Political Change as Seen from the Other Side

Theognis 667-682

If I had my possessions, Simonides,
It would not distress me, as it now does, to consort with the well-born.
But at the moment my possessions recognize me but pass me by.
I’m speechless with need.
Still, I understand better than many that right now we’re being carried along
With the white sails lowered, from the sea of Melos through the murky night,
And a crew unwilling to bail water as the sea pitches over both sides of the ship.
Someone is rescued with great difficulty, behaving as they are.
They’ve deposed the good pilot who skillfully kept watch.
They carry off cargo by force, discipline is destroyed,
And the division of things no longer happens equally, fairly.
Deckhands are in charge, the vulgar are above the well-born.
I’m afraid that perhaps a wave will in a way swallow the ship.
Let these things, concealed by me, be cryptically told to the well-born–
But even someone vulgar could understand, if he’s subtle.

εἰ μὲν χρήματ᾽ ἔχοιμι, Σιμωνίδη, οἷά περ ἤδη,
οὐκ ἂν ἀνιῴμην τοῖς ἀγαθοῖσι συνών.
νῦν δέ με γινώσκοντα παρέρχεται, εἰμὶ δ᾽ ἄφωνος
χρημοσύνῃ, πολλῶν γνοὺς ἂν ἄμεινον ἔτι,
οὕνεκα νῦν φερόμεσθα καθ᾽ ἱστία λευκὰ βαλόντες,
Μηλίου ἐκ πόντου νύκτα διὰ δνοφερήν,
ἀντλεῖν δ᾽ οὐκ ἐθέλουσιν, ὑπερβάλλει δὲ θάλασσα
ἀμφοτέρων τοίχων. ἦ μάλα τις χαλεπῶς
σῴζεται, οἷ᾽ ἔρδουσι· κυβερνήτην μὲν ἔπαυσαν
ἐσθλόν, ὅτις φυλακὴν εἶχεν ἐπισταμένως·
χρήματα δ᾽ ἁρπάζουσι βίη, κόσμος δ᾽ ἀπόλωλεν,
δασμὸς δ᾽ οὐκέτ᾽ ἴσος γίνεται ἐς τὸ μέσον·
φορτηγοὶ δ᾽ ἄρχουσι, κακοὶ δ᾽ ἀγαθῶν καθύπερθεν.
δειμαίνω μή πως ναῦν κατὰ κῦμα πίῃ.
ταῦτά μοι ᾐνίχθω κεκρυμμένα τοῖς ἀγαθοῖσιν.
γινώσκοι δ᾽ ἄν τις καὶ κακός ἂν σοφὸς ᾖ.

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.

What Are Satyrs? Little Worse Than the Sailors in This Story

[Warning, this tale ends in sexual violence]

Pausanias, 1.23.5

“Because I wished to know more than another about Satyrs—who they are—I traveled to many men for stories of them. The Carian Euphemus told me that once while sailing to Italy he was led off his course by the winds and into the sea beyond in which others do not sail. He was claiming that many islands there are empty but that in others savage men live. His sailors did not want to land on those islands because, those who had landed there before had gained some knowledge of the population; but at this time, again, they were forced. According to Euphemos the islands are called Satyrides by the sailors: the people who live there have red-hair, are not much taller than horses, and have tails on their rear-ends. As soon as they noticed that the sailors were coming, they rushed toward the ship without making a noise and attacked the women on it. Finally, out of fear, the sailors threw a foreign woman overboard. The Satyrs violated her not only in the regular way but using her entire body as well.”


περὶ δὲ Σατύρων, οἵτινές εἰσιν, ἑτέρου πλέον ἐθέλων ἐπίστασθαι πολλοῖς αὐτῶν τούτων ἕνεκα ἐς λόγους ἦλθον. ἔφη δὲ Εὔφημος Κὰρ ἀνὴρ πλέων ἐς᾿Ιταλίαν ἁμαρτεῖν ὑπὸ ἀνέμων τοῦ πλοῦ καὶ ἐς τὴν ἔξω θάλασσαν, ἐς ἣν οὐκέτι πλέουσιν, ἐξενεχθῆναι. νήσους δὲ εἶναι μὲν ἔλεγεν ἐρήμους πολλάς, ἐν δὲ ἄλλαιςοἰκεῖν ἄνδρας ἀγρίους· ταύταις δὲ οὐκ ἐθέλειν νήσοις προσίσχειν τοὺς ναύτας οἷα πρότερόν τε προσσχόντας καὶ τῶν ἐνοικούντων οὐκ ἀπείρως ἔχοντας, βιασθῆναι δ’οὖν καὶ τότε. ταύτας καλεῖσθαι μὲν ὑπὸ τῶν ναυτῶν Σατυρίδας, εἶναι δὲ τοὺς ἐνοικοῦντας [καὶ] καπυροὺς καὶ ἵππων οὐ πολὺ μείους ἔχειν ἐπὶ τοῖς ἰσχίοις οὐράς.τούτους, ὡς ᾔσθοντο, καταδραμόντας ἐπὶ τὴν ναῦν φωνὴν μὲν οὐδεμίαν ἱέναι, ταῖς δὲ γυναιξὶν ἐπιχειρεῖν ταῖς ἐν τῇ νηί· τέλος δὲ δείσαντας τοὺς ναύτας βάρβαρον γυναῖκα ἐκβαλεῖν ἐς τὴν νῆσον· ἐς ταύτην οὖν ὑβρίζειν τοὺς Σατύρους οὐ μόνον ᾗ καθέστηκεν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ πᾶν ὁμοίως σῶμα.

This bit of fanciful ethnography from Pausanias ends with a pretty vicious and savage act–the abandonment of a ‘foreign woman’ to sexual violence so that the Greek sailors could flee.  Pausanias includes this without much framing or reflection–but a couple details are worth noting (in addition to the casual devaluation of foreigners and degradation of female experience).Is this evidence that women regularly traveled on merchant vessels?


A compulsory image of a satyr:


Archippus, fr. 45 (Stobaeus 4.17.8)

“Mother, it is sweet to see the sea from the land
when you don’t have to sail any longer.”

ὡς ἡδὺ τὴν θάλατταν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ὁρᾶν
ὦ μῆτερ ἐστι, μὴ πλέοντα μηδαμοῦ

This sounds very serious, but Archippus was a comic poet and rough contemporary with Aristophanes…