I loved this so much that I wanted to share it with those who don’t use Twitter and Christian was kind enough to give his consent (see his work on “The 100 and Classical (Under)Worlds” too). This is a lively and fascinating retelling–it forces reconsiderations, I think, of both the Aeneid and BVTS. Also, Buffy and Spike > Buffy and Riley.
[below is my contribution: I learned this passage in high school where it was obligatory to understand that Dido was not dutiful enough and gave into passion, whereas Aeneas was oh so very pius.]
Vergil, Aeneid 4. 165-172
To the same cave came Dido and the Trojan captain
Earth first then nuptial Dido gave their sign
The lightning bolts were shining out and the Sky was a witness
to their bridal rites as the Nymphs sounded out on the mount’s highest peak
That day was the first cause of death; the first cause of evils.
For no longer was Dido cautioned by appearances or rumor
And no more was she harboring a secret love.
She calls it a marriage: with this name she cloaks her fault.
speluncam Dido dux et Troianus eandem
deveniunt. prima et Tellus et pronuba Iuno
dant signum; fulsere ignes et conscius Aether
conubiis, summoque ulularunt vertice Nymphae.
ille dies primus leti primusque malorum
causa fuit. neque enim specie famave movetur
nec iam furtivum Dido meditatur amorem;
coniugium vocat; hoc praetexit nomine culpam.
This line is something I bounce around twitter every few months or so. As with many of our tweets, it is divorced from its context and takes on a new meaning in our own time (one, I think, which is less than positive since people are motivated more by an acquisitive, begrudging impulse than one of empathy).
A twitter correspondent (@History_Twerp) noted that this line was echoed in Herodotus.
Periander speaks to his son and says “since you have learned how much being envied is better than being pitied, and also what it is like to be angry at your parents and your betters, come home…”
The notes on Perseus for Pindar’s Pythian 1 refer to the passage from Herodotus as “proverbial” without any additional evidence. The passages do seem proverbial since they use the same basic lexical items to express the same basic idea. Nevertheless, there is not additional evidence for a proverb. Instead, I think we probably have evidence of a general cultural value immanent among aristocratic classes during the early Classical period.
Here’s a fuller context for Pindar, Pyth. 1.84-86
Fast and easy expectations—
And the citizens’ secret witness grows especially burdened over foreign wealth.
But still, since envy is stronger than pity,
Do not overlook noble things, but guide the people
With a just rudder. Make your tongue
Bronze on an truthful anvil.”
In the context of the Pythian ode, the brevity of the statement along with the epexegetical γὰρ gives the impression of a proverb drawn from elsewhere. But it is my sense, from reading through a lot of Pindar and Bacchylides, that the epinician genre is in the business of sounding proverbial (it lends itself towards gnomic utterances because of the lyric brevity of expression, lack of epic-style repetition, and limited syntax). The trick of epinician poetry is to sound old and authoritative without actually being so.
So the general attitude projected by Herodotus’ Periander and Pindar is harmonious with the Archaic Greek notion that ‘envy’ produces a type of rivalry that has positive effects. It is better than pity because pity is something which people in a stronger position have over those in a weaker position (and who wants to be in the weaker position?). For Pindar, envy is better because it imbues Hiero’s people with a spirit of rivalry; for Periander, who uses the statement in an attempt to get his son to come home, it is an attempt to convince him to give up the ways of a mendicant and return the palace. Interestingly, according to Herodotus, Periander fails.
The relationship between pity and envy appears in Diogenes as well.
Diogenes Laertius, Life of Zeno of Citium 7.111
“[they claim] that grief is an irrational reaction. Its variations include: pity, envy, jealousy, rivalry, annoyance, bitterness, anger, and distraction. Pity is pain for someone who suffers evil unworthily; envy is grief over someone else’s good fortunes; jealousy is pain over what another possesses when you want it yourself; and rivalry is pain over what another has and which you possess too…”
At first sight, there is little value judgment in this summary. But pity and envy are collocated as emotional or unreasoning impulses distinguished by their frames of reference but united by the fact that both are a type of pain. The comparison between pity and envy, does not seem otherwise common in Greek literature. (But this conclusion is extremely tentative. Please let me know of any other passages.)
A fragment of Plutarch (quoted in Stobaeus) established what turns out to be somewhat proverbial, that envious people risk two sources of pain.
Hippias says that there are two types of envy. One is just, whenever someone envies evil men who have been honored. The other is unjust, whenever someone envies good people who are honored. Men who envy suffer twice as much as others; for they are troubled not only by their own evils, but by others’ good fortunes.”
In a recent blog post, Neville Morley takes on a quotation attributed to Plato (and sometimes Thucydides) which makes an assertion about the preeminence of the scholar-athlete. When Neville put out a query about the line on Twitter, it drew my attention, because, well, sourcing quotes is a great way not to start editing an article. (Also, I seem to like doing it.)
Here’s the quotation:
Okay, anyone got a reference for this alleged Plato quote?
"He who is only an athlete is too crude, too vulgar, too much a savage. He who is a scholar only is too soft, to effeminate. The ideal citizen is the scholar athlete, the man of thought and the man of action."
As far as I can tell, this seems to use the language of Jowett’s translation of Plato’s Republic in a rather liberal summary:
This is a riffing on the Jowett translation of the republic: "Yes, he said, I am quite aware that the mere athlete becomes too much of a savage, and that the mere musician is melted and softened beyond what is good for him."https://t.co/8AHnJ4Awpg
[Socrates] “Isn’t it the case then, Glaukos,” I said, “that those who set out education in both music and athletic training did not do it for the reason some believe they did, so that they might care for the body with one and the soul with the other?”
“But, what do you mean?” [Glaukos Said]
I said, “They run the risk of providing both for the soul in particular.”
“How is this the case?”
I said, “Have you not noticed how those who cling particularly to athletic training throughout life but have little to do with music develop a certain personality? Or, vice versa, how those who do the opposite turn out?”
“Um, what do you mean?” he said.
‘Well, the first kind of person ends up especially wild and mean-spirited while the other is equally effeminate and extremely mild,” I said.
“Ah, I see,” he said, “I have noticed that those who have submitted to constant athletic training end up wilder than is necessary and those devoted to music become accordingly more effeminate than would be good for them.”
“Truly,” I said, “this wildness emerges from the fiery spirit of our nature and, when it is cultivated properly, becomes bravery but if it is developed more than is necessary, it turns into meanness and harshness, as one might guess.”
The bigger problem is that I think the summative quote misses out on the spirit and nuance of the original. (Mirabile Dictu! Internet discourse oversimplifies as it appropriates the past!)
A few notes on the translation. Greek mousikê can mean the poetic arts along with singing, dancing, and playing instruments. Given the content of poetry in the Archaic age, one could even dare to see early elements of philosophy here. So, in the modern sense, I would probably call this “Arts and Humanities”. Indeed, at 411d, Socrates suggests that one who is not trained in mousikê “has no love of learning in his soul, since he has not tasted of any learning or inquiry, nor had a share of logic or any other type of mousikê, he becomes feeble, mute, and blind.” (οὐκ εἴ τι καὶ ἐνῆν αὐτοῦ φιλομαθὲς ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ, ἅτε οὔτε μαθήματος γευόμενον οὐδενὸς οὔτε ζητήματος, οὔτε λόγου μετίσχον οὔτε τῆς ἄλλης μουσικῆς, ἀσθενές τε καὶ κωφὸν καὶ τυφλὸν γίγνεται)
The adjective agrios, which I translate as “wild” is given by others as savage. It contrasts, I think, with being civilized. Malakias means “softness” but, as with modern Greek, it conveys effeminacy. I went with the heteronormative, misogynistic language even if it does not map completely onto Plato’s meaning.
Neville Morley, in a follow up exchange, said that he thinks the idea of the spurious quotation is based on the content of this part of the Republic all the way up to 412. At 410e, the speakers agree that the guardians of the state should possess qualities from both extremes. A man who has no training in mousikê will use only force and not reason to resolve disputes (he becomes a “hater of reason” μισόλογος).
The following late antique text, recently discovered in a restaurant basement, is surmised to be a lost part of Macrobius’ Saturnalia, possibly from discussion, in book 5, of Virgil’s borrowings from Greek authors (e.g., one notes similarities to the etiological mode of Aeneid 7.112-19, where the fulfillment of a prophecy is simultaneously the origin of pizza). It is presented here in the form in which it has been preserved–namely, a loose debate among several scholars, many of them pseudonymous and not a few of them ridiculous, in the tradition of lampoons of intellectual life including Plato’s Symposium andAristophanes’ Clouds. The accompanying image offers a reconstruction of a painting described by one of the speakers in an ekphrasis.
μíμωσα (mimōsa), call it a reduplicated 1st-person singular aorist active indicative, "I did brunch," implying
μώω (mōō), "I do brunch" μώσω (mōsō), "I will brunch" μíμωκα (mimōka), "I have brunched" μíμωμαι (mimōmai), "I brunched by myself" μιμóθην (mimothēn), "I got brunched" pic.twitter.com/ELfrp1UOBJ
An interjection from a noted linguistic charlatan:
“Ah, I always thought it was the nominative singular present active feminine participle of μιμάω (“I drink in the morning”), accented like this: μιμῶσα But, with your explanation, I get to use it on myself.”
Μιμάω: “I brunch”
μιμήσω: “I will brunch”
ἐμίμησα: “I brunched”
μεμίμηκα: “I have brunched”
μεμίμημαι: “I have been brunched”
ἐμιμήθην: “I was brunched”; but contrast with middle ἐμιμησάμην: “I made brunch available for others”
Also, we should have an annual Sunday-morning SCS brunch called something like "Making the miMos(a)t of it"
If @sentantiq and I are right, then here is a decisive argument against Plato's exclusion of mimesis from the ideal republic, especially between the hours of 11am and 2:30pm or so on weekends https://t.co/6OmkQ0vuiG
I was chatting with Sarah E. Bond online the other day and casually mentioned that I wished were could ostracize someone from Twitter who was playing the part of a braying ass (she suggested a time-out). Sarah suggested this was eminently tweetable material. And I tweet I did. But, I went a bit further. This is not quite as severe as my phallometric rating suggestion, but it started a conversation of sorts….(and continues a bit of musing about ancient governing institutions which might be useful today).
So, twitter is always looking for ways to attract more users, to increase activity among all other users, and to achieve that raison d’être of all social media, making #noise (cue airhorn). pic.twitter.com/6wHgztf2VC
“The procedure of Ostracism. In his third book, Philokhoros explains the ostracism process when he writes this: “ Ostracism is like this: the people vote in advance of the eighth Prytany whether it seems best to make an ostrakon vote or not. When it seemed right, then the Agora was defended with planks and ten entrances were left through which the people would come and cast their ostraka [votes] entering in their tribal groups and keeping the inscriptions facing the ground. The nine archons were in charge with the boulê. Once the ostraca were counted, whoever had the most—provided the total was not under six thousand—had to handle his business and make arrangements over private affairs before in ten days and then to leave the city for ten years (later it was five). The exile had use of his own property, but was not permitted to cross the boundary within Geraistos, the promontory of Euboea.
The only person who was ostracized of regular people for his wickedness and not for pursuing a tyranny, was Hyperbolos. After him, the custom was ended, and it began when Kleisthenes established it as a practice when he expelled the tyrants so that he could exile their friends too.”
#twitostracism (5/13) In Athens, #ostracism was used to prevent too much power from falling into the hands of a single tyrant. It was allegedly introduced in 508 during the democratic reforms of Cleisthenes. The ostracized had to leave for 10 years, but got to keep his property
#twitostracism (7/13) Twitter does not have assemblies. It is an endless, mindnumbing, stomach churning digital assembly. Twitter does have buttons. Twitter also claims some kind of a democratizing ethic. We should add an ostraca button to all profiles
#twitostracism (9/13) Let’s say if 60,000 strangers (who do not follow you) vote to ostracize you, you take a ten-day break from twitter. If 2/3 of your followers vote to ostracize you, then you take a ten-day break. If 1/3 of the people you follow vote, you take a ten-day break
But to play along, what makes one a citizen of twitter? Could we define 'citizenship' (eligibility to vote in an ostracism) in a meaningful way that might reduce bot/troll abuse of this new proposed function?
Unfortunately, groups of users are already doing something like this. They use other sites to coordinate mass reporting of opponents. If enough bad actors report TOS violations in a short period, that account gets suspended and has to appeal.
Twitter gave me a 12-hour time-out a year or so ago because of a tweet that I addressed to our President that had profanity in it. I don't know precisely what their algorithm is, but whatever I wrote in that tweet triggered it.
I'd think the γραφὴ παρανόμων might be a more viable basis for cooling off the nastiness- it would be terribly easy for the Nazis to hijack a process that differentiated among users only on self-determined criteria.
“Such images he wondered at on Vulcan’s shield, a parent’s present,
and he delights in the picture, although ignorant of the affairs
as he lifts upon his shoulder, the fame and fate of his descendants.”
Talia per clipeum Volcani, dona parentis,
miratur rerumque ignarus imagine gaudet
attollens umero famamque et fata nepotum.
When asked about whether or not this new system was hostile to women, #twitter CFO Oglethorpe Humperdink said, “Well, we already know that twitter is a cesspool of abusive dicks. Why not double down on our brand?”#Phallusthursday
Women of twitter, fed up at yet another tone-deaf corporate response, said “Fuck this” (no, not literally, my dear Silenus) and offered up their own kolpometric system (with a super h/t to @serenajenk):