The Last of Timon’s Last Words

Book VII of the Greek Anthology includes a sequence of eight supposed epitaphs of Timon of Athens, the famous misanthrope, epigrams 313-320. Having already posted seven of them, here is the eighth, by “Zenodotus or Rhianus” (A.P. 7.315), with W. R. Paton’s Loeb translation:

Τρηχεῖαν κατ᾿ ἐμεῦ, ψαφαρὴ κόνι, ῥάμνον ἑλίσσοις
    πάντοθεν, ἢ σκολιῆς ἄγρια κῶλα βάτου,
ὡς ἐπ᾿ ἐμοὶ μηδ᾿ ὄρνις ἐν εἴαρι κοῦφον ἐρείδοι
    ἴχνος, ἐηεμάζω δ᾿ ἥσυχα κεκλιμένος.
ἦ γὰρ ὁ μισάνθρωπος, ὁ μηδ᾿ ἀστοῖσι φιλἠεὶς
    Τίμων οὐδ᾿ Ἀΐδῃ γνήσιος εἰμι νέκυς.

Dry earth, grow a prickly thorn to twine all around me, or the wild branches of a twisting bramble, that not even a bird in spring may rest its light foot on me, but that I may repose in peace and solitude. For I, the misanthrope, Timon, who was not even beloved by my countrymen, am no genuine dead man even in Hades.

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One Response to The Last of Timon’s Last Words

  1. Alfred M. Kriman says:

    I’m not sure I get it. Is Timon not a genuine dead man because he was no man in the first place, since he had no human feeling? If so, pointing out that he was unloved seems slightly beside the point.

    Perhaps instead, γνήσιος here is better translated `legitimate, proper.’ Just as a birth can be illegitimate if unattended by a conventional nicety (marriage of the parents, or at least the mother), perhaps a death is not legitimate if no one mourns. Also, the description of thorns (prospectively) surrounding him, and the notion that physical protection of some sort might be needed, suggest that he may not have been interred.

    It’s interesting to see an etymon of Hades translated as `Hades’: I see now that LSJ reports the transferred sense of `chez Hades’ early on (post-Homeric), and that the OED agrees and can demonstrate a respectable tradition of the same sense in English. Yet I remember being taught not to make this “mistake,” and to use Hades only as the name of a god. I don’t think I was alone. I guess it was just another attempt to roll back language history (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

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