I’ve updated the blogroll on the right, adding Philolog and Thoughts on Antiquity to the Classics section, deleting a couple of inactive blogs from the Culture section, and catching up with a couple of name-changes. Another apparently classical weblog that may interest some of my readers is Filologanoga. Unfortunately for me, it appears to be in Croatian, though others may find that less of an obstacle.
Monday: May 29, 2006
(This is a rewrite of a previous Memorial Day post.)
1. Simonides’ epitaph on the 300 Spartans who died at Thermopylae:
ὦ ξεῖν᾿, ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε
κείμεθα τοῖς κείνων πειθόμενοι νομίμοις.
Stranger, tell the Lacedemonians that we lie here, obedient to their laws/customs.
The epitaph appeals to the passerby to deliver the message because these men died and were buried far from Sparta: with no post offices or telephones in the ancient world, epitaphs for those who died away from home were often in the form “If you are ever in the town of X, tell Y the son of Z that his son is buried here, far from home”. The only way to send the message was to have it ‘hitchhike’ with someone who happened to be headed in the right direction. In this case, specific names are unnecessary.
Simonides was one of the greatest Greek poets, though little of his work survives — just enough to show us what we’re missing. He was particularly known for his elegies, epitaphs, and threnodies — all the gloomier genres — which were simple and moving. His epitaphs were written for the actual monuments, not as literary exercises. This is Simonides XXIIb in the Oxford Classical Text of Epigrammata Graeca and (with commentary) Further Greek Epigrams, both edited by D. L. Page. The meter is elegiac couplet. Other sources give the last two words as ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι, “obedient to their words”. However, whether he said that the Spartans were “obedient to the words” (= commands) of their kings or “obedient to the customs” of their country, it means that they were willing to follow orders without question even when there was no chance of survival. The word I have translated “obedient to” also means “persuaded by” — a nice example of small-d democracy in the very structure of the Greek language. The movie Go Tell The Spartans takes its title from Simonides’ epitaph, either directly or (perhaps through Cicero) indirectly.
2. Cicero’s paraphrase, from Tusculan Disputations 1.101:
Dic, hospes, Spartae, nos te hic vidisse iacentes
dum sanctis patriae legibus obsequimur.
Stranger, tell Sparta that you saw us lying here, as we obey the sacred laws of our fatherland.
3. A. E. Housman, More Poems XXXVI:
Here dead we lie because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is, and we were young.
The first two lines are a paraphrase of Simonides, generalized for all nations. The last two are Housman’s own addition, though the thought is very pagan and very Greek. Housman’s little poem achieves an impressive degree of Simonidean simplicity. Every word but two is monosyllabic, and even the exceptions hardly count, since ‘nothing’ was originally ‘no thing’ and ‘because’ originally (I think) ‘by cause’. It’s odd that a professional Latinist should write such a thoroughly unLatin poem: just about every word is pure Anglo-Saxon.
Wednesday: May 24, 2006
El paganismo es el otro Antiguo Testamento de la Iglesia.
Paganism is the other Old Testament of the Church.
(Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito, 1.206)
Sunday: May 14, 2006
A link from Martin Kramer led me to two articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education by the pseudonymous ‘Thomas H. Benton’, The 7 Deadly Sins of Students and The 7 Deadly Sins of Professors. Here’s a bit from the first:
Gluttony: It hardly needs saying that most colleges struggle to control alcohol consumption by students and the embarrassing incidents and tragedies that result from it. But there are other manifestations of gluttony these days. For example, when did it become acceptable for students to eat and drink in class as if they were sitting in a cafeteria? Nowadays, I occasionally encounter a student who thinks it’s OK to consume a large, messy, and odorous meal in class. I once saw a student eat an entire rotisserie chicken, a tub of mashed potatoes with gravy, several biscuits, and an enormous soft drink during the first 10 minutes of a lecture. I felt like a jester in the court of Henry VIII. It seems hard these days to find a student in class whose mouth is not stuffed with food. Such students will often say that they have no other time to eat, but previous generations — who were no less busy — managed to consume small snacks between classes. That is why colleges have vending machines.
I don’t know when it became acceptable, but eating in class was not unheard of even thirty years ago. That was when I took a class on Aristotle’s Ethics at the supposedly-ascetic University of Chicago. One day, as we were discussing a chapter on one of the Greek virtues, we watched the plumpest student in the class scarf down three hot dogs and a 20-ounce soda in under 10 minutes, while doing most of the talking. He had some difficulty making himself understood, since his mouth was full the whole time. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the room who had to stifle the urge to say “what the Heck do you know about sophrosyne, you disgusting pig?”
Las escuelas filosóficas fueron las órdenes monásticas de la antigüedad.
El pitagorismo, por ejemplo, se parece más a la reforma cluniacense que al idealismo alemán.
The philosophical schools were the monastic orders of antiquity.
Pythagoreanism, for example, has more resemblance to the Cluniac reform than to German idealism.
(Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito, 1.218)
Thursday: May 11, 2006
El léxico del verdadero escritor no está en ningún diccionario.
The lexicon of the true writer is not in any dictionary.
(Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito, 1.137)
Wednesday: May 10, 2006
Hombre culto es aquel para quien nada carece de interés y casi todo de importancia.
An educated man is the one for whom nothing lacks interest and nearly everything lacks importance.
(Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito, 1.399)
Sunday: May 7, 2006
Ann Althouse is a law professor at the University of Wisconsin. Here is one of her posts from today, in full:
God bless the dork . . .
Overheard on State Street today:
“I said I would never go back to high school. But . . . I’m a dork. Every time, after Latin class, I’m so happy. And I just think, I want to feel like that all the time. I want to teach high school Latin.”
(That last paragraph should be doubly indented, with no quotation marks, but stupid WordPress refuses to accept nested blockquotes.)
As some of you have noticed, I have been unable to keep up my Joke of the Day (Ioci Antiqui) feature. As a partial substitute, I have set up the last of the categories in the left-hand column: Ephemerides, with four subcategories so far. I will try to post something in at least one of the subcategories every day, hence the name. Readers can see all the Aphorisms, Epigrams, or whatever by clicking on the individual subcategory, or all of them by clicking on Ephemerides. Further subcategories may be added, including perhaps Jokes. I hope to reorder all the subject archives into categories and subcategories for easier retrieval, but this may take a while.