Euripides on How Wealth Affects Virtue

Fragment 462

“I both know and have experienced the hard way
that all people are the friends of men who have.
No one slinks about where there is no food,
But they go where there is wealth and a gathering.
To be ‘well-born’ is also the property of the rich;
But the poor man does well if he dies.”

᾿Επίσταμαι δὲ καὶ πεπείραμαι λίαν,
ὡς τῶν ἐχόντων πάντες ἄνθρωποι φίλοι.
οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἕρπει πρὸς τὸ μὴ τροφὴν ἔχον,
ἀλλ᾿ εἰς τὸ πλοῦτον καὶ συνουσίαν ἔχον.
καὶ τῶν ἐχόντων ηὑγένεια κρίνεται.
ἀνὴρ δ᾿ ἀχρήμων εἰ θάνοι πράσσει καλῶς.

Euripides, obviously, might disagree with Tibullus (1.1-6):

“Let someone else pile up gleaming gold
And hold as many lots of well-plowed land,
Let constant labor frighten him when an enemy’s near
As war’s clarion blasts send his sleep to flight.
But may my poverty guide me through a settled life
as long as my hearth shines with a tireless light.”

Divitias alius fulvo sibi congerat auro
Et teneat culti iugera multa soli,
Quem labor adsiduus vicino terreat hoste,
Martia cui somnos classica pulsa fugent:
Me mea paupertas vita traducat inerti, 5
Dum meus adsiduo luceat igne focus.

Although, in a different fragment, Euripides notes the corrupting force of wealth:

Euripides, fr. 54 (Alexander): On the Educational Merits of Poverty?

“Wealth and too much luxury
Are the wrong lessons for manly men.
Poverty is wretched but at least it raises up
Children better at working and getting things done.”

κακόν τι παίδευμ’ ἦν ἄρ’ εἰς εὐανδρίαν
ὁ πλοῦτος ἀνθρώποισιν αἵ τ’ ἄγαν τρυφαί·
πενία δὲ δύστηνον μέν, ἀλλ’ ὅμως τρέφει
μοχθεῖν τ’ ἀμείνω τέκνα καὶ δραστήρια.

The fabulously wealthy Seneca might agree:

Seneca, Epistulae ad Lucilium 17.3

“For many, riches have stood in the way of philosophizing; poverty is unimpeded, free from care.”

multis ad philosophandum obstitere divitiae; paupertas expedita est, secura est.

Image result for Ancient Greek riches

Euripides, Fr. 462 (Cretan Women): Only Death is Friend to the Poor

With the US presidential primary right around the corner, it might do some good to start up a debate about poverty–which will likely be mentioned far more here than by the candidates….

“I both know and have experienced the hard way
that all people are the friends of men who have.
No one slinks about where there is no food,
But they go where there is wealth and a gathering.
To be ‘well-born’ is also the property of the rich;
But the poor man does well if he dies.”

᾿Επίσταμαι δὲ καὶ πεπείραμαι λίαν,
ὡς τῶν ἐχόντων πάντες ἄνθρωποι φίλοι.
οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἕρπει πρὸς τὸ μὴ τροφὴν ἔχον,
ἀλλ᾿ εἰς τὸ πλοῦτον καὶ συνουσίαν ἔχον.
καὶ τῶν ἐχόντων ηὑγένεια κρίνεται.
ἀνὴρ δ᾿ ἀχρήμων εἰ θάνοι πράσσει καλῶς.

Euripides, obviously, might disagree with Tibullus (1.1-6):

“Let someone else pile up gleaming gold
And hold as many lots of well-plowed land,
Let constant labor frighten him when an enemy’s near
As war’s clarion blasts send his sleep to flight.
But may my poverty guide me through a settled life
as long as my hearth shines with a tireless light.”

Divitias alius fulvo sibi congerat auro
Et teneat culti iugera multa soli,
Quem labor adsiduus vicino terreat hoste,
Martia cui somnos classica pulsa fugent:
Me mea paupertas vita traducat inerti, 5
Dum meus adsiduo luceat igne focus.

Although, in a different fragment, Euripides notes the corrupting force of wealth:

Euripides, fr. 54 (Alexander): On the Educational Merits of Poverty?

“Wealth and too much luxury
Are the wrong lessons for manly men.
Poverty is wretched but at least it raises up
Children better at working and getting things done.”

κακόν τι παίδευμ’ ἦν ἄρ’ εἰς εὐανδρίαν
ὁ πλοῦτος ἀνθρώποισιν αἵ τ’ ἄγαν τρυφαί·
πενία δὲ δύστηνον μέν, ἀλλ’ ὅμως τρέφει
μοχθεῖν τ’ ἀμείνω τέκνα καὶ δραστήρια.

The fabulously wealthy Seneca might agree:

Seneca, Epistulae ad Lucilium 17.3

“For many, riches have stood in the way of philosophizing; poverty is unimpeded, free from care.”

multis ad philosophandum obstitere divitiae; paupertas expedita est, secura est.

Don’t Talk about Centaurs! Xenophanes on Proper Songs at a Symposium

 

Xenophanes, fr. B1 13-24

“First, it is right for merry men to praise the god
with righteous tales and cleansing words
after they have poured libations and prayed to be able to do
what is right: in fact, these things are easier to do,
instead of sacrilege. It is right as well to drink as much as you can
and still go home without help, unless you are very old.
It is right to praise a man who shares noble ideas when drinking
so that we remember and work towards excellence.
It is not right to narrate the wars of Titans or Giants
nor again of Centaurs, the fantasies of our forebears,
Nor of destructive strife. There is nothing useful in these tales.
It is right always to keep in mind good thoughts of the gods.”

χρὴ δὲ πρῶτον μὲν θεὸν ὑμνεῖν εὔφρονας ἄνδρας
εὐφήμοις μύθοις καὶ καθαροῖσι λόγοις,
σπείσαντάς τε καὶ εὐξαμένους τὰ δίκαια δύνασθαι
πρήσσειν• ταῦτα γὰρ ὦν ἐστι προχειρότερον,
οὐχ ὕβρεις• πίνειν δ’ ὁπόσον κεν ἔχων ἀφίκοιο
οἴκαδ’ ἄνευ προπόλου μὴ πάνυ γηραλέος.
ἀνδρῶν δ’ αἰνεῖν τοῦτον ὃς ἐσθλὰ πιὼν ἀναφαίνει,
ὡς ἦι μνημοσύνη καὶ τόνος ἀμφ’ ἀρετῆς,
οὔ τι μάχας διέπειν Τιτήνων οὐδὲ Γιγάντων
οὐδὲ Κενταύρων, πλάσμα τῶν προτέρων,
ἢ στάσιας σφεδανάς• τοῖς οὐδὲν χρηστὸν ἔνεστιν•
θεῶν προμηθείην αἰὲν ἔχειν ἀγαθήν.

 

Knock, Knock, Knocking on [Delia’s] Door

Tibullus, I.2 1-6:

 

“Fill up my drink: suppress new pains with wine
So that sleep may take eyes held by exhaustion;
May no one interrupt a man concussed by great Bacchus,
But let a barren love rest.
A savage guard has been set for my girl:
She is locked inside and the doors are bolted closed.”

Adde merum vinoque novos conpesce dolores,
Occupet ut fessi lumina victa sopor,
Neu quisquam multo percussum tempora baccho
Excitet, infelix dum requiescit amor.
Nam posita est nostrae custodia saeva puellae, 5
Clauditur et dura ianua firma sera.

This poem had me until the locked door…This is an example of a motif of a lover sitting outside a locked door, called paraklausithyron. (I can only imagine that a depressed graduate student made the Wikipedia entry). When I first learned about this, the name and the phenomenon’s specificity disturbed me. But, I guess I understand the motif’s attraction–we’re all on the side of some door or another, right?

Sing it Bob…

Well, that didn’t do it. Ok, sing it Axl…

Tibullus, 3.7 18-27: Billy Joel Said Something Like This

“Let someone else describe the miraculous work of the great world,
How the land sinks within the immeasurable air
And how the sea flows around the turning globe
Or where the wandering air struggles to rise from the earth
Or how joined to it, the burning aether often flows
And how everything is enclosed by heaven hanging above.
Whatever my songs should dare to reach,
Whether they make it up to you, which hope forbids
Or a bit less or more—and certainly it will be less—
I dedicate all of this to you and that way my page
Will never be missing its bit of greatness.”

Alter dicat opus magni mirabile mundi,
qualis in immenso desederit aere tellus,
qualis et in curuum pontus confluxerit orbem, 20
et uagus, e terris qua surgere nititur, aer,
huic et contextus passim fluat igneus aether,
pendentique super claudantur ut omnia caelo;
at quodcumque meae poterunt audere camenae,
seu tibi par poterunt seu, quod spes abnuit, ultra 25
siue minus ( certeque canent minus), omne uouemus
hoc tibi, nec tanto careat mihi carmine charta.

 

I was wrong with the title of this one.  I was actually thinking of the Elton John song “Your Song”. Sorry, Sir Elton.

Tibullus, Elegies Book 1, 10: 33-44: Life is Short Enough, War is F***ing Crazy

“What insanity is it to hurry dark death along with wars?
It is already imminent, coming secretly with a quiet foot.
There aren’t any fields below nor cultured vines, but only
Bold Cerberus and the foul boatman beside Stygian waters.
There with crushed eyes and burned hair
A pale crowd wanders toward murky lakes.
Instead, we should praise the man whom old age finds
In his small stocked house once his children are prepared.
He follows his sheep as his son cares for the lambs
And his wife heats cold water for the tired man.
May I be like him; may the hair on my head grow grey
As I recall the good old days in the way of an elderly man.”

Quis furor est atram bellis accersere mortem?
Inminet et tacito clam venit illa pede.
Non seges est infra, non vinea culta, sed audax 35
Cerberus et Stygiae navita turpis aquae;
Illic percussisque genis ustoque capillo
Errat ad obscuros pallida turba lacus.
Quam potius laudandus hic est, quem prole parata
Occupat in parva pigra senecta casa. 40
Ipse suas sectatur oves, at filius agnos,
Et calidam fesso conparat uxor aquam.
Sic ego sim, liceatque caput candescere canis,
Temporis et prisci facta referre senem.

Tibullus, 1.2 35-42: On Keeping Control of Wandering Eyes

Tibullus has timeless advice for men who leer and catcall.

“Be sparing with your eyes, whether it is a man or a woman
In your path: Venus prefers her secrets to stay hidden.
Don’t frighten with pounding feet or ask for names
Or bring some shining light close to shine on a face.
If anyone’s gaze has lingered without caution,
May he hide it and deny to the gods what he remembers.
For any man who comes loose of tongue shall find
That Venus is by blood as mutable as the sea in kind.”

Parcite luminibus, seu vir seu femina fiat               35
Obvia: celari volt sua furta Venus.
Neu strepitu terrete pedum neu quaerite nomen
Neu prope fulgenti lumina ferte face.
Siquis et inprudens adspexerit, occulat ille
Perque deos omnes se meminisse neget:               40
Nam fuerit quicumque loquax, is sanguine natam,
Is Venerem e rapido sentiet esse mari.

Last year this time, my confession that I preferred Tibullus to Propertius prompted not dismissal from Palaiphron but what I now read as tacit permissiveness from Quintilian:

“We can challenge the Greeks in Elegy, too. Tibullus seems to me the most neat and elegant author in that genre; but there are those who prefer Propertius. Ovid is raunchier than either one, just as Gallus is more stern.”

elegia quoque Graecos provocamus, cuius mihi tersus atque elegans maxime videtur auctor Tibullus. sunt qui Propertium malint. Ovidius utroque lascivior, sicut durior Gallus.

(Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 10.1.93)

Love Is Tearing Me Apart: Tibullus, II.IV (1-12)

“Here I see my addiction, my mistress ready for me;
And so: farewell to my inherited freedom.
Here a sad slavery is granted and I am held by chains,
as Love never removes his bonds, though he burns me
whether I have earned it or made no mistake at all.
I burn, Oh I burn: remove the brands, you savage girl.
Oh, if I were but able not to feel such sorrow,
I would rather be a stone on the frozen cliffs
where the waves of the ruinous sea crush the shipwrecks!
Now the day is bitter and night’s shadow bitterer too.
Every second is dyed with a stinging poison.”

Hic mihi seruitium uideo dominamque paratam:
iam mihi, libertas illa paterna, uale.
seruitium sed triste datur, teneorque catenis,
et numquam misero uincla remittit Amor,
et seu quid merui seu nil peccauimus, urit.
uror, io, remoue, saeua puella, faces.
o ego ne possim tales sentire dolores,
quam mallem in gelidis montibus esse lapis,
stare uel insanis cautes obnoxia uentis,
naufraga quam uasti tunderet unda maris!
nunc et amara dies et noctis amarior umbra est:
omnia nam tristi tempora felle madent.

I have been in a longstanding debate with Palaiophron about the merits of Tibullus versus Propertius. I don’t know whether this segment proves his case, but it certainly does not help mine.

Here’s some Joy Division as an antidote. Or accelerant.

Euripides, Fr. 462 (Cretan Women): Only Death is Friend to the Poor

“I both know and have experienced the hard way
that all people are the friends of men who have.
No one slinks about where there is no food,
But they go where there is wealth and a gathering.
To be ‘well-born’ is also the property of the rich;
But the poor man does well if he dies.”

 

 

᾿Επίσταμαι δὲ καὶ πεπείραμαι λίαν,
ὡς τῶν ἐχόντων πάντες ἄνθρωποι φίλοι.
οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἕρπει πρὸς τὸ μὴ τροφὴν ἔχον,
ἀλλ᾿ εἰς τὸ πλοῦτον καὶ συνουσίαν ἔχον.
καὶ τῶν ἐχόντων ηὑγένεια κρίνεται.
ἀνὴρ δ᾿ ἀχρήμων εἰ θάνοι πράσσει καλῶς.

Euripides, obviously, might disagree with Tibullus (1.1-6):

“Let someone else pile up gleaming gold
And hold as many lots of well-plowed land,
Let constant labor frighten him when an enemy’s near
As war’s clarion blasts send his sleep to flight.
But may my poverty guide me through a settled life
as long as my hearth shines with a tireless light.”

Divitias alius fulvo sibi congerat auro
Et teneat culti iugera multa soli,
Quem labor adsiduus vicino terreat hoste,
Martia cui somnos classica pulsa fugent:
Me mea paupertas vita traducat inerti, 5
Dum meus adsiduo luceat igne focus.

Although, in a different fragment, Euripides notes the corrupting force of wealth:

Euripides, fr. 54 (Alexander): On the Educational Merits of Poverty?

“Wealth and too much luxury
Are the wrong lessons for manly men.
Poverty is wretched but at least it raises up
Children better at working and getting things done.”

κακόν τι παίδευμ’ ἦν ἄρ’ εἰς εὐανδρίαν
ὁ πλοῦτος ἀνθρώποισιν αἵ τ’ ἄγαν τρυφαί·
πενία δὲ δύστηνον μέν, ἀλλ’ ὅμως τρέφει
μοχθεῖν τ’ ἀμείνω τέκνα καὶ δραστήρια.

The fabulously wealthy Seneca might agree:

Seneca, Epistulae ad Lucilium 17.3

“For many, riches have stood in the way of philosophizing; poverty is unimpeded, free from care.”

multis ad philosophandum obstitere divitiae; paupertas expedita est, secura est.

Tibullus, I.2 1-6: Knock, Knock, Knocking on [Delia’s] Door

“Fill up my drink: suppress new pains with wine
So that sleep may take eyes held by exhaustion;
May no one interrupt a man concussed by great Bacchus,
But let a barren love rest.
A savage guard has been set for my girl:
She is locked inside and the doors are bolted closed.”

Adde merum vinoque novos conpesce dolores,
Occupet ut fessi lumina victa sopor,
Neu quisquam multo percussum tempora baccho
Excitet, infelix dum requiescit amor.
Nam posita est nostrae custodia saeva puellae, 5
Clauditur et dura ianua firma sera.

This poem had me until the locked door…This is an example of a motif of a lover sitting outside a locked door, called paraklausithyron. (I can only imagine that a depressed graduate student made the Wikipedia entry). When I first learned about this, the name and the phenomenon’s specificity disturbed me. But, I guess I understand the motif’s attraction–we’re all on the side of some door or another, right?

Sing it Bob…

Well, that didn’t do it. Ok, sing it Axl…

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