Saturday: August 27, 2005
Here’s another neoclassical poem from Caelica, number XCIII complete:
The Augurs were of all the world admir’d,
Flatter’d by consuls, honor’d by the State,
Because the event of all that was desir’d,
They seem’d to know, and keep the books of Fate:
Yet though abroad they thus did boast their wit,
Along among themselves they scorned it.
Mankind, that with his wit doth gild his heart,
Strong in his passions, but in goodness weak;
Making great vices o’er the less an art,
Breeds wonder, and moves ignorance to speak,
Yet when his fame is to the highest borne,
We know enough to laugh his praise to scorn.
I just spent half an hour trying to track down the source for the first stanza, the passage where Cicero (or perhaps a character in one of his dialogues?) says that he can’t see how two augurs could meet in the street without laughing out loud. Cicero was himself an augur, so he would know.
Friday: August 26, 2005
I’ve been leafing through Fulke Greville’s Caelica, partly as congenial bedtime reading, partly to try to find a favorite passage from years ago. It turns out to be lines 69-74 of poem LXXXIII:
The ship of Greece, the streams and she be not the same
They were, although ship, streams and she still bear their antique name.
The wood which was, is worn, those waves are run away,
Yet still a ship, and still a stream, still running to a sea.
She lov’d, and still she loves, but doth not still love me,
To all except myself yet is, as she was wont to be.
The reference to Heraclitus and the impossibility of stepping in the same stream twice (or even once) is fairly obvious, but “the ship of Greece” is more obscure. The reference is to a story told in Plutarch’s Life of Theseus 23:
The ship on which Theseus sailed with the youths and returned in safety, the thirty-oared galley, was preserved by the Athenians down to the time of Demetrius Phalereus. They took away the old timbers from time to time, and put new and sound ones in their places, so that the vessel became a standing illustration for the philosophers in the mooted question of growth, some declaring that it remained the same, others that it was not the same vessel. (Bernadotte Perrin’s Loeb translation)
This was the subject of an interesting thread on the Classics list that started seven years ago tomorrow: scroll down to “Argo puzzler”. (The person asking about the ship was under the impression that it was Jason’s, not Theseus’.) When I tracked down the passage just now, I found that I had remembered it almost, but not quite, word for word, after something like twenty years. (When I quoted it in 1998, it was from memory.) Which words had I dropped? “They were” in the second line, which don’t seem to add much to the thought or the rhythm.
Wednesday: August 24, 2005
I am now deep in Plato, and intend to go right through all his works. His genius is above praise. Even where he is most absurd,–as, for example, in the Cratylus,–he shows an acuteness, and an expanse of intellect, which is quite a phenomenon by itself. The character of Socrates does not rise upon me. The more I read about him, the less I wonder that they poisoned him. If he had treated me as he is said to have treated Protagoras, Hippias, and Gorgias, I could never have forgiven him.
George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, i.403.
Monday: August 22, 2005
According to Herodotus, Xerxes wept at the sight of his enormous army to think that, of all these men, not one would be alive in a hundred years’ time; so who cannot but weep at the sight of the thick fair catalogues to think that, of all these books, not one will be alive in ten years’ time.
Sunday: August 21, 2005
As the strata of the earth preserve in succession the living creatures of past epochs, so the shelves of libraries preserve in succession the errors of the past and their expositions, which like the former were very lively and made a great commotion in their own age but now stand petrified and stiff in a place where only the literary palaeontologist regards them.
Essay and Aphorisms, tr. R. J. Hollingdale, Penguin, 1970, page 209.
Saturday: August 20, 2005
After my trip to the U.N.C. library, I’ve been leafing through Toto Notus in Orbe, Perspektiven der Martial-Interpretation (ed. Farouk Grewing, Palingenesis LXV, Stuttgart, 1998). One sentence in T. J. Leary’s paper on the Xenia and Apophoreta caused a double-take. On page 46, he has just listed several filthy jokes in the two Saturnalian books, and goes on to explain that the two are not so different from the rest of Martial as one might expect: “They bear many of Martial’s most appealing hallmarks, for instance . . . .” Given the context, I at first misread this as “appalling heelmarks”.
My subconscious may have been influenced by Hank Thompson’s punning lyric:
Every man must leave his footprint
on the shifting sands of time,
but I’ll just leave the mark of a heel.
She was mine for ten long years:
that’s about ten thousand beers.
The story gets grimmer from there. Thompson seems to have been influenced by
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
I’ve always liked the anonymous parody:
Lives of great men all remind us,
As we o’er their pages turn,
That we too may leave behind us
Letters that we ought to burn.
One of the books in the classics section at U.N.C.’s library is Un Dialogo sul Management. What ancient author and work are the subject of this book? I will leave that as a not-too-difficult puzzle for my readers. Suggestions may be placed in the comments, though there is no prize for a correct answer except the glory.
What puzzled me was the last word of the title: is ‘management’ really a concept that cannot be expressed clearly and succinctly in Italian? I would think that any subject that can be expounded in ancient Greek or classical Latin (I don’t want to give away too much here) and named in modern English should also be nameable in Italian, though I don’t know the language well enough to offer any suggestions.
Friday: August 19, 2005
The word dexiocholus, ‘lame in the right leg’, though securely attested in Martial 12.59.9, is not to be found in either the Oxford Latin Dictionary or Liddell-Scott-Jones: no doubt each editorial team thought it could safely be left to the other. (I have not checked Housman’s list of “Greek words used by Martial and, so far as can be learnt from the dictionaries, by no other Roman author” [Classical Papers 1167] to see whether they are in OLD, or LSJ, or both, or neither.)
Martial lists the dexiocholus among the people one would not wish to kiss:
Tantum dat tibi Roma basiorum
post annos modo quindecim reverso
quantum Lesbia non dedit Catullo.
te vicinia tota, te pilosus
hircoso premit osculo colonus;
hinc instat tibi textor, inde fullo,
hinc sutor modo pelle basiata,
hinc menti dominus periculosi,
†hinc† dexiocholus, inde lippus
fellatorque recensque cunnilingus.
iam tanti tibi non fuit redire.
9 hinc ] istinc uel hinc et Lindsay
One of my uncles has a wooden right leg, and such an inoffensive debility has always seemed out of place in this list of the diseased, the perverted, and the practitioners of filthy professions, particularly when limited to the right side only. As Housman put it in his usual pithy way (CP 993):
Neither leg, so far as I have noticed, is much used in kissing; and it therefore does not appear how lameness can lend horror to a kiss, nor what difference it makes if the lame leg happens to be the right one.
Seven years later (CP 1105) he answered his own question:
Men lame of the right leg were to be dreaded because it was unlucky to meet them. Lucian pseudol. 17 hemeîs dè kaì toùs kholoùs tôi dexiôi ektrepómetha, kaì málista ei héothen ídoimen autoús, Pliny n. h. xxviii 35 ‘despuimus comitiales morbos . . . simili modo et fascinationes repercutimus dextraeque clauditatis occursum’.
It’s odd that Housman does not say why a dexiocholus would be unlucky. The prejudice was hardly arbitrary or inexplicable. We all know that the Romans made a point of entering rooms and setting out on journeys dextro pede, ‘right foot first’ (cf. e.g. Petronius 30.6, Juvenal 10.5, Vitruvius iii.3). A dexiocholus would tend to drag his right leg behind him, and would therefore enter every room and begin every journey or enterprise left foot first. That would suffice to make him hated by the gods, permanently unlucky, and well worth avoiding. I suppose there is also some idea that his bad luck would ‘rub off’ on anyone he embraced. (For a while, I wondered whether a man whose left leg was lame might be particularly popular, but I don’t suppose the man who can’t help doing things dextro pede has much advantage in fortuna and felicitas over those who are careful to do so on every occasion.)
As for the missing syllable just before, I wonder whether Martial wrote hinc stat dexiocholus, inde lippus. Does Latin use compound for simplex? That is, can stat mean instat when instat precedes, or is that a Greek practice? (Time to ransack the unabridged grammars! I have a paper on compound and simplex somewhere in my files, but they are not as well-organized as they might be.) Or might there be a tiny joke in the lame man just standing there expecting a kiss while the others press forward? Perhaps not, since the same verb would apply to the last three horrors. And stat does not seem particularly likely to drop out in this context. So the textual problem may be more recalcitrant than the exegesis.
Thursday: August 18, 2005
Now that I have my library mostly unpacked, I will posting more frequently on various topics. Some of these will be classical blogules: ideas interesting enough to write up, but too small to send off to a journal. Of these blogules, some will be categorized as Ζητηματα, questions worth asking for which I have no answer — perhaps my readers can answer them –, while others will be Λυσεις, proposing new answers to existing questions. One of the latter will be posted shortly.
Wednesday: August 17, 2005
From the picture of the book jacket on Blogographos, it appears that Harry Potter in Greek is APEIOΣ ΠOTHP. Assuming the accents match, that also means “Warlike Drinking-Cup”. Perhaps those who have dipped into the Greek version can tell me whether Harry’s Greek name is accented on the alpha and the eta, like the Greek phrase. And perhaps those who have either read any of the books in any language or seen any of the movies can tell me whether that’s a ’speaking name’ or just a coincidence. It seems a bit inappropriate for one who is (I gather) too young to drink for most, if not all, of the time-span depicted in the series so far.
Update: (ten minutes later)
Assuming the translation is in Attic rather than Lesbian Aeolic, I suppose the eponymous hero has a rough breathing on his first name, in which case there is no match. Too bad: it still makes for a strikingly ambiguous effect on the cover, where the capitalization precludes accents and breathings.
Tuesday: August 16, 2005
From one of Macaulay’s Calcutta letters:
I have at stray hours read Longus’s Romance and Xenophon’s Ephesiaca: and I mean to go through Heliodorus, and Achilles Tatius, in the same way. Longus is prodigiously absurd; but there is often an exquisite prettiness in the style. Xenophon’s Novel is the basest thing to be found in Greek. It was discovered at Florence, little more than a hundred years ago, by an English envoy. Nothing so detestable ever came from the Minerva Press.
Trevelyan’s footnote on the third sentence:
Xenophon the Ephesian lived in the third or fourth century of the Christian era. At the end of his work Macaulay has written: ‘A most stupid, worthless performance, below the lowest trash of an English circulating library.’ Achilles Tatius he disposes of with the words ‘Detestable trash;’ and the Æthiopics of Heliodorus, which he appears to have finished on Easter-day, 1837, he pronounces ‘The best of the Greek Romances, which is not saying much for it.’
George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, i.422.
Monday: August 15, 2005
In reviewing my Greek to get ready to teach Antigone, I’ve come across a curious question about Greek verbs. For many verbs, the shortest forms, which students tend to find the most confusing, are not the present indicatives, as we might expect, but some of the subjunctives. These are sometimes only a single syllable in the singular, though the plurals are always one syllable longer. Besides the present subjunctive of eimí (ô, êis, êi, etc.), the only one-syllable subjunctives I can think of are the aorist subjunctives of five -MI verbs and two others: bô (baíno), gnô (gignósko), dô (dídomi), thô (títhemi), stô (hístemi), phô (phemí), and hô (híemi). Have I missed any?
Note: Greek can be transliterated precisely, if inelegantly, in plain HTML by underlining eta and omega as above, except when the circumflex makes it superfluous. In effect, I put the long mark under the vowel instead of over it. Using w for omega and h for eta may be clearer in some ways, but HTML doesn’t allow accents on (English) consonants
I haven’t posted much lately because I’ve been moving all my stuff from Baltimore to North Carolina for a new job. I’ll be teaching Latin II (second half of Wheelock), Latin IV (AP Vergil), Greek IV (Antigone and Apology) and Geometry at Raleigh Latin High School. It’s embarrassing to admit, but in my twelve years of previous full-time teaching, nine of them in universities, I’ve never had the opportunity to teach a Greek tragedy or a Platonic dialogue in Greek. (By the way, RLHS is still accepting students for the upcoming year if you live in Raleigh.)
I’m proud to say that at 52, I can still move everything I own with nothing more than a rented truck, a two-wheel dolly, and a gallon or two of Gatorade. That may not sound all that impressive, but:
- I own roughly five tons of stuff, including 200 boxes of books, 18 real-wood book- and CD-shelves of various sizes, 16 ornamental cinderblocks to make (with 1×14s) eight shelves worth of very solid two-sided bookshelves, three 4-drawer file cabinets, 2 armchairs, and a futon. It took three round trips (over five days) in a Penske cargo van, stuffed to the gills, including the front compartment, plus three more trips in my car for the odds and ends. (Look for additions to my Books for Sale list in the next few weeks: I really need to cut down.)
- All three truckloads, and roughly half the stuff taken by car, were loaded in 90o+ heat with no shade, and it was 96o in Raleigh when I unloaded the first and third truckloads a couple of weeks ago. (The second was mostly unloaded after dark, which helped.) And cargo vans don’t come with ramps. I did make sure to rent an apartment with only one small step to get the dolly over: in fact that was my main criterion in choosing a place to live. The gentle slope down the front walk to the front door didn’t hurt.
Can I call myself a Self-Moved Mover now, or would that be too Aristotelian — not to mention hybristic? I do have a slight urge (call it a demi-urge) to hire a moving company to do the work next time around, though it would likely double the cost.
There’s plenty of unpacking still to do. At the worst of it, when I had hastily unloaded all three truckloads and unpacked very little, the place felt rather like the burrow of a gopher or groundhog: completely full of furniture and overhanging stacks of boxes, with meandering paths, just wide enough for me to squeeze through, connecting the front door to the kitchen, the armchair, the table with the laptop, the bathroom, and the corner of the bedroom with the futon in it. As I get the books and CDs out of the boxes and into the shelves and then flatten the boxes, it’s starting to clear out a bit and look fit for human habitation.
Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in: but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents.
The art of not reading is a very important one. It consists in not taking an interest in whatever may be engaging the attention of the general public at any particular time. When some political or ecclesiastical pamphlet, or novel, or poem is making a great commotion, you should remember that he who writes for fools always finds a large public. — A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short.
Essay and Aphorisms, tr. R. J. Hollingdale, Penguin, 1970, page 210.
Sunday: August 14, 2005
I have now gone through the first seven books of Martial, and have learned about 360 of the best lines. His merit seems to me to lie, not in wit, but in the rapid succession of vivid images. I wish he were less nauseous. He is as great a beast as Aristophanes. He certainly is a very clever, pleasant writer. Sometimes he runs Catullus himself hard. But besides his indecency, his servility and his mendicancy disgust me. In his position,—for he was a Roman Knight,—something more like self-respect would have been becoming. I make large allowance for the difference of manners; but it never can have been comme il faut in any age or nation for a man of note,—an accomplished man,—a man living with the great,—to be constantly asking for money, clothes, and dainties, and to pursue with volleys of abuse those who would give him nothing.
From Macaulay’s diary for 1857, quoted in Life and Letters, ii.372.
Macaulay used to say that a lady who dips into Mr. Grote’s history, and learns that Alcibiades won the heart of his fellow-citizens by the novelty of his theories and the splendour of his liturgies, may get a very false notion of that statesman’s relations with the Athenian public.
George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, i.411, note 1.
I suppose Macaulay mentions “a lady” because any man likely to read Grote would know enough Greek to distinguish between Greek theoría and leitourgía and their English cognates.
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