Come, Be A Wise Guy Like Me

Epicharmea, fr. 2

“There are many kinds of useful notions in this book,
Against a friend or an enemy, when speaking in court or assembly
Addressing a scoundrel or someone good and noble, for a stranger
Or someone in a rage, for someone drunk, or violent
Or anything bad that happens–this book has a sharp point for them.

It also has wise sayings– whoever heeds them becomes
Better and readier for every situation.
You don’t need to say a lot, just one of these words.
Steer any subject to whichever one of them fits.

Even though I was ready for many things, I used to be blamed
Because I was long winded, and could not give my opinion concisely.
So I listened to this complaint and I composed this craft
So that anyone may say “Epicharmus was a smart dude.
He spoke many clever ideas in short verses and now
He is letting us try to speak briefly as he does too!”

Everyone who learns these things will appear to be wise,
He won’t talk nonsense ever, if he remembers every word.

If someone is annoyed by something in these words,
Not because he has acted wrongly or is in disagreement with them,
Let him know that it is a good misfortune to nurture a broadly-informed mind.”

τεῖδ᾿ ἔνεστι πολλὰ καὶ παν[τ]οῖα, τοῖς χρήσαιό κα,
ποτὶ φίλον, ποτ᾿ ἐχθρόν, ἐν δίκαι λέγων, ἐν ἁλίαι,
ποτὶ πονηρόν, ποτὶ καλόν τε κἀγαθόν, ποτὶ ξένον,
ποτὶ δύσηριν, ποτὶ πάροινον, ποτὶ βάναυσον,αἴτε τις
ἄλλ᾿ ἔχει κακόν τι, καὶ τούτοισι κέντρα τεῖδ᾿ ἔνο.

ἐν δὲ καὶ γνῶμαι σοφαὶ τεῖδ᾿, αἷσιν αἰπίθοιτό τις,
δεξιώτερός τέ κ᾿ εἴη βελτίων τ᾿ ἐς πά[ν]τ᾿ ἀνήρ.
κο]ὔτι πολλὰ δεῖ λέγειν, ἀλλ᾿ ἓν μόνον [τ]ούτων ἔπος,
ποττὸ πρᾶγμα περιφέροντα τῶνδ᾿ ἀεὶ τὸ συμφέρον.
αἰτίαν γὰρ ἦχον ὡς ἄλλως μὲν εἴην δεξιός,
μακρολόγος δ᾿ οὔ κα δυναίμαν ἐν β[ρ]αχεῖ γνώμα[ς λέγ]ειν.
ταῦτα δὴ ᾿γὼν εἰσακούσας συντίθημι τὰν τέχναν
τάνδ᾿, ὅπως εἴπηι τις, Ἐπίχαρμος σοφός τις ἐγένετο,
πόλλ᾿ ὃς εἶ]π᾿ ἀστεῖα καὶ παντοῖα καθ᾿ ἓν ἔπος [λέγων,
πεῖραν] αὐταυτοῦ διδοὺς ὡς καὶ β[ραχέα καλῶς λέγοι.
εὖ δὲ τάδ]ε μαθὼν ἅπας ἀνὴρ φαν[ήσεται σοφός,
οὐδὲ ληρ]ήσει ποτ᾿ οὐδέν, ἔπος ἅπ[αν μεμναμένος.
εἰ δὲ τὸν λαβ]όντα λυπήσει τι τῶνδ[ε τῶν λόγων,
οὔτι μὰν ἄσκεπτ]α δρῶντα τοῖσδ[έ θ᾿ ἧσσον ὁμότροπα,
ἀγαθὸν ἴστω σύμφ]ορόν τε πολυμαθῆ [νόον τρέφειν

poster of barnum and bailey circus
This is the greatest show

Practice Makes Perfect?

Anacreonta 60a

“I will let my lyre sing.
There’s no contest now,
But practice is important for
Everyone who has seen
a flowering of their art.

I will play with my ivory pick,
Shouting along in a Phrygian measure,
Crooning a clear melody
Like some swan from the Kaustros,
Sounding a complex beat
along with the rushing wind.

Muse, dance with me:
For the kithara is Apollo’s sacred thing,
Like the bay and the tripod too.

My gossip is Apollo’s love,
That unrequited compulsion:
The girl remains safe.
She fled his weapons
And changed the nature of her form,
Rooting herself in the ground to grow.

Phoebus? Well, Phoebus arrived,
Imagining that he ruled the girl,
But he merely picked young leaves,
acting out the mysteries of Aphrodite.”

ἀνὰ βάρβιτον δονήσω·
ἄεθλος μὲν οὐ πρόκειται,
μελέτη δ᾿ ἔπεστι παντὶ
σοφίης λαχόντ᾿ ἄωτον.

ἐλεφαντίνῳ δὲ πλήκτρῳ
λιγυρὸν μέλος κροαίνων
Φρυγίῳ ῥυθμῷ βοήσω,
ἅτε τις κύκνος Καΰστρου
ποικίλον πτεροῖσι μέλπων
ἀνέμου σύναυλος ἠχῇ.

σὺ δέ, Μοῦσα, συγχόρευε·
ἱερὸν γάρ ἐστι Φοίβου
κιθάρη, δάφνη τρίπους τε.
λαλέω δ᾿ ἔρωτα Φοίβου,
ἀνεμώλιον τὸν οἶστρον·

σαόφρων γάρ ἐστι κούρα·
τὰ μὲν ἐκπέφευγε κέντρα,
φύσεως δ᾿ ἄμειψε μορφήν,
φυτὸν εὐθαλὲς δ᾿ ἐπήχθη·

ὁ δὲ Φοῖβος ᾖε, Φοῖβος,
κρατέειν κόρην νομίζων,
χλοερὸν δρέπων δὲ φύλλον
ἐδόκει τελεῖν Κυθήρην.

Fragment of mosaic. Daphne is running towards a laurel tree, parly close. Apollo is pursuing, but only his head is visible
Antakya Archaeological Museum Apollo and Daphne mosaic

A Dream to Remember, Repeat

Anacreonta 37

“As I slept through the night
Under sea-purple blankets,
Stretched out, drunk,
I was dreaming I stretched out
Mid-run on a fast course,
On the very tips of my toes.
I was enjoying myself with the girls
But some boys younger
Than Luaios were mocking me,
Teasing me harshly,
Because of those pretty girls.

Then, they all ran away from my dream
When I reached out to kiss them.
They left me alone and poor me,
I only wanted to sleep again.”

διὰ νυκτὸς ἐγκαθεύδων
ἁλιπορφύροις τάπησι
γεγανυμένος Λυαίῳ,
ἐδόκουν ἄκροισι ταρσῶν
δρόμον ὠκὺν ἐκτανύειν
μετὰ παρθένων ἀθύρων,
ἐπεκερτόμουν δὲ παῖδες
ἁπαλώτεροι Λυαίου
δακέθυμά μοι λέγοντες
διὰ τὰς καλὰς ἐκείνας.

ἐθέλοντα δ᾿ ἐκφιλῆσαι
φύγον ἐξ ὕπνου με πάντες·
μεμονωμένος δ᾿ ὁ τλήμων
πάλιν ἤθελον καθεύδειν.

a knight dozes at a table on the left. An angel looks at him. in the center and the right lies a table cluttered with objects, including coins, books, and a skull
Antonio de Pereda “The Knight’s Dream” 1650

No Bull, Just Zeus

Anacreonta 54

“Child, this bull
Looks a bit like Zeus to me.
Since he is carrying on his back
A Sidonian lady.

He is crossing the broad sea!
He carves the waves with his feet!

No other bull could
Separate himself from the herd and
Sail across the sea except
this bull alone.”

ὁ ταῦρος οὗτος, ὦ παῖ,
δοκεῖ τις εἶναί μοι Ζεύς·
φέρει γὰρ ἀμφὶ νώτοις
Σιδωνίαν γυναῖκα·
περᾷ δὲ πόντον εὐρύν,
τέμνει δὲ κῦμα χηλαῖς.
οὐκ ἂν δὲ ταῦρος ἄλλος
ἐξ ἀγέλης λιασθεὶς
ἔπλευσε τὴν θάλασσαν,
εἰ μὴ μόνος ἐκεῖνος.

Segment of a fresco (wall painting). Woman, half-clothed, sits on bull while friends calm him. The bull looks suspicious.
Wall painting from pompeii, Europa already sitting on the back of the bull (Zeus)

Come, Play that Country Song

Moschus, Lament for Bion 116-126

“If I could have…
I would have gone down quickly to Plouto’s home
Descending into Tartaros like Orpheus or
Odysseus or Alkeides so I might see you and hear
What song you sing if you sing for Death.

But come, sing for Kore some Sicilian melody
And play some sweet country song.
She’s a country girl too and she also used to play
On the beaches near Aetna. She knows the Doric tune.

You won’t go without a prize for your melody
Just as once upon a time she gave Orpheus Eurydice
Because he played the lyre so sweetly, so too
To the hills, Bion, she will perhaps restore you.
And If I had any power in in my song
I would have sung for Plouto on my own.”

….εἰ δυνάμαν δέ,
ὡς Ὀρφεὺς καταβὰς ποτὶ Τάρταρον, ὥς ποκ’ Ὀδυσσεύς,
ὡς πάρος Ἀλκεΐδας, κἠγὼ τάχ’ ἂν ἐς δόμον ἦλθον
Πλουτέος ὥς κέ σ’ ἴδοιμι καί, εἰ Πλουτῆι μελίσδῃ,
ὡς ἂν ἀκουσαίμαν τί μελίσδεαι. ἀλλ’ ἄγε Κώρᾳ
Σικελικόν τι λίγαινε καὶ ἁδύ τι βουκολιάζευ·
καὶ κείνα Σικελά, καὶ ἐν Αἰτναίαισιν ἔπαιζεν
ᾀόσι, καὶ μέλος οἶδε τὸ Δώριον· οὐκ ἀγέραστος
ἐσσεῖθ’ ἁ μολπά, χὠς Ὀρφέι πρόσθεν ἔδωκεν
ἁδέα φορμίζοντι παλίσσυτον Εὐρυδίκειαν,
καὶ σέ, Βίων, πέμψει τοῖς ὤρεσιν. εἰ δέ τι κἠγών
συρίσδων δυνάμαν, παρὰ Πλουτέι κ’ αὐτὸς ἄειδον.

Some things are just better than the “original”. RIP ,Toots.

Glory and Worthless Wealth

Bacchylides, Odes 1. 159-172

“I claim and I will always claim
That excellence has the greatest glory.
Wealth will flock to worthless people
And always tends to swell a person’s thoughts.
But the one who does well for the gods
Has more glorious hopes
To settle their heart.

But if someone has health
Even if mortal
And can live through their own household
They rival the best.

Truly, all pleasure
In a person’s life
Comes apart from disease
And a poverty with no cure.

Rich people desire big things
No less than the poor something smaller,
And there’s nothing sweet for mortals
In being able to get everything at all
Because they’re always straining to catch
Whatever is getting away.”

φαμὶ καὶ φάσω μέγιστον
κῦδος ἔχειν ἀρετάν· πλοῦ-
τος δὲ καὶ δειλοῖσιν ἀνθρώπων ὁμιλεῖ,
ἐθέλει δ᾿ αὔξειν φρένας ἀνδρός·
ὁ δ᾿ εὖ ἔρδων θεούς
ἐλπίδι κυδροτέραι
σαίνει κέαρ. εἰ δ᾿ ὑγιείας
θνατὸς ἐὼν ἔλαχεν
ζώειν τ᾿ ἀπ᾿ οἰκείων ἔχει,
πρώτοις ἐρίζει· παντί τοι
τέρψις ἀνθρώπων βίωι
ἕπεται νόσφιν γε νόσων
πενίας τ᾿ ἀμαχάνου.
ἶσον ὅ τ᾿ ἀφνεὸς ἱμείρει
μεγάλων ὅ τε μείων
παυροτέρων· τὸ δὲ πάντων
εὐμαρεῖν οὐδὲν γλυκύ
θνατοῖσιν, ἀλλ᾿ αἰεὶ τὰ φεύγοντα
δίζηνται κιχεῖν.

Raphaelle Peale, “Melons and Morning Glories” 1813

Cries of Unexpected Joy

a fragment with limited context

Anonymous, Papiri Greci e Latini, x. 1932, no. 1181, p. 169. 7-23

“When a wave carried from Troy
[a vessel made] of many trees,
Some god announced that one [person]
Would stay there….
But the other would escape
Ruinous death.

Cries went up to the sky
In great numbers in response
To the unexpected joy.

The song of men [restrained]
On their seats was not unheard,
And the young girls prayed aloud
Ie, ie…”

μάλ᾿ ἔγε[ιρε] τοι[α]ύτα φάτις
ἐπεὶ δοκ[. . .]κια[. .]ν
ἐπεὶ πολυ[δεν]δρέ[ω]ν αι[.]ων
κῦμα πό[ρευσ᾿] ἀπ᾿ Ἰλίου
θεῶν τι[ς ἀ]μ-
εἶπε τὸν μὲν
αὖθι μένεῖν . . . . .]ερ[ . ]μιδι
τὸν δ᾿ οὐλόμε[νον . .]ειμεν
προφυγεῖν θά[νατ]ον.
ἐ]πασσύτεραι δ᾿ ἰα[χαὶ
οὐρανὸν ἷξον [
ἀέλπτωι περὶ χάρ[μα]τι [
οὐδ᾿ ἀνδρῶν
θώκοισι μετε[. . . .]τω[ν μέλος
ἄναυδον ἦν,
νέαι δ᾿ ἐπεύχο[ν]τ[ο . . .]λλαι
ἰὴ ἰή.

Color image close up of a Grek vase showing a ship with sail opened, men at oar rowing, and a prominent figure steering
On the internal surface, around the rim, four ships. Cemetery of Ancient Thera. 3rd quarter of the 6th cent. BC Archaeological Museum of Thera. [Wikimedia Commons]

The Time of Planning and Envy’s Crush

Bacchylides, Dithyramb 16.22-30

“Then, the unconquerable god
Wove for Deianeira a plan
Of many tears and guile,
Once she learned
The report of enduring grief
that Zeus’ indomitable son
Was sending to his bright home
White-armed Iole as a wife.

Oh! that unlucky, unhappy woman,
To have made such plans!
Broad-powered envy crushed her
Along with the opaque veil
Of events to come later
On that day at rose-covered Lukormis
When she took from Nessos
That divine sign.”

τότ᾿ ἄμαχος δαίμων
Δαϊανείραι πολύδακρυν ὕφα[νε
μῆτιν ἐπίφρον᾿ ἐπεὶ
πύθετ᾿ ἀγγελίαν ταλαπενθέα,
Ἰόλαν ὅτι λευκώλενον
Διὸς υἱὸς ἀταρβομάχας
ἄλοχον λιπαρὸ[ν] οτὶ δόμον πέ[π]οι
ἆ δύσμορος, ἆ τάλ[αι]ν᾿, οἷον ἐμήσατ[ο·
φθόνος εὐρυβίας νιν ἀπώλεσεν,
δνόφεόν τε κάλυμμα τῶν
ὕστερον ἐρχομένων,
ὅτ᾿ ἐπὶ 〚ποταμῶι〛 ῥοδόεντι Λυκόρμαι
δέξατο Νέσσου πάρα δαιμόνιον τέρ[ας.

Photograph of oil painting. In center, a centaur struggling with a woman in red and orange robes. In the background, a distant figure (Herakles).
Reni, Guido; Nessus and Deianeira; National Trust, Cragside;

The Importance of Luck and Good Timing

Bacchylides 14.1-18

“The best thing for humans is
To have good luck from god.

See: a heavy-enduring suffering,
Debases even a good person when it comes,
While the elevated path,
Straightens out even a wicked one.

People have different kinds of honor
And their excellence is beyond counting–
Yet one thing looms above the rest:
When someone directs the work in front of them
With just thoughts.

The lyre’s tone
And the clear-voiced choruses
Are dissonant in battles weighed down by grief,
Just as the clash of bronze sounds off at feasts.
For every human act
The right time is the most important thing:
God straightens out the one who starts well.”

εὖ μὲν εἱμάρθαι παρὰ δαίμ[ονος ἀνθρώποις
σ]υμφορὰ δ᾿ ἐσθλόν <τ᾿> ἀμαλδύνει
β]αρύτλ[α]ος μολοῦσα
καὶ τ]ὸν κα[ὸν] ὑψιφανῆ τεύχει
κ]ατορθωθεῖσα· τιμὰν
δ᾿ ἄλ]λος ἀλλοίαν ἔχει·
μυρί]αι δ᾿ ἀνδρῶν ἀρε[αί,] μία δ᾿ ἐ[κ
πασᾶ]ν πρόκειται,
ὃς τὰ] πὰρ χειρὸς κυβέρνασεν
δι]καίαισι φρένεσσιν.
μυρί]αι δ᾿ ἀνδρῶν ἀρε[αί,] μία δ᾿ ἐ[κ
πασᾶ]ν πρόκειται,
ὃς τὰ] πὰρ χειρὸς κυβέρνασεν
δι]καίαισι φρένεσσιν.
οὔτ᾿ ἐ]ν βαρυπενθέσιν ἁρμόζει
μ]χαις φόρμιγγος ὀμφὰ
καὶ λι]γυκλαγγεῖς χοροί,
οὔτ᾿ ἐ]ν θαλίαις καναχά
χαλκ]όκτυπος· ἀλλ᾿ ἐφ᾿ ἑκάστωι
καιρὸς] ἀνδρῶν ἔργματι κάλλιστος·
[ε]ὖ ἔρδοντα δὲ καὶ θεὸς ὀ[ρθοῖ.

Image of a figure on a red figure vase. Figure is a nude, beardless youth, holding a long butchering knife in his right hand and the head of a pig with his left on a three-legged table
After the sacrifice: a youth prepares the head of a pig in front of a temple (see the column on the right). Apulian red-figure bell-krater.

A True Note of Praise

Pindar, Nemean 7. 61-69

“I am a guest here, holding off shadowy blame–
I will praise my dear friend and bring him
Real glory like streams of water.
This is the correct payment for good people

If any Achaean man approaches he will not criticize me,
Even one living beyond the Ionian sea.

I rely on hospitality too–and I shine bright
In the sight of these townspeople because I haven’t cross a line
Once I removed everything forced on me from my way.
Let the rest of time come kindly.

Someone who knows me will inform
If I ever near a corrupt word with a false tune.”

ξεῖνός εἰμι· σκοτεινὸν ἀπέχων ψόγον,
ὕδατος ὥτε ῥοὰς φίλον ἐς ἄνδρ᾿ ἄγων
κλέος ἐτήτυμον αἰνέσω·
ποτίφορος δ᾿ ἀγαθοῖσι μισθὸς οὗτος.
ἐὼν δ᾿ ἐγγὺς Ἀχαιὸς οὐ μέμψεταί μ᾿ ἀνήρ
Ἰονίας ὑπὲρ ἁλὸς οἰ-
κέων, καὶ προξενίᾳ πέποιθ᾿, ἔν τε δαμόταις
ὄμματι δέρκομαι λαμπρόν, οὐχ ὑπερβαλών,
βίαια πάντ᾿ ἐκ ποδὸς ἐρύσαις· ὁ δε λοιπὸς εὔφρων
ποτὶ χρόνος ἕρποι. μαθὼν δέ τις ἀνερεῖ,
εἰ πὰρ μέλος ἔρχομαι ψάγιον ὄαρον ἐννέπων.

Color photograph of a vase painting. A woman plays a pipe on the left side; a man leans back with his hand on his head listening on the right
Column crater in red figure, ca 420 BC, Pantoxena Painter. Side Aː Symposium scene, youth and female double-flute player, detail. Archaeological Museum of Agrigento, C 1582. from Wikimedia commons