Thucydides on Revolution and the Meaning of Words

Since we are engaging in an exercise in show trials and re-defining the meaning of words:

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.

By Sharon Mollerus – Large Krater with Armored Men Departing for Battle, Mycenae acropolis, 12th century BC, CC BY 2.0, 

December Debates on Gifts: Some Classical Warnings

Epigonoi Fr. 4 (From Clement of Alexandria)

“Many evils come to men from gifts”

ἐκ γὰρ δώρων πολλὰ κάκ’ ἀνθρώποισι πέλονται.

Ovid, Ars Amatoria 2.275

“Poems are certainly praised, but great gifts are what is sought.”

carmina laudantur sed munera magna petuntur.

Sophocles, Ajax, 664-5

“But the old saying is true: the gifts of enemies are no gifts, and sure to yield no profit.”

ἀλλ᾽ ἔστ᾽ ἀληθὴς ἡ βροτῶν παροιμία,
ἐχθρῶν ἄδωρα δῶρα κοὐκ ὀνήσιμα

Image result for medieval manuscript gift-giving

Aeschylus, fr. 279a2

“Alone of the gods, Death doesn’t long for gifts.”

μόνος θεῶν γὰρ Θάνατος οὐ δώρων ἐρᾶι·

Solon, 13.64

“The gifts of the gods must not be rejected”

δῶρα δ᾿ ἄφυκτα θεῶν γίγνεται ἀθανάτων

Nostoi, fr. 8.1

“Gifts debase the minds and actions of men”

δῶρα γὰρ ἀνθρώπων νόον ἤπαφεν ἠδὲ καὶ ἔργα

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.1430-1439

“The race of man, then, labors uselessly and in vain
as we always consume our time in empty concerns
because we don’t understand that there’s a limit to having—
and there’s an end to how far true pleasure can grow.
This has dragged life bit by bit into the deep sea
and has stirred at its bottom great blasts of war.
But the guardian of the earth turns around the great sky
and teaches men truly that the year’s seasons come full circle
and that all must be endured with a sure reason and order.”

Ergo hominum genus in cassum frustraque laborat
semper et [in] curis consumit inanibus aevom,
ni mirum quia non cognovit quae sit habendi
finis et omnino quoad crescat vera voluptas;
idque minutatim vitam provexit in altum
et belli magnos commovit funditus aestus.
at vigiles mundi magnum versatile templum
sol et luna suo lustrantes lumine circum
perdocuere homines annorum tempora verti
et certa ratione geri rem atque ordine certo.

 

December Debates on Gifts: Some Classical Warnings

Epigonoi Fr. 4 (From Clement of Alexandria)

“Many evils come to men from gifts”

ἐκ γὰρ δώρων πολλὰ κάκ’ ἀνθρώποισι πέλονται.

Ovid, Ars Amatoria 2.275

“Poems are certainly praised, but great gifts are what is sought.”

carmina laudantur sed munera magna petuntur.

Sophocles, Ajax, 664-5

“But the old saying is true: the gifts of enemies are no gifts, and sure to yield no profit.”

ἀλλ᾽ ἔστ᾽ ἀληθὴς ἡ βροτῶν παροιμία,
ἐχθρῶν ἄδωρα δῶρα κοὐκ ὀνήσιμα

Image result for medieval manuscript gift-giving

Aeschylus, fr. 279a2

“Alone of the gods, Death doesn’t long for gifts.”

μόνος θεῶν γὰρ Θάνατος οὐ δώρων ἐρᾶι·

 

Solon, 13.64

“The gifts of the gods must not be rejected”

δῶρα δ᾿ ἄφυκτα θεῶν γίγνεται ἀθανάτων

 

Nostoi, fr. 8.1

“Gifts debase the minds and actions of men”

δῶρα γὰρ ἀνθρώπων νόον ἤπαφεν ἠδὲ καὶ ἔργα

 

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.1430-1439

“The race of man, then, labors uselessly and in vain
as we always consume our time in empty concerns
because we don’t understand that there’s a limit to having—
and there’s an end to how far true pleasure can grow.
This has dragged life bit by bit into the deep sea
and has stirred at its bottom great blasts of war.
But the guardian of the earth turns around the great sky
and teaches men truly that the year’s seasons come full circle
and that all must be endured with a sure reason and order.”

Ergo hominum genus in cassum frustraque laborat
semper et [in] curis consumit inanibus aevom,
ni mirum quia non cognovit quae sit habendi
finis et omnino quoad crescat vera voluptas;
idque minutatim vitam provexit in altum
et belli magnos commovit funditus aestus.
at vigiles mundi magnum versatile templum
sol et luna suo lustrantes lumine circum
perdocuere homines annorum tempora verti
et certa ratione geri rem atque ordine certo.

Frogs and Bulls: A Class Fable for our Time

Phaedrus 1.30 Frogs and Bulls

“The lower classes suffer when the powerful fight.
From a swamp a frog gazed on fighting bulls
And said, “Alas, how much danger looms in sight!”
When another frog asked why she said so,
Since those bulls struggled over their herd’s first place
And pursued their lives far from the water’s flow,
She said “although they are different and in a different space,
Whoever is expelled from the field’s realm will flee
And come to find secret safety in our pond.
He will bear down on us, trampled by his harsh feet.
So their conflict is a threat to life for you and me.”

frogs

1.30 Ranae et Tauri

Humiles laborant ubi potentes dissident.
Rana e palude pugnam taurorum intuens,
“Heu, quanta nobis instat pernicies” ait.
interrogata ab alia cur hoc diceret,
de principatu cum illi certarent gregis
longeque ab ipsis degerent vitam boves,
“Sit statio separata ac diversum genus;
expulsus regno nemoris qui profugerit,
paludis in secreta veniet latibula,
et proculcatas obteret duro pede.
Ita caput ad nostrum furor illorum pertinet”.

Giving Gifts this Year? Some Classical Warnings

Epigonoi Fr. 4 (From Clement of Alexandria)

“Many evils come to men from gifts”

ἐκ γὰρ δώρων πολλὰ κάκ’ ἀνθρώποισι πέλονται.

Ovid, Ars Amatoria 2.275

“Poems are certainly praised, but great gifts are what is sought.”

carmina laudantur sed munera magna petuntur.

Sophocles, Ajax, 664-5

“But the old saying is true: the gifts of enemies are no gifts, and sure to yield no profit.”

ἀλλ᾽ ἔστ᾽ ἀληθὴς ἡ βροτῶν παροιμία,
ἐχθρῶν ἄδωρα δῶρα κοὐκ ὀνήσιμα

Image result for medieval manuscript gift-giving

Aeschylus, fr. 279a2

“Alone of the gods, Death doesn’t long for gifts.”

μόνος θεῶν γὰρ Θάνατος οὐ δώρων ἐρᾶι·

 

Solon, 13.64

“The gifts of the gods must not be rejected”

δῶρα δ᾿ ἄφυκτα θεῶν γίγνεται ἀθανάτων

 

Nostoi, fr. 8.1

“Gifts debase the minds and actions of men”

δῶρα γὰρ ἀνθρώπων νόον ἤπαφεν ἠδὲ καὶ ἔργα

 

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.1430-1439

“The race of man, then, labors uselessly and in vain
as we always consume our time in empty concerns
because we don’t understand that there’s a limit to having—
and there’s an end to how far true pleasure can grow.
This has dragged life bit by bit into the deep sea
and has stirred at its bottom great blasts of war.
But the guardian of the earth turns around the great sky
and teaches men truly that the year’s seasons come full circle
and that all must be endured with a sure reason and order.”

Ergo hominum genus in cassum frustraque laborat
semper et [in] curis consumit inanibus aevom,
ni mirum quia non cognovit quae sit habendi
finis et omnino quoad crescat vera voluptas;
idque minutatim vitam provexit in altum
et belli magnos commovit funditus aestus.
at vigiles mundi magnum versatile templum
sol et luna suo lustrantes lumine circum
perdocuere homines annorum tempora verti
et certa ratione geri rem atque ordine certo.

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.

Reinterpreting Zeus’ Golden Rain: The Greek Anthology on Persuading Women

DanaeLouvreCA925
This is a real vase, held in the Louvre.

The Fifth Book of the Greek Anthology is a collection of erotic epigrams. Many of them use myth in amusing ways, for instance, the poem where the speaker claims to be Telephus and asks his addressee to be his Achilles. There are a series of poems that reflect on the practice of giving women gold using the story of Danae. These are a little funny, but if you observe some of the motifs in advertising around Valentine’s Day, they get a little less amusing….

Paulus Silentiarius, Greek Anthology, 5.219

“Golden Zeus cut through the seal of untouched maidenhood
after he entered Danae’s chamber of beaten bronze.
I think that what the story means is this: Gold, the all-conquerer,
Overcomes walls and chains.
Gold reproaches all reins and every lock,
Gold bends all blinking women its way.
It turned around Danae’s mind too: No lover needs
To beg the Paphian’s favor if he has money.”

Χρύσεος ἀψαύστοιο διέτμαγεν ἅμμα κορείας
Ζεὺς διαδὺς Δανάας χαλκελάτους θαλάμους.
φαμὶ λέγειν τὸν μῦθον ἐγὼ τάδε• „Χάλκεα νικᾷ
τείχεα καὶ δεσμοὺς χρυσὸς ὁ πανδαμάτωρ.”
χρυσὸς ὅλους ῥυτῆρας, ὅλας κληῖδας ἐλέγχει,
χρυσὸς ἐπιγνάμπτει τὰς σοβαροβλεφάρους•
καὶ Δανάας ἐλύγωσεν ὅδε φρένα. μή τις ἐραστὰς
λισσέσθω Παφίαν, ἀργύριον παρέχων.

Parmenion, Greek Anthology 5.33
“You poured onto Danae as gold, Olympian, so that the girl
Might be persuaded by a gift, and not tremble before Kronos’ son.”

᾿Ες Δανάην ἔρρευσας, ᾿Ολύμπιε, χρυσός, ἵν’ ἡ παῖς
ὡς δώρῳ πεισθῇ, μὴ τρέσῃ ὡς Κρονίδην.

5.34
“Zeus got Danae for gold, and I’ll get you for some too:
I cannot give more than Zeus did!”

῾Ο Ζεὺς τὴν Δανάην χρυσοῦ, κἀγὼ δὲ σὲ χρυσοῦ•
πλείονα γὰρ δοῦναι τοῦ Διὸς οὐ δύναμαι.

Antipater of Thessalonica, 5.30

“Once there was a golden race, a bronze age, and a silver one too.
But today, Cytherea takes every form.
She honors the golden man, has loved the bronze one
And never turns her face from silver men.
The Paphian stretches out like Nestor—and I don’t think that Zeus
Rained on Danae in gold: he came carrying a hundred gold coins!”

Χρύσεος ἦν γενεὴ καὶ χάλκεος ἀργυρέη τε
πρόσθεν• παντοίη δ’ ἡ Κυθέρεια τὰ νῦν•
καὶ χρυσοῦν τίει καὶ χάλκεον ἄνδρ’ ἐφίλησεν
καὶ τοὺς ἀργυρέους οὔ ποτ’ ἀποστρέφεται.
Νέστωρ ἡ Παφίη. δοκέω δ’, ὅτι καὶ Δανάῃ Ζεὺς
οὐ χρυσός, χρυσοῦς δ’ ἦλθε φέρων ἑκατόν.

 

Danae 2
Yes. Another one.
danae-1908
The Greek vases make Gustav Klimt’s painting look tame.

Praxilla, fr. 750 (Schol. Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae 528ff.)

 

“Friend, protect yourself against the scorpion under every stone.”

 

ὑπὸ παντὶ λίθῳ σκορπίον ὦ ἑταῖρε φυλάσσεο

 

 

This is cited by the scholiast when discussing the following passage, quite clearly about politicians (Ar. Thesm. 528-31)

 

τὴν παροιμίαν δ᾽ ἐπαινῶ

τὴν παλαιάν: ὑπὸ λίθῳ γὰρ

παντί νου χρὴ

μὴ δάκῃ ῥητωρ ἀθρεῖν.