Springs Feeding Beautiful Voices: An Odd Philological Detail

Vitruvius 8. 25

“Gaius Julius, Masinissa’s son, who controlled all the lands of the city, fought alongside the emperor. He was my guest from time to time. In our daily conversations we often were compelled to argue about philology.

Once we had a debate about the power of water and its finer qualities. He told me that there were springs which came from his own land along which whoever was born there developed exceptional singing voices. Because of this, people used to purchase fine looking lads and full-grown girls to mate with them, so that the children who were born from them would be exceptional in voice and form.”

Gaius Iulius Masinissae filius, cuius erant totius oppidi agrorum possessiones, cum patre Caesare militavit. Is hospitio meo est usus. Ita cotidiano convictu necesse fuerat de philologia  disputare. Interim cum esset inter nos de aquae potestate et ius virtutibus sermo, exposuit esse in ea terra eiusmodi fontes, ut, qui ibi procrearentur, voces ad cantandum egregias haberent, ideoque semper transmarinos catlastros emere formonsos et puellas maturas eosque coniungere, ut, qui nascerentur ex his, non solum voce egregia sed etiam forma essent non invenusta.

Frescoes of Marine Life found on a wall along the via La Portuense in the river port of San Paolo Rome CE) – National Museum of Rome

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Frescoes found, in the river port of San Paolo Rome  – National Museum of Rome

Pindar, Ol. 1 1–7

“Water is best, yet gold shining as a fire
Clear in the night is beyond all noble wealth—
But if you desire,
Dear heart, to sing of contests,
Don’t look farther than the sun
For any bright star warmer by day, alone in the sky.
And let us sing no contest greater than Olympia.”

Α′ ῎Αριστον μὲν ὕδωρ, ὁ δὲ χρυσὸς αἰθόμενον πῦρ
ἅτε διαπρέπει νυκτὶ μεγάνορος ἔξοχα πλούτου·
εἰ δ’ ἄεθλα γαρύεν
ἔλδεαι, φίλον ἦτορ,
μηκέτ’ ἀελίου σκόπει
ἄλλο θαλπνότερον ἐν ἁμέρᾳ φαεν-
νὸν ἄστρον ἐρήμας δι’ αἰθέρος,
μηδ’ ᾿Ολυμπίας ἀγῶνα φέρτερον αὐδάσομεν·

Thales, fr. 20

“Water is the beginning and the end of everything.”

[οὕτος ἔφη] ἀρχὴν τοῦ παντὸς εἶναι καὶ τέλος τὸ ὕδωρ

Epictetus on Scholarship and Sickness

At the end of the semester, sickness and scholarship go hand-in-hand. But Epictetus advises to take time to be sick properly…

Epictetus, 3.10-12

“But, am I not a scholar? Why do you pursue scholarship? Servant, do you do this to be content? Do you do it to be safe? Do you do it to grasp nature and live in accordance with it? What stops you when you’re sick from having your principle align with nature? This is the test of the matter, the crucible for any philosopher. This is also a part of life, like a stroll, a voyage, a trip, the fever too! Do you read while walking? No! And you don’t read while having a fever.  But if you walk well, you deliver the promise of one who walks.

If you have a fever, then do what one who has a fever should do. What does it mean to be sick well? Don’t blame god, or man. Don’t be undone by the things that happen. Await death bravely and correctly, and do what is given to you.”

Ἀλλ᾿ οὐ φιλολογῶ;—Τίνος δ᾿ ἕνεκα φιλολογεῖς; ἀνδράποδον, οὐχ ἵνα εὐροῇς; οὐχ ἵνα εὐσταθῇς; οὐχ ἵνα κατὰ φύσιν ἔχῃς καὶ διεξάγῃς;  τί κωλύει πυρέσσοντα κατὰ φύσιν ἔχειν τὸ ἡγεμονικόν; ἐνθάδ᾿ ὁ ἔλεγχος τοῦ πράγματος, ἡ δοκιμασία τοῦ φιλοσοφοῦντος. μέρος γάρ ἐστι καὶ τοῦτο τοῦ βίου, ὡς περίπατος, ὡς πλοῦς, ὡς ὁδοιπορία, οὕτως καὶ πυρετός. μή τι περιπατῶν ἀναγιγνώσκεις;—Οὔ.—Οὕτως οὐδὲ πυρέσσων. ἀλλ᾿ ἂν καλῶς περιπατῇς, ἔχεις τὸ τοῦ περιπατοῦντος· ἂν καλῶς πυρέξῃς, ἔχεις τὰ τοῦ πυρέσσοντος. 13τί ἐστὶ καλῶς πυρέσσειν; μὴ θεὸν μέμψασθαι, μὴ ἄνθρωπον, μὴ θλιβῆναι ὑπὸ τῶν γινομένων, εὖ καὶ καλῶς προσδέχεσθαι τὸν θάνατον, ποιεῖν τὰ προστασσόμενα·

An Immortal Procession: The Death of the Individual and the Life of the Whole

I fear that Philo is overconfident here, but the passage is still something special

Philo, The Worse Attack the Better  206

“When some musician or scholar has died, then their music or writing dies with them; but their basic contributions persist and, in some way, live as long as the universe does. Those who are scholars and musicians now or who will be in the future will continue to develop thanks to these previous works in an undying procession.

In the same way, whatever is prudent, wise, brave, just, or just simply wise in an individual may perish, but it nevertheless remains as immortal thought and all excellence is safeguarded against decay in the immortal nature of the whole [universe]. Through this advantage people today and those of tomorrow will also become civilized—unless we believe that the death of one individual person in turn visits ruin upon humankind.”

ὥσπερ γὰρ μουσικοῦ τινος ἢ γραμματικοῦ τελευτήσαντος ἡ μὲν ἐν | τοῖς ἀνδράσι μουσικὴ καὶ γραμματικὴ συνέφθαρται, αἱ δὲ τούτων ἰδέαι μένουσι καὶ τρόπον τινὰ βιοῦσιν ἰσοχρόνιοι τῷ κόσμῳ, καθ᾿ ἃς οἵ τε ὄντες καὶ οἱ μέλλοντες διαδοχαῖς ταῖς εἰσαεὶ μουσικοί τε καὶ γραμματικοὶ γενήσονται, οὕτως καὶ τὸ ἔν τινι φρόνιμον ἢ σῶφρον ἢ ἀνδρεῖον ἢ δίκαιον ἢ συνόλως σοφὸν ἂν ἀναιρεθῇ, οὐδὲν ἧττον ἐν τῇ τοῦ παντὸς ἀθανάτῳ φύσει φρόνησις ἀθάνατος καὶ ἀρετὴ σύμπασα ἄφθαρτος ἐστηλίτευται, καθ᾿ ἣν καὶ νῦν εἰσιν ἀστεῖοί τινες καὶ αὖθις γενήσονται· εἰ μὴ καὶ ἀνθρώπου τινὸς τῶν ἐν μέρει θάνατον φθορὰν ἐργάσασθαι φήσομεν ἀνθρωπότητι

Say Something Once, Why Say it Again? A New Edition of the Odyssey

So, a few days ago I received in the mail the first Classical text I have ever pre-ordered (by almost a year): M. L. West’s new Teubner edition of the Odyssey:

Even before I received it, I knew I would have some issues with it. West has long been a proponent of a strictly textualist view of Homer–which means his goal in editing the Iliad or the Odyssey is to restore the epics to something closer to what the ‘original’ ‘author’ had in mind. Even with modern authors, I think we emphasize individual agency, creativity and genius to the detriment of cultural contexts and audience reception far too much. For the Homeric epics, which arise from oral performance tradition and which have undergone generations of transformations in the textualized forms, the peril of overemphasizing the importance of an ‘author’ is even greater.

So, West’s final great work was going to ruffle my feathers–indeed, he announced many of his intentions in his Making of the Odyssey. What I was looking forward too, however, was an edition with an updated apparatus criticus integrating new Papyri and manuscripts unavailable to Von der Mühll when he edited the text. In the accumulation of testimonia as well as readings, West’s edition does not disappoint. The text is quite readable.

But there are some problems. Minor: he uses iota adscripts instead of subscripts and offers a more liberal application of the nu-moveable. These are merely aesthetic annoyances for me….

The major problem is that West excises many repeated lines or passages that have almost always been included in editions and relegated them to the apparatus if there is some papyrological or testimonial justification for doing so. In addition, he brackets lines that are not typically bracketed. So, West eliminates some lines that Von der Mühll preserves, e.g. 9.30 and labels others as spurious (e.g. 9.55). But really takes it further.  (See the group discussion on these issues for more examples and some fine defenses and explanations).

West, of course, does this because he thinks many lines have been repeated by the process of transmission and that the writerly Homer would never have repeated so much. West is welcome to this opinion–and it is not alone in it. But the relegation of some many lines is quite striking and renders the text useless alone (in my opinion). I cannot imagine using this with undergraduates or advising a casual reader of Homer to use this instead of the old Teubner or even Allen’s OCT.

The editorial choices will change some interpretation as well. Some are idiosyncratic but have support (such as West’s decision to go with the double accent ἄνδρά μοι ἔννεπε instead of the common and more widely accepted ῎Ανδρα μοι ἔννεπε for 1.1). Others may alter what the text means, as when he goes with ἄνθρωποι, μήδε σφιν ὄρος πόλει ἀμφικαλύψαι instead of ἄνθρωποι, μέγα δέ σφιν ὄρος πόλει ἀμφικαλύψαι for Od. 13.158. In his reading, the infinitive ἀμφικαλύψαι becomes negative command–thus Zeus is ordering Poseidon not to drop a mountain on the Phaeacians.

There are many issues like this throughout the text. I will probably highlight some now and then. But when I started posting about it on twitter, a dozen or so people joined in with enthusiasm, expertise, and bibliographies! I have storified the several conversations as a group review of West’s edition. Check it out–I learned a lot from those involved and we inadvertently illustrated how useful twitter can be.

 

 

Commentary: What is it Good For?

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, On Thucydides 51:

“Against those who think that it is reserved for the well-educated alone to make sense of and understand the words of Thucydides, I am able to say this, that they take the part of the work which is necessary and beneficial to all (indeed, nothing could be more necessary or beneficial) away from common life by thus making it the province of a few men, as happens in oligarchic and tyrannical states. One could easily count the number of people who are able to understand all of Thucydides, and even these people need to rely on a commentary from time to time.”

   Πρὸς μὲν οὖν τοὺς οἰομένους μόνων εἶναι τῶν εὐπαιδεύτων ἀναγνῶναί τε καὶ συνεἷναι τὴν Θουκυδίδου διάλεκτον ταῦτα λέγειν ἔχω, ὅτι τὸ τοῦ πράγματος ἀναγκαῖόν τε καὶ χρήσιμον ἅπασιν (οὐδὲν γὰρ <ἂν> ἀναγκαιότερον γένοιτο οὐδὲ πολυωφελέστερον) ἀναιροῦσιν ἐκ τοῦ κοινοῦ βίου, ὀλίγων παντάπασιν ἀνθρώπων οὕτω ποιοῦντες, ὥςπερ ἐν ταῖς ὀλιγαρχουμέναις ἢ τυραννουμέναις πόλεσιν· εὐαρίθμητοι γάρ τινές εἰσιν οἷοι πάντα τὰ Θουκυδίδου συμβαλεῖν, καὶ οὐδ’ οὗτοι χωρὶς ἐξηγήσεως γραμματικῆς ἔνια.

Next summer I am organizing a conference at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. with my colleague Jacqueline Vayntrub called

5000 Years of Comments: The Development of Commentary from Ancient Mesopotamia to the Age of Information

Check out the call for papers at the link above. I am especially excited about this conference because it will bring together perspectives from different disciplines, both in terms of geography and culture and mode of representation and inquiry.

Frederic Harrison, Rede Lecture (1900):

“The peculiar, indispensable service of Byzantine literature was the  preservation of the language, philology, and archaeology of Greece. It is  impossible to see how our knowledge of ancient literature or civilisation could have been recovered if Constantinople had not nursed through the early Middle Ages the vast accumulations of Greek learning in the schools of Alexandria, Athens, and Asia Minor ; if Photius, Suidas, Eustathius, Tzetzes, and the Scholiasts had not poured out their lexicons, anecdotes, and commentaries ; if the Corpus Scriptorum historiae Byzantinae had never been compiled; if indefatigable copyists had not toiled in multiplying the texts of ancient Greece. Pedantic, dull, blundering as they are too often, they are indispensable. We pick precious truths and knowledge out of their garrulities and stupidities, for they preserve what otherwise would have been lost for ever. It is no paradox that their very merit to us is that they were never either original or brilliant. Their genius, indeed, would have been our loss. Dunces and pedants as they were, they servilely repeated the words of the immortals. Had they not done so, the immortals would have died long ago .”

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship, Vol. 1

“Towards the close of the long letter prefixed to the Moralia, he confesses his contempt for the art of speech, and admits that he is not over-careful in the avoidance of barbarisms or inaccurate uses of prepositions, deeming it ‘ utterly unworthy to keep the language of the Divine Oracles in subjection to the rules of Donatus’; and this principle he applies to his own commentary, as well as to the sacred text. His attitude towards the secular study of Latin literature is well illustrated in the letter to Desiderius, bishop of Vienne. He is almost ashamed to mention the rumour that has reached him, to the effect that the bishop was in the habit of instructing certain persons in grammatical learning. ‘ The praises of Christ cannot be pronounced by the same lips as the praises of Jove’. He hopes to hear that the bishop is not really interested in such trifling subjects. Elsewhere, however, the study of Grammar and the knowledge of the liberal arts are emphatically commended on the ground of the aid they afford in the understanding of the Scriptures; but the genuineness of the work, in which this opinion is expressed is doubtful. Later writers record the tradition that Gregory did his best to suppress the works of Cicero, the charm of whose style diverted young men from the study of the Scriptures’, and that he burnt all the books of Livy which he could find, because they were full of idolatrous superstitions. It was even stated that he set the Palatine Library on fire, lest it should interfere with the study of the Bible, but the sole authority for this is John of Salisbury’ (d. 1 180), and the statement is unworthy of credit. “

For the history of Philology this cultural interplay is especially important–the Ancient Near East and Greece have been influencing each other as long as the concepts of these places has existed. And even if Diogenes Laertius wants to deny it, Greek exceptionalism, if it is really a thing, developed because of its connection and communication with Mesopotamia, Egypt and more.

From Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, Preface

“Some say that the work of philosophy had its starts among the barbarians, noting that there are Magi among the Persians, Chaldeans among the Babylonians or Assyrians, the gymnosophists among the Indians, the people called Druids or Holy-men among the Celts and Galatians, following what Aristotle says in his Magicus and Sotion writes in the twenty-third book of his Succession. They also say that Okhos was a Phoenician, Zamolksis was Thracian, and Atlas was Libyan.

Continue reading

Twitter Is Not A Complete Garbage-fire

An illustration from twitter on how our interconnectivity can be useful and edifying.

This morning I was working on translating a bit of Biblical verse for a memorial service. This not in my typical range of activities. Because of the complex manuscript traditions, the strong modern feelings and attachments, and the myriad ways in which any translation of the Bible might be misconstrued, we tend to avoid it on this site. But when I was having trouble, I reached out to some friends on twitter and in like 30 minutes learned about tools online I didn’t know, the history of the translations of Ecclesiastes, Hebrew grammar, and had a great conversation along the way. So, here’s the record. Twitter may exist in part for potentates to light garbage fires, but it can work for good too…

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Two Guys Named Hesiod. Two Places Called Nemea: Another Tale of a Poet’s Death

Certamen of Homer and Hesiod

Earlier we posted the story of the death of Hesiod according to Plutarch. This version shares some of the details, but not others.  Hesiod defeats Homer in a poetic competition. Things only go downhill from there…

“After the contest [with Homer] was over, Hesiod went to Delphi to get an oracle and to make a thanks-offering for the victory to the god. When he arrived at the shrine, people claim that the prophetess was inspired and said:

“This lucky man who travels to my home
Is Hesiod, honored by the divine Muses.
His fame will spread as far as the sun shines.
But guard against the gorgeous grove of Nemeian Zeus.
It is there where your fated death will come.”

Hesiod, after he heard this oracle, went retreating from the Peloponnese because he believed  that the god meant the oracle there. He went to Oinoê in Lokris and rested with Amphiphanes and Ganuktôr, the children of Phêgeus,  and he really did not understand the oracle. For this place was called the shrine of Zeus Nemeios. After he spent a period of time with the Oineans, the youths, because they suspected that Hesiod fornicated with their sister, killed him and through hem into the sea between Euboia and Lokris.

When the abandoned corpse was carried by dolphins to land, there was some local festival happening and everyone ran to the shore. Once they recognized who this was, they grieved and buried him—and then they began to seek his murderers. The brothers, because they feared the rage of the citizens, made off with a fishing skiff and sailed toward Krêtê. Zeus struck that vessel in the middle with lightening and submerged them in the sea, as Alkidamas says in the Mouseion.

Eratosthenes says in his epode that Ktimenos and Antiphon, the sons of Ganuktôr, were arrested for the aforementioned reason and sacrificed to the gods of hospitality by Eurukles the prophet. According to the same author, The virgin sister of these men hanged herself after she was raped—and Eratosthenes says she was raped by some stranger on the road who was named Hesiod, the son of Dêmades. He was also killed by the same men. Later, the Orkhomenians, in accordance with an oracle, transferred Hesiod and buried them in their land….”

Cert. Hom. et Hes. v. 214 West. (unde eadem Tzetzes

 τοῦ δὲ ἀγῶνος διαλυθέντος διέπλευσεν ὁ ῾Ησίοδος εἰς Δελφοὺς χρησόμενος καὶ τῆς νίκης ἀπαρχὰς τῷ θεῷ ἀναθήσων. προσερχομένου δὲ αὐτοῦ τῷ ναῷ ἔνθεον γενομένην τὴν προφῆτίν φασιν εἰπεῖν

ὄλβιος οὗτος ἀνήρ, ὃς ἐμὸν δόμον ἀμφιπολεύει,

῾Ησίοδος Μούσῃσι τετιμένος ἀθανάτῃσι·

τοῦ δή τοι κλέος ἔσται ὅσην τ’ ἐπικίδναται ἠώς.

ἀλλὰ Διὸς πεφύλαξο Νεμείου κάλλιμον ἄλσος·

κεῖθι δέ τοι θανάτοιο τέλος πεπρωμένον ἐστίν.

ὁ δὲ ῾Ησίοδος ἀκούσας τοῦ χρησμοῦ τῆς Πελοποννήσου μὲν ἀνεχώρει νομίσας τὴν ἐκεῖ Νεμέαν τὸν θεὸν λέγειν, εἰς δὲ  Οἰνόην τῆς Λοκρίδος ἐλθὼν καταλύει παρὰ ᾿Αμφιφάνει καὶ Γανύκτορι, τοῖς Φηγέως παισίν, ἀγνοήσας τὸ μαντεῖον· ὁ γὰρ τόπος οὗτος ἐκαλεῖτο Διὸς Νεμείου ἱερόν. διατριβῆς δ’ αὐτῷ πλείονος γενομένης ἐν τοῖς Οἰνεῶσιν, ὑπονοήσαντες οἱ νεανίσκοι τὴν ἀδελφὴν αὐτῶν μοιχεύειν τὸν ῾Ησίοδον, ἀποκτείναντες εἰς τὸ μεταξὺ τῆς Εὐβοίας καὶ τῆς Λοκρίδος πέλαγος κατεπόντισαν.

τοῦ δὲ νεκροῦ τριταίου πρὸς τὴν γῆν ὑπὸ δελφίνων προσενεχθέντος, ἑορτῆς τινὸς ἐπιχωρίου παρ’ αὐτοῖς οὔσης ἀριαδνείας πάντες ἐπὶ τὸν αἰγιαλὸν ἔδραμον καὶ τὸ σῶμα γνωρίσαντες ἐκεῖνο μὲν πενθήσαντες ἔθαψαν, τοὺς δὲ φονεῖς ἀνεζήτουν. οἱ δὲ φοβηθέντες τὴν τῶν πολιτῶν ὀργήν, κατασπάσαντες ἁλιευτικὸν σκάφος διέπλευσαν εἰς Κρήτην. οὓς κατὰ μέσον τὸν πλοῦν ὁ Ζεὺς κεραυνωθεὶς κατεπόντωσεν, ὥς φησιν ᾿Αλκιδάμας ἐν μουσείῳ φησιν ᾿Αλκιδάμας ἐν Μουσείῳ.

᾿Ερατοσθένης δέ φησιν ἐν † ἐνηπόδω † Κτίμενον καὶ ῎Αντιφον τοὺς Γανύκτορος ἐπὶ τῇ προειρημένῃ αἰτίᾳ ἀνελόντας σφαγιασθῆναι θεοῖς τοῖς  ξενίοις ὑπ’ Εὐρυκλέους τοῦ μάντεως. τὴν μέντοι παρθένον τὴν ἀδελφὴν τῶν προειρημένων μετὰ τὴν φθορὰν ἑαυτὴν ἀναρτῆσαι, φθαρῆναι δὲ ὑπό τινος ξένου συνόδου τοῦ ῾Ησιόδου Δημώδους ὄνομα· ὃν καὶ αὐτὸν ἀναιρεθῆναι ὑπὸ τῶν αὐτῶν φησιν. ὕστερον δὲ ᾿Ορχομένιοι κατὰ χρησμὸν μετενέγκαντες αὐτὸν παρ’ αὑτοῖς ἔθαψαν καὶ ἐπέγραψαν ἐπὶ τῷ τάφῳ·

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