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

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

Riddles and Drinking Games

Athenaeus Deipn 10 457 c-d

“Also in the first book of On Proverbs, he writes in this way: “an examination of riddles is not foreign to philosophy and the ancients made a display of their education through them. For during their drinking they used to toss riddles around not as people do now when they question one another which sexual position is the best or which or what kind of fish is tastiest or in season or which is best for eating after Arcturus rises or the pleiades or the dog star. And then as a prize they give those who answer kisses worthy of condemnation by anyone with good sense; and as a punishment to those who are defeated, they make them drink unmixed wine, a thing which is more delightful for them to drink than the cup of Health.”

κἀν τῷ πρώτῳ δὲ Περὶ Παροιμιῶν γράφει οὕτως· τῶν γρίφων ἡ ζήτησις οὐκ ἀλλοτρία φιλοσοφίας ἐστί, καὶ οἱ παλαιοὶ τὴν τῆς παιδείας ἀπόδειξιν ἐν τούτοις ἐποιοῦντο. προέβαλλον γὰρ παρὰ τοὺς πότους οὐχ ὥσπερ οἱ νῦν ἐρωτῶντες ἀλλήλους, τίς τῶν ἀφροδισιαστικῶν συνδυασμῶν ἢ τίς ἢ ποῖος ἰχθὺς ἥδιστος ἢ τίς ἀκμαιότατος, ἔτι δὲ τίς μετ᾿ Ἀρκτοῦρον ἢ μετὰ Πλειάδα ἢ τίς μετὰ Κύνα μάλιστα βρωτός; καὶ ἐπὶ τούτοις ἆθλα μὲν τοῖς νικῶσι φιλήματα μίσους ἄξια τοῖς ἐλευθέραν αἴσθησιν ἔχουσι, ζημίαν δὲ τοῖς ἡττηθεῖσιν τάττουσιν ἄκρατον πιεῖν, ὃν ἥδιον τῆς Ὑγιείας πίνουσι·

 

Eubulus, fr. 106

“This is an asshole and you are always full of nonsense.
For the asshole is tongueless and chatty at the same time.

(A.) πρωκτὸς μὲν οὖν οὗτός <γε>· σὺ δὲ ληρεῖς ἔχων.
οὗτος γὰρ αὑτός ἐστιν ἄγλωττος λάλος,

Hermippus, TrGFF4

“There are two sisters and one gives birth
To the other and she in turn is born from that sister she bore.”

εἰσὶ κασίγνηται δισσαί, ὧν ἡ μία τίκτει ǁ
τὴν ἑτέραν, αὐτὴ δὲ τεκοῦσ᾿ ὑπὸ τῆσδε τεκνοῦται.

 

Image result for medieval manuscript riddles
Odin had riddles too.

Souls and Time: Some Old-Fashioned Riddles from Athenaeus

Athenaeus Deipnosophists 10: 453b-c

“A really ancient type of logic riddle is also related to the basic nature of riddling to begin with: “What do we all teach without knowing it?”  or “What is nowhere and everywhere at once?” and in addition to these “What is in the sky, on the land, and in the sea at the same time?”  And this example is about words that mean more than one thing because a bear [arktos], a serpent [ophis], an eagle [aietos] and a dog [kuôn] are each in the sky, on the earth and in the sea. The answer to the question prior to that is “time”, because it is everywhere and nowhere at once because it does not inhabit any single space. And the first question is about souls: none of us know our soul, but we always show it to those we meet.”

ἀρχαιότατος δ᾿ ἐστὶ λογικὸς γρῖφος καὶ τῆς τοῦ γριφεύειν φύσεως οἰκειότατος· “τί πάντες οὐκ ἐπιστάμενοι διδάσκομεν;” καί “τί ταὐτὸν οὐδαμοῦ καὶ πανταχοῦ;” καὶ πρὸς τούτοις “τί ταὐτὸν ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς καὶ ἐν θαλάττῃ;” τοῦτο δ᾿ ἐστὶν ὁμωνυμία· καὶ γὰρ ἄρκτος καὶ ὄφις καὶ αἰετὸς καὶ κύων ἐστὶν ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐν γῇ καὶ ἐν θαλάσσῃ. τὸ δὲ χρόνον σημαίνει· ἅμα γὰρ παρὰ πᾶσιν ὁ αὐτὸς καὶ οὐδαμοῦ διὰ τὸ μὴ ἐν ἑνὶ τόπῳ τὴν φύσιν ἔχειν. τὸ δὲ προάγον ἐστὶ ψυχὰς ἔχειν· τοῦτο γὰρ οὐθεὶς ἡμῶν ἐπιστάμενος διδάσκει τὸν πλησίον.

 

Matfre Ermengau, Breviari d’amor, Occitania 14th century
BnF, Français 857, fol. 197v

Tawdry Tuesday: The Strongest Thing of All? (NSFW)

Athenaeus Deipnosophists 10.451b-d

“Diphilos in his Theseus says that once three girls from Samos were riddling while drinking at the Adonian festival. Then one of them posed a riddle to the others and asked “What is the strongest thing of all?”

One of them said, “iron” and then as proof of her argument suggested that they can dig or cut everything and use it for most things. Although she was thought well of for this answer, the second girl was saying that a blacksmith is much stronger than this since as he works he also bends even strong iron for whatever he wants to make.

And the third girl answered that a penis is the strongest of all and she explained that when someone buggers the blacksmith with it, he groans.”

Δίφιλος δ᾿ ἐν Θησεῖ τρεῖς ποτε κόρας Σαμίας φησὶν Ἀδωνίοισιν γριφεύειν παρὰ πότον· προβαλεῖν δ᾿ αὐταῖσι τὸν γρῖφον, “τί πάντων ἰσχυρότατον;” καὶ τὰν μὲν εἰπεῖν, “ὁ σίδηρος,” καὶ φέρειν τούτου λόγου τὰν ἀπόδειξιν, διότι τούτῳ πάντ᾿ ὀρύσσουσίν τε καὶ τέμνουσι καὶ χρῶντ᾿ εἰς ἅπαντα. εὐδοκιμούσᾳ δ᾿ ἐπάγειν τὰν δευτέραν φάσκειν τε τὸν χαλκέα πολὺ κρείττω φέρειν ἰσχύν· ἐπεὶ τοῦτον κατεργαζόμενον καὶ τὸν σίδηρον τὸν σφοδρὸν κάμπτειν, μαλάσσειν, ὅ τι ἂν χρήζῃ ποεῖν. τὰν δὲ τρίταν ἀποφῆναι πέος ἰσχυρότατον πάντων, διδάσκειν δ᾿ ὅτι καὶ τὸν χαλκέα στένοντα πυγίζουσι τούτῳ.Image result for ancient greek blacksmith vase

A Riddle: Don’t Speak and Speak the Same

Greek Anthology, 14.22

“Don’t speak and you will say my name.  But do you need speak?
And so again, a great surprise. By speaking you will say my name.”

Μὴ λέγε, καὶ λέξεις ἐμὸν οὔνομα. δεῖ δέ σε λέξαι;
ὧδε πάλιν, μέγα θαῦμα, λέγων ἐμὸν οὔνομα λέξεις.

Who knows the answer? If you do, σιγά!

Image result for ancient greek Oedipus and sphinx

 

The Sphinx’s Riddle in Epic Meter: Scholia and Athenaeus

An ancient scholar records an interesting fragment with the famous riddle of the Sphinx from the story of Oedipus (Scholia to Euripides Phoenician Women 46):

“It is two-footed, three-footed, and four-footed on land,
But has one voice. It alone changes its form of all the creatures
Who creep over the earth, through the sky and the sea.
But whenever it walks leaning on multiple feet,
Then its strength remains the weakest in its limbs.”

ἔστι δίπουν ἐπὶ γῆς καὶ τετράπον, οὗ μία φωνή,
καὶ τρίπον• ἀλλάσσει δὲ φυὴν μόνον ὅσσ’ ἐπὶ γαῖαν
ἑρπετὰ γίνονται ἀνά τ’ αἰθέρα καὶ κατὰ πόντον.
ἀλλ’ ὁπόταν πλεόνεσσιν ἐρειδόμενον ποσὶ βαίνῃ,
ἔνθα μένος γυίοισιν ἀφαυρότατον πέλει αὐτοῦ:

A version of this also appears in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists (10.83) with some slight changes (he says that the fragment comes from the Greek historian Asclepiades.

ἔστι δίπουν ἐπὶ γῆς καὶ τετράπον, οὗ μία φωνή,
καὶ τρίπον, ἀλλάσσει δὲ φύσιν μόνον ὅσσ’ ἐπὶ γαῖαν
ἑρπετὰ γίνονται καὶ ἀν’ αἰθέρα καὶ κατὰ πόντον•
ἀλλ’ ὁπόταν πλείστοισιν ἐρειδόμενον ποσὶ βαίνῃ,
ἔνθα τάχος γυίοισιν ἀφαυρότατον πέλει αὑτοῦ.

Phusis for phuê is a typical post-classical rendering; the superlative πλείστοισιν (“most”) instead of the comparative πλεόνεσσιν (“more, many”) doesn’t make much sense to me; and without the noun μένος (“strength,energy, fury”) in the first version, I have trouble understanding the genitive αὐτοῦ (“his”), unless “speed” (τάχος) is the subject…

This may be the oldest version of the Sphinx’s riddle available. Since it is in dactylic hexameter, some have argued that it originally comes from an epic about Oedipus (e.g. Oedipodeia). The earliness of the fragment is dubious: not only does it seem to be lacking formulae and language clear from other extant epics, but some words are clearly later (e.g. ἀλλάσσει).  And, to my taste, these are particularly poor lines of hexameter. The only universally accepted fragment from the lost Oedipodeia, has better rhythm and more traditional language:

“and then [the Sphinx killed] the most beautiful and desire-inducing of all men,
the dear child of blameless Creon, shining Haemon.”

ἀλλ’ ἔτι κάλλιστόν τε καὶ ἱμεροέστατον ἄλλων
παῖδα φίλον Κρείοντος ἀμύμονος, Αἵμονα δῖον

Those of you who know Sophocles might be surprised to find Haemon dead here, but the tragedians need not agree with epic!

The riddle was also a popular motif, versions of it appeared in a lost play by Aeschylus, and plays by Sophocles and Euripides. The following is my favorite picture of Oedipus and the Sphinx, by Gustave Moreau (1864):

A Little Death?
A Little Death?