Learning Something for Old Age

Euripides Suppliants, 187-189 (Full Greek text on the Scaife Viewer)

“Sparta is savage and duplicitous.
The rest of the states are small and weak.
Only your city could take up this task.”

Σπάρτη μὲν ὠμὴ καὶ πεποίκιλται τρόπους,
τὰ δ᾿ ἄλλα μικρὰ κἀσθενῆ· πόλις δὲ σὴ
μόνη δύναιτ᾿ ἂν τόνδ᾿ ὑποστῆναι πόνον·

Euripides Suppliants, 846-852

“I will not ask about one thing, to avoid being a joke,
Whom each of these men stood to oppose in battle
Or from which enemy’s lance he received his wound.
For these words are hollow to those who hear them
And those who repeat them: who can stand in a battle
And then report truly who was brave or not
As the lance went passing before his eyes?”

ἓν δ᾿ οὐκ ἐρήσομαί σε, μὴ γέλωτ᾿ ὄφλω,
ὅτῳ ξυνέστη τῶνδ᾿ ἕκαστος ἐν μάχῃ
ἢ τραῦμα λόγχης πολεμίων ἐδέξατο.
κενοὶ γὰρ οὗτοι τῶν τ᾿ ἀκουόντων λόγοι
καὶ τοῦ λέγοντος, ὅστις ἐν μάχῃ βεβὼς
λόγχης ἰούσης πρόσθεν ὀμμάτων πυκνῆς
σαφῶς ἀπήγγειλ᾿ ὅστις ἐστὶν ἁγαθός.

Euripides Suppliants, 916-917

“Whatever someone learns, they are careful to preserve
Into old age. For this reason, teach your children well.”

ἃ δ᾿ ἂν μάθῃ τις, ταῦτα σῴζεσθαι φιλεῖ
ἐς γῆρας. οὕτω παῖδας εὖ παιδεύετε.

Euripides Suppliants, 1108-1113

“Old age, hard to wrangle, how much I hate you!
And I hate all those people who try to lengthen life
By feeding it with foοd and drink and medicine,
Turning aside the force so they might not die.
It is better—since they don’t help the world at all—
For them to die and go away, making space for the young.”

ὦ δυσπάλαιστον γῆρας, ὡς μισῶ σ᾿ ἔχων,
μισῶ δ᾿ ὅσοι χρῄζουσιν ἐκτείνειν βίον,
βρωτοῖσι καὶ ποτοῖσι καὶ μαγεύμασιν
παρεκτρέποντες ὀχετὸν ὥστε μὴ θανεῖν·
οὓς χρῆν, ἐπειδὰν μηδὲν ὠφελῶσι γῆν,
θανόντας ἔρρειν κἀκποδὼν εἶναι νέοις.

Heracles and Geras, son of Nyx and the personification of old age. Attic  red-figure pelike, ca. 480–470 BC. | Middle eastern art, Eastern art,  Ancient romans
Herakles, beating Old Age

No Accidental Murder!

Seneca the Elder, Controversiae 4 [240M]

“I want the tyrant to die thanks to the state. Let an angry citizen kill him. May he mix his curses with wounds, the sort a husband gives to an adulterer not those from an adulterer against a husband. You rush from your mistress’s kisses to a prize—I don’t want the tyrant-killer to act like a tyrant before he kills him. The Roman people do not want their enemy overcome by poison, they do not desire treason. I will honor a surprise tyrant-killer, but I will not honor an accidental or coerced one.”

Tyrannum cadere rei publicae volo: occidat illum civis iratus, misceat maledicta vulneribus, qualia in adulterum maritus <iacere solet, non qualia in maritum> adulter. Ab adulterae osculis ad praemium curris: nolo tyrannicida imitetur antequam occidat tyrannum. Populus Romanus veneno vinci hostem noluit, proditione noluit. Honorabo subitum tyrannicidium, non honorabo fortuitum, non coactum

Caracalla - Wikipedia
Caracella was a Roman Emperor

Tyrants: The Power to Do Everything in a Rage

Dio Chrysostom, On Kingship and Tyranny (Discourse 62) (Full text on Lacus Curtius)

“Really, if someone is incapable of governing a single person and that person is also really close to them, even there all the time, and, if they cannot keep a single mind on the straight and narrow (and by that I mean their own) how could they possibly rule over countless thousands of people like you, people who are spread all over the earth, most of whom you have’t seen and could never see and whose language you can’t understand?

It’s almost as if saying that someone whose vision is so impaired they cannot see their feet and they need someone to lead them by the hand can somehow see objects really far away, as when people see mountains or islands from afar on the sea.  Or, it is as if someone who cannot speak loudly enough to be heard by those right nearby can raise a voice to whole cities and armies!

Truly, intelligence is something like vision: for, when sight begins to diminish it cannot see the closest things even if it could touch the stars and heaven when healthy. Just so, a wise person’s mind can has the power to guide all people while the fool’s can’t keep even his own body or a single home safe”

Καὶ μὴν εἴ τις ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς οὐχ οἷός τε ἄρχειν ἐστί, καὶ τούτου σφόδρα ἐγγὺς ὄντος, ᾧ δὴ ξύνεστιν, οὐδὲ αὖ μίαν ψυχὴν κατευθύνειν τὴν αὑτοῦ, πῶς ἂν δύναιτο βασιλεύειν μυριάδων ἀναριθμήτων πανταχοῦ διεσπαρμένων, ὥσπερ σύ, καὶ πολλῶν γε οἰκούντων ἐπὶ πέρασι γῆς, ὧν οὐδὲ ἑώρακε τοὺς πλείστους οὐδ᾿ ἂν ἴδοι ποτὲ οὐδὲ τῆς φωνῆς ξυνήσει; ὅμοιον γὰρ ὥσπερ εἴ τις λέγοι τὸν οὕτως ἀδύνατον τὴν ὄψιν ὡς μηδὲ τὰ ἐν ποσὶν ὁρᾶν, ἀλλὰ προσδεόμενον χειραγωγοῦ, τοῦτον ἐφικνεῖσθαι βλέποντα μέχρι τῶν πλεῖστον ἀπεχόντων, ὥσπερ οἱ πόρρωθεν ὁρῶντες ἐκ τοῦ πελάγους τά τε ὄρη καὶ τὰς νήσους, ἢ τὸν οὐ δυνάμενον φθέγγεσθαι τοῖς παρεστῶσιν ἱκανὸν ὅλοις δήμοις καὶ στρατοπέδοις εἰς ἐπήκοον φθέγγεσθαι. καὶ γὰρ οὖν ἔχει τι παραπλήσιον ὁ νοῦς τῇ ὄψει· ὡς ἐκείνη διεφθαρμένη μὲν οὐδὲν οὐδὲ τῶν πλησιαίτατα ὁρᾷ, ὑγιὴς δὲ οὖσα μέχρις οὐρανοῦ τε καὶ ἀστέρων ἐξικνεῖται· ταὐτὸ δὴ τοῦτο ἡ μὲν τοῦ φρονίμου διάνοια καὶ πάντας ἀνθρώπους ἱκανὴ γίγνεται διοικεῖν, ἡ δὲ τοῦ ἄφρονος οὐδὲ ἓν σῶμα τὸ ἐκείνου δύναται φυλάττειν οὐδὲ ἕνα οἶκον.


“Many people in dynastic power, to explain further, because they can grab everything, desire to have everything. Because they determine justice, they become unjust. Because they do not fear the laws, they do not believe they exist. Because they are not forced to work, they never stop their conspicuous consumption.

Because no one stands up to them when they harm them, they never stop doing the same things; because there is no end to their pleasure, they never actually find their fill of it. Because no one criticizes them directly, they never miss a chance to slander someone else. Because no one wants to upset them, they find reason to be harsh to everyone. And because they have the power to do anything when enraged, they are forever in a state of anger.”

Οἱ μὲν γὰρ πολλοὶ τῶν ἐν ταῖς δυναστείαις, ὅτι μὲν ἔξεστιν αὐτοῖς πάντα λαμβάνειν, πάντων ἐπιθυμοῦσιν· ὅτι δὲ ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς ἐστι τὸ δίκαιον, διὰ τοῦτό εἰσιν ἄδικοι· ὅτι δὲ οὐ φοβοῦνται τοὺς νόμους, οὐδὲ εἶναι νομίζουσιν· ὅτι δὲ οὐκ ἀναγκάζονται πονεῖν, οὐδέποτε παύονται τρυφῶντες· ὅτι δὲ οὐδεὶς ἀμύνεται κακῶς πάσχων, οὐδέποτε παύονται ποιοῦντες· ὅτι δὲ οὐδεμιᾶς σπανίζουσιν ἡδονῆς, οὐδέποτε ἐμπίμπλανται ἡδόμενοι· ὅτι δὲ οὐδεὶς ψέγει ἐκ τοῦ φανεροῦ, οὐδὲν ἀπολείπουσι τῶν οὐ δικαίως λεγομένων· ὅτι δὲ οὐδεὶς αὐτοὺς βούλεται λυπεῖν, διὰ τοῦτο πᾶσι χαλεπαίνουσιν· ὅτι δὲ ὀργισθεῖσιν ἔξεστι πάντα ποιεῖν, διὰ τοῦτο συνεχῶς ὀργίζονται.

“Speaking Worthily of the Dead is Impossible”

Epitaphios: A speech performed annually in honor of those who have died in war. The most famous that remains is Thucydides’ version of Perikles’ funeral oration (2.35-46).

Thucydides, 2.35

“Many of those who have spoken here already praised the one who made this speech law, that it is a noble thing to speak over the burials of those who died in war.  But honors paid in deeds for deeds performed by good men would seem to be sufficient to me—the acts which you see performed now by the public at this burial. The virtues of many should not be risked by entrusting them to the good or poor speaking of one man alone. “

‘Οἱ μὲν πολλοὶ τῶν ἐνθάδε ἤδη εἰρηκότων ἐπαινοῦσι τὸν προσθέντα τῷ νόμῳ τὸν λόγον τόνδε, ὡς καλὸν ἐπὶ τοῖς ἐκ τῶν πολέμων θαπτομένοις ἀγορεύεσθαι αὐτόν. ἐμοὶ δὲ ἀρκοῦν ἂν ἐδόκει εἶναι ἀνδρῶν ἀγαθῶν ἔργῳ γενομένων ἔργῳ καὶ δηλοῦσθαι τὰς τιμάς, οἷα καὶ νῦν περὶ τὸν τάφον τόνδε δημοσίᾳ παρασκευασθέντα ὁρᾶτε, καὶ μὴ ἐν ἑνὶ ἀνδρὶ πολλῶν ἀρετὰς κινδυνεύεσθαι εὖ τε καὶ χεῖρον εἰπόντι πιστευθῆναι.

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Lysias, Epitaphios 1-3

“If I believed it were possible, men in attendance, to make clear in this speech the virtue of the men who lie here, I would complain to those who summoned me to speak after only a few days.

Εἰ μὲν ἡγούμην οἷόν τε εἶναι, ὦ ἄνδρες οἱ παρόντες ἐπὶ τῷδε τῷ τάφῳ, λόγῳ δηλῶσαι τὴν τῶν ἐνθάδε κειμένων [ἀνδρῶν] ἀρετήν, ἐμεμψάμην ἂν τοῖς ἐπαγγείλασιν ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς ἐξ ὀλίγων ἡμερῶν λέγειν·

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Plato’s Menexenus (236dff), Socrates recites an epitaphios given by Aspasia:

“In deed, these men have what is required for them materially—now that they have obtained it, they proceed along the fated path: they have been carried out in common by the city and in private by their families.  But in speech it is necessary to pay out the remaining rite which custom assigns us.

῎Εργῳ μὲν ἡμῖν οἵδε ἔχουσιν τὰ προσήκοντα σφίσιν αὐτοῖς, ὧν τυχόντες πορεύονται τὴν εἱμαρμένην πορείαν, προπεμφθέντες κοινῇ μὲν ὑπὸ τῆς πόλεως, ἰδίᾳ δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν οἰκείων· λόγῳ δὲ δὴ τὸν λειπόμενον κόσμον ὅ τε νόμος προστάττει ἀποδοῦναι τοῖς ἀνδράσιν καὶ χρή.

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Demosthenes, Epitaphios (speech 60)

“Since it seems right to the state to bury those lying in this grave publicly because they proved themselves noble in war and it has been assigned to me to deliver the customary speech on their behalf, I immediately began to examine how others have crafted the appropriate praise. But while I was considering and examining this, I realized that speaking worthily of the dead is one of those things that is impossible for men.”

᾿Επειδὴ τοὺς ἐν τῷδε τῷ τάφῳ κειμένους, ἄνδρας ἀγαθοὺς ἐν τῷ πολέμῳ γεγονότας, ἔδοξεν τῇ πόλει δημοσίᾳ θάπτειν καὶ προσέταξεν ἐμοὶ τὸν νομιζόμενον λόγον εἰπεῖν ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς, ἐσκόπουν μὲν εὐθὺς ὅπως τοῦ προσήκοντος ἐπαίνου τεύξονται, ἐξετάζων δὲ καὶ σκοπῶνἀξίως εἰπεῖν τῶν τετελευτηκότων ἕν τι τῶν ἀδυνάτων ηὕρισκον ὄν.

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Image result for ancient greek epitaph
An epitaph

A Model Opening for a Toast at Any Occasion

From Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists (5.211 e-f)

“Posidonios of Apamea records the story of [Athenion] which I am going to lay out even though it is rather long, so that we may examine carefully all men who claim to be philosophers, and not merely trust in their shabby robes and unkempt beards. For, as Agathon says (fr. 12):

If I tell the truth, I won’t make you happy.
But if I am to make you happy, I will say nothing true.

Since the truth, they say, is dear to us, I will tell the whole story about this man.”

περὶ οὗ καθ’ ἕκαστα ἱστορεῖ Ποσειδώνιος ὁ ᾿Απαμεύς, ἅπερ εἰ καὶ μακρότερά ἐστιν ἐκθήσομαι, ἵν’ ἐπιμελῶς πάντας ἐξετάζωμεν τοὺς φάσκοντας εἶναι φιλοσόφους καὶ μὴ τοῖς τριβωνίοις καὶ τοῖς ἀκάρτοις πώγωσι πιστεύωμεν. κατὰ γὰρ τὸν ᾿Αγάθωνα
(fr. 12 N)
εἰς μὲν φράσω τἀληθές, οὐχί σ’ εὐφρανῶ·
εἰ δ’ εὐφρανῶ τί σ’, οὐχὶ τἀληθὲς φράσω.
ἀλλὰ φίλη <γάρ>, φασίν, ἡ ἀλήθεια, ἐκθήσομαι τὰ περὶ τὸν ἄνδρα ὡς ἐγένετο (FHG III 266).


Image result for Posidonius of Apamea

A Commentary on the Batrakhomuomakhia, Part 12: 147-159

We return to our commentary on the Homeric “Battle of Frogs and Mice”:

147 ῏Ω φίλοι οὐκ ἔκτεινον ἐγὼ μῦν, οὐδὲ κατεῖδον
148 ὀλλύμενον· πάντως δ’ ἐπνίγη παίζων παρὰ λίμνην,
149 νήξεις τὰς βατράχων μιμούμενος· οἱ δὲ κάκιστοι
150 νῦν ἐμὲ μέμφονται τὸν ἀναίτιον· ἀλλ’ ἄγε βουλὴν
151 ζητήσωμεν ὅπως δολίους μύας ἐξολέσωμεν.
152 τοιγὰρ ἐγὼν ἐρέω ὥς μοι δοκεῖ εἶναι ἄριστα.
153 σώματα κοσμήσαντες ἐν ὅπλοις στῶμεν ἅπαντες
154 ἄκροις πὰρ χείλεσσιν, ὅπου κατάκρημνος ὁ χῶρος·
155 ἡνίκα δ’ ὁρμηθέντες ἐφ’ ἡμέας ἐξέλθωσι,
156 δραξάμενοι κορύθων, ὅς τις σχεδὸν ἀντίος ἔλθῃ,
157 ἐς λίμνην αὐτοὺς σὺν ἐκείναις εὐθὺ βάλωμεν.
158 οὕτω γὰρ πνίξαντες ἐν ὕδασι τοὺς ἀκολύμβους
159 στήσομεν εὐθύμως τὸ μυοκτόνον ὧδε τρόπαιον.

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