Why Does the Iliad Begin with Rage?

D Schol. ad ll 1.1

“Sing the rage..” [People] ask why the poem begins from rage, so ill-famed a word. It does for two reasons. First, so that it might [grab the attention] of that particular portion of the soul and make audiences more ready for the sublime and position us to handle sufferings nobly, since it is about to narrate wars.

A second reason is to make the praises of the Greeks more credible. Since it was about to reveal the Greeks prevailing, it is not seemly to make it more worthy of credibility by failing to make everything contribute positively to their praise.”

 Μῆνιν ἄειδε: ζητοῦσι, διὰ τί ἀπὸ τῆς μήνιδος ἤρξατο, οὕτω δυσφήμου ὀνόματος. διὰ δύο ταῦτα, πρῶτον μέν, ἵν’ ἐκ τοῦ πάθους †ἀποκαταρρεύσῃ† τὸ τοιοῦτο μόριον τῆς ψυχῆς καὶ προσεκτικωτέρους τοὺς ἀκροατὰς ἐπὶ τοῦ μεγέθους ποιήσῃ καὶ προεθίσῃ φέρειν γενναίως ἡμᾶς τὰ πάθη, μέλλων πολέμους ἀπαγγέλλειν· δεύτερον δέ, ἵνα τὰ ἐγκώμια τῶν ῾Ελλήνων πιθανώτερα ποιήσῃ. ἐπεὶ δὲ ἔμελλε νικῶντας ἀποφαίνειν τοὺς ῞Ελληνας, εἰκότως †οὐ κατατρέχει ἀξιοπιστότερον† ἐκ τοῦ μὴ πάντα χαρίζεσθαι τῷ ἐκείνων ἐπαίνῳ. |

 

“It begins with rage, which itself was a summary for the events. Otherwise, [the poet] would have found a tragic introduction for tragedies. For the narration of misfortunes makes us more attentive, just as the best doctor exposes maladies of the spirit and then later applies treatment. So, the Greek anticipates the pleasures near the end.”

ἤρξατο μὲν ἀπὸ μήνιδος, ἐπείπερ αὕτη τοῖς πρακτικοῖς ὑπόθεσις γέγονεν· ἄλλως τε καὶ τραγῳδίαις τραγικὸν ἐξεῦρε προοίμιον· καὶ γὰρ προσεκτικοὺς ἡμᾶς ἡ τῶν ἀτυχημάτων διήγησις ἐργάζεται, καὶ ὡς ἄριστος ἰατρὸς πρῶτον ἀναστέλλων τὰ νοσήματα τῆς ψυχῆς ὕστερον τὴν ἴασιν ἐπάγει. ῾Ελληνικὸν δὲ τὸ πρὸς τέλει τὰς ἡδονὰς ἐπάγειν. |

Menis, “rage” is a big deal in Greek epic and myth thematically. The ancient scholiasts may not have it all figured out. But my first Greek teacher, Lenny Muellner, has some pretty good ideas on this one.

(c. 300 BC) Achilles killing the Ethiopian king Memnon

 

Some Hateful Words Handpicked for Social Media

Aristomenes, Assistants, fr. 3

“I hate you because you say awful things about me.”

μισῶ σ᾿ ὁτιὴ λέγεις με ταἰσχρά.

Naevius [=Nonius 73, 16]

“May he not inspire the deep hate of my powerful spirit.”

Ne ille mei feri ingeni atque animi acrem acrimoniam

Naevius, Incerta 34

“I hate people who mumble: so tell me what you fear clearly.”

Odi summussos; proinde aperte dice quid sit quod times.

Seneca the Elder, Controversiae 7

“Is there anyone then who hates me more than I hate myself?”

ergo quisquam me magis odit quam ego?

Aristophanes, Birds 1548

“I hate all the gods, as you well know…”

μισῶ δ᾿ ἅπαντας τοὺς θεούς, ὡς οἶσθα σύ—

Diogenes Laertius, 1.5.88

“Bias used to tell people to measure life as if they were going to live for both a long time and a short one and also to love people as if they will hate them, since most people are bad.”

ἔλεγέ τε τὸν βίον οὕτω μετρεῖν ὡς καὶ πολὺν καὶ ὀλίγον χρόνον βιωσομένους, καὶ φιλεῖν ὡς μισήσοντας· τοὺς γὰρ πλείστους εἶναι κακούς

Greek Anthology 12.172 Euenus

“If it hurts to hate and hurts to love, I’ll choose
To take the useful wound from two evils.”

Εἰ μισεῖν πόνος ἐστί, φιλεῖν πόνος, ἐκ δύο λυγρῶν
αἱροῦμαι χρηστῆς ἕλκος ἔχειν ὀδύνης.

Aeschylus, fr. 353

“Mortals don’t hate death fairly
Since it is the greatest bulwark against our many evils”

ὡς οὐ δικαίως θάνατον ἔχθουσιν βροτοί,
ὅσπερ μέγιστον ῥῦμα τῶν πολλῶν κακῶν

Tacitus, Agricola 42

“It is central to human nature to hate someone you have harmed.”

proprium humani ingenii est odisse quem laeseris

Aelian, Letter 14

“I’m crazy and murderous and I hate the human race.”

ἐγὼ μαίνομαι καὶ φονῶ καὶ μισῶ τὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων γένος

A grotesque image of an ogre shooting an arrow into another creature's rear from the Rutland Psalter, c. 1260. (British Library Royal MS 62925, f. 87v.)
British Library Royal MS 62925, f. 87v.

Diogenes Laertius, 2.8.96

“[the followers of Aristippos] used to say that mistakes should be pardoned: for people do not err willingly, but under the force of some kind of passion. And we should not hate: it is better to teach someone to change.”

ἔλεγον τὰ ἁμαρτήματα συγγνώμης τυγχάνειν· οὐ γὰρ ἑκόντα ἁμαρτάνειν, ἀλλά τινι πάθει κατηναγκασμένον. καὶ μὴ μισήσειν, μᾶλλον δὲ μεταδιδάξειν.

Statius, Thebaid 8.738

“I hate my limbs and this fragile work of a body, a deserter of souls.”

odi artus fragilemque hunc corporis usum,desertorem animi.

Philostratus, Heroicus 8

“Hate is fear’s kin.”

συγγενὲς γὰρ φόβῳ μῖσος

Cicero, Philippic 12.30

“I will be forced to fear not only those who hate me but those who envy me too,”

tum erunt mihi non ei solum qui me oderunt sed illi etiam qui invident extimescendi.

Dicta Catonis 21

“High things fall because of hate; but minor things are raised up by love.”

Alta cadunt odiis, parva extolluntur amore

Greek Anthology 12.103

“I know how to love those who love; and I know how to hate
When someone wrongs me. I am not inexperienced in either.”

Οἶδα φιλεῖν φιλέοντας· ἐπίσταμαι, ἤν μ᾿ ἀδικῇ τις,
μισεῖν· ἀμφοτέρων εἰμὶ γὰρ οὐκ ἀδαής.

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Posthomerica 5.465

“FML. Why do the gods hate me so much?”

“Ὤ μοι ἐγώ, τί νυ τόσσον ἀπέχθομαι ἀθανάτοισιν;

Cicero, Letters to Friends Caelius Rubus to Cicero (VIII.14)

“I love the cause but hate the people”

causam illam unde homines odi.

Hedylus, Epigrams 1856

“I hate living for no reason and not being drunk.”

μισῶ ζῆν ἐς κενὸν οὐ μεθύων.

 

brevity bird

Saying the Words is Not Understanding

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 7.7-9

“Certainly those who are overcome by emotions are predisposed in this way. For their rages and desires for sex and other types of enticements obviously transform the body too and creates madness in some. Hence, we must call those who are like this the same as those who are uncontrolled.

For being about to speak words is not at all a sign of understanding. For people who are in these states of mind often recite proofs and the verses of Empedocles. But people who have just learned something will repeat the words when they don’t yet understand them. For knowledge needs to be integrated and this requires time. So, those who talk when they are uncontrolled must be considered as if they were actors reciting their lines.”

ἀλλὰ μὴν οὕτω διατίθενται οἱ ἐν τοῖς πάθεσιν ὄντες· θυμοὶ γὰρ καὶ ἐπιθυμίαι ἀφροδισίων καὶ ἔνια τῶν τοιούτων ἐπιδήλως καὶ τὸ σῶμα μεθιστᾶσιν, ἐνίοις δὲ καὶ μανίας ποιοῦσιν. δῆλον οὖν ὅτι ὁμοίως ἔχειν λεκτέον τοὺς ἀκρατεῖς τούτοις. τὸ δὲ λέγειν τοὺς λόγους τοὺς ἀπὸ τῆς ἐπιστήμης οὐδὲν σημεῖον· καὶ γὰρ οἱ ἐν τοῖς πάθεσι τούτοις ὄντες ἀποδείξεις καὶ ἔπη λέγουσιν Ἐμπεδοκλέους, καὶ οἱ πρῶτον μαθόντες συνείρουσι μὲν τοὺς λόγους, ἴσασι δ᾿ οὔπω· δεῖ γὰρ συμφυῆναι, τοῦτο δὲ χρόνου δεῖται· ὥστε καθάπερ τοὺς ὑποκρινομένους, οὕτως ὑποληπτέον λέγειν καὶ τοὺς ἀκρατευομένους.

 

Image result for medieval manuscript talking animals
Image from here

“[Drunk] Lips Sink Ships”: Plutarch on Why You Shouldn’t Drink Too Much Tonight

Plutarch, On Talkativeness 503e-f

“Every person who is orderly and proper, I believe, should take precautions against being drunk. For, while anger is insanity’s neighbor, according to some, drunkenness is his roommate. To put it differently, drunkenness is insanity but shorter-lived, but greater to blame, because there is some choice in the matter. And there is nothing which convicts being drunk as much as a lack of control and limit to speech. For, as the poet says, wine ‘makes a man sing, even if he is really wise and makes him laugh lightly and dance.’

And why is this very terrible? A song, a laugh, and a dance? None of these is so bad> But then ‘he lets out some word which would have been better unsaid.’ Now that is terrible and dangerous.”

Ἔτι τοίνυν τὸ μεθύειν πᾶς ἄνθρωπος αἰδήμων καὶ κόσμιος, οἶμαι, φυλάξαιτ᾿ ἄν· μανίᾳ γὰρ ὁμότοιχος μὲν ἡ ὀργὴ κατ᾿ ἐνίους, ἡ δὲ μέθη σύνοικος· μᾶλλον δὲ μανία τῷ μὲν χρόνῳ ἥττων, τῇ δ᾿ αἰτίᾳ μείζων, ὅτι τὸ αὐθαίρετον αὐτῇ πρόσεστι. τῆς δὲ μέθης οὐθὲν οὕτω κατηγοροῦσιν ὡς τὸ περὶ τοὺς λόγους ἀκρατὲς καὶ ἀόριστον· οἶνος γάρ, φησίν,3

ἐφέηκε πολύφρονά περ μάλ᾿ ἀεῖσαι,καί θ᾿ ἁπαλὸν γελάσαι καί τ᾿ ὀρχήσασθαι ἀνῆκε.

καὶ τί τὸ δεινότατον; ᾠδὴ καὶ γέλως καὶ ὄρχησις; οὐδὲν ἄχρι τούτων·

καί τι ἔπος προέηκεν, ὅπερ τ᾿ ἄρρητον ἄμεινον—τοῦτ᾿

ἤδη δεινὸν καὶ ἐπικίνδυνον.

Drinking Philosophy

It Was Winter, It Was Snowing

Thucydides 4.103

“It was winter and it was snowing”

χειμὼν δὲ ἦν καὶ ὑπένειφεν…

Homer, Il. 3.222-3

“Yet, then a great voice came from his chest And [Odysseus’] words were like snowy storms”

ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ ὄπα τε μεγάλην ἐκ στήθεος εἵη καὶ ἔπεα νιφάδεσσιν ἐοικότα χειμερίῃσιν,

Hermippus, 37 (Athenaeus 650e)

“Have you ever seen a pomegranate seed in drifts of snow?”

ἤδη τεθέασαι κόκκον ἐν χιόνι ῥόας;

Pindar, Pythian 1. 20

“Snowy Aetna, perennial nurse of bitter snow”

νιφόεσσ᾿ Αἴτνα, πάνετες χιόνος ὀξείας τιθήνα

Plutarch, Moralia 340e

“Nations covered in depths of snow”

καὶ βάθεσι χιόνων κατακεχωσμένα ἔθνη

Herodotus, Histories 4.31

“Above this land, snow always falls…

τὰ κατύπερθε ταύτης τῆς χώρης αἰεὶ νίφεται

Diodorus Siculus, 14.28

“Because of the mass of snow that was constantly falling, all their weapons were covered and their bodies froze in the chill in the air. Thanks to the extremity of their troubles, they were sleepless through the whole night”

διὰ γὰρ τὸ πλῆθος τῆς κατὰ τὸ συνεχὲς ἐκχεομένης χιόνος τά τε ὅπλα πάντα συνεκαλύφθη καὶ τὰ σώματα διὰ τὸν ἀπὸ τῆς αἰθρίας πάγον περιεψύχετο. διὰ δὲ τὴν ὑπερβολὴν τῶν κακῶν ὅλην τὴν νύκτα διηγρύπνουν·

Ammianus Marcellinus, History V. V. Gratianus 27.9

“He will tolerate sun and snow, frost and thirst, and long watches.”

solem nivesque et pruinas et sitim perferet et vigilias

Basil, Letter 48

“We have been snowed in by such a volume of snow that we have been buried in our own homes and taking shelter in our holes for two months already”

καὶ γὰρ τοσούτῳ πλήθει χιόνων κατενίφημεν, ὡς αὐτοῖς οἴκοις καταχωσθέντας δύο μῆνας ἤδη ταῖς καταδύσεσιν ἐμφωλεύειν.

Livy, 10.46

“The snow now covered everything and it was no longer possible to stay outside…”

Nives iam omnia oppleverant nec durari extra tecta poterat

Plautus, Stichus 648

“The day is melting like snow…”

quasi nix tabescit dies.

Seneca, De Beneficiis 4

“I will go to dinner just as I promised, even if it is cold. But I certainly will not if it begins to snow.”

Ad cenam, quia promisi, ibo, etiam si frigus erit; non quidem, si nives cadent.

Snowy Mountain

Snow istotle

Cheesy Positions: The Shameful Lioness on a Kitchen Knife

Suda, Tau 1197

“Turoknêstis: a cheesegrater. A type of knife. There is also a proverb: “I will not position myself like a lioness on a cheese-grater”* This means “in the way a lioness would”, and it is a shameful and whorish sexual position.

A cheese-grater is a knife. On the hilts of some kitchen knives lionesses used to be carved out of ivory, in a squatting position, so that their feet might not be broken off as they might be if they were made standing up. So, the speaker is saying I will not position myself like a prostitute awaiting a man, the way a lioness is positioned on a cheese-grater.”

Τυρόκνηστις: ἡ μάχαιρα. καὶ παροιμία: οὐ στήσομαι λέαιν’ ἐπὶ τυροκνήστιδος. ἀντὶ τοῦ ὡς λέαινα. σχῆμα δέ ἐστιν ἀκόλαστον καὶ ἑταιρικόν. τυρόκνηστις δὲ ἡ μάχαιρα. ἐπὶ δὲ ταῖς λαβαῖς τῶν μαχαιρῶν ἐλέφαντες λέοντες ἐγλύφοντο ὀκλάζοντες, ὅπως μὴ ἀποθραύοιντο αὐτῶν οἱ πόδες, εἰ ὀρθοὶ ἑστῶτες γλύφοιντο. λέγει οὖν ὅτι οὐκ ἐπ’ ἀνδρὶ στήσομαι πορνεύουσα, ὡς λέαινα ἐπὶ τυροκνήστιδος.

*Aristophanes, Lysistrata 231

 

From Henderson, The Maculate Muse

bent over 1

bent over 2

Image result for lioness ready for sex
Ugh. 

Feeling “Hangry” in Ancient Greek

My daughter recently learned a series of neologisms at school, including the clever but cloying “hangry”. What is a classically trained pedant to do but look for ancient precedents for a newly coined term?

 Phrynichus, fr. 75

“In the grumpy rages of old men with rotting lives.”

ἐν χαλεπαῖς ὀργαῖς ἀναπηροβίων †γερόντων

Aristophanes, Knights 706-7

“You’re so cranky! Come on, what can I feed you?
What do you munch on most happily? Is it a wallet?”

ὡς ὀξύθυμος. φέρε τί σοι δῶ καταφαγεῖν;
ἐπὶ τῷ φάγοις ἥδιστ᾿ ἄν; ἐπὶ βαλλαντίῳ;

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 291 c (book 7=Nicomachus, fr. 1)

“Some foods make you gassy or give you indigestion or give
Punishment instead of nourishment. Everyone who eats
Something which is bad for them gets sharp-tempered or crazy.”

…τῶν γὰρ βρωμάτων
πνευματικὰ καὶ δύσπεπτα καὶ τιμωρίαν
ἔχοντ᾿ ἔνι᾿ ἔστιν, οὐ τροφήν, δειπνῶν δὲ πᾶς
τἀλλότρια γίνετ᾿ ὀξύχειρ κοὐκ ἐγκρατής·

Palladas, Greek Anthology 11.371

“Don’t invite me to be a witness for your hunger-bringing plates…”

Μή με κάλει δίσκων ἐπιίστορα λιμοφορήων

Cf. λιμοκτονεῖν,  “to kill by hunger, to starve to death”

 

Suggested compounds (all new, of course):

λιμοχολοῦσθαι, (limokholousthai): “to feel anger because of hunger”

λιμομηνίειν, (limomêniein): “to feel range because of hunger” (with implication that the subject is divine

λιμοθυμεῖσθαι: (limothumeisthai): “to be upset because of hunger”

λιμοδυσφορεῖν: (limodusphorein): “to handle hunger badly”

hunger killing