A Book Replaced By No Other

Libanius, Autobiography 148-149

“Another detail, small, yet not small, is worth adding to these things. For, I will perhaps seem to be pedantic to some of you, but I, bitten deep, know that I feel this way because of a serious matter.

See, I had a copy of Thucydides, with charming and small writing. The whole thing was easy enough to lift that I used to carry it myself with a slave following me and the burden was a delight. I learned enough of the war of the Spartan and Athenians in it to feel what, perhaps, others have felt too. I would never even come near to the same pleasure from another copy of the book.

Because I used to praise this possession too much to too many people and was delighting it more than Polykrates did his ring, I attracted thieves to it, some of whom I caught. But the last one of them started a fire to avoid being caught and so I stopped searching but I could not let go of grief. In fact, every profit I had from Thucydides began to shrink once I found him in different writing with displeasure.”

  1. Τούτοις ἄξιον ἐκεῖνο προσθεῖναι σμικρόν τε καὶ οὐ σμικρόν· ὑμῶν μὲν γὰρ ἴσως τῳ μικρολογεῖσθαι δόξω, δηχθεὶς δὲ αὐτὸς τὴν ψυχὴν οἶδα καὶ ἐπὶ μεγάλῳ τοῦτο παθών. ἦν μοι ἡ Θουκυδίδου συγγραφή, γράμματα μὲν ἐν μικρότητι χαρίεντα, τὸ δὲ σύμπαν οὕτω ῥᾴδιον φέρειν ὥστ᾿ αὐτὸς ἔφερον παιδὸς ἀκολουθοῦντος καὶ τὸ φορτίον τέρψις ἦν. ἐν τούτῳ τὸν πόλεμον τῶν Πελοποννησίων καὶ Ἀθηναίων μαθὼν ἐπεπόνθειν ὅπερ ἴσως ἤδη τις καὶ ἕτερος· οὐ γὰρ ἂν ἐξ ἑτέρας βίβλου ταῦτ᾿ ἂν αὖθις ἐπῆλθον πρὸς ἡδονήν.
  2. ἐπαινῶν δὴ πολλὰ καὶ πρὸς πολλοὺς τὸ κτῆμα καὶ εὐφραινόμενος μᾶλλον ἢ Πολυκράτης τῷ δακτυλίῳ κλέπτας αὐτῷ τοῖς ἐπαίνοις ἐπῆγον, ὧν τοὺς μὲν ἄλλους εὐθὺς ᾕρουν, ὁ δέ γε τελευταῖος πῦρ1ἀνῆψε τοῦ μὴ ἁλῶναι, καὶ οὕτω δὴ τοῦ ζητεῖν μὲν ἐπεπαύμην, τὸ μὴ λυπεῖσθαι δὲ οὐκ εἶχον. ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ κέρδος μοι τὸ παρὰ τοῦ Θουκυδίδου μέγα ἂν γενόμενον μεῖον ἤρχετο διὰ τὸ σὺν ἀηδίᾳ γράμμασιν ἑτέροις ὁμιλεῖν.

 

Image result for codex of thucydides
Alas, not Libanius’ text:

This tale reminds me of the box-Iliad:

Plutarch, Life of Alexander 26.4

“When a small box was brought to him—which seem more valuable than the rest of the possessions and baggage they had taken from Dareios, [Alexander] asked his friends what thing seem especially worthy of being put in it. Although many of them made many suggestions, Alexander said that he would keep the Iliad safe by placing it inside. Not a few of the most credible sources claim this.

If, as the Alexandrians say is true—since they believe Herakleides—Homer was no lazy or unprofitable travel companion…”

Κιβωτίου δέ τινος αὐτῷ προσενεχθέντος, οὗ πολυτελέστερον οὐδὲν ἐφάνη τοῖς τὰ Δαρείου χρήματα καὶ τὰς ἀποσκευὰς παραλαμβάνουσιν, ἠρώτα τοὺς φίλους, ὅ τι δοκοίη μάλιστα τῶν ἀξίων σπουδῆς εἰς αὐτὸ καταθέσθαι. πολλὰ δὲ πολλῶν λεγόντων, αὐτὸς ἔφη τὴν ᾿Ιλιάδα φρουρήσειν ἐνταῦθα καταθέμενος· καὶ ταῦτα μὲνοὐκ ὀλίγοι τῶν ἀξιοπίστων μεμαρτυρήκασιν. εἰ δ’, ὅπερ ᾿Αλεξανδρεῖς λέγουσιν ῾Ηρακλείδῃ (fr. 140 W.) πιστεύοντες, ἀληθές ἐστιν, οὔκουν [οὐκ] ἀργὸς οὐδ’ ἀσύμβολος αὐτῷ συστρατεύειν ἔοικεν ῞Ομηρος.

This passage refers to an earlier moment in the Life. Coincidentally, I also sleep the same way…

8.4

“[Alexander] was also naturally a lover of language, a lover of learning, and a lover of reading. Because he believed that the Iliad was a guidebook for military excellence—and called it that too—he took a copy of it which had been edited by Aristotle which they used to refer to as “Iliad-in-a-Box”. He always kept it with his dagger beneath his pillow—as Onêsikritos tells us.

When there were no other books in -and, he sent to Harpalos for some more. Then Harpalus sent him Philistos’ books along with some tragedies of Euripides, Sophokles and Aeschylus and the dithyrambs of Telestes and Philoxenos.”

ἦν δὲ καὶ φύσει φιλόλογος καὶ φιλομαθὴς καὶ φιλαναγνώστης, καὶ τὴν μὲν  ᾿Ιλιάδα τῆς πολεμικῆς ἀρετῆς ἐφόδιον καὶ νομίζων καὶ ὀνομάζων, ἔλαβε μὲν ᾿Αριστοτέλους διορθώσαντος ἣν ἐκ τοῦ νάρθηκος καλοῦσιν, εἶχε δ’ ἀεὶ μετὰ τοῦ ἐγχειριδίου κειμένην ὑπὸ τὸ προσκεφάλαιον, ὡς ᾿Ονησίκριτος ἱστόρηκε (FGrH 134 F 38)· τῶν δ’ ἄλλων βιβλίων οὐκ εὐπορῶν ἐν τοῖς ἄνω τόποις, ῞Αρπαλον ἐκέλευσε πέμψαι, κἀκεῖνος ἔπεμψεν αὐτῷ τάς τε Φιλίστου βίβλους καὶ τῶν Εὐριπίδου καὶ Σοφοκλέους καὶ Αἰσχύλου τραγῳδιῶν συχνάς, καὶ Τελέστου καὶ Φιλοξένου διθυράμβους.

 

(Don’t) judge a book by its cover

As some of you may have seen from our Twitter announcement over the summer, Joel and I are publishing our second book together, under the title Homer’s Thebes: Epic Rivalries and the Appropriation of Mythical Pasts. In our earlier announcement, we tweeted a picture of what its front cover will look like; and, given the interest in it, Joel invited me to write this guest post on his blog. I am delighted to take him up on the offer, even though I know that his blog is more accustomed to dealing with weightier matters than what appears on a book’s cover…

With the possible exception of writing acknowledgements, I find choosing a cover image for a book arguably the most pleasurable, and most difficult, of the final tasks that needs accomplishing before I can happily pack off my manuscript on its merry way to the press. Even if we are told otherwise (in the famous axiom not to judge a book by its cover), how a book looks can play a decisive role in its purchase; after the subject matter and author, it’s the one thing that may determine whether I buy book a book or not. If I look on my bookshelves, for example, the dust jackets that stand out for me are: the famous image (from the so-called François vase) of Ajax carrying the dead body of Achilles that emblazons Greg Nagy’s 1979 classic The Best of the Achaeans (and Michael Lynn-George’s equally ground-breaking Homeric criticism Epos: Word, Narrative and the Iliad); the contemplative Regarding Penelope by Nancy Felson; the highly wrought, yet seductive, Medea of James Clauss and Sarah Iles Johnston; the satirical depiction of famous classicists playing characters from Aristophanes (!) on Martin Revermann’s Comic Business; and the striking pose of Gertrude Eysoldt captured in the role of Electra that advertises Simon Goldhill’s Who Needs Greek?. The arresting contemporary nature of this image (though the photograph dates back to 1903) hints at Goldhill’s thesis of the continuing legacy of Victorian attitudes to, and contests over, the Classics that shape and inform our own implicated relationship with the subject.

 

As these examples suggest, aesthetic looks isn’t the only desideratum when it comes to choosing a book cover. For sure we want something that looks good; but it’s equally, if not more, important for that image to say something about the book itself (a picture is worth a thousand words, right?), though perhaps not in an obvious or straightforward way. Let me explore this issue by reflecting on my own choice of three covers that I’ve had the pleasure to be able to choose.

The image I chose for my first book—Entering the Agon: Dissent and authority in Homer, Historiography and Tragedy (Oxford, 2009)—is in many ways very traditional. It’s the famous image (on the black-figure amphora by Exekias) of Achilles and Ajax playing dice. But it’s an image that worked for me not only because of its beauty—though hats off here to the team at OUP who extended the pot’s gleaming background (which sets off the black figures) to cover the entirety of the book’s cover in a fiery golden afterglow. Figure4This image also spoke to my book’s subject matter: namely, the idea of contest (agōn) and its representation in ancient Greek literature. In truth, I had a hard time finding an image that worked for me. I wanted some kind of ancient Greek artistic representation; perhaps because it was my first book (the “book of the thesis”), I felt it needed to be unambiguously classical. It should have been easy, right, to find an image from the whole corpus of ancient Greek ceramics, right? Wrong. I could find none of the scenes of debate in epic, history and tragedy, which were the core focus of my argument, that had been illustrated, not even—as one may have expected—the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon that starts off the Iliad with such a bang. There is a fresco, highly fragmented, from Pompeii’s House of the Dioscuri (on exhibition at the National Archaeological museum in Naples), which shows Achilles going for his sword; and of course there are later Renaissance paintings depicting the quarrel (such as Giovanni Battista Gaulli’s baroque rendering). But I could find none from the world of ancient Greek ceramics or friezes—perhaps because, as Robin Osborne pointed out to me, Greek artists simply were less interested in illustrating literary stories than in creating their own. (It is striking that the wall paintings from Pompeii *do* look like illustrations of early Greek literary narratives, including the moment Euripides’s Medea ponders killing her children.) What Exekias’s scene of gaming heroes gave me was a hint not only of the formalisation of contest, but also of the prominence of Achilles (who in my argument institutionalises contest in the arena of debate) and, moreover, of his pairing with Ajax (whose story in Sophocles’s tragedy formed one of my chapters).

 

The second book I needed to choose an image for presented a rather different challenge. This was for an edited volume entitled: New Worlds out of Old Texts: Revisiting Ancient Space and Place (Oxford, 2016). Figure7The book derived from an interdisciplinary project that I had led called Hestia, which investigated representations of space and place in Herodotus, as well as the spatial construction underpinning his Histories. At the heart of the book was a discussion of the different disciplinary approaches that we undertook, spread over three chapters (which I co-authored with different team members), exploring: digital annotation and mapping (with Leif Isaksen and Jessica Ogden), geographical spatial theory (with Stefan Bouzarvoski), and philological close reading (with Chris Pelling). Our resulting book included other contributors working in this space (pardon the pun), who had presented at our conference in Oxford, and who, like our team, represented an array of disciplines—not only Classical Studies, but also archaeology, digital humanities, and the history of thought. The image I wanted, then, needed to respect these different disciplinary approaches while at the same time hinting at ways in which they might be combined and intertwined (for interdisciplinary research). And, of course, it needed to be in some way spatial, to suggest the complexity of trying to represent and unpick spatial entities and relations. A web-designer friend (a shout-out here to Richard Rowley of Agile Collective) put me on to London-based artist Emma McNally, whose work attempts to “portray essence not as substance… but rather as the result of a process of reciprocal determination, where individual lines, markings, and trajectories are brought to significance through their interrelations with those around them” (https://www.flickr.com/people/emmamcnally/). After getting her approval (she was very happy for us to use her work provided that she got a copy of our book: gold armour for bronze, as Homer would say!), I chose her scratches, traces, spaces. This work on graphite (“a medium that lends itself perfectly to [a] sort of rhythmic making and unmaking. It is a material for palimpsest”: ibid) seemed to me to perfectly capture the spatial palimpsests that many of us were striving to reveal and more closely examine in our texts, while also being provocatively new and overtly relational. Emma later informed me that the very same artwork was used by Ridley Scott as a navigation map in his latest Alien prequel Convenant. If it’s good enough for Ridley…!

Figure8

All this brings me to the last image—the one that Joel had invited me to write about in the first place… Our book, Homer’s Thebes, sets out to argue that the Iliad and Odyssey (mis)represent heroes and themes from the Theban tradition to set out and realise the unique superiority of these texts in performance. In arguing this, we are attempting to view the Homeric poems in a new light, by emphasizing a non-hierarchical model of “reading” them and the Epic Cycle together within the framework of oral-formulaic poetics and artistic rivalry. With this in mind, we wanted an image that suggested Homer in some way (epic poetry, heroes, etc.) but that wasn’t a straightforward classical take on that. From a very early stage I was convinced that a cubist painting of some kind would work, with that central idea of taking something familiar (for us, reading Homer; for Homer’s audience, the Troy story and the siege of Thebes) and, by viewing it from different perspectives, producing a radically different picture (a Troy story that emphasises internal conflict among the Achaeans, for instance). For me, cubist works echo the type of violent reception and adaptation that our book is about. But here we ran into a significant problem that meets anyone looking to reuse a contemporary image, whether that is a museum photograph of an ancient artefact or a modern painting in a gallery’s collection: copyright. For all the cubist paintings that I could find that seemed to dialogue with our approach, the answer kept coming back from our publishers that we couldn’t use them because of the copyright and/or the costs involved. Out went The Thebaid by Wyndham Lewis, along with his Composition; we fared no better with Barbara Hepworth’s Two Heroes; we couldn’t even use Le Poète by Picasso, even though I had sourced it from Wikipedia.

Just as I was beginning to despair, and I thought that we would have to give up on this idea of a cubist-style makeover for our Homer, I had the inspiration to look for works by modern Greek artists. I knew that ever since the twentieth century, Greek writers and painters alike have been grappling with the problem of their country’s complicated (and often times suffocating) classical legacy. And thus I had the fortune to come across the work of Nikos Engonopoulos. He’s the painter most famous in Greece for revisiting classical themes in a distinct modern style (tending towards surrealism). Having found a number of post-classical images that I thought that we could use, I contacted the person responsible for his website and who owns the copyright to his works, his daughter Errietti Engonopoulou. Like Emma, Errietti could not have been more accommodating, and immediately allowed us to use a high-resolution image of the image that we decided on.

I present to you Engonopoulou’s 1939 oil on canvas The poet and the muse. We hope that you like it as much as we do.

Figure9

No Disaster Greater Than This…

Thucydides 7.29-30

“And there in Mycalessus was a great disturbance and every kind of ruin took root. [The Thracians] even attacked a school for children which was the largest in the region, when the children had just entered, and they cut down all of them. No greater suffering affected the whole state than this; it was terrible and unexpected more than any other.”

[5] καὶ τότε ἄλλη τε ταραχὴ οὐκ ὀλίγη καὶ ἰδέα πᾶσα καθειστήκει ὀλέθρου, καὶ ἐπιπεσόντες διδασκαλείῳ παίδων, ὅπερ μέγιστον ἦν αὐτόθι καὶ ἄρτι ἔτυχον οἱ παῖδες ἐσεληλυθότες, κατέκοψαν πάντας: καὶ ξυμφορὰ τῇ πόλει πάσῃ οὐδεμιᾶς ἥσσων μᾶλλον ἑτέρας ἀδόκητός τε ἐπέπεσεν αὕτη καὶ δεινή.

A twitter correspondent sent me this passage number last night after I tweeted:

This passage is affecting and Thucydides’ Greek is really powerful here. But when compared to the situation of school shootings in the United States, it is more troubling. For Thucydides, the Thracians have been sent home by the Athenians and are at best only quasi-civilized: he writes right before this passage that the Thracians “are a race which are most bloody in whatever they dare, similar to the most extreme of the barbarians” (τὸ γὰρ γένος τὸ τῶν Θρᾳκῶν ὁμοῖα τοῖς μάλιστα τοῦ βαρβαρικοῦ, ἐν ᾧ ἂν θαρσήσῃ, φονικώτατόν ἐστιν, 7.29.4).

So this murderous rampage is performed by a people, marked judgmentally as barbarians, in a time of war. (Yes, we try to “other” the murderers by marking them as insane or disturbed in some way.) More importantly, even in a narrative about one of the greatest wars of all times (from Thucydides’ perspective) the murder of children is seen as an (1) unexpected calamity for the (2) whole civic entity. Can we honestly say our acts of violence are unexpected when they happen with such frequency?

Once the cities of central Greece heard of the Thracian activities, the Thebans sent out an army and put down the Thracians with some difficulty. Thucydides, no sucker for hyperbole, concludes (7.30):

“These things which Mycalessus suffered turned out to be the kinds of events worthy of lamenting more than any other during the war because of the city’s size.”

τὰ μὲν κατὰ τὴν Μυκαλησσὸν πάθει χρησαμένην οὐδενὸς ὡς ἐπὶ μεγέθει τῶν κατὰ τὸν πόλεμον ἧσσον ὀλοφύρασθαι ἀξίῳ τοιαῦτα ξυνέβη.

But maybe we should rethink what atrocity and ‘war’ is. Every year 1300 children die from gun shot wounds in the US. That means that since 2001 the number of children who have been killed is nearly six times the adults who perished on 9/11. The terrorist attacks were largely unexpected. Gun violence is not.

Here’s the note from Charles F. Smith presented on Perseus:

καὶ ξυμφορὰ τῇ πόλεικαὶ δεινή : Thuc. sums up the horror of the whole affair in the most impressive manner, the subst. placed first, followed by the phrases οὐδεμιᾶς ἥσσων and μᾶλλονἑτέρας, which have the force of sups., and the dem. pron. The position of the subst. gives it a character of generality with nearly the effect of the part. gen. See on i.1.8. This passage differs, however, from those cited at i.1.8 in this respect, that here two qualities in their highest expression unite in a single case, viz. the extent of the destruction (οὐδεμιᾶς ἥσσων) and the complete unexpectedness of it (μᾶλλον ἑτέρας ἀδόκητος). “And so this blow, than which no greater ever affected a whole city, was in the highest degree both unexpected and terrible.” μᾶλλον . . . ἀδόκητος and δεινή stand in pred. relation to ἐπέπεσεν.

Thucydides in front of the Australian Parliament building

Procrastination: A Greek and Roman Tradition

Our word ‘procrastination’ is pretty much a direct borrowing from Latin (first attested in English in 1548, according to the OED–we really delayed in adopting it!). There was also a brief-lived adaptation of Latin cunctatio (delay) in English cunctation, cunctatory, cunctatious (etc.) but, thankfully, that fell into disuse. Eventually.

Here are some Greek and Roman thoughts on delay:

From the Suda:

Ἀμβολία: ἡ ὑπέρθεσις: Hesitation: postponement
Ἀναβάλλειν: To Delay
Ἀνάθεσις: ἡ ὑπέρθεσις: A delay: postponement
Διαμέλλει: ἀναβολῇ χρῆται: He/she put something off: to employ procrastination.

A few proverbs from the Suda

“The wings of Daidalos”: used of those who employ delay because they lack a prosthetic.

Δαιδάλου πτερά: ἐπὶ τῶν δι’ ἀπορίαν προσθήκης χρωμένων παρελκύσει.

“The hedgehog would put off childbirth.” This proverb is applied to situations that become worse with delay”

Ἐχῖνος τὸν τόκον ἀναβάλλῃ: λέγεται ἐφ’ ὧν τὸ ἀναβάλλεσθαι πρὸς χείρονος γίνεται.

Image result for Medieval manuscript hedgehog

Terence, Andria 206

“Dave, this is no place for sluggishness or procrastination.”

Dave, nil locist segnitiae neque socordiae,

Propertius, 1.12

“Why can’t you stop flinging a charge of laziness at me—
The claim that Rome, Ponticus, is making me procrastinate?”

Quid mihi desidiae non cessas fingere crimen,
quod faciat nobis, Pontice, Roma moram?

Achilles Tatius, Leucippe and Clitophon 18

“For when beauty, wealth and sex converge upon you, you better not sit or procrastinate!”

κάλλος γὰρ καὶ πλοῦτος καὶ ἔρως εἰ συνῆλθον ἐπὶ σέ, οὐχ ἕδρας οὐδὲ ἀναβολῆς

Cicero, Letters (to Atticus) 10.9

“Fearing this, I fell into this delay. But I might achieve everything if I hurry—if I procrastinate, I lose.”

hoc verens in hanc tarditatem incidi. sed adsequar omnia si propero: si cunctor, amitto.

Cicero, Letters to Friends (Caelius Rufus to Cicero, 87)

“You know how slow and barely effective Marcellus is. And Servius too, the procrastinator….”

nosti Marcellum, quam tardus et parum efficax sit, itemque Servium, quam cunctator

Thucydides, 2.18

“The Peloponnesians believed that when they arrived they would have captured everything outside still immediately, except for his procrastination…”

καὶ ἐδόκουν οἱ Πελοποννήσιοι ἐπελθόντες ἂν διὰ τάχους πάντα ἔτι ἔξω καταλαβεῖν, εἰ μὴ διὰ τὴν ἐκείνου μέλλησιν

Demosthenes, Second Olynthiac 23

“It is no surprise that Philip, when he goes on campaign himself, toiling and present at every event, overlooking no opportunity or season, outstrips us as we procrastinate, vote on things, and make official inquiries.”

οὐ δὴ θαυμαστόν ἐστιν, εἰ στρατευόμενος καὶ πονῶν ἐκεῖνος αὐτὸς καὶ παρὼν ἐφ᾿ ἅπασι καὶ μήτε καιρὸν μήθ᾿ ὥραν παραλείπων ἡμῶν μελλόντων καὶ ψηφιζομένων καὶ πυνθανομένων περιγίγνεται.

Plato, Critias 108d

“I need to do this already, I can’t procrastinate anymore!”

τοῦτ᾿ οὖν αὐτὸ ἤδη δραστέον, καὶ μελλητέον οὐδὲν ἔτι.

Minucius Felix, Octavius 13

“Shouldn’t everyone should respect and imitate the procrastination of Simonides, the lyric poet? When he was asked by the tyrant Hiero what he thought about the nature of the gods, first he asked for a day to think about it. On the next day, he asked for two more days. And he requested another two when reminded again!

Finally, when the tyrant asked the cause of so much delay, he responded that to him “the truth became as much more obscure as the time spent pursuing it”. To my taste, matters that are uncertain should be let as they are. When so many impressive minds disagree, decisions should not be made rashly or speedily for either side to avoid entertaining an old woman’s superstition or the loss of all religion.”

Simonidis Melici nonne admiranda omnibus et sectanda cunctatio? Qui Simonides, cum de eo, quid et quales arbitraretur deos, ab Hierone tyranno quaereretur, primo deliberationi diem petiit, postridie biduum prorogavit, mox alterum tantum admonitus adiunxit. Postremo, cum causas tantae morae tyrannus inquireret, respondit ille ‘quod sibi, quanto inquisitio tardior pergeret, tanto veritas fieret obscurior.’Mea quoque opinione quae sunt dubia, ut sunt, relinquenda sunt, nec, tot ac tantis viris deliberantibus, temere et audaciter in alteram partem ferenda sententia est, ne aut anilis inducatur superstitio aut omnis religio destruatur.”

Martial, 5.58

“Postumus, you always say that you will live tomorrow, tomorrow!
But that ‘tomorrow’ of yours – when does it ever come?
How far off is that ‘tomorrow’! Where is it, or where should it be sought?
Does it lie hidden among the Parthians, or the Armenians?
That ‘tomorrow’ is as old as Priam or Nestor.
For how much can ‘tomorrow’ be purchased?
You will live tomorrow, you say?
Postumus, even living today is too late;
he is the wise man, who lived yesterday.

Cras te uicturum, cras dicis, Postume, semper:
dic mihi, cras istud, Postume, quando uenit?
Quam longe cras istud! ubi est? aut unde petendum?
Numquid apud Parthos Armeniosque latet?
Iam cras istud habet Priami uel Nestoris annos.              5
Cras istud quanti, dic mihi, possit emi?
Cras uiues? Hodie iam uiuere, Postume, serum est:
ille sapit quisquis, Postume, uixit heri.

Epitaphioi: Teaching the Living By Praise of the Dead

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. For it is hard to speak reasonably on something upon which faith in the truth is only partly firm.

For the one who knows the story and is a well-informed listener may take it rather harshly compared to what he wants, knows and believes should be said. Someone inexperienced of the events may find fault because of envy if he hears anything behind his own nature. For praise spoken of others is endurable only to the point that each person believes that he is capable of achieving what he has heard. People envy and disbelieve those who surpass them.

But since it was believed noble to do these things by our forefathers, it is right that I follow the law and try as much as possible to fulfill each of your desire and expectation.”

‘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. χαλεπὸν γὰρ τὸ μετρίως εἰπεῖν ἐν ᾧ μόλις καὶ ἡ δόκησις τῆς ἀληθείας βεβαιοῦται. ὅ τε γὰρ ξυνειδὼς καὶ εὔνους ἀκροατὴς τάχ’ ἄν τι ἐνδεεστέρως πρὸς ἃ βούλεταί τε καὶ ἐπίσταται νομίσειε δηλοῦσθαι, ὅ τε ἄπειρος ἔστιν ἃ καὶ  πλεονάζεσθαι, διὰ φθόνον, εἴ τι ὑπὲρ τὴν αὑτοῦ φύσιν ἀκούοι. μέχρι γὰρ τοῦδε   ἀνεκτοὶ οἱ ἔπαινοί εἰσι περὶ ἑτέρων λεγόμενοι, ἐς ὅσον ἂν καὶ αὐτὸς ἕκαστος οἴηται ἱκανὸς εἶναι δρᾶσαί τι ὧν ἤκουσεν· τῷ δὲ ὑπερβάλλοντι αὐτῶν φθονοῦντες ἤδη καὶ ἀπιστοῦσιν. ἐπειδὴ δὲ τοῖς πάλαι οὕτως ἐδοκιμάσθη ταῦτα καλῶς ἔχειν, χρὴ καὶ ἐμὲ ἑπόμενον τῷ νόμῳ πειρᾶσθαι ὑμῶν τῆς ἑκάστου βουλήσεώς τε καὶ δόξης τυχεῖν ὡς ἐπὶ πλεῖστον.

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 buried here, I would complain to those who summoned me to speak with only a few days’ notice. But since the whole of time would not be enough for all men together to prepare a speech worthy of these deeds, for this reason the city seems to take pity on those who speak here in making their assignment late–since it knows that the speakers will have the pardon of their audiences.

Yet, though my speech is about those men, my struggle is not with their deeds but with those who have spoken for them before. For their virtue has provided such an abundance both in those able to compose poetry and those who are selected to speak, that even though many fine things have been said about them by my predecessors and many other things have been omitted by them, it is still the case that enough remains for those who follow them to say. For there is no land or sea unknown by these men; and in every direction among all peoples even those who suffered at their hands sing their praises.

First, therefore, I will recite the ancient trials of our forefathers, procuring for us a reminder from their fame. For it is right for all men to remember them, praising them in songs and recalling their names in the praise of good men, honoring them on occasions such as this, and teaching the living through the deeds of the dead.

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· ἐπειδὴ δὲ πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις ὁ πᾶς χρόνος οὐχ ἱκανὸς λόγον ἴσον παρασκευάσαι τοῖς τούτων ἔργοις, διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡ πόλις μοι δοκεῖ, προνοουμένη τῶν ἐνθάδε λεγόντων, ἐξ ὀλίγου τὴν πρόσταξιν ποιεῖσθαι, ἡγουμένη οὕτως ἂν μάλιστα συγγνώμης αὐτοὺς παρὰ τῶν ἀκουσάντων τυγχάνειν. ὅμως δὲ ὁ μὲν λόγος μοι περὶ τούτων, ὁ δ’ ἀγὼν οὐ πρὸς τὰ τούτων ἔργα ἀλλὰ πρὸς τοὺς πρότερον ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς εἰρηκότας. τοσαύτην γὰρ ἀφθονίαν παρεσκεύασεν ἡ τούτων ἀρετὴ καὶ τοῖς ποιεῖν δυναμένοις καὶ τοῖς εἰπεῖν βουληθεῖσιν, ὥστε καλὰ μὲν πολλὰ τοῖς προτέροις περὶ αὐτῶν εἰρῆσθαι, πολλὰ δὲ καὶ ἐκείνοις παραλελεῖφθαι, ἱκανὰ δὲ καὶ τοῖς ἐπιγιγνομένοις ἐξεῖναι εἰπεῖν·οὔτε γὰρ γῆς ἄπειροι οὔτε θαλάττης οὐδεμιᾶς, πανταχῇ δὲ καὶ παρὰ πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις οἱ τὰ αὑτῶν πενθοῦντες κακὰ τὰς τούτων ἀρετὰς ὑμνοῦσι.

Πρῶτον μὲν οὖν τοὺς παλαιοὺς κινδύνους τῶν προγόνων δίειμι, μνήμην παρὰ τῆς φήμης λαβών· ἄξιον γὰρ πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις κἀκείνων μεμνῆσθαι, ὑμνοῦντας μὲν ἐν ταῖς ᾠδαῖς, λέγοντας δ’ ἐν τοῖς τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἐγκωμίοις, τιμῶντας δ’ ἐν τοῖς καιροῖς τοῖς τοιούτοις, παιδεύοντας δ’ ἐν τοῖς τῶν τεθνεώτων ἔργοις τοὺς ζῶντας.

In 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. For, when deeds have been performed well, memory and glory come from the audience through a speech nobly spoken. Whoever will praise the dead rightly and advise the living favorably needs this type of speech: calling upon progeny and brothers to imitate their virtue and assuaging their parents and any elders they have left behind.

What sort of speech would this seem like for us? Should we begin correctly by praising them as good men who while alive impressed their friends with their virtue and who exchanged their death for the safety of the survivors? It seems right to me to praise them in the order of nature, how they became good men. They were good men because they came from good men. So first, let us praise their families, then the way they were raised and trained. And then we will show the character of their deeds, how they proved themselves to be noble and worthy.”

῎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. ἔργων γὰρ εὖ πραχθέντων λόγῳ καλῶς ῥηθέντι μνήμη καὶ κόσμος τοῖς πράξασι γίγνεται παρὰ τῶν ἀκουσάντων· δεῖ δὴ τοιούτου τινὸς λόγου ὅστις τοὺς μὲν τετελευτηκότας ἱκανῶς ἐπαινέσεται, τοῖς δὲ ζῶσιν εὐμενῶς παραινέσεται, ἐκγόνοις μὲν καὶ ἀδελφοῖς μιμεῖσθαι τὴν τῶνδε ἀρετὴν παρακελευόμενος, πατέρας δὲ καὶ μητέρας καὶ εἴ τινες τῶν ἄνωθεν ἔτι προγόνων λείπονται, τούτους δὲ  παραμυθούμενος.

τίς οὖν ἂν ἡμῖν τοιοῦτος λόγος φανείη; ἢ πόθεν ἂν ὀρθῶς ἀρξαίμεθα ἄνδρας ἀγαθοὺς ἐπαινοῦντες, οἳ ζῶντές τε τοὺς ἑαυτῶν ηὔφραινον δι’ ἀρετήν, καὶ τὴν τελευτὴν ἀντὶ τῆς τῶν ζώντων σωτηρίας ἠλλάξαντο; δοκεῖ μοι χρῆναι κατὰ φύσιν, ὥσπερ ἀγαθοὶ ἐγένοντο, οὕτω καὶ ἐπαινεῖν αὐτούς. ἀγαθοὶ δὲ ἐγένοντο διὰ τὸ φῦναι ἐξ ἀγαθῶν. τὴν εὐγένειαν οὖν πρῶτον αὐτῶν ἐγκωμιάζωμεν, δεύτερον δὲ τροφήν τε καὶ παιδείαν· ἐπὶ δὲ τούτοις τὴν τῶν ἔργων πρᾶξιν ἐπιδείξωμεν, ὡς καλὴν καὶ ἀξίαν τούτων ἀπεφήναντο.

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. For because they have abandoned that desire to live that is natural to all men and they have decided to die well rather than continue living and watch Greece fare badly, how have they not left behind an accomplishment beyond the expression of any speech?

But, nevertheless, it seems right to me to speak the way those who have spoken here before. How serious our city is about those who have died in war is can be seen from other affairs and especially from this law by which someone is selected who will speak over the public burial. For, since we know that among noble men the possession of money and the acquisition of pleasures in life are dismissed and that they have a great desire for virtue and praise, so that they might gain these things especially, we have thought it right to honor them so that what good repute they acquired while living, might also be granted to them even now that they are dead.

If I saw that courage alone was sufficient of those traits that lead to virtue, I would praise that and forget the rest of my speech. But because it is true that they were born nobly, educated prudently, and lived honorably—all reasons they were eager to act rightly—I would be ashamed if I moved on without saying something about these things. So I will start from the beginning of their ancestry.”

᾿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 σκοπῶν ἀξίως εἰπεῖν τῶν τετελευτηκότων ἕν τι τῶν ἀδυνάτων ηὕρισκον ὄν. οἳ γὰρ τὴν ὑπάρχουσαν πᾶσιν ἔμφυτον τοῦ ζῆν ὑπερεῖδον ἐπιθυμίαν, καὶ τελευτῆσαι καλῶς μᾶλλον ἠβουλήθησαν ἢ ζῶντες τὴν ῾Ελλάδ’ ἰδεῖν ἀτυχοῦσαν, πῶς οὐκ ἀνυπέρβλητον παντὶ λόγῳ τὴν αὑτῶν ἀρετὴν καταλελοίπασιν;

ὁμοίως μέντοι διαλεχθῆναι τοῖς πρότερόν ποτ’ εἰρηκόσιν ἐνθάδ’ εἶναι μοι δοκεῖ. ὡς μὲν οὖν ἡ πόλις σπουδάζει περὶ τοὺς ἐν τῷ πολέμῳ τελευτῶντας, ἔκ τε τῶν ἄλλων ἔστιν ἰδεῖν καὶ μάλιστ’ ἐκ τοῦδε τοῦ νόμου, καθ’ ὃν αἱρεῖται τὸν ἐροῦντ’ ἐπὶ ταῖς δημοσίαις ταφαῖς· εἰδυῖα γὰρ παρὰ τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς ἀνδράσιν τὰς μὲν τῶν χρημάτων κτήσεις καὶ τῶν κατὰ τὸν βίον ἡδονῶν ἀπολαύσεις ὑπερεωραμένας, τῆς δ’ ἀρετῆς καὶ τῶν ἐπαίνων πᾶσαν τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν οὖσαν, ἐξ ὧν ταῦτ’ ἂν αὐτοῖς μάλιστα γένοιτο λόγων, τούτοις ᾠήθησαν δεῖν αὐτοὺς τιμᾶν, ἵν’ ἣν ζῶντες ἐκτήσαντ’ εὐδοξίαν, αὕτη καὶ τετελευτηκόσιν αὐτοῖς ἀποδοθείη.

εἰ μὲν οὖν τὴν ἀνδρείαν μόνον αὐτοῖς τῶν εἰς ἀρετὴν ἀνηκόντων ὑπάρχουσαν ἑώρων, ταύτην ἂν ἐπαινέσας ἀπηλλαττόμην τῶν λοιπῶν· ἐπειδὴ δὲ  καὶ γεγενῆσθαι καλῶς καὶ πεπαιδεῦσθαι σωφρόνως καὶ βεβιωκέναι φιλοτίμως συμβέβηκεν αὐτοῖς, ἐξ ὧν εἰκότως ἦσαν σπουδαῖοι, αἰσχυνοίμην ἂν εἴ τι τούτων φανείην παραλιπών. ἄρξομαι δ’ ἀπὸ τῆς τοῦ γένους αὐτῶν ἀρχῆς.

Image result for Ancient Greek burial vase

Thucydides on Revolution and the Meaning of Words

Or, Thucydides says it all

from Thucydides 3.82.2-5

“Many terrible things happened to the cities during the revolution, as it always has been and always will be, as long as human nature is the same, although it sometimes takes a harsher or more mild form as the changes arise in different cities. During peace and times of abundance, cities and individual citizens have better ideas since they do not experience the compulsion of scarcity. But war, in depriving them of their daily needs, is a forceful teacher, and makes the character of most people equal to their present conditions.

Thus, the cities were in states of revolution and the places where it developed later pursued greater excess in their innovations from hearing of its coming beforehand—in both the cleverness of their attempts and the inappropriateness of their retributions.

The regular meaning of words changed to fit the state of affairs. Insane risk was now bravery for an ally; careful forethought was cowardice; moderation was considered an excuse for being unmanly; circumspection was an unwillingness to commit; heedless attacks was termed manly behavior, and self-defense was a bland excuse for conspiracy.

The one seeking extreme action was considered trustworthy; anyone who spoke against him was suspicious. If you were a successful conspirator, you were smart; you were clever if you discovered a conspiracy. But if you made provisions against either situation, you risked dividing your party and living in fear of your opponents. It was simply the same whether you stopped someone from doing wrong or you discovered a new opportunity for wrongdoing.”

 

war-vase

[2] καὶ ἐπέπεσε πολλὰ καὶ χαλεπὰ κατὰ στάσιν ταῖς πόλεσι, γιγνόμενα μὲν καὶ αἰεὶ ἐσόμενα, ἕως ἂν ἡ αὐτὴ φύσις ἀνθρώπων ᾖ, μᾶλλον δὲ καὶ ἡσυχαίτερα καὶ τοῖς εἴδεσι διηλλαγμένα, ὡς ἂν ἕκασται αἱ μεταβολαὶ τῶν ξυντυχιῶν ἐφιστῶνται. ἐν μὲν γὰρ εἰρήνῃ καὶ ἀγαθοῖς πράγμασιν αἵ τε πόλεις καὶ οἱ ἰδιῶται ἀμείνους τὰς γνώμας ἔχουσι διὰ τὸ μὴ ἐς ἀκουσίους ἀνάγκας πίπτειν: ὁ δὲ πόλεμος ὑφελὼν τὴν εὐπορίαν τοῦ καθ᾽ ἡμέραν βίαιος διδάσκαλος καὶ πρὸς τὰ παρόντα τὰς ὀργὰς τῶν πολλῶν ὁμοιοῖ.

[3] ἐστασίαζέ τε οὖν τὰ τῶν πόλεων, καὶ τὰ ἐφυστερίζοντά που πύστει τῶν προγενομένων πολὺ ἐπέφερε τὴν ὑπερβολὴν τοῦκαινοῦσθαι τὰς διανοίας τῶν τ᾽ ἐπιχειρήσεων περιτεχνήσει καὶ τῶν τιμωριῶν ἀτοπίᾳ.

[4] καὶ τὴν εἰωθυῖαν ἀξίωσιν τῶν ὀνομάτων ἐς τὰ ἔργα ἀντήλλαξαν τῇ δικαιώσει. τόλμα μὲν γὰρ ἀλόγιστος ἀνδρεία φιλέταιρος ἐνομίσθη, μέλλησις δὲ προμηθὴς δειλία εὐπρεπής, τὸ δὲ σῶφρον τοῦ ἀνάνδρου πρόσχημα, καὶ τὸ πρὸς ἅπαν ξυνετὸν ἐπὶ πᾶν ἀργόν· τὸ δ’ ἐμπλήκτως ὀξὺ ἀνδρὸς μοίρᾳ προσετέθη, ἀσφαλείᾳ δὲ τὸ ἐπιβουλεύσασθαι ἀποτροπῆς πρόφασις εὔλογος.

[5] καὶ ὁ μὲν χαλεπαίνων πιστὸς αἰεί, ὁ δ᾽ ἀντιλέγων αὐτῷ ὕποπτος. ἐπιβουλεύσας δέ τις τυχὼν ξυνετὸς καὶ ὑπονοήσας ἔτιδεινότερος: προβουλεύσας δὲ ὅπως μηδὲν αὐτῶν δεήσει, τῆς τε ἑταιρίας διαλυτὴς καὶ τοὺς ἐναντίους ἐκπεπληγμένος. ἁπλῶς δὲὁ φθάσας τὸν μέλλοντα κακόν τι δρᾶν ἐπῃνεῖτο, καὶ ὁ ἐπικελεύσας τὸν μὴ διανοούμενον.

Antiphon of Rhamnos–Good Man or Bad Man? Philostratus Doesn’t Know

From the Lives of the Sophists 498

“I don’t know if Anitphon of Rhamnos should be called a good man or a bad one. He may be called good for the following reasons: he was a general many times and was victorious for the most part, increasing the Athenian fleet with sixty fully-equipped triremes. He seemed to be the most capable of men at speaking and reasoning. For these reasons, he merits praise from me or any other. But he rightly appears a wicked man on these counts: He destroyed the democracy, he enslaved the Athenian people, he was a friend to the Spartans, at first secretly but later in the open, and he foisted upon the Athenian state the constitution of the Four-hundred Tyrants.”

᾿Αντιφῶντα δὲ τὸν ῾Ραμνούσιον οὐκ οἶδ’, εἴτε χρηστὸν δεῖ προσειπεῖν, εἴτε φαῦλον. χρηστὸς μὲν γὰρ προσειρήσθω διὰ τάδε· ἐστρατήγησε πλεῖστα, ἐνίκησε πλεῖστα, ἑξήκοντα τριήρεσι πεπληρωμέναις ηὔξησεν ᾿Αθηναίοις τὸ ναυτικόν, ἱκανώτατος ἀνθρώπων ἔδοξεν εἰπεῖν τε καὶ γνῶναι· διὰ μὲν δὴ ταῦτα ἐμοί τε ἐπαινετέος καὶ ἑτέρῳ. κακὸς δ’ ἂν εἰκότως διὰ τάδε φαίνοιτο· κατέλυσε τὴν δημοκρατίαν, ἐδού-λωσε τὸν ᾿Αθηναίων δῆμον, ἐλακώνισε κατ’ ἀρχὰς μὲν ἀφανῶς, ὕστερον δ’ ἐπιδήλως, τυράννων τετρακοσίων δῆμον ἐπαφῆκε τοῖς ᾿Αθηναίων πράγμασιν.

I don’t know, Philostratus, whether or not I should consider this opening a purely rhetorical question or not. On the one hand, you do well in the creation of your dichotomy, but on the other hand, the merits of the case seem to render this grammatical balance rather false and forced.  Perhaps add the teaching of Thucydides into the mix?