Philosophers Hating Philosophers: Epicurus’ Insults

Diogenes Laertius, 10.8

“[Epicurus] used to call Nausiphanes a jellyfish who was illiterate, a cheat and a whore. He used to refer to Plato’s followers as the Dionysus-flatters; he called Aristotle a waste who, after he spent his interitance, fought as a mercenary and sold drugs. He maligned Protagoras as a bellboy, and called Protagoras Democritus’ secretary and a teacher from the sticks. He called Heraclitus mudman, Democritus Lerocritus [nonsense lord]. Antidorus he called Sannidôros [servile-gifter]. He named the Cynics “Greece’s enemies”; he called the dialecticians Destructionists and, according to him, Pyrrho was unlearned and unteachable.”

πλεύμονά τε αὐτὸν ἐκάλει καὶ ἀγράμματον καὶ ἀπατεῶνα καὶ πόρνην: τούς τε περὶ Πλάτωνα Διονυσοκόλακας καὶ αὐτὸν Πλάτωνα χρυσοῦν, καὶ Ἀριστοτέλη ἄσωτον, <ὃν> καταφαγόντα τὴν πατρῴαν οὐσίαν στρατεύεσθαι καὶ φαρμακοπωλεῖν: φορμοφόρον τε Πρωταγόραν καὶ γραφέα Δημοκρίτου καὶ ἐν κώμαις γράμματα διδάσκειν: Ἡράκλειτόν τε κυκητὴν καὶ Δημόκριτον Ληρόκριτον καὶ Ἀντίδωρον Σαννίδωρον: τούς τε Κυνικοὺς ἐχθροὺς τῆς Ἑλλάδος: καὶ τοὺς διαλεκτικοὺς πολυφθόρους, Πύρρωνα δ᾽ ἀμαθῆ καὶ ἀπαίδευτον.

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Greek to Make a Man Puke

“The false quantities made by scholars would furnish a curious list. When Joshua Barnes desired his wife to devote her fortune to the publication of his edition of Homer, and at last persuaded her to do so by assuring her that the Iliad was written by Solomon, in the joy of his heart he composed some Greek hexameters. One of these he began with εὐπρᾰγίης which Bentley said was ‘ enough to make a man spew.’ (Ribbeck lately complained that Madvig’s emendations of the Latin dramatists had the like effect on him, nauseam adferunt.)”

Hugh E.P. Platt, A Last Ramble in the Classics (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1906), pp. 153-154

To Hell With Grammarians!

The following poems are taken from the Greek Anthology.  Both provide interesting possible origins for the phrase “bookworm”. A google search for the origin of the term is rather disappointing and points to book-eating species. But what if the species were named for scholars?

Philippos, 11.321

“Grammarians, children of hateful Blame, thorn-worms
Book-monsters, whelps of Zenodotus,
Soldiers of Kallimakhos, a man you project like a shield
But do not spare from your tongue,
Hunters of grievous conjunctions who take pleasure
In min or sphin* and in asking if the Cyclops kept dogs,
May you wear out your lives, wretches, muttering over the abuse
Of others. Come sink your arrow in me!”

Γραμματικοὶ Μώμου στυγίου τέκνα, σῆτες ἀκανθῶν,
τελχῖνες βίβλων, Ζηνοδότου σκύλακες,
Καλλιμάχου στρατιῶται, ὃν ὡς ὅπλον ἐκτανύσαντες,
οὐδ’ αὐτοῦ κείνου γλῶσσαν ἀποστρέφετε,
συνδέσμων λυγρῶν θηρήτορες, οἷς τὸ „μὶν” ἢ „σφὶν”
εὔαδε καὶ ζητεῖν, εἰ κύνας εἶχε Κύκλωψ,
τρίβοισθ’ εἰς αἰῶνα κατατρύζοντες ἀλιτροὶ
ἄλλων· ἐς δ’ ἡμᾶς ἰὸν ἀποσβέσατε.

Antiphanes, 11.322

“Useless race of grammarians, digging at the roots of
Someone else’s poetry, luckless worms who walk on thorns,
Perverters of great art, boasting over your Erinna*,
Bitter, parched watchdogs of Kallimakhos,
Rebukes to poets, death’s shade to children learning,
Go to hell, you fleas that secretly bite eloquent men.”

Γραμματικῶν περίεργα γένη, ῥιζωρύχα μούσης
ἀλλοτρίης, ἀτυχεῖς σῆτες ἀκανθοβάται,
τῶν μεγάλων κηλῖδες, ἐπ’ ᾿Ηρίννῃ δὲ κομῶντες,
πικροὶ καὶ ξηροὶ Καλλιμάχου πρόκυνες,
ποιητῶν λῶβαι, παισὶ σκότος ἀρχομένοισιν,
ἔρροιτ’, εὐφώνων λαθροδάκναι κόριες.

*An Alexandrian poet.

 

Philippus, 11.347

“Goodbye, men whose eyes have wandered over the universe,
And you thorn-counting worms of Aristarchus.
What’s it to me to examine which paths the Sun takes
Or whose son Proteus was or who was Pygmalion?
I would know as many works whose texts are clean. But let
The dark inquiry rot away the Mega-Kallimakheis!”

Χαίροιθ’, οἱ περὶ κόσμον ἀεὶ πεπλανηκότες ὄμμα
οἵ τ’ ἀπ’ ᾿Αριστάρχου σῆτες ἀκανθολόγοι.
ποῖ γὰρ ἐμοὶ ζητεῖν, τίνας ἔδραμεν ῞Ηλιος οἴμους
καὶ τίνος ἦν Πρωτεὺς καὶ τίς ὁ Πυγμαλίων;
γινώσκοιμ’, ὅσα λευκὸν ἔχει στίχον· ἡ δὲ μέλαινα
ἱστορίη τήκοι τοὺς Περικαλλιμάχους.

scholar

Two Lives of Homer, One Rather Strange

The first ‘life’ of Homer listed below is extremely strange. The other is a rather short but typical variation on the others. For some additional “lives” see earlier posts.

 

Life of Homer 7 (Allen; Eustathius Comm. Ad. Od. 1713.17)

“Alexander the Paphian records that Homer was the son of Aithra and Dmasagoras, Egyptians and that his nurse was a prophetess, a certain daughter of Oros, a priest of Isis, from whose breasts once flowed honey into the child’s mouth. Then the child uttered nine voices during the night: a swallow’s, a peacock’s, a dove’s, a crow’s, a partridge’s, a water hen’s, a starling’s, a nightingale’s, and a blackbird’s.

The child was found playing with nine doves on his bed along with the Sybil who was being entertained among the child’s doves and had been inspired to improvise epic lines which began “Dmasagoras, man of much victory…” in which she also addressed Homer’s father as “very-famous” and “prince” and ordered him to build a temple for the nine Pierian Muses. And she was revealing the muses to him [Dmasagoras].Then he did that [what she ordered] and showed the accomplishment to the human child. And thus the poet reverenced the animals he played with as a child and he made the doves carry ambrosia to Zeus.”

᾿Αλέξανδρος δὲ ὁ Πάφιος ἱστορεῖ τὸν ῞Ομηρον υἱὸν Αἰγυπτίων Δμασαγόρου καὶ Αἴθρας· τροφὸν δὲ αὐτοῦ προφῆτίν τινα θυγατέρα ῎Ωρου ἱερέως ῎Ισιδος, ἧς ἐκ τῶνμαστῶν μέλι ῥεῦσαί ποτε εἰς τὸ στόμα τοῦ παιδίου. καὶ τὸ βρέφος ἐν νυκτὶ φωνὰς ἐννέα προέσθαι· χελιδόνος, ταῶνος, περιστερᾶς, κορώνης, πέρδικος, πορφυρίωνος, ψαρός, ἀηδόνος καὶ κοττύφου. εὑρεθῆναί τε τὸ παιδίον μετὰ περιστερῶν ἐννέα παῖζον ἐπὶ τῆς κλίνης, εὐωχουμένην δὲ παρὰ τοῖς τοῦ παιδὸς τὴν Σίβυλλαν ἐμμανῆ γεγονυῖαν ἔπη σχεδιάσαι, ὧν ἀρχὴ
Δμασαγόρα πολύνικε,

ἐν οἷς καὶ μεγακλεῆ καὶ στεφανίτην αὐτὸν προσειπεῖν, καὶ ναὸν κτίσαι κελεῦσαι ἐννέα Πιερίδων· ἐδήλου δὲ τὰς μούσας. τὸν δὲ καὶ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι καὶ τῷ παιδὶ ἀνδρωθέντι ἐξειπεῖν τὸ πρᾶγμα. καὶ τὸν ποιητὴν οὕτω σεμνῦναι τὰ ζῷα οἷς βρέφος ὢν συνέπαιζε, καὶ ποιῆσαι αὐτὰ τῷ Διὶ τὴν ἀμβροσίαν κομίζοντα.

homer

Life of Homer 4 (Allen; 8 Most, Vita Scorialensis 1)
“Homer, the poet, was the son of Maiôn and Hurnetho, according to some. According to others, he was the son of Melês. Others attribute his lineage to Kalliopê the Muse. They say that he was named Melêsigenes or Melianaks, but after he was blinded he was named Homer—for the Aeolians call blind people “Homers”. Some say his country was Smyrna, others say it was Khios; even others say Kolophôn and some claim it is Athens. He traveled around singing his poems. Later, Peisistratos gathered together his poems, as this epigram shows:

The people of Erektheus ran me out of town after I was a tyrant
Three times and took me back three times.
Peisistratos, tremendous in councils, who gathered up
all the Homer that was sung separately before.
That golden one is our citizen
If we believe that Athens founded Smyrna

They say that he died after starving himself due to grief on the island Ios because he could solve the riddle which was posed to him by the fishermen. When he encountered them he asked: “Fisherman from Arcadia, what do you have?”
And they answered: “However much we caught, we left behind; but whatever we didn’t, we bring.”

And written on his gravestome is:

Here the earth covers over this sacred head,
The master of heroic men, godly Homer.”

῞Ομηρος ὁ ποιητὴς υἱὸς ἦν κατὰ μέν τινας Μαίονος καὶ ῾Υρνηθοῦς, κατὰ δ’ ἐνίους Μέλητος τοῦ ποταμοῦ καὶ Κριθηίδος νύμφης. ἄλλοι δ’ αὐτοῦ τὸ γένος εἰς Καλλιόπην τὴν Μοῦσαν ἀναφέρουσιν. φασὶ δ’ αὐτὸν Μελησιγένη ἢ Μελησιάνακτα κεκλῆσθαι, τυφλωθέντα δ’ αὐτὸν ὕστερον ῞Ομηρον κληθῆναι· οἱ γὰρ Αἰολεῖς τοὺς τυφλοὺς ὁμήρους καλοῦσιν. πατρίδα δ’ αὐτοῦ οἱ μὲν Σμύρναν, οἱ δὲ Χίον, οἱ δὲ Κολοφῶνα, οἱ δ’ ᾿Αθήνας λέγουσιν. περιιὼν δὲ τὰς πόλεις ᾖδε τὰ ποιήματα. ὕστερον δὲ Πεισίστρατος αὐτὰ συνήγαγεν, ὡς τὸ ἐπίγραμμα τοῦτο δηλοῖ·

τρίς με τυραννήσαντα τοσαυτάκις ἐξεδίωξε
δῆμος ᾿Ερεχθῆος καὶ τρὶς ἐπηγάγετο,
τὸν μέγαν ἐν βουλαῖς Πεισίστρατον ὃς τὸν ῞Ομηρον
ἤθροισα σποράδην τὸ πρὶν ἀειδόμενον·
ἡμέτερος γὰρ κεῖνος ὁ χρύσεος ἦν πολιήτης
εἴπερ ᾿Αθηναῖοι Σμύρναν ἐπῳκίσαμεν.

φασὶ δ’ αὐτὸν ἐν ῎Ιῳ τῇ νήσῳ διὰ λύπην ἀποκαρτερήσαντα τελευτῆσαι διὰ τὸ μὴ λῦσαι τὸ ζήτημα τὸ ὑπὸ τῶν ἁλιέων αὐτῷ προτεθέν. ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἐπιστὰς ἤρετο·
ἄνδρες ἀπ’ ᾿Αρκαδίης ἁλιήτορες ἦ ῥ’ ἔχομέν τι;
οἱ δ’ ἀπεκρίναντο·
ὅσσ’ ἕλομεν λιπόμεσθ’, ὅσα δ’ οὐχ ἕλομεν φερόμεσθα.
ἐπιγέγραπται δ’ ἐν τῷ μνήματι αὐτοῦ
ἐνθάδε τὴν ἱερὴν κεφαλὴν κατὰ γαῖα καλύπτει
ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων κοσμήτορα, θεῖον ῞Ομηρον.

The Design of Penelope’s Web

In the Iliad, Helen appears weaving a pharos that depicts “The many struggles of the horse-taming Trojans and the bronze-girded Achaeans / All the things they had suffered for her at Ares’ hands.” Τρώων θ’ ἱπποδάμων καὶ ᾿Αχαιῶν χαλκοχιτώνων, οὕς ἑθεν εἵνεκ’ ἔπασχον ὑπ’ ῎Αρηος παλαμάων, 3.121-128). And elsewhere she seems keenly aware that her story will be the subject of future songs (ὡς καὶ ὀπίσσω / ἀνθρώποισι πελώμεθ’ ἀοίδιμοι ἐσσομένοισι, 6.537-538).

Andromache, too, in the Iliad, weaves a garment whose imagery is described, even if briefly (22.437-441):

“So she spoke in mourning—but Hektor’s wife did not yet know anything.
For no one had come to her as a trusty messenger
To announce that her husband remained outside of the gates.
But she was weaving in the innermost part of her high-roofed home,
A double-folded raiment, on which she embroidered delicate flowers.”

῝Ως ἔφατο κλαίουσ’, ἄλοχος δ’ οὔ πώ τι πέπυστο
῞Εκτορος· οὐ γάρ οἵ τις ἐτήτυμος ἄγγελος ἐλθὼν
ἤγγειλ’ ὅττί ῥά οἱ πόσις ἔκτοθι μίμνε πυλάων,
ἀλλ’ ἥ γ’ ἱστὸν ὕφαινε μυχῷ δόμου ὑψηλοῖο
δίπλακα πορφυρέην, ἐν δὲ θρόνα ποικίλ’ ἔπασσε.

There is weaving throughout the Odyssey. Helen gives Telemachus a garment to give to his future wife (Od. 15.123-130). Calypso (5.62) and Circe (10.222) also weave while singing (what songs might they sing?). Nausicaa leaves a robe for Odysseus (6.214) which Arete recognizes because she made it (7.234-235). We even hear that the Naiads who live on the shore in Ithaca weave “sea-purple garments, wondrous to see” (φάρε’ ὑφαίνουσιν ἁλιπόρφυρα, θαῦμα ἰδέσθαι, 13.108).

But nowhere in the Odyssey is the imagery on any of these garments described. This might be less confounding if the works were not so prized, if those in the Iliad were not clearly described as bearing decoration and if an ancient scholar had not recognized in Helen’s weaving an embedded metaphor for Homer’s own art, which he calls “a worthy archetype for his own poetry” (ἀξιόχρεων ἀρχέτυπον ἀνέπλασεν ὁ ποιητὴς τῆς ἰδίας ποιήσεως, Schol. bT ad Il. 3.126-127)

The most famous woven garment in the Odyssey is Penelope’s delaying trick which she weaves and unweaves over nearly four years to avoid committing to a marriage. The famous stratagem is mentioned three times. At no time is any image on the cloth mentioned—in its final appearance, it is described as “shining like the sun or the moon”, but that is likely because it has just been cleaned. Here are the three passages:

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The Names of Agamemnon’s Daughters and the Death of Iphigenia

The sacrifice of Iphigenia is a pivotal moment in the tale of the House of Atreus—it motivates Agamemnon’s murder and in turn the matricide of Orestes—and the Trojan War, functioning as it does as a strange sacrifice of a virgin daughter of Klytemnestra in exchange for passage for a fleet to regain the adulteress Helen, Iphigeneia’s aunt by both her father and mother. The account is famous in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon and the plays Iphigenia at Aulis and Iphigenia among the Taurians by Euripides. Its earliest accounts, however, provide some interesting variations:

Hes. Fr. 23.13-30

“Agamemnon, lord of men, because of her beauty,
Married the dark-eyed daughter of Tyndareus, Klytemnestra.
She gave birth to fair-ankled Iphimede in her home
And Elektra who rivaled the goddesses in beauty.
But the well-greaved Achaeans butchered Iphimede
on the altar of thundering, golden-arrowed Artemis
on that day when they sailed with ships to Ilium
in order to exact payment for fair-ankled Argive woman—
they butchered a ghost. But the deer-shooting arrow-mistress
easily rescued her and anointed her head
with lovely ambrosia so that her flesh would be enduring—
She made her immortal and ageless for all days.
Now the races of men upon the earth call her
Artemis of the roads, the servant of the famous arrow-mistress.
Last in her home, dark-eyed Klytemnestra gave birth
after being impregnated by Agamemnon to Orestes,
who, once he reached maturity, paid back the murderer of his father
and killed his mother as well with pitiless bronze.”

γ̣ῆμ̣[ε δ’ ἑὸν διὰ κάλλος ἄναξ ἀνδρ]ῶν ᾿Αγαμέμνων
κού[ρην Τυνδαρέοιο Κλυταιμήσ]τρην κυανῶπ[ιν•
ἣ̣ τ̣[έκεν ᾿Ιφιμέδην καλλίσφυ]ρον ἐν μεγάρο[ισιν
᾿Ηλέκτρην θ’ ἣ εἶδος ἐρήριστ’ ἀ[θανά]τηισιν.
᾿Ιφιμέδην μὲν σφάξαν ἐυκνή[μ]ιδες ᾿Αχαιοὶ
βωμῶ[ι ἔπ’ ᾿Αρτέμιδος χρυσηλακ]ά̣τ[ου] κελαδεινῆς,
ἤματ[ι τῶι ὅτε νηυσὶν ἀνέπλ]εον̣ ῎Ιλιον ε̣[ἴσω
ποινὴ[ν τεισόμενοι καλλισ]φύρου ᾿Αργειώ̣[νη]ς̣,
εἴδω[λον• αὐτὴν δ’ ἐλαφηβό]λο̣ς ἰοχέαιρα
ῥεῖα μάλ’ ἐξεσά[ωσε, καὶ ἀμβροσ]ίην [ἐρ]ατ̣ε̣[ινὴν
στάξε κατὰ κρῆ[θεν, ἵνα οἱ χ]ρ̣ὼς̣ [ἔ]μ̣πε[δ]ο̣[ς] ε̣[ἴη,
θῆκεν δ’ ἀθάνατο[ν καὶ ἀγήρ]αον ἤμα[τα πάντα.
τὴν δὴ νῦν καλέο[υσιν ἐπὶ χ]θ̣ονὶ φῦλ’ ἀν̣[θρώπων
῎Αρτεμιν εἰνοδί[ην, πρόπολον κλυ]τοῦ ἰ[ο]χ[ε]αίρ[ης.
λοῖσθον δ’ ἐν μεγά[ροισι Κλυτ]αιμ̣ή̣στρη κυα[νῶπις
γείναθ’ ὑποδμηθ[εῖσ’ ᾿Αγαμέμν]ον[ι δῖ]ον ᾿Ορέ[στην,
ὅς ῥα καὶ ἡβήσας ἀπε̣[τείσατο π]ατροφο[ν]ῆα,
κτεῖνε δὲ μητέρα [ἣν ὑπερήν]ορα νηλέι [χαλκῶι.

This fragment presents what is possibly the earliest account of the tale of Iphigenia and contains the major elements: the sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter is tied to vengeance against Helen; the daughter is rescued by Artemis, made immortal and made her servant. [In some traditions she is either made immortal or made into a priestess of Artemis at Tauris]. Orestes kills the murderer of his father and his mother.
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Achilles’ (Missing) Sister

Reading over Merkelbach and West’s Fragmenta Hesiodea often reminds me of many things I have forgotten. I am too young to blame this forgetfulness on senility; and yet too old to blame it on youthful ignorance.

Today’s particular disturbance comes from fragment 213 which tells us that Achilles, like Odysseus, has a sister (fragment included within the scholia below).

At first, I thought that this was some sort of Lykophrontic fantasy. But, alas, upon looking into the details she is actually mentioned in the Iliad!

Iliad, 16.173-178

“Menestheus of the dancing-breastplate led one contingent,
son of the swift-flowing river Sperkheios
whom the daughter of Peleus, beautiful Poludôrê bore
when she shared the bed with the indomitable river-god, Sperkheios
although by reputation he was the son of Boros, the son of Periêrês
who wooed her openly by offering countless gifts.”

τῆς μὲν ἰῆς στιχὸς ἦρχε Μενέσθιος αἰολοθώρηξ
υἱὸς Σπερχειοῖο διιπετέος ποταμοῖο·
ὃν τέκε Πηλῆος θυγάτηρ καλὴ Πολυδώρη
Σπερχειῷ ἀκάμαντι γυνὴ θεῷ εὐνηθεῖσα,
αὐτὰρ ἐπίκλησιν Βώρῳ Περιήρεος υἷι,
ὅς ῥ’ ἀναφανδὸν ὄπυιε πορὼν ἀπερείσια ἕδνα.

The confusion, shock and horror of this detail—which I presume the vast majority of Homer’s audiences have overlooked or forgotten as with the sad fate of Odysseus’ sister—can be felt as well in the various reactions of the Scholia where we encounter (a) denial—it was a different Peleus!; (b) sophomoric prevarication—why doesn’t Achilles talk about her, hmmm?; (c) conditional acceptance through anachronistic assumptions—she’s suppressed because it is shameful that she is a bastard; (d) and, finally, citation of hoary authorities to insist upon a ‘truth’ unambiguous in the poem.

I have translated the major scholia below. Note that we can see where the ‘fragments’ of several authors come from here (hint: they’re just talked about by the scholiasts). We can also learn a bit about the pluralistic and contradictory voices to be found in the Homeric scholia. The bastard child bit is my favorite part.

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