Sex and Death of Vipers: An Allegory?

Aelian, On the Nature of Animals  1.24

“The male viper has sex with the female after he wraps himself around her. She tolerates her husband and doesn’t feel one bit of grief about it. But when they are at the end of their sexual activity, the bride repays her mate with devious affection for this intercourse: for, as she lays astride his neck, she bites it off with his head.

So, while he dies from sex, she gets pregnant. But instead of bearing eggs, she has live offspring and they immediately exhibit the worst part of their nature. They eventually eat through their mother’s womb and emerge, avenging the death of their father. What, oh dear tragedians, are your Oresteses and Alkmaiones in comparison to this?”

24. Ὁ ἔχις περιπλακεὶς τῇ θηλείᾳ μίγνυται· ἡ δὲ ἀνέχεται τοῦ νυμφίου καὶ λυπεῖ οὐδὲ ἕν. ὅταν δὲ πρὸς τῷ τέλει τῶν ἀφροδισίων ὦσι, πονηρὰν ὑπὲρ τῆς ὁμιλίας τὴν φιλοφροσύνην ἐκτίνει ἡ νύμφη τῷ γαμέτῃ· ἐμφῦσα γὰρ αὐτοῦ τῷ τραχήλῳ, διακόπτει αὐτὸν αὐτῇ κεφαλῇ· καὶ ὁ μὲν τέθνηκεν, ἡ δὲ ἔγκαρπον ἔχει τὴν μίξιν καὶ κύει. τίκτει δὲ οὐκ ᾠά, ἀλλὰ βρέφη, καὶ ἔστιν ἐνεργὰ ἤδη <κατὰ>τὴν αὑτῶν φύσιν τὴν κακίστην. διεσθίει γοῦν τὴν μητρῴαν νηδύν, καὶ πρόεισι πάραυτατιμωροῦντα τῷ πατρί. τί οὖν οἱ Ὀρέσται καὶ οἱ Ἀλκμαίωνες πρὸς ταῦτα, ὦ τραγῳδοὶ φίλοι;

Libanius, Upon Facing Another Monday

Libanius, Autobiography 246

“And the affair followed and these were my fears, leaving me with a desire for nothing but death. And my conversations with everyone nearby were about this as were my prayers to the gods. One who mentioned baths was my enemy; anyone who mentioned dinner was my enemy.

And I fled in exile from the books which contained the classical texts of my toil; I fled from writing and composition of my lectures. I lost my ability to speak even though my students were shouting for me. Whenever I tried, I was taken off track like a boat facing an opposing wind. Even though they harbored hopes of hearing me, I still went silent. My doctors were telling me to seek healing somewhere else because there were no medicines for these kinds of ills in their craft.”

καὶ εἵπετο δὲ τὸ ἔργον, φόβοι τε ἐκεῖνοι καὶ πλὴν τελευτῆς οὐδενὸς ἐπιθυμία. ἀλλὰ περὶ τούτου λόγοι τε πρὸς τοὺς ἀεὶ παρόντας εὐχαί τε πρὸς θεούς. ἐχθρὸς μὲν ὁ λουτροῦ μεμνημένος, ἐχθρὸς δὲ ὁ δείπνου, καὶ φυγὴ ἀπὸ βιβλίων ἐν οἷς οἱ τῶν ἀρχαίων πόνοι, φυγὴ δὲ ἀπὸ γραφῆς τε καὶ ποιήσεως λόγων, κατελέλυτο δὲ τὸ λέγειν, καὶ ταῦτα τῶν νέων βοαῖς τοῦτο ἀπαιτούντων. ὁπότε γὰρ δὴ πρὸς αὐτὸ γιγνοίμην ἀπεφερόμην ὥσπερ ἀκάτιον ἐναντίῳ πνεύματι, καὶ οἱ μὲν εἶχον ἀκροάσεως ἐλπίδας, ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἂν1ἐσίγων. ἰατροὶ δὲ τὴν τούτων ἴασιν ἄλλοθι ζητεῖν ἐκέλευον, ὡς οὐκ ὄντων σφίσι τῶν τοιούτων ἐν τῇ τέχνῃ φαρμάκων.

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Who Is the Most Beautiful Under the Earth?

Nireus is famed as the second most beautiful of the Greeks at Troy; Thersites is claimed as the ugliest. Lucian puts them together in the underworld.

Lucian, Dialogue of the Dead 30

Nireus: Look here, Menippos, this one will teach which one is better looking. Tell me, Menippos, don’t I look prettier to you?

Menippus: Who are you two? I think I need to know that first.

Nireus: Nireus and Thersites

Menippos: Which of you is Nireus and which is Thersites? This is not at all clear to me.

Thersites: I have this one thing already, that I am similar to you and you are not at all different now than when Homer that blind guy praised you as the most beautiful of all when he addressed you, but he said that I am a cone-headed hunchback no worse for a beating. But, Menippos, examine which ever one you think is better looking.

Nireus: Be he said that I am “the son of Aglaia and Kharops, the most beautiful man who came to Troy.”

Menippos: Eh, you did not come as the most beautiful under the earth, I think: but the bones are the same and your head can only be distinguished from Thersites’ head by that little bit, that yours is a bit better shaped. For you do not have the same peak and you are not as manly.

Nireus: Ask Homer what sort I was when I joined the expedition to Troy!

Thersites: That’s good enough for me.

ΝΙΡΕΥΣ
᾿Ιδοὺ δή, Μένιππος οὑτοσὶ δικάσει, πότερος εὐμορφότερός ἐστιν. εἰπέ, ὦ Μένιππε, οὐ καλλίων σοι δοκῶ;

ΜΕΝΙΠΠΟΣ
Τίνες δὲ καὶ ἔστε; πρότερον, οἶμαι, χρὴ γὰρ τοῦτο εἰδέναι.

ΝΙΡΕΥΣ
Νιρεὺς καὶ Θερσίτης.

ΜΕΝΙΠΠΟΣ
Πότερος οὖν ὁ Νιρεὺς καὶ πότερος ὁ Θερσίτης; οὐδέπω γὰρ τοῦτο δῆλον.

ΘΕΡΣΙΤΗΣ
῝Εν μὲν ἤδη τοῦτο ἔχω, ὅτι ὅμοιός εἰμί σοι καὶ οὐδὲν τηλικοῦτον διαφέρεις ἡλίκον σε ῞Ομηρος ἐκεῖνος ὁ τυφλὸς ἐπῄνεσεν ἁπάντων εὐμορφότερον προσειπών, ἀλλ’ ὁ φοξὸς ἐγὼ καὶ ψεδνὸς οὐδὲν χείρων ἐφάνην τῷ δικαστῇ. ὅρα δὲ σύ, ὦ Μένιππε, ὅντινα καὶ εὐμορφότερον ἡγῇ.

ΝΙΡΕΥΣ
᾿Εμέ γε τὸν ᾿Αγλαΐας καὶ Χάροπος, “ὃς κάλλιστος ἀνὴρ ὑπὸ ῎Ιλιον ἦλθον.”

ΜΕΝΙΠΠΟΣ
᾿Αλλ’ οὐχὶ καὶ ὑπὸ γῆν, ὡς οἶμαι, κάλλιστος ἦλθες, ἀλλὰ τὰ μὲν ὀστᾶ ὅμοια, τὸ δὲ κρανίον ταύτῃ μόνον ἄρα διακρίνοιτο ἀπὸ τοῦ Θερσίτου κρανίου, ὅτι εὔθρυπτον τὸ σόν· ἀλαπαδνὸν γὰρ αὐτὸ καὶ οὐκ ἀνδρῶδες ἔχεις.
ΝΙΡΕΥΣ
Καὶ μὴν ἐροῦ ῞Ομηρον, ὁποῖος ἦν, ὁπότε συνεστράτευον τοῖς ᾿Αχαιοῖς.

ΜΕΝΙΠΠΟΣ
᾿Ονείρατά μοι λέγεις· ἐγὼ δὲ ἃ βλέπω καὶ νῦν ἔχεις, ἐκεῖνα δέ οἱ τότε ἴσασιν.

ΝΙΡΕΥΣ
Οὔκουν ἐγὼ ἐνταῦθα εὐμορφότερός εἰμι, ὦ Μένιππε;

ΜΕΝΙΠΠΟΣ
Οὔτε σὺ οὔτε ἄλλος εὔμορφος· ἰσοτιμία γὰρ ἐν ᾅδου καὶ ὅμοιοι ἅπαντες.

ΘΕΡΣΙΤΗΣ
᾿Εμοὶ μὲν καὶ τοῦτο ἱκανόν.

Santo Spirito, Florence. c.1475-1485. Cambrai – BM – ms. 0422, f. 095v. Apocalypsis figurata. Louvain (?), c. 1260. Bibliothque nationale de France,…

Make Up Words and Authorities Who Said Them!

Lucian, A Professor of Public Speaking, 17

“There are times when you yourself make up new and different words and decide to call one interpreter “fine-spoken”, another smart man “wise-brained”, or some dancer “hands-wise”. Let shamelessness be the one medicine you use if you offer a solecism or barbarism: immediately offer up the name of someone who doesn’t exist and never did—some poet or scholar—a wise man who was expertly precise in his language and condoned speaking in this way. But don’t read the classics at all, especially not the silly Isocrates, or the Demosthenes blessed with little skill, or the boring Plato. No! read only those speeches from those a little bit before our time and those things they call ‘practice-pieces” so you may have a supply of phrases you can use at the right time as if you were pulling something from a pantry.”

ἐνίοτε δὲ καὶ αὐτὸς ποίει καινὰ καὶ ἀλλόκοτα ὀνόματα καὶ νομοθέτει τὸν μὲν ἑρμηνεῦσαι δεινὸν “εὔλεξιν” καλεῖν, τὸν συνετὸν “σοφόνουν,” τὸν ὀρχηστὴν δὲ “χειρίσοφον.” ἂν σολοικίσῃς δὲ ἢ βαρβαρίσῃς, ἓν ἔστω φάρμακον ἡ ἀναισχυντία, καὶ πρόχειρον εὐθὺς ὄνομα οὔτε ὄντος τινὸς οὔτε γενομένου ποτέ, ἢ ποιητοῦ ἢ συγγραφέως, ὃς οὕτω λέγειν ἐδοκίμαζε σοφὸς ἀνὴρ καὶ τὴν φωνὴν εἰς τὸ ἀκρότατον ἀπηκριβωμένος. ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀναγίγνωσκε τὰ παλαιὰ μὲν μὴ σύ γε, μηδὲ εἴ τι ὁ λῆρος Ἰσοκράτης ἢ ὁ χαρίτων ἄμοιρος Δημοσθένης ἢ ὁ ψυχρὸς Πλάτων, ἀλλὰ τοὺς τῶν ὀλίγον πρὸ ἡμῶν λόγους καὶ ἅς φασι ταύτας μελέτας, ὡς ἔχῃς ἀπ᾿ ἐκείνων ἐπισιτισάμενος ἐν καιρῷ καταχρῆσθαι καθάπερ ἐκ ταμιείου προαιρῶν.

Illumination 1

Arrighi, Royal 12 C VIII f. 3v. Pandolfo Collenuccio of Pesaro (d. 1504), Lucian, Collenuccio’s Apologues

Paris’ Weakness and the Glory of Education

Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras 42

“For when the barbarians and the Greeks were struggling against each other around Troy because of one man’s lack of self-control they endured the most terrible calamities—some in war, some in the return home—and the god assigned a punishment for that single injustice for one thousand and ten years, providing an oracle for the sack of Troy and requesting the journey of maidens from Locris to the temple of Athena in Troy.

[Pythagoras] used to harangue the young men regarding education too, demanding that they consider how strange it would be to judge rational thought the most desirable of all things when one must judge concerning everything else using it, yet people spend no time nor toil in practicing it. And this is when care given to the body is similar to worthless friends in abandoning you quickly; education, however, is like the most good and noble companions who stay by your side right up to death—and, for some, it provides immortal glory after life is over.”

τῶν γὰρ βαρβάρων καὶ τῶν ῾Ελλήνων  περὶ τὴν Τροίαν ἀντιταξαμένων ἑκατέρους δι’ ἑνὸς ἀκρασίαν ταῖς δεινοτάταις περιπεσεῖν συμφοραῖς, τοὺς μὲν ἐν τῷ πολέμῳ, τοὺς δὲ κατὰ τὸν ἀνάπλουν, καὶ μόνης <ταύτης> τῆς ἀδικίας τὸν θεὸν δεκετῆ καὶ χιλιετῆ τάξαι τὴν τιμωρίαν, χρησμῳδήσαντα τήν τε τῆς Τροίας ἅλωσιν καὶ

τὴν τῶν παρθένων ἀποστολὴν παρὰ τῶν Λοκρῶν εἰς τὸ τῆς ᾿Αθηνᾶς τῆς ᾿Ιλιάδος ἱερόν. παρεκάλει δὲ τοὺς νεανίσκους καὶ πρὸς τὴν παιδείαν, ἐνθυμεῖσθαι κελεύων ὡς ἄτοπον ἂν εἴη πάντων μὲν σπουδαιότατον κρίνειν τὴν διάνοιαν καὶ ταύτῃ βουλεύεσθαι περὶ τῶν ἄλλων, εἰς δὲ τὴν ἄσκησιν τὴν ταύτης μηδένα χρόνον μηδὲ πόνον ἀνηλωκέναι, καὶ ταῦτα τῆς μὲν τῶν σωμάτων ἐπιμελείας τοῖς φαύλοις τῶν φίλων ὁμοιουμένης καὶ ταχέως ἀπολειπούσης, τῆς δὲ παιδείας καθάπερ οἱ καλοὶ κἀγαθοὶ τῶν ἀνδρῶν μέχρι θανάτου παραμενούσης, ἐνίοις δὲ καὶ μετὰ τὴν τελευτὴν ἀθάνατον δόξαν περιποιούσης.

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Politicians and Philosophers! On the Education of Perikles

Plutarch on Perikles

“Perikles was a student of Zeno the Eleatic too, the one who concerned himself with nature in the manner of Parmenides. and who practiced a type of refutational logic which would trap his interlocutor.  He was, as Timon of Phlias quipped, “a man whose tongue worked both ways, with irresistible fury, Zeno, a universal prosecutor”.

But the one who spent the most time with Pericles and who chiefly endowed him with a stature and outlook more impressive than any demagogue’s and who totally raised up and praised the worth of his character was Anaxagoras of Klazomene. He was a man people of that time called the Mind because either they were amazed by his understanding which appeared so great and nuanced regarding nature or because he was the first who didn’t make chance or necessity the ruling force of the universe but instead Mind in its pure and simple form…”

διήκουσε δὲ Περικλῆς καὶ Ζήνωνος τοῦ Ἐλεάτου πραγματευομένου περὶ φύσιν, ὡς Παρμενίδης, ἐλεγκτικὴν δέ τινα καὶ δι᾿ ἀντιλογίας κατακλείουσαν εἰς ἀπορίαν ἐξασκήσαντος ἕξιν, ὥσπερ καὶ Τίμων ὁ Φλιάσιος εἴρηκε διὰ τούτων·

Ἀμφοτερογλώσσου τε μέγα σθένος οὐκ ἀλαπαδνὸν /Ζήνωνος, πάντων ἐπιλήπτορος.

Ὁ δὲ πλεῖστα Περικλεῖ συγγενόμενος καὶ μάλιστα περιθεὶς ὄγκον αὐτῷ καὶ φρόνημα δημαγωγίας ἐμβριθέστερον, ὅλως τε μετεωρίσας καὶ συνεξάρας τὸ ἀξίωμα τοῦ ἤθους, Ἀναξαγόρας ἦν ὁ Κλαζομένιος, ὃν οἱ τότ᾿ ἄνθρωποι Νοῦν προσηγόρευον, εἴτε τὴν σύνεσιν αὐτοῦ μεγάλην εἰς φυσιολογίαν καὶ περιττὴν διαφανεῖσαν θαυμάσαντες, εἴθ᾿ ὅτι τοῖς ὅλοις πρῶτος οὐ τύχην οὐδ᾿ ἀνάγκην διακοσμήσεως ἀρχήν, ἀλλὰ νοῦν ἐπέστησε καθαρὸν καὶ ἄκρατον…

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Homer Lies! And He was Poor!

Dio Chrysostom, Oration 11. 15-19

“First, men claim that Homer was a beggar in Greece because of poverty and lack of means. But they believe that this sort of a man is incapable of lying for the sake of those who gave him things, that he would not say the sorts of things he would intend only to please them!

Yet people say that beggars today say nothing credible, no one ever provides one as a witness on anything, nor do they ever accept praise from them as something true. For they know that beggars say everything to manipulate, by necessity. And then they say that some people gave money to a beggar while others gave money to a madman and that they think the people then decided he was crazy when he was speaking truth rather than lying.

Really, I am not so much rebuking Homer in these things. For nothing prevents a wise man from begging or seeming insane. But I am saying that, according to the belief people hold about Homer and these sort of men, nothing they say is believable.”

“Furthermore, they do not believe that lying is in Homer’s nature or that he employs this sort of thing at all. Yet he makes Odysseus lie the most, a man he praises, and he says that Autolykos even breaks an oath and that this was granted to him by Hermes! Nearly everyone agrees that Homer says nothing true about the gods, even those who praise him, and they try to offer various defenses, that he does not say these things because he means them but because he is riddling and using metaphor. What keeps him from speaking this way about men too?

For, whoever speaks nothing manifestly true about the gods, but so much to the contrary that that people who encounter them take them as lies—and which bring no help to the singer—how would he hesitate to utter any kind of falsehood about men too? Many have previously noted that he has created gods grieving and groaning, wounded and nearly dying, and has added divine adulteries, bonding, and vows. I don’t wish to prosecute Homer, only to show what the truth was. I will also defend the matters as they seem to me. I say that he showed no hesitation in lying and did not think it a shame. I will move now to consider whether he was right or not.”

πρῶτον μὲν οὖν φασι τὸν ῞Ομηρον ὑπὸ πενίας τε καὶ ἀπορίας προσαιτεῖν ἐν τῇ ῾Ελλάδι· τὸν δὲ τοιοῦτον ἀδύνατον ἡγοῦνται ψεύσασθαι πρὸς χάριν τῶν διδόντων, οὐδ’ ἂν τὰ τοιαῦτα λέγειν ὁποῖα ἔμελλεν ἐκείνοις καθ’ ἡδονὴν ἔσεσθαι· τοὺς δὲ νῦν πτωχοὺς οὐδέν φασιν ὑγιὲς λέγειν, οὐδὲ μάρτυρα οὐδεὶς ἂν ἐκείνων οὐδένα ποιήσαιτο ὑπὲρ οὐδενός, οὐδὲ τοὺς ἐπαίνους τοὺς παρ’ αὐτῶν ἀποδέχονται ὡς ἀληθεῖς. ἴσασι γὰρ ὅτι πάντα θωπεύοντες ὑπ’ ἀνάγκης λέγουσιν. ἔπειτα δὲ εἰρήκασι τοὺς μὲν ὡς πτωχῷ, τοὺς δὲ ὡς μαινομένῳ ἀπάρχεσθαι, καὶ μᾶλλον οἴονται τοὺς τότε καταγνῶναι αὐτοῦ μανίαν τἀληθῆ λέγοντος ἢ ψευδομένου. οὐ μὴν ὅσον γε ἐπὶ τούτοις ψέγω ῞Ομηρον· κωλύει γὰρ οὐθὲν ἄνδρα σοφὸν πτωχεύειν οὐδὲ μαίνεσθαι δοκεῖν· ἀλλ’ ὅτι κατὰ τὴν ἐκείνων δόξαν, ἣν ἔχουσι περὶ ῾Ομήρου καὶ περὶ τῶν τοιούτων, εἰκός ἐστι μηθὲν ὑγιὲς εἶναι τῶν εἰρημένων ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ.

οὐ τοίνυν οὐδὲ τόδε νομίζουσιν, οὐκ εἶναι ἐν τῇ ῾Ομήρου φύσει τὸ ψεῦδος οὐδὲ ἀποδέχεσθαι αὐτὸν τοιοῦτον <οὐδέν>· πλεῖστα γοῦν τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα πεποίηκε ψευδόμενον, ὃν μάλιστα ἐπῄνει, τὸν δὲ Αὐτόλυκον καὶ ἐπιορκεῖν φησι, καὶ τοῦτ’ αὐτῷ παρὰ τοῦ ῾Ερμοῦ δεδόσθαι. περὶ δὲ θεῶν πάντες, ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, ὁμολογοῦσι μηθὲν ἀληθὲς λέγειν ῞Ομηρον καὶ οἱ πάνυ ἐπαινοῦντες αὐτόν, καὶ τοιαύτας ἀπολογίας πειρῶνται πορίζειν, ὅτι οὐ φρονῶν ταῦτ’ ἔλεγεν, ἀλλ’ αἰνιττόμενος καὶ μεταφέρων. τί οὖν κωλύει καὶ περὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων αὐτὸν οὕτως εἰρηκέναι; ὅστις γὰρ περὶ θεῶν οὐ φανερῶς τἀληθῆ φησιν, ἀλλὰ τοὐναντίον οὕτως ὥστε τὰ ψευδῆ μᾶλλον ὑπολαμβάνειν τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας, καὶ ταῦτα μηδὲν ὠφελούμενος, πῶς ἂν περί γε ἀνθρώπων ὀκνήσειεν ὁτιοῦν ψεῦδος εἰπεῖν; καὶ ὅτι μὲν πεποίηκεν ἀλγοῦντας τοὺς θεοὺς καὶ στένοντας καὶ τιτρωσκομένους καὶ ἀποθνῄσκοντας σχεδόν, ἔτι δὲ μοιχείας καὶ δεσμὰ καὶ διεγγυήσεις θεῶν, οὐ λέγω, πρότερον εἰρημένα πολλοῖς. οὐδὲ γὰρ βούλομαι κατηγορεῖν ῾Ομήρου, μόνον δὲ ἐπιδεῖξαι τἀληθὲς ὡς γέγονεν· ἐπεί τοι καὶ ἀπολογήσομαι περὶ αὐτοῦ τὰ ἐμοὶ δοκοῦντα. ὅτι δὲ τὸ ψεῦδος οὐκ ὤκνει πάντων μάλιστα οὐδὲ αἰσχρὸν ἐνόμιζε, τοῦτο λέγω· πότερον δὲ ὀρθῶς ἢ μὴ παρίημι νῦν σκοπεῖν.

 

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Trojan-War Truther Types on Tablet

Against Plato for Homer: The Doctrine of Ideas Is Ridiculous

Heraclitus, Homeric Problems 78

“It is therefore appropriate that Homer’s message is the life of heroes and Plato’s dialogues are the loves of young men. Everything in Homer overflows with noble virtue; Odysseus is prudent; Ajax is brave; Penelope is chaste; Nestor is just in all things; and Telemachus is reverent towards his father while Achilles is most loyal in his friendships. What of these things remain in Plato, the philosopher? Unless we were to claim that there was some useful honor in the sacred chirpings of his ‘ideas’, mocked even by his student Aristotle! For this reason, I imagine he suffered worthy punishment for his words about Homer, that man “who has an unhindered tongue, the most shameful sickness” [Eur. Or. 10] just like Tantalos or Kapaneus, who suffered endless misfortunes because of their grievous tongue.

Plato often wore himself out going to the doors of tyrants and he submitted a free body to a slave’s fortune, even being sold. No one is ignorant about Pollis the Spartan* or how Plato was saved by a Libyan’s deed when his price had been set at twenty minae, cheap for a slave. These events were the punishment he owed for his slandering of Homer and for his ungoverned and unguarded tongue. Even though I could say more still against Plato, I’ll let it be because I respect the name of Socratic wisdom.”

*Dionysius the Tyrant of Syracuse gave Plato to Pollis as a slave

 

         Τοιγαροῦν εἰκότως ὁ μὲν ῾Ομήρου λόγος ἡρώων ἐστὶ βίος, οἱ δὲ Πλάτωνος διάλογοι μειρακίων ἔρωτες.  Καὶ πάντα τὰ παρ’ ῾Ομήρῳ γεννικῆς ἀρετῆς γέμει· φρόνιμος ᾿Οδυσσεύς, ἀνδρεῖος Αἴας, σώφρων Πηνελόπη, δίκαιος ἐν ἅπασι Νέστωρ, εὐσεβὴς εἰς πατέρα Τηλέμαχος, ἐν φιλίαις πιστότατος ᾿Αχιλλεύς·  ὧν <τί> παρὰ Πλάτωνι  τῷ φιλοσόφῳ; πλὴν εἰ μὴ νὴ Δία τιμὴν <καὶ> ὠφέλ<ειαν φ>ήσομεν εἶναι τὰ σεμνὰ τῶν ἰδεῶν τερετίσματα καὶ παρ’ ᾿Αριστοτέλει τῷ μαθητῇ γελώμενα.  Διὰ τοῦτ’ ἀξίας οἶμαι τῶν καθ’ ῾Ομήρου λόγων δίκας ὑπέσχεν,

          “ἀκόλαστον ἔχων γλῶσσαν, αἰσχίστην νόσον,

ὡς Τάνταλος, ὡς Καπανεύς, ὡς οἱ διὰ γλωσσαλγίαν μυρίαις κεχρημένοι συμφοραῖς.     Πολλάκις ἐπὶ τὰς τυραννικὰς ἐφθείρετο θύρας, ἐν ἐλευθέρῳ δὲ σώματι δουλικὴν τύχην ἠνέσχετο καὶ μέχρι πράσεως·  οὐδὲ εἷς γὰρ ἀγνοεῖ τὸν Σπαρτιάτην Πόλλιν, [ᾧ] οὐδ’ ὡς Λιβυκοῦ χάριν ἐλέου σέσωσται, καὶ μνῶν εἴκοσι καθάπερ ἀνδράποδον εὐτελὲς ἐτιμήθη.  τῶν εἰς ῞Ομηρον ἀσεβημάτων ὀφειλομένην τιμωρίαν τῆς ἀχαλίνου καὶ ἀπυλώτου γλώττης.  Πρὸς μὲν οὖν Πλάτωνα καὶ πλείω λέγειν δυνάμενος ἐῶ, τοὔνομα τῆς Σωκρατικῆς σοφίας αἰδούμενος.

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Your Ignorance of My Suffering

Libanius, Letters 155

“You don’t know, dear Heortius, the number or the severity of the sicknesses which are assailing me nor how long this has plagued me. For you would not disregard sympathy and criticize me if you did. But ignorance is harmful to human beings everywhere and it has force you to accuse instead of console. I will not call you out for not knowing about my suffering.

But someone of those who easily criticize you might still say that you were ignorant because you failed to inquire and that you did not inquire because of antipathy, and by attracting a suspicion of arrogance to yourself you risk greater accusations. But I will not do this because I don’t think it is right to ruin a strong friendship through nonsense. But whenever something like this happens, once I search around or a likely cause for events, I make a defense to myself on others’ behalf.”

1. Οὐκ οἶσθα, ὦ φίλε Ἐόρτιε, τῶν προσβαλόντων μοι νοσημάτων οὔτε τὸ πλῆθος οὔτε τὸ μέγεθος οὔτ᾿ ἐφ᾿ ὅσον προῆλθε τοῦ χρόνου. οὐ γὰρ ἄν ποτε ὑπερβὰς τὸ συναλγεῖν ἐμέμφου. νῦν δὲ ἡ ἄγνοια πανταχοῦ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις βλαβερὸν καὶ δὴ καὶ σὲ κατηγορεῖν ἐπῆρεν ἀντὶ τοῦ παραμυθεῖσθαι. ἐγὼ δέ σοι οὐκ ἐγκαλῶ τὸ τὰς δυσκολίας ἡμῶν ἀγνοεῖν.

2. καίτοι φαίη τις ἂν τῶν ὥσπερ σὺ ῥᾳδίως ἐπιτιμώντων, ὡς ἀγνοεῖς μὲν τῷ μὴ πυνθάνεσθαι, οὐ πυνθάνῃ δὲ τῷ μισεῖν, καὶ οὕτως ἂν ὑπεροψίαν προφέρων αὐτὸς ἐνέχοιο μείζοσιν. ἐγὼ δὲ τοῦτο οὐ ποιήσω φιλίαν ἰσχυρὰν ὑβρίζειν οὐκ ἀξιῶν συκοφαντίᾳ. ἀλλ᾿ ὅταν τι γένηται τοιοῦτον, ζητήσας αἰτίαν τοῖς πράγμασιν ἐπιεικεστέραν οὕτω πρὸς ἐμαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐκείνων ἀπολογοῦμαι.

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Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon, MS P.A. 78, Folio 36r

Teachers: Be Careful When You Go On Vacation

Libanius, Autobiography 90

“There was a certain Phoenician here who was valued for his technical skill—he was the son and grandson of sophists and honored for this no less than from his own words. As was the custom, this man happened to have gone home for the summer.

But after my performances speeches and everyone was leaving, letters were sent to him advising him to return to his students as quickly as possible because they were being taken from him. The letters were saying, “if you will delay, then you will come to an empty school—that’s how his Orpheus will be gone, leading everyone with him.”

Ἦν δέ τις τῇδε Φοίνιξ θαυμαζόμενος ἐπὶ τῇδε τῇ τέχνῃ, σοφιστοῦ μὲν υἱός, σοφιστοῦ δὲ υἱιδοῦς, καὶ τὸ τιμᾶσθαί γε οὐχ ἧττον ἐντεῦθεν ἦν ἢ παρὰ τῶν λόγων αὐτῷ. οὗτος νόμῳ μὲν  ὡραίας ἐτύγχανεν ἀφιγμένος οἴκαδε, δειχθέντων δέ μοι τῶν λόγων καὶ πάντων οἰχομένων γράμματα πέμπεται πρὸς ἐκεῖνον φράζοντα τὴν ταχίστην ἐπιστῆναι τοῖς νέοις ὡς ᾑρημένοις· ‘εἰ δὲ μελλήσεις,’ τὰ γράμματα ἔλεγεν, ‘ἐπὶ κενὸν ἥξεις τὸ διδασκαλεῖον. οὕτως ἅπαντας ἀπαγαγὼν ὁ Ὀρφεὺς οἰχήσεται.’

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I was kind of a big deal.

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