I must decide the matter at hand along the edge, as it were,
of a carpenter’s rule and square.
Kyrnos, I must give both sides justice and what is fair,
relying on seers, auguring birds and burnt offerings,
so I don’t face shameful reproach for a mistake.
Does the speaker want A and not-A at the same time? Contrast the stated obligation of precision in decision-making with the imprecision of the decision-making procedures (seers, augurs, and sacrifices to the gods). Or, put it this way: contrast objective methods (e.g., drawing a line along the edge of a carpenter’s square) with subjective ones (e.g., reading bird omens). The two approaches are in conflict and yet the speaker presents the latter (subjective) as the means of achieving the former (objectivity).
So, what’s justice? A strict obligation is laid on the speaker, but the instruments available for satisfying it are unreliable: the carpenter’s edge guarantees a straight line, the bird omen guarantees nothing. This of course the speaker knows. But what’s the alternative? The speaker is stating, however indirectly, a problem fundamental to law: justice is a strict obligation, but there are no infallible procedures for its production. What exists are procedures (maybe reading the birds, maybe empaneling a jury), and fidelity to them is what justice more or less is (i.e., more process than outcome). Therefore interpret the poem’s final line not as “omens and the like save me from mistakes” but as “because I follow the established practice of omens and the like, even when I make mistakes I’m spared the worst criticisms.”
“I play, taking pleasure in youth—for I will lie
A long time under the earth once I die,
Like a voiceless stone, when I leave the sun’s lovely light.
No matter how good I was, I will see nothing again.”
“I have now learned and I accept there are two types of creative ability: there is a divine portion and a human portion. The first part concerns the reality of things and the second is the generation of the likeness of these same things.
Woodhouse’s English to Greek Dictionary lists the following Greek nouns for the English word “fragment”
μέρος, τό: part of
μόριον, τό: portion of
τμῆμα, τό: somehing cut off
θραῦσμα, τό: something torn off
ψωμός, ὁ: Morsel
ἀτελής, adj.: fragmentary
Today for no special reason we are tweeting a large array of fragments. In part, this is because fragments comprise much of what we do. We present fragments; we make texts fragmentary by excerpting them; and we actively re-purpose the fragments we make by decontextualizing them and forcing them into real-world parallels on twitter (some intended, some merely serendipitous).
In this \we participate in the process that created many of what we now call fragments: rather than existing in tattered or reconstructed manuscripts, a large portion of fragments are actually quoted within other texts. The act of excerpting is an act of remaking—one needs only to read a little Plutarch to see the way he intentionally re-purposes lines he quotes.
The metaphors inherent to the Greek words for fragments above indicate a few things: the sense that a fragment belongs to something else, that it has been (violently) separated from this whole, and that a fragment may function like an appetizer, give us merely a taste of a larger ‘meal’. The sense of the adjective ἀτελής is also interesting—that which is fragmentary is incomplete?
Thinking about fragments—and our word is even more violent, it is something ‘broken off’—makes me think of what we are assuming when we consider a text ‘whole’, or non-fragmentary. Isn’t even a complete book merely a portion of someone’s output? What of a whole corpus or genres, are they not fragments of cultures long gone? Perhaps we should articulate more clearly that the study of fragments is, essentially, a metonym for the study of the whole.
“The insult “people-devouring king” is aimed especially at moving the people and provoking Agamemnon to Anger. Just as the term “gift-devourer” emphasizes the evil of taking bribes, just so here the term dêmoboros highlights the injustice which is more subtly announced in the phrase “deprive one of gifts”. Note as well that Agamemnon is maligned not just for drinking [being “wine-heavy”] but also for eating.”
“For the allies of the Trojans eat the public goods of the people and the leaders of the Argives drink the public goods. It has already been shown that, when a division of spoils was made, some portion was granted from the common shares to the king and for the symposia of the best men—the misuse of this makes the king a “people-eater”—by which this means a “consumer of the people’s things. For to claim that dêmoboros is the same as cannibalism [anthropo-phagy], that he eats the people, is both bitter to the thought and harmful to the sense. For it is clear that this is not what is being criticized, because it is not the people [demos] rather than the things of the people, the public goods, as is clear from other compounds like demiopratôn, which Kômikos brings up, or also from the Homeric dêmioergôn.”
“Guard against these things, kings, and straighten your stories, Bribe-eaters, forget about your crooked rulings completely.
Who fashions evil for another man brings it on himself.
The vilest end comes for the man who has made evil plans.”
“He says this educationally, answering to the kings who should make a great effort to make people prosperous even though some of them take bribes. Not only this, he says clearly that if the kingly right is bestowed by the gods to do good, then it is right that kingly men be givers of wealth, and to expunge wrong doing, including a desire for money, for which they should be leaders for others according to the will of the gods.”
“Let us spurn the rewards of today and look to future glory; let us deem best what is most honorable; let us hope for what we want, but bear what befalls us; finally, let us consider that even the bodies of brave men and great citizens are mortal; but that activity of the mind and the glory of virtue are forever.”
praesentis fructus neglegamus, posteritatis gloriae serviamus; id esse optimum putemus quod erit rectissimum; speremus quae volumus, sed quod acciderit feramus; cogitemus denique corpus virorum fortium magnorum hominum esse mortale, animi vero motus et virtutis gloriam sempiternam
Mile 5: When I start to Make Jokes to Myself about Pheidippides
Lucian, On Mistakes in Greeting
“After saying ‘hello’ he died with his greeting a gasped out a final farewell”
“The conflict between Aeschines and Demosthenes began in part because of the fact that the one acted on behalf of the King and the other acted for another—as it seems to me. But there was also a difference of character: and hatred always seems to develop from characters that are strongly opposed to one another without any other cause. And the two were opposed for these reasons. Aeschines was a man who liked to drink, but he was sweet and had kind manners and he had the general charm of Dionysus; indeed, when he was in his youth he played parts for the tragic actors. But Demosthenes had a downcast face, a heavy brow, and he drank water: and for this reason he was assumed a ill-tempered and bad-mannered man….”
The Megaran Elegiac poet Theognis leaves us over a thousand lines of conventional advice presented in a traditional order. Four couplets attributed to him (or his tradition) don’t fit into this order and are thus “fragments of uncertain place” (Fragmenta Sedis Incertae). I don’t know if I read them before today; but I am certain they’re worth reading again:
“Logic is in the habit of inflicting upon men, Kurnos
The many stumbles of troubled judgment.”