χωρὶς ἀμυχῆς καὶ μηδὲν ἔχον σίνος.

 

Insanity

“Turning a pestle”: A proverb used for people who keep doing the same things and accomplish nothing. These proverbs also indicate this: “Zeus’ son Korinthos”; “Again on the road to Pytho”; “The man carrying a plank”; and “Not blind, but eyeless.” Plato* writes also in the Adonis “I hope I don’t have a pestle’s turn”.

Ὑπέρου περιτροπή: ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ αὐτὰ ποιούντων καὶ μηδὲν περαινόντων. καὶ αὗται δ’ αἱ παροιμίαι τοῦτο δηλοῦσιν: ὁ Διὸς Κόρινθος. καί, αὖθις αὖ Πυθώδε ὁδός. καί, ὁ τὴν δοκὸν φέρων. καί, οὐ τυφλός, ἀλλ’ ἐξώρυκται. Πλάτων Ἀδώνιδι: εἶτ’ οὐχ ὑπέρου μοι περιτροπὴ γενήσεται.

*The comic poet, not the philosopher.

 

“A Pestle’s Turn”: A proverb about those who keep doing the same thing and accomplish nothing. There is also the proverb: “More naked than a pestle and a discarded skin.”

῾Υπέρου περίτροφον: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ αὐτὰ ποιούντων καὶ μηδὲ περαινουμένων. καὶ παροιμία· γυμνότερος ὑπέρου καὶ λεβηρίδος.

 

Aging

“Off the list”: A saying for those who have grown old.”

Ὑπὲρ τὸν κατάλογον: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν γεγηρακότων.

 

Risk

“A hog under a club”: A proverb applied by Deinolokhos to those who put themselves in danger.”

῝Υς ὑπὸ ῥόπαλον: παροιμία παρὰ Δεινολόχῳ ἐπὶ τῶν ἑαυτοὺς εἰς ὄλεθρον ἐμβαλλόντων.

Chance and Virtue: Epictetus Says some Things

᾿Επικτήτου (fr. 1 III p. 65 ed. Schweigh.).

Fr. 2

“A life interwoven with chance is like a stormy river: it is troubled, mixed up with filth, hard to cross, tyrannical, noisy, and brief.”

῾Ο τύχῃ βίος συμπεπλεγμένος ἔοικε χειμάρρῳ ποταμῷ· καὶ γὰρ ταραχώδης καὶ ἰλύος ἀνάμεστος καὶ δυσέμβατος καὶ τυραννικὸς καὶ πολύηχος καὶ ὀλιγοχρόνιος.

Fr. 3

“A life commingled with virtue is like an eternal spring: it is clean, untroubled, drinkable and sweet, communal and wealthy, without harm and indestructible”

Ψυχὴ ὁμιλοῦσα ἀρετῇ ἔοικεν ἀενάῳ πηγῇ· καὶ γὰρ καθαρὸν καὶ ἀτάραχον καὶ πότιμον καὶ νόστιμον καὶ κοινωνικὸν καὶ πλούσιον καὶ ἀβλαβὲς καὶ ἀνώλεθρον.

Fr. 4

“If you want to be good, first believe that you are evil.”

Εἰ βούλει ἀγαθὸς εἶναι, πρῶτον πίστευσον ὅτι κακὸς εἶ.

Fr. 20

“Examine in yourself whether you desire to be wealthy or lucky. If you want wealth, know that it is neither good nor wholly yours. If you desire to be happy understand that it is good and under your power. One is the timely gift of chance, the other is a choice.”

᾿Εξέταζε σαυτὸν πότερον πλουτεῖν θέλεις ἢ εὐδαιμονεῖν. καὶ εἰ μὲν πλουτεῖν, ἴσθι ὅτι οὔτε ἀγαθὸν οὔτε ἐπὶ σοὶ πάντῃ, εἰ δὲ εὐδαιμονεῖν, ὅτι καὶ ἀγαθὸν καὶ ἐπὶ
σοί. ἐπεὶ τὸ μὲν τύχης ἐπίκαιρον δάνειον, τὸ δὲ [τῆς εὐδαιμονίας] προαιρέσεως.

File:Discourses - Epictetus (illustration 1) (9021700938).jpg
‘Frontispiece depicting Epictetus from A selection from the Discourses of Epictetus with the Encheiridion

 

 

Spartan Women Once Said…

This is the second part of the sayings attributed to women in the Gnomologium Vaticanum (568-576)

“Sayings of women and their thoughts”

᾿Αποφθέγματα γυναικῶν, ἤτοι φρονήματα.

“When a Spartan woman was speaking to her son who had been crippled in battle and was depressed because of that she said “don’t be sad, child—for each step recalls your private virtue”

Γυνὴ Λάκαινα τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτῆς ἐν παρατάξει χωλωθέντος καὶ δυσφοροῦντος ἐπὶ τούτῳ „τέκνον”, εἶπε, „μὴ λυποῦ· καθ’ ἕκαστον γὰρ βῆμα τῆς ἰδίας <ἀρετῆς ὑπομνησθήσῃ.”>

 

“When a Spartan woman heard that her son died in the battle line she said “Child, you paid your country back well for your upbringing.”

Γυνὴ Λάκαινα ἀκούσασα τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς ἐν παρατάξει τεθνηκέναι „τέκνον”, εἶπεν, „ὡς καλὰ τροφεῖα τῇ πατρίδι ἀπέδωκας!”

 

“A Spartan woman said of her son who was thankful that he was the only one to survive a battle-line “why aren’t you ashamed that you’re the only one alive?”

Λάκαινα γυνὴ σεμνυνομένου τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτῆς ἐπὶ τῷ μόνον ἐκ τῆς παρατάξεως σεσῶσθαι ἔφη· „τί οὖν οὐκ αἰσχύνῃ μόνος ζῶν;”

The website “Sharing Ancient Wisdom” is a really interesting and useful collection of proverbial sayings. Check it out.

Beans, Beans, The [Mystical] Fruit

Zenobius, Proverbs

“Salt and bean”: A proverb applied to those who pretend to know something but do not know it. [this is because] diviners are in the habit of taking salt and bean in exchange for their interpretations. From this also they offer a bean to those who share in the mysteries”

῞Αλα καὶ κύαμον: ἐπὶ τῶν εἰδέναι μέν τι προσποιουμένων, οὐκ εἰδότων δέ· ἐπεὶ οἱ μάντεις εἰώθασι τιθέναι τὸν ἅλα καὶ κύαμον πρὸ τῶν μαντευομένων· ὅθεν καὶ τοῖς τῶν ἀποῤῥήτων κοινωνοῦσι κύαμον ἐτίθουν.

Apollonius the Paradoxographer

46 “In the fifth book of his Natural Causes, Theophrastos says that the covering of beans when they are placed near the roots of trees dry out the things that are growing. He also adds that native birds who eat these things constantly become barren. Therefore, for this reason and eventually because of many others the Pythagoreans prohibited the use of the bean. For it makes someone flatulent, and dyspeptic, and brings us bad dreams.

46 Θεόφραστος ἐν τῇ ε′ τῶν φυτικῶν αἰτιῶν φησιν τὰ κελύφια τῶν κυάμων περὶ τὰς ῥίζας τῶν δένδρων περιτιθέμενα ξηραίνειν τὰ φυόμενα. καὶ αἱ κατοικίδιαι δὲ ὄρνιθες συνεχῶς ταῦτα ἐσθίουσαι ἄτοκοι γίγνονται. ὅθεν καὶ διὰ ταύτην τὴν αἰτίαν, τάχα δὲ καὶ δι’ ἄλλας οἱ Πυθαγόρειοι ἀπηγορεύκασιν τῷ κυάμῳ χρῆσθαι· καὶ γὰρ πνευματοποιὸν καὶ δύσπεπτον, καὶ τοὺς ὀνείρους τεταραγμένους ἡμῖν ἐμποιεῖ.

Cicero, de Divinatione 1.30:

“Plato therefore encourages people to go to sleep with their bodies thus disposed that there be nothing which could introduce any wandering from or disturbance of sleep. From which it is thought that the Pythagoreans prohibited the consumption of beans, because that food causes a great flatulence which is contrary to the tranquility of a mind seeking the truth.”

Iubet igitur Plato sic ad somnum proficisci corporibus adfectis, ut nihil sit, quod errorem animis perturbationemque adferat. Ex quo etiam Pythagoreis interdictum putatur, ne faba vescerentur, quod habet infiationem magnam is cibus tranquillitati mentis quaerenti vera contrariam.

Image result for medieval manuscript beans
From Getty Images and this site

Don’t Mix a Fire With a Knife: Some Pythagorean Sayings

Diogenes Laertius, Pythagoras 17–18

“These are the sayings attributed to Pythagoras: don’t mix a fire with a knife; don’t step over a balance beam; don’t sit on a bushel; don’t eat your heart; don’t help with a burden but put it on; always make your bed; don’t put a god’s image on a ring; don’t leave the outline of a pan in ashes; don’t wipe up a mess with a torch; don’t piss towards the sun; don’t walk on the highway; don’t offer your right hand too easily; don’t share your roof with swallows; don’t keep clawed birds; don’t piss or stand on your cut nails and hair; turn sharp blades away from you; when abroad, don’t turn back at the border

This is what these sayings mean: “don’t mix a fire with a knife” means not inciting the rage or swollen anger of people in power. “Don’t step over a balance beam” means don’t transgress equality and justice. “Don’t sit on a bushel” means keep both today and the future in mind since a bushel is a daily ration. “Don’t eat your heart” clearly means not wearing away your mind with troubles and grief. By saying “Don’t turn around when going abroad” Pythagoras advises people when they are leaving life not to cling to it desperately nor to be overcome by its pleasures. The logic of the rest of the sayings are similar to this and would take a while to go through.”

Ἦν δ᾿ αὐτῷ τὰ σύμβολα τάδε· πῦρ μαχαίρᾳ μὴ σκαλεύειν, ζυγὸν μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν, ἐπὶ χοίνικος μὴ καθίζειν, καρδίην μὴ ἐσθίειν, φορτίον μὴ συγκαθαιρεῖν, ουνεπιτιθέναι δέ, τὰ στρώματα ἀεὶ συνδεδεμένα ἔχειν, ἐν δακτυλίῳ εἰκόνα θεοῦ μὴ περιφέρειν, χύτρας ἴχνος συγχεῖν ἐν τῇ τέφρᾳ, δᾳδίῳ θᾶκον μὴ ὀμόργνυσθαι, πρὸς ἥλιον τετραμμένον μὴ ὀμίχειν, τὰς λεωφόρους μὴ βαδίζειν, μὴ ῥᾳδίως δεξιὰν ἐμβάλλειν, ὁμωροφίους χελιδόνας μὴ ἔχειν, γαμψώνυχα μὴ τρέφειν, ἀπονυχίσμασι καὶ κουραῖς μὴ ἐπουρεῖν μηδὲ ἐφίστασθαι, ὀξεῖαν μάχαιραν ἀποστρέφειν, ἀποδημοῦντα ἐπὶ τοῖς ὅροις ἀνεπιστρεπτεῖν.

Ἤθελε δ᾿ αὐτῷ τὸ μὲν πῦρ μαχαίρᾳ μὴ σκαλεύειν δυναστῶν ὀργὴν καὶ οἰδοῦντα θυμὸν μὴ κινεῖν. τὸ δὲ ζυγὸν μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν, τουτέστι τὸ ἴσον καὶ δίκαιον μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν. ἐπί τε χοίνικος μὴ καθίζειν ἐν ἴσῳ τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος φροντίδα ποιεῖσθαι καὶ τοῦ μέλλοντος· ἡ γὰρ χοῖνιξ ἡμερησία τροφή. διὰ δὲ τοῦ καρδίαν μὴ ἐσθίειν ἐδήλου μὴ τὴν ψυχὴν ἀνίαις καὶ λύπαις κατατήκειν. διὰ δὲ τοῦ εἰς ἀποδημίαν βαδίζοντα μὴ ἐπιστρέφεσθαι παρῄνει τοῖς ἀπαλλαττομένοις τοῦ βίου μὴ ἐπιθυμητικῶς ἔχειν τοῦ ζῆν μηδ᾿ ὑπὸ τῶν ἐνταῦθα ἡδονῶν ἐπάγεσθαι. καὶ τὰ ἄλλα πρὸς ταῦτα λοιπόν ἐστιν ἐκλαμβάνειν, ἵνα μὴ παρέλκωμεν.

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From Raphael’s School of Athens

Brevity and Wit: Demetrius on Compression

See earlier posts for Demetrius on the words for punctuation

Demetrius, On Style 9

“This smallest part of a composition is called a phrase [komma]. This often defines a phrase: it is shorter than a clause” [kôlon], as in the previously quoted “Dionysus [is] in Korinth” or “know yourself” or “follow god”, those sayings of the wise men. Brevity is a characteristic of proverbs and maxims and it is cleverer to compress a lot of meaning into a small space, just as seeds have the power of whole trees. If someone works a proverb out at length, it develops into teaching or rhetoric instead of a proverb.”

(9) ἡ δὲ τοιαύτη βραχύτης κατὰ τὴν σύνθεσιν κόμμα ὀνομάζεται. ὁρίζονται δ᾿ αὐτὸ ὧδε, κόμμα ἐστὶν τὸ κώλου ἔλαττον, οἷον τὸ προειρημένον, τὸ [τε] “Διονύσιος ἐν Κορίνθῳ,” καὶ τὸ “γνῶθι σεαυτόν,” καὶ τὸ “ἕπου θεῷ,” τὰ τῶν σοφῶν. ἔστι γὰρ καὶ ἀποφθεγματικὸν ἡ βραχύτης καὶ γνωμολογικόν, καὶ σοφώτερον τὸ ἐν ὀλίγῳ πολλὴν διάνοιαν ἠθροῖσθαι, καθάπερ ἐν τοῖς σπέρμασιν δένδρων ὅλων δυνάμεις· εἰ δ᾿ ἐκτείνοιτό τις τὴν γνώμην ἐν μακροῖς, διδασκαλία γίνεταί τις καὶ ῥητορεία ἀντὶ γνώμης.

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