Servius Rails Against Idle Nonsense

Servius tries to explain to empty-headed readers why Vergil’s Aeneid begins with the word ‘arma.’ (Commentary 1.1)

“Many people reason in various ways about why Vergil began his poem with ‘arms,’ but it is clear that their heads are full of idle nonsense, since it is obvious that he began his poem in another spot, as has been made clear in the biographical sketch already presented*. By ‘arms’ he means ‘war,’ and this is the literary device known as metonymy. For, he has substituted for war the arms which we use in war, just as the toga which we use in peace may substitute for the peace itself, as in that saying of Cicero, ‘Let arms yield to the toga,’ that is, let war give way to peace.”

*In his life of Vergil, Servius explains that the opening lines of the Aeneid were originally

‘I am he, who once measured out my song on the slender reed,
and emerging from the forests I compelled the neighboring fields
to obey the farmer, however grasping he might be –
all a pleasing work for farmers, but now I sing the awful
arms of Mars, and the man….”

Ille ego, qui quondam gracili modulatus avena
carmen, et egressus silvis vicina coegi
ut quamvis avido parerent arva colono,
gratum opus agricolis, at nunc horrentia Martis

ARMA multi varie disserunt cur ab armis Vergilius coeperit, omnes tamen inania sentire manifestum est, cum eum constet aliunde sumpsisse principium, sicut in praemissa eius vita monstratum est. per ‘arma’ autem bellum significat, et est tropus metonymia. nam arma quibus in bello utimur pro bello posuit, sicut toga qua in pace utimur pro pace ponitur, ut Cicero cedant arma togae, id est bellum paci.

Periergia: Scholarship and Superfluous Detail

Artemon of Pergamon (New Jacoby: BNJ 569 F 3 [=Schol. on Pind., Pyth. 1, inscr. a])

“Golden Lyre”: The poem has been written for Hieron; Pindar allegedly said this according to the historian Artemon because Hieron promised him a golden lyre. But these kinds of things are full of superfluous detail”

Χρυσέα φόρμιγξ] γέγραπται μὲν ὁ ἐπίνικος ῾Ιέρωνι, λέγεται δὲ ὁ Πίνδαρος οὕτως ἐπιβεβλῆσθαι κατὰ ᾽Αρτέμωνα τὸν ἱστορικόν, ὅτι δὴ αὐτῶι ὁ ῾Ιέρων χρυσῆν ὑπέσχετο κιθάραν . τὰ δὲ τοιαῦτα περιεργίας πεπλήρωται.

From LSJ 1902

περιεργαζόμαι, “to take more pains than enough about a thing, to waste one’s labor” 2. “to be a busybody”

περιεργία: “over-exactness” II. “officiousness” III. “curious arts”

περίεργος: “careful overmuch” II. “done with especial care”; “overwrought, too elaborate, superfluous”

περιεργοπένητες: “poor scholars”

 

Suda, Kappa 504

Kataglôttismata: “tonguing-down”: all sorts of kisses. Fabrications. All kinds of massages with sweet oils. Also, superfluous words. Or the “tonguing-down” is a rather excessive kiss. Or, it is flattery”

Καταγλωττίσματα: περίεργα φιλήματα. καταπλάσματα, παντοῖαι μυραλοιφίαι, ἢ περιλαλήματα. ἢ εἶδος φιλήματος περιεργότερον τὸ καταγλώττισμα: ἢ κολάκευμα.

Breviary of Renaud de Bar, France, 1302-1303: http://www.lazerhorse.org/2015/05/17/medieval-art-weird-manuscript/

Poet, Interpret Thyself

Scriptura sui ipsius interpres, Martin Luther

 

D Scholia to the Iliad (5.385)

“Aristarchus believed it best to make sense of those things that were presented more fantastically by Homer according to the poet’s authority, that we not be overwhelmed by anything outside of the things presented by Homer.”

᾿Αρίσταρχος ἀξιοῖ τὰ φραζόμενα ὑπὸ τοῦ Ποιητοῦ μυθικώτερον ἐκδέχεσθαι, κατὰ τὴν
Ποιητικὴν ἐξουσίαν, μηδὲν ἔξω τῶν φραζομένων ὑπὸ τοῦ Ποιητοῦ περιεργαζομένους.

Porphyry, Homeric Questions 1.1

Since often in our conversations with one another about Homeric questions, when I try to show you that Homer interprets himself for the most part, and we consider from every angle in most instances based on our training more than [simply] knowing what he says, you have considered it right that I write up the things we have said rather than allow them to fall aside and disappear because we’ve forgotten them.

     Πολλάκις μὲν ἐν ταῖς πρὸς ἀλλήλους συνουσίαις ῾Ομηρικῶν ζητημάτων γινομένων, ᾿Ανατόλιε, κἀμοῦ δεικνύναι πειρωμένου, ὡς αὐτὸς μὲν ἑαυτὸν τὰ πολλὰ ῞Ομηρος ἐξηγεῖται, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἐκ τῆς παιδικῆς κατηχήσεως περινοοῦμεν μᾶλλον ἐν τοῖς πλείστοις ἢ νοοῦμεν ἃ λέγει, ἠξίωσας ἀναγράψαι με τὰ λεχθέντα μηδὲ διαπεσόντα ἐᾶσαι ὑπὸ τῆς λήθης ἀφανισθῆναι.

 

Porphyry, Homeric Questions 1.12-14

“Because I think to best to make sense of Homer through Homer, I usually show by example how he may interpret himself, sometimes in juxtaposition, sometimes in other ways.

᾿Αξιῶν δὲ ἐγὼ ῞Ομηρον ἐξ ῾Ομήρου σαφηνίζειν αὐτὸν ἐξηγούμενον ἑαυτὸν ὑπεδείκνυον, ποτὲ μὲν παρακειμένως, ἄλλοτε δ’ ἐν ἄλλοις.

 

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Why Doesn’t Odysseus Get his Buddies to Help Him in Ithaka?

When Odysseus returns to Ithaka he must undergo suffering at the hands of the suitors to justify their murders. When he and Athena make their plans in book 13, some audiences might wonder why he does not get help from allies on the mainland. Never fear, Porphyry is here to explain.

Porphyry, Hom. Quest. ad Od 13.387

“Why doesn’t Odysseus just send to Nestor and Menelaos to get an army? Because it seemed most unjust to him to impose a war on the rest of the citizens who were guilty of nothing. For he had learned from his mother in Hades that the public rights were being guarded for Telemachus and that he would avenge the transgressive suitors even on his own. And, also, if the suitors knew [that an army was coming], they would escape without paying a penalty.”

 πῶς οὐ πρὸς Νέστορα καὶ Μενέλαον μετέρχεται στρατιὰν λαβεῖν; τάχα ὅτι τοῖς λοιποῖς πολίταις οὐδὲν αἰτίοις οὖσι πόλεμον ἐπάγειν ἀδικώτατον ἔδοξε. μεμάθηκε γὰρ καὶ παρὰ τῆς μητρὸς ἐν ῞Αιδου τὰς δημοσίας Τηλεμάχῳ φυλασσομένας τιμάς, καὶ ὅτι τοὺς τρυφῶντας μνηστῆρας τιμωρήσεται καὶ καθ’ ἑαυτόν. οἵ τε μνηστῆρες, εἰ ᾔσθοντο, ἔφυγον ἂν μὴ δόντες δίκην.

 

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Testing a Goddess, Fooling the Scholia

After Athena reveals herself to Odysseus when he has arrived in Ithaka, he takes a moment to imply that she wasn’t very helpful during a period of his life. Oh, and he questions whether or not she’s just messing with him about the whole Ithaka thing. A scholiast takes issue with the authenticity of the passage. Modern editions retain it.

Odyssey, 13.316-328

“But after we sacked Priam’s high city
And went in our ships, a god scattered the Achaians,
And I no longer saw you, daughter of Zeus, I did not notice
You coming aboard my ship so you might ward some pain from me.
But always as I wandered I kept an expectant heart
That the gods would release me from evil—
Until that day when in the rich land of the Phaeacian people
You encouraged me with words and led me into the city yourself.
Now I beg you by your father—for I do not think
I have come to beautiful Ithaca, but I have turned up
In some other land. I think you are mocking me
When you say this so you might deceive my mind.”

αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ Πριάμοιο πόλιν διεπέρσαμεν αἰπήν,
βῆμεν δ’ ἐν νήεσσι, θεὸς δ’ ἐκέδασσεν ᾿Αχαιούς,
οὔ σ’ ἔτ’ ἔπειτα ἴδον, κούρη Διός, οὐδ’ ἐνόησα
νηὸς ἐμῆς ἐπιβᾶσαν, ὅπως τί μοι ἄλγος ἀλάλκοις.
ἀλλ’ αἰεὶ φρεσὶν ᾗσιν ἔχων δεδαϊγμένον ἦτορ
ἠλώμην, εἷός με θεοὶ κακότητος ἔλυσαν·
πρίν γ’ ὅτε Φαιήκων ἀνδρῶν ἐν πίονι δήμῳ
θάρσυνάς τ’ ἐπέεσσι καὶ ἐς πόλιν ἤγαγες αὐτή.
νῦν δέ σε πρὸς πατρὸς γουνάζομαι· —οὐ γὰρ ὀΐω
ἥκειν εἰς ᾿Ιθάκην εὐδείελον, ἀλλά τιν’ ἄλλην
γαῖαν ἀναστρέφομαι· σὲ δὲ κερτομέουσαν ὀΐω
ταῦτ’ ἀγορευέμεναι, ἵν’ ἐμὰς φρένας ἠπεροπεύῃς· —
εἰπέ μοι εἰ ἐτεόν γε φίλην ἐς πατρίδ’ ἱκάνω.”

Schol. HQ ad Od. 13. 320-323

“These lines are inauthentic. First, instead of “my thoughts” it has “his thoughts”, which is third person and the poet always pays attention to the difference in these things. The second problem is that [Odysseus] attributes his rescue to the gods when Athena is present. The third and fourth are because he did not know that the goddess appeared to him among the Phaeacians and that she has not encouraged him, but rather the opposite.”

ἀλλ’ αἰεὶ φρεσὶν ᾗσιν ἔχων] νοθεύονται δ′ στίχοι. ὁ μὲν πρῶτος ὅτι ἀντὶ τοῦ ἐμῇσιν ἔχει τὸ ᾗσιν, ὅπερ ἐστὶ τρίτου προσώπου, τηροῦντος ἀεὶ τοῦ ποιητοῦ τὴν ἐν τούτοις διαφοράν· ὁ δεύτερος ὅτι ᾿Αθηνᾶς παρούσης θεοῖς ἀνατίθησι τὴν σωτηρίαν· ὁ δὲ τρίτος καὶ τέταρτος ὅτι οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν ὡς ἡ φανεῖσα αὐτῷ παρὰ Φαίαξι θεὰ ἦν, ὅτι οὐκ ἐθάρσυνεν, ἀλλὰ τοὐναντίον

A geometric oinochoe in Munich once alleged to show Odysseus

Spurious Lines and Bastard Sons

Some of the language used by scholiasts to designate sections of the  Odyssey as spurious is based in a metaphor drawn from the legitimacy of offspring. As such, it might be rigidly authoritarian and misogynistic in emphasizing one (paternal) authority and one legitimate text.

Schol. HQ ad Od. 13.320-323

“These lines are spurious…”

νοθεύονται δ′ στίχοι.

Schol H. ad Od. 15.19

“Some people think these lines are illegitimate…”

ἔνιοι τοὺς γ′ νοθεύουσιν…

Schol. H ad Od. 15.45

“This [line] is spurious because it is adapted from a half-line from book 10 of the Iliad

νοθεύεται ὡς διαπεπλασμένος ἐξ ἡμιστιχίου τῆς κ ᾿Ιλιάδος (158.)

 

νοθαγενής: “base-born, illegitimate”

νοθεία: “birth out of wedlock”

νοθεύω: “to adulterate; to consider spurious”

νοθογέννητος: “of spurious origin”

νοθοκαλλοσύνη: “counterfeit beauty”

νόθος: “bastard”; in Athens, any child born of a foreign woman.

Schol. A ad Il. 5.70a

“He really was a bastard: this is because it was the barbarian custom to make children from many wives.”

ὅς ῥα νόθος μὲν ἔην: ὅτι βαρβαρικὸν ἔθος τὸ ἐκ πλειόνων γυναικῶν παιδοποιεῖσθαι. A

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Very-Profitable (?): Odysseus, Turning Away from Truth

After Odysseus realizes he is not lost, but is in fact in Ithaca, the narrative describes him preparing to speak.

Od. 13.250-255

“So she spoke, and much-enduring, shining Odysseus
Was delighting in his own paternal land which Pallas Athena
Declared to him, the daughter of Aegis-bearing Zeus.
Then he responded to her with winged words—
He didn’t speak the truth, but he chose the opposite to that,
Since he was always fostering very-profitable thought in his chest.”

ὣς φάτο, γήθησεν δὲ πολύτλας δῖος ᾿Οδυσσεὺς
χαίρων ᾗ γαίῃ πατρωΐῃ, ὥς οἱ ἔειπε
Παλλὰς ᾿Αθηναίη, κούρη Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο·
καί μιν φωνήσας ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα· —
οὐδ’ ὅ γ’ ἀληθέα εἶπε, πάλιν δ’ ὅ γε λάζετο μῦθον,
αἰὲν ἐνὶ στήθεσσι νόον πολυκερδέα νωμῶν·

Schol.HV ad Od. 254 ex:

“Odysseus turned to the opposite; to the opposite of the truth which is he took up a story for a second time.”

πάλιν δ’ ὅγε λάζετο] εἰς τὸ ἐναντίον ἔστρεφεν. H. εἰς τοὐναντίον τοῦ ἀληθοῦς, ὅ ἐστιν, ἐκ δευτέρου δὲ τὸν λόγον ἀνελάβετο. V.

The scholia says this but misses the fact that in archaic and classical Greek poetry this compound is only applied to Odysseus.

Hesychius

“fostering a polykerdea mind: This means turning his deceptive and lying thought to many things, devising different thoughts for different matters”

νόον πολυκερδέα νωμῶν· τὸν ἀπατηλὸν καὶ ψεύστην νοῦν ἐπὶ πολλὰ τρέπων· ἄλλο ἐπ’ ἄλλο διανοούμενος (ν 255)

πολυκερδέα· πανοῦργον: polykerdea: doing anything, i.e. wicked.

But: πολὺ κέρδιον· πολὺ βέλτιον: polu kerdion [means] much better.

23.77 Eurykleia speaking to Penelope about Odysseus

“He would not allow me to say anything, thanks to the [devious thoughts] of his mind”

οὐκ εἴα εἰπεῖν πολυκερδείῃσι νόοιο.

24.167-8 Amphimedon telling the story of the slaughter

“But he ordered his wife with [very devious thoughts]
To set out the bow and gray iron for the suitors…”

αὐτὰρ ὁ ἣν ἄλοχον πολυκερδείῃσιν ἄνωγε
τόξον μνηστήρεσσι θέμεν πολιόν τε σίδηρον

 

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