Roman Dalmatia: Where Generals Go to Play

In honor of the World Cup Semi-final Match today between the former Roman Provinces of Britannia and Dalmatia, we wrote a slightly farcical post for the SCS blog. Here are some passages that did not make it into the post.

Vatinius to Cicero, Letters 5.10c c. November 45 CE

Caesar is hurting my feelings right now. He has not yet introduced anything about my Supplications and my Dalmatian victories, as if I had not actually accomplished deeds worthy of the best Triumph! Must this not be expected until I complete the whole campaign? Dalmatia has twenty ancient towns and in addition there are more tan sixty admitted at a later time. If no Supplications are allotted to  me unless the fighting is over, then I am in a very different state that the rest of the generals.

Caesar adhuc mi iniuriam facit. de meis supplicationibus et rebus gestis Dalmaticis adhuc non refert, quasi vero non iustissimi triumphi in Dalmatia res gesserim. nam si hoc exspectandum est, dum totum bellum conficiam, viginti oppida sunt Dalmatiae antiqua, quae ipsi sibi adsciverunt amplius sexaginta. haec nisi omnia expugno si mihi supplicationes non decernuntur, longe alia condicione ego sum ac ceteri imperatores.

Suetonius, Divus Augustus 22

“[Augustus] closed the temple of Janus Quirinius which since the founding of the city had been close only twice, and he did it three times in a shorter period of time once he made peace on the sea and land. He he entered the city in an Ovation twice after the war at Phillippi and again after the Sicilian War. He also held Triumphs for his conquests in Dalmatia, Actium, and Alexandria on three days in a row!”

XXII. Ianum Quirinum semel atque iterum a condita urbe ante memoriam suam clausum in multo breviore temporis spatio terra marique pace parta ter clusit. Bis ovans ingressus est urbem, post Philippense et rursus post Siculum bellum. Curulis triumphos tris egit, Delmaticum, Actiacum, Alexandrinum continuo triduo omnes.

Velleius Paterculus, History of Rome 2.78

“During this Period, [Tiberius] Caesar, in order that the great foe of discipline—leisure—not ruin his army, was trying to keep his army hard through facing danger and experience of war by leading frequent expeditions into Illyricum and Dalmatia.”

Caesar per haec tempora, ne res disciplinae inimicissima, otium, corrumperet militem, crebris in Illyrico Delmatiaque expeditionibus patientia periculorum bellique experientia durabat exercitum



Some words:

ποδαλγής: “foot-pain”

ποδαρκής: “swift-footed”

ποδοκάκη: “foot plague”

ποδόκοιλον: “hollow of the foot”

ποδοκρουστία: “stomping of feet”

ποδοστράβη: “a snare to catch feet”

ποδοσφαλέω: “to stumble”

ποδόψηστρον: “foot-wiper”

ποδώκης: “swift-footed”

Marathon Myths: A Single Herald or a Collective Dash?

This re-post is in honor of our friends running today in Boston. Sorry we couldn’t arrange for warmer and drier weather!

According to many accounts online, our modern marathon is somehow related to Pheidippides’ run to Athens after the battle against the Persians in 490 BCE. As the story goes, When he arrived before the assembled citizens, Pheidippides announced “we have conquered” (nenikêkamen) and then then expired.

The problem is that this story is total hogwash. There was no Pheidippides (except in Aristophanes’ Clouds, and he was obsessed with horses). No one is ever recorded saying in ancient Greek “we have conquered” after the battle. I know where some of this comes from (Plutarch and Lucian, see below) but I don’t know where the rest does. Although some authors do have a messenger announcing the victory, the present form of nikâo is used. And the name changes.

Furthermore, the message of the story changes radically from its different context. In the first account of running and Marathon, Herodotus tells of an Athenian Philippides who ran 140 miles to Sparta and back to try to get help:

Herodotus, 6.105-6

“First, the generals who were still in the city sent the herald Philippidês[1] to Sparta, an Athenian man, a long-distance runner [hêmerodromên[2]] who made a career of it. Pan appeared to him—as Philippidês claimed and reported to the Athenians—around the Parthenian mountain past Tegea. He claimed that Pan shouted out the name of Philippidês and ordered him to ask the Athenians why they were paying him no attention even though he was well-disposed toward them and was often helpful to them and would be again in the future. And because they believed these things to be true, since their affairs were going well, they established a temple to Pan on the akropolis and they honor him for that message with annual sacrifices and a race by torchlight.

When Philipiddes was sent by the generals, that time when he said that Pan appeared to him, he arrived in Sparta on the next day.[3] He went straight to the officials and said “Spartans, the Athenians need you to help them and not tolerate that one of the oldest cities among the Greeks fall into slavery at the hands of Barbarian. Eretria has already been enslaved and Greece has become weaker by the loss of a significant city.” He announced what he had been ordered to announce and it was to their taste to help the Athenians but they were incapable of doing so immediately because they did not want to violate the custom: for it was the ninth day of the current month, and they said that on that day they could not leave until the moon was full.”

Καὶ πρῶτα μὲν ἐόντες ἔτι ἐν τῷ ἄστεϊ οἱ στρατηγοὶ ἀποπέμπουσι ἐς Σπάρτην κήρυκα Φιλιππίδην, ᾿Αθηναῖον μὲν ἄνδρα, ἄλλως δὲ ἡμεροδρόμην τε καὶ τοῦτο μελετῶντα. Τῷ δή, ὡς αὐτός τε ἔλεγε Φιλιππίδης καὶ ᾿Αθηναίοισι ἀπήγγελλε, περὶ τὸ Παρθένιον ὄρος τὸ ὑπὲρ Τεγέης ὁ Πὰν περιπίπτει· βώσαντα δὲ τὸ οὔνομα τοῦ Φιλιππίδεω τὸν Πᾶνα ᾿Αθηναίοισι κελεῦσαι ἀπαγγεῖλαι δι’ ὅ τι ἑωυτοῦ οὐδεμίαν ἐπιμελείην ποιεῦνται, ἐόντος εὐνόου ᾿Αθηναίοισι καὶ πολλαχῇ γενομένου σφι ἤδη χρησίμου, τὰ δ’ ἔτι καὶ ἐσομένου. Καὶ ταῦτα μὲν ᾿Αθηναῖοι, καταστάντων σφι εὖ ἤδη τῶν πρηγμάτων, πιστεύσαντες εἶναι ἀληθέα ἱδρύσαντο ὑπὸ τῇ ᾿Ακροπόλι Πανὸς ἱρόν, καὶ αὐτὸν ἀπὸ ταύτης τῆς ἀγγελίης θυσίῃσί τε ἐπετείοισι καὶ λαμπάδι ἱλάσκονται. Τότε δὲ πεμφθεὶς ὑπὸ τῶν στρατηγῶν ὁ Φιλιππίδης οὗτος, ὅτε πέρ οἱ ἔφη καὶ τὸν Πᾶνα φανῆναι, δευτεραῖος ἐκ τοῦ ᾿Αθηναίων ἄστεος ἦν ἐν Σπάρτῃ, ἀπικόμενος δὲ ἐπὶ τοὺς ἄρχοντας ἔλεγε· «῏Ω Λακεδαιμόνιοι, ᾿Αθηναῖοι ὑμέων δέονται σφίσι βοηθῆσαι καὶ μὴ περιιδεῖν πόλιν ἀρχαιοτάτην ἐν τοῖσι ῞Ελλησι δουλοσύνῃ περιπεσοῦσαν πρὸς ἀνδρῶν βαρβάρων· καὶ γὰρ νῦν ᾿Ερέτριά τε ἠνδραπόδισται καὶ πόλι λογίμῳ ἡ ῾Ελλὰς γέγονε ἀσθενεστέρη.» ῾Ο μὲν δή σφι τὰ ἐντεταλμένα ἀπήγγελλε, τοῖσι δὲ ἕαδε μὲν βοηθέειν ᾿Αθηναίοισι, ἀδύνατα δέ σφι ἦν τὸ παραυτίκα ποιέειν ταῦτα οὐ βουλομένοισι λύειν τὸν νόμον· ἦν γὰρ ἱσταμένου τοῦ μηνὸς εἰνάτη, εἰνάτῃ δὲ οὐκ ἐξελεύσεσθαι ἔφασαν μὴ οὐ πλήρεος ἐόντος τοῦ κύκλου.

This story is all about the Spartan failure to help the Greeks and the origin of a certain shrine to Pan. (In fact, in most authors who even mention this tale, it is the later aspect that draws attention: cf. Demosthenes 14.33; Pausanius 1.28 Libanius 11.1.9).

Schol. A. ad. Ael. Aristides 125.3.14 (cf. Schol ad. Clem Alex. 310.28)

“For they say that when the Persians were attacking the Athenians sent Philippides the day-runner to the Spartans. When Pan encountered him in the Parthenian mountain he said “I will be present in the battle, tell the Athenians to honor me.” The Spartans did not come because of the full-moon festival, and the Athenians defended alone with many fewer Plataians.”

φασὶ γὰρ, ἐπιόντων τῶν Περσῶν πέμψαι τοὺς ᾿Αθηναίους πρὸς Λακεδαιμονίους Φιλιππίδην τὸν ἡμερόδρομον, ἐν ᾿Αρκαδίᾳ δὲ ἐν τῷ Παρθενίῳ ὄρει συναντήσας αὐτῷ ὁ Πὰν εἶπεν ὅτι τῇ μάχῃ παρέσομαι· εἰπὲ δὲ ᾿Αθηναίοις τιμᾶν με. Λακεδαιμόνιοι μὲν οὖν οὐκ ἦλθον διὰ τὴν πανσέληνον, μόνοι δὲ ᾿Αθηναῖοι μετὰ πάνυ ὀλίγων Πλαταιέων συνέβαλλον. A.

There is running from Marathon to Athens. But in Herodotus’ story, the entire Athenian army goes on a fast-march from the battle to defend the city against the Persian fleet:

Herodotus, 116

“The Persians sailed around Cape Sounion, but the Athenians went to help the city as fast as their feet were able; they arrived before the barbarians did and made their camp as soon as they appeared in the temple of Herakles, the one in Kynosarges. The barbarians, who had been at anchor near the Athenian port at that time, Phaleron, retreated and sailed their ships back toward Asia.”

Οὗτοι μὲν δὴ περιέπλεον Σούνιον· ᾿Αθηναῖοι δὲ ὡς ποδῶν εἶχον τάχιστα ἐβοήθεον ἐς τὸ ἄστυ, καὶ ἔφθησάν τε ἀπικόμενοι πρὶν ἢ τοὺς βαρβάρους ἥκειν, καὶ ἐστρατοπεδεύσαντο ἀπιγμένοι ἐξ ῾Ηρακλείου τοῦ ἐν Μαραθῶνι ἐν ἄλλῳ ῾Ηρακλείῳ τῷ ἐν Κυνοσάργεϊ. Οἱ δὲ βάρβαροι τῇσι νηυσὶ ὑπεραιωρηθέντες Φαλήρου (τοῦτο γὰρ ἦν ἐπίνειον τότε τῶν ᾿Αθηναίων), ὑπὲρ τούτου ἀνακωχεύσαντες τὰς νέας ἀπέπλεον ὀπίσω ἐς τὴν ᾿Ασίην.

This tale is actually more impressive and meaningful than the apocryphal one. The entire army ran the distance of 26 or so miles as a group to defend their homes. This isn’t about individual sacrifice or excellence, but rather about the collective will and glory of a city ruled by the people and for the people (to wax poetic a bit). This is, I think, a much more interesting and inspiring tale if it is taken seriously.

But sometime between the Peloponnesian War (421-404 BCE) and the Early Roman Empire (1st Century CE), the story changes. It takes on some of the elements of the false tale circulated widely. The two most well-known accounts are from Plutarch and Lucian. Plutarch, in typical style, distances himself from the tale by saying that one guy alleges that another guy says that…:

Plutarch, On the Glory of Athens, 347c (2nd Century CE)

“Heracleidês of Pontikos writes that Thersippos the Erkhian reported back about the battle of Marathon; but most say that it was Eukles who ran hot from battle in his arms and who, just after entering the gates could say only “Greetings” and “we are rejoicing” and then die.”

τὴν τοίνυν ἐν Μαραθῶνι μάχην ἀπήγγειλεν, ὡς μὲν ῾Ηρακλείδης ὁ Ποντικὸς (fr. 81) ἱστορεῖ, Θέρσιππος ὁ ᾿Ερχιεύς· οἱ δὲ πλεῖστοι λέγουσιν Εὐκλέα δραμόντα σὺν τοῖς ὅπλοις θερμὸν ἀπὸ τῆς μάχης καὶ ταῖς θύραις ἐμπεσόντα τῶν πρώτων τοσοῦτον μόνον εἰπεῖν ‘χαίρετε’ καὶ ‘χαίρομεν,’ εἶτ’ εὐθὺς ἐκπνεῦσαι.

In Plutarch’s tale, the name of the runner is Eukles and he says χαίρομεν instead of anything about victory before dying. The full kernel of our modern canard can be found in the work of Lucian, a well-known fabulist.

Lucian, On Mistakes in Greetings (2nd Century CE)

“First, Philippidês the day-runner is said to have run from Marathon reporting the victory to the archons who were seated and awaiting news about the end of the battle, saying “Rejoice, we are victorious” and after saying that he died with the news, expiring with his greeting.”

Πρῶτος δ’ αὐτὸ Φιλιππίδης ὁ ἡμεροδρομήσας λέγεται ἀπὸ Μαραθῶνος ἀγγέλλων τὴν νίκην εἰπεῖν πρὸς τοὺς ἄρχοντας καθημένους καὶ πεφροντικότας ὑπὲρ τοῦ τέλους τῆς μάχης, Χαίρετε, νικῶμεν, καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν συναποθανεῖν τῇ ἀγγελίᾳ καὶ τῷ χαίρειν συνεκπνεῦσαι.

What are we to make of this story? The Byzantine Suda has no patience for either Plutarch or Lucian. This encyclopedia, whose authors certainly knew of both, provides an account drawn entirely from Herodotus:

Suda (Byzantine Encyclopedia)

“Philippidês, an Athenian; day-runner: he ran 15 thousand stades in a single night and day (140 miles) as he traveled to Sparta. But the law did not allow them to go to war before the full-moon.”

Φιλιππίδης, ᾿Αθηναῖος, ἡμεροδρόμος· ὃς χίλια πεντακόσια στάδια ἤνυσε διὰ μιᾶς νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας, πρὸς Λακεδαιμονίους ἀφικόμενος. ὁ δὲ νόμος οὐκ εἴα στρατεύειν αὐτοὺς πρὸ πανσελήνου.

What does it say about our culture and that of the second sophistic (the period of Plutarch and Lucian) that the individual tale is so much more attractive or that the Herodotean account is so quickly discounted?

The founding legends of modern sporting events often have little to do with truth, but I wonder about the individualistic and extreme versions popularized to the detriment of other possible stories. By Herodotus’ account, Philippides was a professional runner who could cover 140 miles in two days. Isn’t that impressive enough?

By Herodotus’ account as well, we should memorialize the extraordinary battle of Marathon as a collective act to safeguard democratic Athens. The story we choose to tell about Marathon in part reflects the story we tell about ourselves (and our past). Is it the story of one amazing ultra-marathoner or is it the tale of an army of citizens who suffered and triumphed together?

As a native of New England and a current resident of Boston, I find even more meaning in Herodotus’ account of the defense of the city since the Marathon bombing. Not all of us can be a Philippides–only one person can be first, after all. But we can stand (or, better, run) together as a group like those Athenian hoplites to defend and honor our home.


Image result for ancient greek runners MFA

In the spirit of the day, a vase at Boston’s MFA: CVA Boston 1, pl. 55.

Some Notes:

[1] How and Wells’s commentary on 6.105.1 “Φιλιππίδης, though only found in the second family of MSS., is supported by the other authorities (Paus. i. 28. 4, viii. 54-6; Plut. Herod. Malign. 26, &c.), and almost certainly right. It is a common Athenian name (C. I. A.), whereas Pheidippides is a witticism of Aristophanes (Nub. 67), which he would hardly have dared to make had the name been consecrated in the tale of Marathon.”

[2] Literally: “day-runner”

[3] How and Wells: “According to Isocrates the distance traversed was 150 miles.”

Homeric Fantasy (Baseball)

I don’t want to attract the enmity of one part of the world even for the potential devotion of the other, but I have been a Red Sox fan as long as I can remember. In fact, I really can split my life up into four basic periods: before 1986, from 1986-2003; 2003-2007; and post 2007.

But, beyond a particularly pathological obsession with a single team, I really love do baseball. One of my greatest regrets for my life is that I was not blessed with a good eye and fast hands: I did not record a single hit in my entire little league career.

Spring is the season of rebirth when baseball returns! We somehow forget 162 or so bullpen implosions; we suppress the wild expenditures and strange pace of game; we endure the cost of live television and the countless commercials as we wait for those moments of frustration, joy, and, sometimes, relief.

Yesterday, the author Guy Gavriel Kay (who has harassed me before for loving the Red Sox) was discussing the highs and lows of fantasy baseball on Twitter. I cannot play fantasy baseball because I can’t handle the stress. Somehow, our brief discussion turned into a contemplation of Homeric heroes as baseball players.

This conversation combines two things I love (Homer and baseball). It also comes close to an activity I wanted to run a few years back in a leadership course. My idea was that we would have students play basketball together in teams but in the personae of Homeric heroes. (The activity name was “Hero-Ball”.) Some ‘refs’ were going to randomly impose rules (gods); there would be fans, etc. The reasoning behind this lark was that we too often fail to think about how who we think we are shapes the way we engage with others.

(The activity was vetoed by my department chair at the time as exposing the university to too much liability. I have similarly considered a D&D style role playing game).

So, I spent all day trying to do other work and thinking about this absurd topic. Here’s what I have. First, if we try to select the best heroes from each side and give them positions somewhat akin to their ‘skills’, the Achaeans are clearly ‘stacked’. I made Odysseus a starting pitcher, but I am open to changing him out. The Achaeans have a DH, because they come from a wealthier, younger league.

[N.B. For baseball haters or agnostics: one could play this game with any sport!]

Team Achaeans

SP Agamemnon
SP Odysseus

Closer Teucer
1B Diomedes
2B Thoas
SS Oilean Ajax
3B Ajax
RF Sthenelos
LF Patroclus
CF Achilles
DH Idomeneus

Catcher: Menelaos
Bullpen: Thersites
Disabled List: Protesilaus, Philoctetes

Bench: The Myrmidons; Epeios (PH), Antilochus (INF/OF)

Coach: Nestor; Pitching Coach: Calchas


Some details and justifications: I generally made those famed for missiles (archery or spears) into pitchers. Odysseus, as I tweeted, reminds me of a wily veteran who leans on junk and the knuckleball but can bend your knees and break your back when he wants to. Agamemnon, on the other hand, is a player coach who throws only garbage but thinks he’s got both power and finesse. The archer Teucer is, obviously, their best option for closer. Thersites is in the bullpen as a crazy specialist.

The hitters are as follows: Achilles, Idomeneus, Ajax, and Diomedes all have obvious power and are distributed according to strength and speed. Patroclus might not be a natural left-fielder, but he’s not standing any where but near Achilles. Sthenelos is a poor man’s Patroclus and Oilean Ajax is sneaky, nasty, and fast, so an obvious shortstop. Menelaos? Well, he is in the middle of everything, thinks he’s in charge, and is the only person the other Atreid will pitch to.

The Trojans have some heavy hitters and one high-priced free agent (Sarpedon), but their team is overwhelmingly stocked with sons and relatives of Priam.

Team Trojans

SP Paris
Closer Teucer

1B Hektor
2B Deiphobus
SS Dolon
3B Sarpedon
RF Glaukos
LF Polydamas
CF Aeneas

Catcher: Helenos

Manager: Priam
Bullpen: Asius, Lykaon, Pandaros

Bench: Sons and Sons-in-Law of Priam

Pitching Coach: Antenor

Disabled List: Troilus, Rhesus, Rhesus’ men

Batboys: Astyanax, Ascanius, Polites


The Trojans have some power with Hektor at 1B (after a shift from Center field to prolong his career), Sarpedon at 3B, and Aeneas in Center. Glaukos and Polydamas are good players, but I don’t see them making the HOF. Dolon, like his Achaean counterpart, is fast and smart. When he goes down with a ‘collision’ injury after facing Diomedes in the basepaths, the Trojans are going to have to put some random son of Priam in there. This won’t work out so well: Deiphobus is already second, but that was Helen’s decision. At Catcher we find Helenos–he sees everything on the field and calls it like it is (often spending the time on the bench talking over signs with his sister Kassandra).

The real Trojan weakness is pitching. Paris “The Prince of Troy” Alexandros throws the prettiest curve ball this side of the Skamander. His fastball is there too–but he can’t seem to keep his focus on the field, he really kills team morale, and sometimes he disappears in between innings. Their bullpen is strong, but just wait until Achilles gets a chance to face Lykaon with the bases loaded. I am going to call that shot for him.

Lineups: (This is an issue of contention: Achilles wants to bat 4th and wants Ajax in the game. Agamemnon has different ideas: he wants to put Achilles in his proper place for his speed.) Note: The Achaeans use a DH because they have a younger league and more men.

Achilles (CF)
Diomedes (1B)
Menelaos (3B)
Agamemnon (Catcher)
Idomeneus (DH)
Oilean Ajax (SS)
Thoas (2B)
Sthenelos (RF)
Patroclus (LF)

Bench: Ajax

Team Trojan

The Trojans just don’t have the late game flexibility of their opponents. They top the lineup with some shifty speed, followed by an unknown quantity, and then a trio of power who would intimidate anyone smarter than Agamemnon. The problem with their power-trio is that it is really hard to keep them on the field at the same time. Sarpedon and Hektor get injured; Aeneas’ mother keeps pulling him out of games.

Dolon (SS)
Deiphobos (2B)
Aeneas (CF)
Hektor (1B)
Sarpedon (3B)
Glaukos (RF)
Polydamas (LF)
Helenos (Catcher)

Paris (P)

Now who would like to give me a box score for this game?

Some tweets

The Achaean lineup in Linear B, Courtesy of .@e_pe_me_ri on Twitter


Thanks to everyone playing along on twitter with #HomericBaseball. I am sorry I did not include all of your contributions. @ Me and I will add you!

Odysseus, Ancient Athlete Enraged

Homer, Odyssey 8.165–185

Euryalus (a Phaeacian youth) has just claimed that Odysseus looks more like a pirate than an athlete.

Very-clever Odysseus glared at him and then answered in response

“Friend, you don’t speak well. You’re like a reckless man.
The gods don’t give good things to people at once in this way–
Not in form or brains or in ability to speak.
For one man is not exceptional in looks
But a god crowns his form with words. People delight
As they see him, and he speaks without hesitation in public,
With sweet reverence, and is conspicuous among those assembled,
And they gaze upon him like a god when he goes through the city.

Another is equal to the immortals in his appearance
But no charm sits well upon his words—
Just so, your shape is excellent, not even a god
Could make it differently. But your mind is limited [apophôlios].
You have raised the spirit in my dear chest
By speaking against what is right. I am no novice in sports,
As you at least claim, but I think I was among the best
When I could trust my youth and my hands.
But now I am overcome by evil and pains. I have endured much
Surviving the wars of men and the harrowing waves.
But, even so, after suffering much, I will play your games.
Your speech gnaws at my heart: you have pissed me off by speaking.”

τὸν δ’ ἄρ’ ὑπόδρα ἰδὼν προσέφη πολύμητις ᾿Οδυσσεύς·
“ξεῖν’, οὐ καλὸν ἔειπες· ἀτασθάλῳ ἀνδρὶ ἔοικας.
οὕτως οὐ πάντεσσι θεοὶ χαρίεντα διδοῦσιν
ἀνδράσιν, οὔτε φυὴν οὔτ’ ἂρ φρένας οὔτ’ ἀγορητύν.
ἄλλος μὲν γὰρ εἶδος ἀκιδνότερος πέλει ἀνήρ,
ἀλλὰ θεὸς μορφὴν ἔπεσι στέφει· οἱ δέ τ’ ἐς αὐτὸν
τερπόμενοι λεύσσουσιν, ὁ δ’ ἀσφαλέως ἀγορεύει,
αἰδοῖ μειλιχίῃ, μετὰ δὲ πρέπει ἀγρομένοισιν,
ἐρχόμενον δ’ ἀνὰ ἄστυ θεὸν ὣς εἰσορόωσιν.
ἄλλος δ’ αὖ εἶδος μὲν ἀλίγκιος ἀθανάτοισιν,
ἀλλ’ οὔ οἱ χάρις ἀμφὶ περιστέφεται ἐπέεσσιν,
ὡς καὶ σοὶ εἶδος μὲν ἀριπρεπές, οὐδέ κεν ἄλλως
οὐδὲ θεὸς τεύξειε, νόον δ’ ἀποφώλιός ἐσσι.
ὤρινάς μοι θυμὸν ἐνὶ στήθεσσι φίλοισιν
εἰπὼν οὐ κατὰ κόσμον· ἐγὼ δ’ οὐ νῆϊς ἀέθλων,
ὡς σύ γε μυθεῖαι, ἀλλ’ ἐν πρώτοισιν ὀΐω
ἔμμεναι, ὄφρ’ ἥβῃ τε πεποίθεα χερσί τ’ ἐμῇσι.
νῦν δ’ ἔχομαι κακότητι καὶ ἄλγεσι· πολλὰ γὰρ ἔτλην,
ἀνδρῶν τε πτολέμους ἀλεγεινά τε κύματα πείρων.
ἀλλὰ καὶ ὧς, κακὰ πολλὰ παθών, πειρήσομ’ ἀέθλων·
θυμοδακὴς γὰρ μῦθος· ἐπώτρυνας δέ με εἰπών.”


Schol. QT ad Od. 8.166 ex

 “it is the Homeric custom to get a sense of the manner and character of someone you meet from their words. [This occurs elsewhere] for Telemachus: “you are of good blood, dear child, based on the way you think.” This is because he believe that being well-born and educated necessarily go together and he says everything appropriately. But Odysseus, for he did not maintain strongly that he is reckless, but says that he is like someone who is, because of his response and what he said.”

ξεῖν’, οὐ καλὸν ἔειπες] ἔθος ἐστὶν ῾Ομηρικὸν ἐκ τῶν λόγων χαρακτηρίζεσθαι καὶ τὸν τρόπον τοῦ ἐντυγχάνοντος. καὶ ἐν ἄλλοις περὶ τοῦ Τηλεμάχου “αἵματος εἶς ἀγαθοῖο, φίλον τέκος, οἷ’ ἀγορεύεις” (δ, 611.)· οἰόμενος τὸν εὐγενῆ καὶ πεπαιδευμένον ἀναγκαίως ὁμιλεῖν, πρεπόντως δὲ πάντα λέγειν. ᾿Οδυσσεὺς δὲ, οὐ γὰρ διεβεβαιώσατο τὸ ἀτάσθαλον αὐτὸν εἶναι, ἀλλ’ ἐοικέναι φησὶ τούτῳ διὰ τὸ
ἀντειπεῖν καὶ εἰρηκέναι. Q.T.

Schol. E ad Od. 8.177 ex 11-14

“Apophôlios properly means one who is not worthy of being included in the number of men, for they lack words and deeds at the right time. They call the primary schools phôleus. The one who has not frequented schools is called un-schooled.”

καὶ ἔστι κυρίως ἀποφώλιος ὁ μὴ ἄξιος συναριθμεῖσθαι ἀνδρῶν ὁλότητι ἐν φωτὶ, ἤγουν ἐν καιρῷ ἔργων ἢ λόγων δεομένῳ. φωλεοὺς λέγουσι τὰ παιδευτήρια. ὁ γοῦν μὴ φοιτῶν εἰς τὰ παιδευτήρια λέγεται ἀποφώλιος. E.

Image result for Ancient Greek vase Odysseus

Less Strength, More Skill: Homeric Boxing

Quid prodest multos vincere luctatione vel caestu, ab iracundia vinci?

“What good is it to conquer many in boxing or wrestling only to be overcome by own own anger?”  -Seneca the Younger, Moral Epistles 88.19

During the funeral games in the Iliad, the victor in the boxing match, the older Epeios—who is described as the “son of Kapaneus, a man knowledgeable in boxing” (εἰδὼς πυγμαχίης υἱὸς Πανοπῆος ᾿Επειός, 23.665) knocks down Euryalos with a single blow (23.660-699). In the scholia to this passage, we find the comment that “this shows, as is right, that they had an art of boxing–it was not just about strength” (schol. B ad Il. 23.665: ἦν δέ, ὡς ἔοικε, καὶ τέχνη παρ’ αὐτοῖς τῆς πυγμῆς, οὐ μόνον ἡ δύναμις).

In the Odyssey, Odysseus returns home in disguise and is forced to box the local beggar Iros to entertain the suitors who are plaguing his home. In this scene, it is again his intelligence that wins the day.

Odyssey 18.89-100

“They led [Iros and Odysseus] into the middle. Both men raised their hands.
Much-enduring, godly Odysseus deliberated then
whether he would pummel him and make the soul depart his fallen opponent
or just strike him enough to lay him out on the ground.
As he deliberated this seemed better to him,
just to strike him so that the Achaians might not figure out who he was.
And then, when their hands were raised, Iros punched his right shoulder,
but Odysseus hit him on the neck under the ear—the bones within
bent. Immediately, dark blood spat from his mouth
And he fell moaning in the dust as he ground his teeth together
and kicked the ground with his feet. Then the arrogant suitors
nearly died with laughter as they raised their hands….”

ἐς μέσσον δ’ ἄναγον· τὼ δ’ ἄμφω χεῖρας ἀνέσχον.
δὴ τότε μερμήριξε πολύτλας δῖος ᾿Οδυσσεύς,
ἢ ἐλάσει’ ὥς μιν ψυχὴ λίποι αὖθι πεσόντα,
ἦέ μιν ἦκ’ ἐλάσειε τανύσσειέν τ’ ἐπὶ γαίῃ.
ὧδε δέ οἱ φρονέοντι δοάσσατο κέρδιον εἶναι,
ἦκ’ ἐλάσαι, ἵνα μή μιν ἐπιφρασσαίατ’ ᾿Αχαιοί.
δὴ τότ’ ἀνασχομένω ὁ μὲν ἤλασε δεξιὸν ὦμον
῏Ιρος, ὁ δ’ αὐχέν’ ἔλασσεν ὑπ’ οὔατος, ὀστέα δ’ εἴσω
ἔθλασεν· αὐτίκα δ’ ἦλθεν ἀνὰ στόμα φοίνιον αἷμα,
κὰδ δ’ ἔπεσ’ ἐν κονίῃσι μακών, σὺν δ’ ἤλασ’ ὀδόντας
λακτίζων ποσὶ γαῖαν· ἀτὰρ μνηστῆρες ἀγαυοὶ
χεῖρας ἀνασχόμενοι γέλῳ ἔκθανον. αὐτὰρ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς

This post is in honor of Paul Holdengraber and his fabulous interviews with the pugilist Mike Tyson.

A Twitter correspondent aptly added this:

Xenophon, Memorabilia 3.5.14


“I think that just as certain Athletes lose ground to their opponents after they have won with too much ease, so too the Athenians have become worse because they stopped caring for themselves.”


᾿Εγὼ μέν, ἔφη, οἶμαι, ὁ Σωκράτης, ὥσπερ καὶ ἀθληταί τινες διὰ τὸ πολὺ ὑπερενεγκεῖν καὶ κρατιστεῦσαι καταρρᾳθυμήσαντες ὑστερίζουσι τῶν ἀντιπάλων, οὕτω καὶ ᾿Αθηναίους πολὺ διενεγκόντας ἀμελῆσαι ἑαυτῶν καὶ διὰτοῦτο χείρους γεγονέναι.

Homer, Odyssey 8.147-8

“For as long as he lives, a man has no greater glory

than that which he wins with his own hands and feet”


οὐ μὲν γὰρ μεῖζον κλέος ἀνέρος, ὄφρα κεν ᾖσιν,

ἢ ὅ τι ποσσίν τε ῥέξῃ καὶ χερσὶν ἑῇσιν.


Or so a Prince Dandy says to the long-suffering war veteran Odysseus. Sports and games are ritual substitutes for war and distractions from the fact that the soldier faces far higher stakes than the sportsman. It is no accident that this scene happens among the Phaeacians who live a charmed life far from all other men…until Poseidon drops a mountain on them.

(Does this prompt the type of strife Horace talks about?)

Homer, Odyssey 8.147-8

“For as long as he lives, a man has no greater glory

than that which he makes with his own hands and feet”

οὐ μὲν γὰρ μεῖζον κλέος ἀνέρος, ὄφρα κεν ᾖσιν,

ἢ ὅ τι ποσσίν τε ῥέξῃ καὶ χερσὶν ἑῇσιν.

Or so a Prince Dandy says to the long-suffering war veteran Odysseus

(Does this prompt the type of strife Horace talks about?)

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