The Essential Good

Seneca Moral Epistles 45. 10-11

“Why do you waste my time in this thing you yourself call the “liar” [fallacy] about which so many books have been composed? Consider that my entire life is a lie. Provide proof for this and then, if you are sharp, argue it is true. It demands that things which are for the most part meaningless be essential. For what is not meaningless has nothing immediate in itself that it might be able to make someone lucky and blessed.

For, something is not necessarily good if it is somehow essential. Otherwise, we lose out on what is good, if we give this name to bread and porridge and the other things we cannot live without. What is good is always essential; but what is essential is not always good since there are surely very base things which are somehow necessary. No one is so ignorant of the worth of the word good as to water it down as one of the daily needs.”

Quid me detines in eo, quem tu ipse pseudomenon appellas, de quo tantum librorum conpositum est? Ecce tota mihi vita mentitur; hanc coargue, hanc ad verum, si acutus es, redige. Necessaria iudicat, quorum magna pars supervacua est. Etiam quae non est supervacua, nihil in se momenti habet in hoc, ut possit fortunatum beatumque praestare. Non enim statim bonum est, si quid necessarium est; aut proicimus bonum, si hoc nomen pani et polentae damus et ceteris, sine quibus vita non ducitur. Quod bonum est, utique necessarium est; quod necessarium est, non utique bonum est, quoniam quidem necessaria sunt quaedam eadem vilissima. Nemo usque eo dignitatem boni ignorat, ut illud ad haec in diem utilia demittat.

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Plato, Seneca and Aristotle

A Riddle: Don’t Speak and Speak the Same

Greek Anthology, 14.22

“Don’t speak and you will say my name.  But do you need speak?
And so again, a great surprise. By speaking you will say my name.”

Μὴ λέγε, καὶ λέξεις ἐμὸν οὔνομα. δεῖ δέ σε λέξαι;
ὧδε πάλιν, μέγα θαῦμα, λέγων ἐμὸν οὔνομα λέξεις.

Who knows the answer? If you do, σιγά!

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Half-Words, Latin Edition

Last month we posted some Greek hemi-compounds. There was a request for a Latin version. Here we go: these are all printed in Lewis & Short.

Semianimus, “half-alive”

Semibos, “half-ox”

Semicanis, “half-dog”; cf. semideus, “half-god”

Semicanus, “half-gray”; cf. Semisenex, “half-old”

Semicaper, “half-goat”

Semicoctus, “half-cooked”

Semicrudus, “half-raw”

Semidoctus, “half-taught”

Semifactus, “half-done”

Semifumans, “half-smoking”

Semihiuclus, “half-opened”

Semiinteger, “half-whole”

Semimortuus, “half-dead”

Seminecis, “half-dead”

Seminudus, “Half-naked”’

Semipuella, “half-girl”

Semirosus, “half-gnawed”

Semitactus, “half-touched”; cf. semitectus, “half-covered”

Semisermo, “half-speech” (i.e. “jargon”)

Semisomnus, “Half-asleep”; cf. semivigil , “half-awake”; semisoporus, “half-asleep” and semipsopitus, “half asleep”

Semivietus, “half-shriveled”

Semivir, “half-man”

Semivivus, “half-alive”


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Some Truth Behind Odysseus’ Pseudonyms

Odyssey 24.303–307

“Certainly, I will explain everything to you truly.
I am from Alybas where I live in a glorious home,
I am the son of Apheidas, the son of lord Polypêmôn.
My name is Epêritos. But some god struck me
So I came here from Sicily even though I was unwilling.”

“τοιγὰρ ἐγώ τοι πάντα μάλ’ ἀτρεκέως καταλέξω.
εἰμὶ μὲν ἐξ ᾿Αλύβαντος, ὅθι κλυτὰ δώματα ναίω,
υἱὸς ᾿Αφείδαντος Πολυπημονίδαο ἄνακτος·
αὐτὰρ ἐμοί γ’ ὄνομ’ ἐστὶν ᾿Επήριτος· ἀλλά με δαίμων
πλάγξ’ ἀπὸ Σικανίης δεῦρ’ ἐλθέμεν οὐκ ἐθέλοντα·

The names that Odysseus chooses here from his family tree are interesting as a reflection of his persona and his experience. The most obvious, on the surface, is Apheidas which means “unsparing”; the grandfather’s name, Polu-pêmôn, means “of many pains”. The final element, his personal name Epêritos, is the least transparent—Eustathius argues that it derives from the verb erizein, “to engage in strife.” Eustathius also interprets the paternal name, Apheidas, positively, suggesting that it anticipates the projected liberality of the speaker in terms of gift giving. The name could also indicate however, a person taken to risk or unsparing of others: to wit, Odysseus is in this scene rather unsparing of his father who suffers much grief because of him.

Eust. Comm. Ad Hom. Od. II 324

“He says that he is the son of Apheidas [“unsparing”] because he wants to emphasize his own liberality and great gift-giving. This is the very thing Laertes understands and says in a bit that “Odysseus would have responded and sent you away with gifts. He lies in saying his father’s name is Polu-pêmôn as a riddle for the many sufferings which he has suffered.

The name Epêritos is similar to “contentious” [perimakhêtos] and comes from “to engage in strife” [erizô] since Odysseus was this way to all and was “conversant in the ways of men,” or it is because he fostered the good strife. Note that by analogy epêristos ought to be similar to amphêristos, but it has introduced a sigma for the sake of the dactyl. This happens also in the phrase nêrthiton oros and euktiton [well-built] and euktimenên [“well-built”] and others. This is the same type of composition we find in Epêritos.”

(Vers. 305.) ᾿Αφείδαντος δὲ υἱὸς εἶναι λέγει, ἐμφαίνων τὸ ἑαυτοῦ ἐλευθέριον καὶ μεγαλόδωρον· ὃ συνιστῶν καὶ ὁ Λαέρτης ἔφη πρὸ ὀλίγων, ὅτι δώροις ἄν σε ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ἀμειψάμενος ἀπέπεμπε. Πολυπήμων δὲ αὐτῷ καταψεύδεται πάππος πρὸς αἴνιγμα τῶν πολλῶν πημάτων ὧν ἔπαθε. (Vers. 306.)

Τὸ δὲ ᾿Επήριτος ταυτόν πώς ἐστι τῷ περιμάχητος ἀπὸ τοῦ ἐρίζω, ἐπεὶ πᾶσιν ἔμελλε καὶ ἐπίστροφος ἦν ἀνθρώπων ᾿Οδυσσεὺς, ἢ καὶ ὅτι τὴν ἀγαθὴν ὑπέτρεφεν ἔριν. ᾿Ιστέον δὲ ὅτι κατὰ ἀναλογίαν ἐπήριστος ὤφειλεν εἶναι ὁμοίως τῷ ἀμφήριστος ἀπήγαγε δὲ τὸ σίγμα διὰ χρείαν δακτύλου. ὃ γίνεται καὶ ἐν τῷ, νήρθιτον ὄρος, καὶ εὔκτιτον καὶ εὐκτιμένην καὶ ἐν ἄλλοις. καὶ τοιοῦτος μὲν ὁ πλαστὸς οὗτος ᾿Επήριτος.

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