Advice for the Holidays — Mother, Zeno, and Apuleius Always Said: “Two Ears, One Mouth”

Now that the holiday season is upon us, hordes of Americans will brave weather and traffic to reunite with their families. This is the perfect moment for considering how to survive after the eating is done. Some advice from Zeno (and many others): “Two Ears, One Mouth,”

A few months back I reached out over twitter to Paul Holdengräber about his seven-word autobiography from Brainpickings.org‘s “The 7-Word Autobiographies of Famous Writers, Artists, Musicians and Philosophers”. It had been in my head for a few days: “Mother always said: Two ears, one mouth.” 

I started out by having some fun putting the saying into Greek and enjoining others to do this in Latin and Greek verse.

I settled on this: μήτηρ ἀεὶ ἔφη ὦτα δύο, ἕν δὲ στόμα

Armand D’Angour gave us a nice version in elegiac couplet:

ῥᾴδιόν ἐστι Λόγον τε νοεῖν ξυνετόν τε ποιῆσαι·
τοῦτο γάρ ἐστι βροτῶν, ἓν στόμα τ᾽, ὦτα δύο.

Armand added a Latin Elegiac couplet too!

en clarum est rerum ratio, nam invenimus aures
esse homini geminas, os tamen unicum adest.

But not to be completely left out, Gerrit Kloss joined in with his own version:

illud (vera patet ratio) tibi mente tenendum:
auribus est geminis, unius oris homo

While we we throwing these translations and links to Paul’s stories around online, we found that the saying had a much more complicated history than we’d originally imagined. Gerrit Kloss found it attributed to Zeno.

So, the quote I thought sounded Greek, turned out to be Greek. According to Diogenes Laertius, Zeno said something powerfully similar (the full text is available on Perseus). And, honestly, without preening too much, I was happy that the version I settled on (μήτηρ ἀεὶ ἔφη ὦτα δύο, ἕν στόμα) wasn’t too different from the words attributed to Zeno: δύο ὦτα ἔχομεν, στόμα δὲ ἕν).

But the situation grew more complicated.

Continue reading “Advice for the Holidays — Mother, Zeno, and Apuleius Always Said: “Two Ears, One Mouth””

Snakehead and Boys in the Street: Plato the Comic on Politics (Two Fragments)

This is from Plato the Attic Comedian, not the Attic Philosopher. Who knew there were at least 30 men with the same name?

Plato, Fr. 202 (Stobaeus, 2.3.3)

“If one wicked person
perishes, then two politicians grow in his place.
For there is no Iolaus* in the city
Who might cauterize the politicians’ heads.
If you’ve been bent over, then you’ll be a politician.”

῍Ην γὰρ ἀποθάνῃ
εἷς τις πονηρός, δύ’ ἀνέφυσαν ῥήτορες•
οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἡμῖν ᾿Ιόλεως ἐν τῇ πόλει,
ὅστις ἐπικαύσει τὰς κεφαλὰς τῶν ῥητόρων.
κεκολλόπευκας• τοιγαροῦν ῥήτωρ ἔσει.

*Iolaus is Herakles’ nephew who helped the hero kill the Hydra by cauterizing its necks to prevent new heads from growing.

Platôn, Alliance (fr. 168)

“They are like those boys who each time they draw a line
in the street to divide themselves into two groups
stand with some of them on one side of the line and some on the other.
One who stands in the middle of the two hurls a pot sherd–
If the white side faces up, one group must flee right away
And the others must chase them.”

Εἴξασιν γὰρ τοῖς παιδαρίοις τούτοις, οἳ ἑκάστοτε γραμμήν
ἐν ταῖσιν ὁδοῖς διαγράψαντες διανειμάμενοι δίχ’ ἑαυτούς
ἑστᾶσ’, αὐτῶν οἱ μὲν ἐκεῖθεν τῆς γράμμης οἱ δ’ αὖ ἐκεῖθεν•
εἷς δ’ ἀμφοτέρων ὄστρακον αὐτοῖς εἰς μέσον ἑστὼς ἀνίησιν,
κἂν μὲν πίπτῃσι τὰ λεύκ’ ἐπάνω, φεύγειν ταχὺ τοὺς ἑτέρους δεῖ,
τοὺς δὲ διώκειν.

Some Th(o)rsday Quotes for Zeus

For one thunder-loving god on another’s special day, some quotes from our Archive about Zeus where we learn that only he is free, that he has medicine for everything and that he is truly self-aware.

 

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 50

 

“No one is free but Zeus”

 

ἐλεύθερος γὰρ οὔτις ἐστὶ πλὴν Διός.

 

This from Hermes speaking to Prometheus

 

Homer, Odyssey 14.58-59

 

… πρὸς γὰρ Διός εἰσιν ἅπαντες

ξεῖνοί τε πτωχοί τε. δόσις δ’ ὀλίγη τε φίλη τε

γίνεται ἡμετέρη·

 

“All strangers and beggars are from Zeus;

Our gift to them is small but dear.”

Stobaeus, 1.1.16

“Only Zeus has medicine for everything”

Ζεὺς πάντων αὐτὸς φάρμακα μοῦνος ἔχει

Stobaeus, wise man, collector of things

Ion of Chios, fr. 55

“Know yourself” is not a hard command:
but of all the gods only Zeus can do it.

τὸ γνῶθι σαυτὸν τοῦτ’ ἔπος μὲν οὐ μέγα,
ἔργον δ’ ὅσον Ζεὺς μόνος ἐπίσταται θεῶν

zeus20with20thunderbolt_1The Zeus I know doesn’t seem all that self-aware…

(Ion’s the dude from Chios)

Hermolochus (Stobaeus, Extracts 4.34.66)

 

“Often a terrible wind follows hard after fair-sailing.”

ἀντιπνεῖ δὲ πολλάκις εὐτυχίᾳ δεινά τις αὔρα

Hermolochus just defeated Wikipedia. Stobaeus made the cut, though.

(Am I the only one who loves the sound of ἀντιπνεῖ? Seriously, say it aloud a few times…)