Wednesday, August 16, 2017



H.D. Jocelyn, review of Edward Courtney, The Fragmentary Latin Poets (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), in Hermathena, No. 159 (Winter 1995) 53-77 (at 70-71):
We may further regret not being told anything at all about ocular diseases, curative springs (pp. 182-3), Roman debt-collecting (p. 193), the general practice of attributing a vice to a whole community (p. 194), the prophetic mind (p. 205), Pompey's sexual proclivities (p. 210), sexually transmitted diseases (pp. 282-3), the smell of the billy-goat (p. 303), the buggery of the young bride (p. 313), ideas linking the marrow, sweat and semen (p. 421), premature baldness (p. 484).


Obesus: An Auto-Antonym

An auto-antonym is a word that can mean the opposite of itself. Latin obesus is such a word, meaning either fat or thin, although the evidence for thin is meagre.

Lewis and Short, A Latin Dictionary, s.v. obedo (from an online version; I don't have the book):
ŏb-ĕdo, ēdi, ēsum, ĕre, to eat, eat away, devour (used only in the part. perf. and P. a.).—Trop.: nec obesa cavamine terra est, AUCT. AETN. 344.—Hence, P. a.: ŏbēsus, a, um.
I. Wasted away, lean, meagre: corpore pectoreque undique obeso, Laev. ap. GELL. 19, 7, 3; and ap. NON. 361, 17: (obesum hic notavimus proprie magis quam usitate dictum pro exili atque gracilento, Gell. ib.: obesum gracile et exile, Non. l.l.).—
II. Mid., that has eaten itself fat; hence, in gen., fat, stout, plump: obesus pinguis quasi ob edendum factus, Paul. ex FEST. p. 188 Müll. (not in Cic.; perh. not ante-Aug.; syn.: opimus, pinguis): corpus neque gracile, neque obesum, CELS. 2, 1; cf. COL. 6, 2, 15: turdus, HOR. Ep. 1, 15, 40: sus, COL. 7, 10, 6: terga, VERG. G. 3, 80: cervix, SUET. Ner. 51.—Sup.: obesissimus venter, PLIN. 11, 37, 79, 200; SUET. Vit. 17; APP. M. 11, p. 263.—Poet.: fauces obesae, swollen, VERG. G. 3, 497.
Félix Gaffiot, Le Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, s.v. obesus:



Problem Solving

Aristophanes, Clouds 740-745 (Socrates to Strepsiades; tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Cut loose your thinking and refine it; examine the problem piece by piece, correctly sorting and investigating ... and if you hit a dead end with one of your ideas, toss it aside and abandon it, then later try putting it in play again with your mind and weigh it up.

                                          σχάσας τὴν φροντίδα        740
λεπτὴν κατὰ μικρὸν περιφρόνει τὰ πράγματα
ὀρθῶς διαιρῶν καὶ σκοπῶν ...
... κἂν ἀπορῇς τι τῶν νοημάτων,
ἀφεὶς ἄπελθε, κᾆτα τῇ γνώμῃ πάλιν
κίνησον αὖθις αὐτὸ καὶ ζυγώθρισον.        745

744 τῇ γνώμῃ Reiske: τὴν γνώμην codd.
W.J. Verdenius, "Notes on Aristophanes' Clouds," Mnemosyne 6.3 (1953) 178-180 (at 179):
740-1 σχάσας τὴν φροντίδα / λεπτὴν κατὰ μικρὸν περιφρόνει τὰ πράγματα: κατὰ μικρόν should not be connected with περιφρόνει, but with σχάσας. Socrates adds κατὰ μικρόν as an explanation of λεπτήν (which could be misunderstood as an apposition): "into small pieces". Cp. Xen. An. VII 3, 22 ἄρτους διέκλα κατὰ μικρόν.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. ζυγωθρίζω:
weigh, examine, Ar. Nu. 745, acc. to Sch.: but acc. to Poll. 10.26 from ζύγωθρον (the bar of a door), lock up.
On Socrates' suggestion to cut the problem into small pieces, cf. G. Polya, How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method, 2nd ed. (1957; rpt. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), pp. 35-36:
If your problem is very complex you may distinguish "great" steps and "small" steps, each great step being composed of several small ones. Check first the great steps, and get down to the smaller ones afterwards....Consider the details of the solution and try to make them as simple as you can; survey more extensive parts of the solution and try to make them shorter; try to see the whole solution at a glance. Try to modify to their advantage smaller or larger parts of the solution, try to improve the whole solution, to make it intuitive, to fit it into your formerly acquired knowledge as naturally as possible. Scrutinize the method that led you to the solution, try to see its point, and try to make use of it for other problems. Scrutinize the result and try to make use of it for other problems.
Cf. also id., pp. 75-85, on "Decomposing and Recombining."

On Socrates' suggestion to lay aside the problem until a later time, cf. Polya, op. cit., pp. 197-198:
Subconscious work. One evening I wished to discuss with a friend a certain author but I could not remember the author's name. I was annoyed, because I remembered fairly well one of his stories. I remembered also some story about the author himself which I wanted to tell; I remembered, in fact, everything except the name. Repeatedly, I tried to recollect that name but all in vain. The next morning, as soon as I thought of the annoyance of the evening before, the name occurred to me without any effort.

The reader, very likely, remembers some similar experience of his own. And, if he is a passionate problem-solver, he has probably had some similar experience with problems. It often happens that you have no success at all with a problem; you work very hard yet without finding anything. But when you come back to the problem after a night's rest, or a few days' interruption, a bright idea appears and you solve the problem easily. The nature of the problem matters little; a forgotten word, a difficult word from a crossword-puzzle, the beginning of an annoying letter, or the solution of a mathematical problem may occur in this way.

Such happenings give the impression of subconscious work. The fact is that a problem, after prolonged absence, may return into consciousness essentially clarified, much nearer to its solution than it was when it dropped out of consciousness. Who clarified it, who brought it nearer to the solution? Obviously, oneself, working at it subconsciously. It is difficult to give any other answer; although psychologists have discovered the beginnings of another answer which may turn out some day to be more satisfactory.

Whatever may or may not be the merits of the theory of subconscious work, it is certain that there is a limit beyond which we should not force the conscious reflection. There are certain moments in which it is better to leave the problem alone for a while. "Take counsel of your pillow" is an old piece of advice. Allowing an interval of rest to the problem and to ourselves, we may obtain more tomorrow with less effort. "If today will not, tomorrow may" is another old saying. But it is desirable not to set aside a problem to which we wish to come back later without the impression of some achievement; at least some littIe point should be settled, some aspect of the question somewhat elucidated when we quit working.

Only such problems come back improved whose solution we passionately desire, or for which we have worked with great tension; conscious effort and tension seem to be necessary to set the subconscious work going. At any rate, it would be too easy if it were not so; we could solve difficult problems just by sleeping and waiting for a bright idea.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


A Gloomy Milestone

Winston Churchill, speech to the House of Commons (June 24, 1952):
I have always considered that the substitution of the internal combustion engine for the horse marked a very gloomy milestone in the progress of mankind.
Winston Churchill, speech to the Royal College of Physicians (July 10, 1951):
It is arguable whether the human race have been gainers by the march of science beyond the steam engine. Electricity opens a field of infinite conveniences to ever greater numbers, but they may well have to pay dearly for them. But anyhow in my thought I stop short of the internal combustion engine which has made the world so much smaller. Still more must we fear the consequences of entrusting a human race so little different from their predecessors of the so-called barbarous ages such awful agencies as the atomic bomb. Give me the horse.
Related posts:


Monday, August 14, 2017


Sad Times

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), "First Dialogue: Certitudes," Philosophical Dialogues and Fragments (tr. Râs Bihârî Mukharjî):
These are sad times. Twenty times a day do we ask ourselves if it is worth while living to be present at the downfall of all that we have loved.

Les temps sont tristes. Vingt fois par jour nous nous demandons s'il vaut la peine de vivre pour assister à la ruine de tout ce que nous avons aimé.


Some Insults

Aristophanes, Clouds 398 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson, with his note):
You moron redolent of the Cronia,32 you mooncalf!

32 A festival celebrating Zeus' father Cronus, who symbolized a bygone age.

ὦ μῶρε σὺ καὶ Κρονίων ὄζων καὶ βεκκεσέληνε.
K.J. Dover ad loc.:

Id. 492:
This fellow's ignorant and barbaric!

ἅνθρωπος ἀμαθὴς οὑτοσὶ καὶ βάρβαρος.
Id. 646:
You're a stupid clod.

ὡς ἄγροικος εἶ καὶ δυσμαθής.
ἄγροικος = dwelling in the fields, rustic, boorish; δυσμαθής = slow at learning, dull

Id. 654:
You're a brainless lout!

ἀγρεῖος εἶ καὶ σκαιός.
ἀγρεῖος = of the field, rustic, boorish; σκαιός = lefthanded, awkward, clumsy, stupid



William Abbott Oldfather, letter to Levi Robert Lind (April 5, 1939), in William M. Calder III, "'Tripe and Garbage': William Abbott Oldfather on the Limits of Research," Qui Miscuit Utile Dulci: Festschrift Essays for Paul Lachlan MacKendrick, edd. Gareth Schmeling and Jon D. Mikalson (Wauconda: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 1998), pp. 87-93 (at 89-90; footnotes omitted):
[T]he more "research" which I attempt to do, the more I feel doubt about its relative importance in the total scheme of cultural values. Treated as beautiful, stimulating, + meaningful for life and joy, Greek literature, thought and fine art are of transcendent value; but treated as mere materials for scientific research, and by that I mean linguistics, and grammatical statistics, studies of drain-pipes, shoestrings, door knobs, locations, trivial forms of social and political organization, and all the rest of the tripe and garbage that are dignified by the term "research," they seem hardly more important than mineralogy, or comparative anatomy, or even educational statistics—than which what can be more banal? Of course some knowledge of the material setting is useful as background and proportion and emphasis to the appreciation of better things. But I sometimes feel that too much attention to the sauce is apt to lose us the rabbit. When our subject ceases to mean anything important for our daily living, then it will go, and it ought to go, the way of all flesh.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Our Life

Gregory of Nazianzus, Orations 7.19.1 (Funeral Oration on his Brother Caesarius; tr. Leo P. McCauley):
Such, brethren, is our life, we whose existence is so transitory. Such is the game we play upon earth: we do not exist and we are born, and being born we are dissolved. We are a fleeting dream, an apparition without substance, the flight of a bird that passes, a ship that leaves no trace upon the sea. We are dust, a vapor, the morning dew, a flower growing but a moment and withering in a moment.

τοιοῦτος ὁ βίος ἡμῶν, ἀδελφοί, τῶν ζώντων πρόσκαιρα· τοιοῦτο τὸ ἐπὶ γῆς παίγνιον· οὐκ ὄντας γενέσθαι, καὶ γενομένους ἀναλυθῆναι. ὄναρ ἐσμὲν οὐχ ἱστάμενον, φάσμα τι μὴ κρατούμενον, πτῆσις ὀρνέου παρερχομένου, ναῦς ἐπὶ θαλάσσης ἴχνος οὐκ ἔχουσα, κόνις, ἀτμίς, ἑωθινὴ δρόσος, ἄνθος καιρῷ φυόμενον καὶ καιρῷ λυόμενον.


My Old Hut

A poem by Shihwu (1272–1352), tr. Red Pine:
Paper windows bamboo walls hedge of hibiscus
when guests arrive wormwood soup serves as tea
the poor people I meet are mostly content
rare is the rich man who isn't vain or wasteful
I move my bookstand to read sutras by moonlight
I honor the buddhas with a vase of wild flowers
everyone says Tushita Heaven is fine
but how can it match this old hut of mine

Saturday, August 12, 2017


A Dilemma

Alan Cameron, "The Imperial Pontifex," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 103 (2007) 341-384 (at 351-352):
Here we have a classic dilemma. When faced with an anecdote that cannot be true in the form in which we have it, how far are we entitled to modify details to bring it into line with the historical record, and when should we just dismiss it as historically worthless? For example, if a historical character attracts improbable anecdotes illustrating his extravagance, we may feel that we can at any rate accept that he was extravagant; if an otherwise plausible anecdote places him in the wrong place at the wrong time, we may feel entitled to substitute a more appropriate time and place.


Your Opponent's Arguments

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), On Liberty, II:
The greatest orator, save one, of antiquity, has left it on record that he always studied his adversary's case with as great, if not still greater, intensity than even his own. What Cicero practised as the means of forensic success requires to be imitated by all who study any subject in order to arrive at the truth. He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. The rational position for him would be suspension of judgment, and unless he contents himself with that, he is either led by authority, or adopts, like the generality of the world, the side to which he feels most inclination. Nor is it enough that he should hear the arguments of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. That is not the way to do justice to the arguments, or bring them into real contact with his own mind. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them; who defend them in earnest, and do their very utmost for them. He must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form; he must feel the whole force of the difficulty which the true view of the subject has to encounter and dispose of; else he will never really possess himself of the portion of truth which meets and removes that difficulty.
Cicero, De Oratore 2.24.102 (tr. H. Rackham):
It is my own practice to take care that every client personally instructs me on his affairs, and that no one else shall be present, so that he may speak the more freely; and to argue his opponent's case to him, so that he may argue his own and openly declare whatever he has thought of his position. Then, when he has departed, in my own person and with perfect impartiality I play three characters, myself, my opponent and the arbitrator.

equidem soleo dare operam, ut de sua quisque re me ipse doceat et ut ne quis alius adsit, quo liberius loquatur, et agere adversarii causam, ut ille agat suam et, quidquid de sua re cogitarit, in medium proferat. itaque cum ille discessit, tres personas unus sustineo summa animi aequitate, meam, adversarii, iudicis.
Id. 3.21.80:
Whereas if there has really ever been a person who was able in Aristotelian fashion to speak on both sides about every subject and by means of knowing Aristotle's rules to reel off two speeches on opposite sides on every case, or in the manner of Arcesilas and Carneades argue against every statement put forward, and who to that method adds the experience and practice in speaking indicated, he would be the one and only true and perfect orator.

sin aliquis exstiterit aliquando qui Aristotelio more de omnibus rebus in utramque sententiam possit dicere et in omni causa duas contrarias orationes praeceptis illius cognitis explicare, aut hoc Arcesilae modo et Carneadis contra omne quod propositum sit disserat, quique ad eam rationem adiungat hunc usum exercitationemque dicendi, is sit verus, is perfectus, is solus orator.



Rudolph Pfeiffer (1889-1979), History of Classical Scholarship from the Beginnings to the End of the Hellenistic Age (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), p. 207:
The complete repertories were called πίνακες (indexes); but there was no corresponding Greek or Latin word for the selective lists. In the year A.D. 1768 the term 'canon' was coined for them by David Ruhnken,1 when he wrote: 'Ex magna oratorum copia tamquam in canonem decem dumtaxat rettulerunt' (sc. Aristarchus et Aristophanes Byzantius). Then Ruhnken dropped the cautious 'tamquam' and went on calling all the selective lists 'canones'. His coinage met with worldwide and lasting success, as the term was found to be so convenient; one has the impression that most people who use it believe that this usage is of Greek origin. But κανών2 was never used in this sense, nor would this have been possible. From its frequent use in ethics κανών always retained the meaning of rule or model. Aristophanes' grammatical observations about analogy in declension could be called κανόνες, rules, or a certain author and his style could be described as κανών, a model or exemplar.3 So it was not by the ancient, but it could have been by the Biblical, tradition that the catachrestic use of canon was suggested to Ruhnken. Though the Biblical canon does not mean a list of writers, it does mean a list of books of the Bible accepted by the Christian church as genuine and inspired;4 and this usage was and is current in all the modern languages. The word 'canon' has been intentionally avoided in this chapter on Aristophanes; nevertheless, everyone is at liberty to speak of the Alexandrian canon of the nine lyric poets or the ten orators, since the expression is sanctioned by its age and convenience, and will, I am afraid, never disappear. But if one calls such lists 'canons', one should be aware that this is not the proper significance of the Greek κανών but a modern catachresis that originated in the eighteenth century.

1 D. Ruhnken, 'Historia critica oratorum Graecorum' in his edition of Rutilius Lupus 1768 and often reprinted: Opuscula I2 (1823) 386.
2 H. Oppel, 'Κανών. Zur Bedeutungsgeschichte des Wortes und seiner lateinischen Entsprechungen (regula-norma)' Philologus, Suppl. xxx 4 (1937) passim; on Ruhnken see p. 47. Cf. the review by K. v. Fritz, AJP 60 (1939) 112 ff.
3 See above, p. 202 (declension) and p. 206, n. 2 (Aeschines' λόγοι as κανών).
4 Euseb. hist. eccl. VI 25. 3 τὸν ἐκκλησιαστικὸν φυλάττων κανόνα, μόνα τέσσαρα εἰδέναι εὐαγγέλια μαρτύρεται (sc. Origen) seems to be the earliest evidence of the word for the canon of scripture; Oppel Κανών 70 f. and others refer to a passage of Athanasius, written about A.D. 350, at least twenty-five years after Euseb. hist. eccl., Athanas. 'de decr. Nic. syn.' 18 (Werke, hg. von der Preuß. Akad. d. Wiss. II 1, 1935, p. 15. 20) μὴ ὂν ἐκ τοῦ κανόνος (sc. Hermas).

Friday, August 11, 2017



George Sand, letter to Gustave Flaubert (December 21, 1867; tr. Francis Steegmuller, with his note):
At last, someone who shares my opinion of that political cur. It could only be you, friend of my heart. Etroniforme is a sublime word to classify that vegetable species Merdoïde.1

1. Term coined by Mme Sand: "Of the shit family." A friend suggests a link with cacafuego, listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, which cites a 1696 usage: "A Spanish word signifying Shitefire, and it is used for a bragging, vaporing fellow."

Enfin! voilà donc quelqu'un qui pense comme moi sur le compte de ce goujat politique. Ce ne pouvait être que toi, ami de mon coeur. Étroniformes est le mot sublime qui classe cette espèce de végétaux merdoïdes.
From étron = matière fécale consistante et moulée de l'homme et de quelques animaux (Larousse). Cf. Dutch stront.




According to Google, today is the 44th anniversary of the birth of Hip-Hop, so I'll celebrate the occasion by singing my favorite Hip-Hop song:
Here comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin' down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppin', Easter's on its way

Bringin' ev'ry girl and boy
Baskets full of Easter joy
Things to make your Easter bright and gay

He's got jelly beans for Tommy
Colored eggs for sister Sue
There's an orchid for your mommy
And an Easter bonnet too

Oh, here comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin' down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppity, Happy Easter Day

Here comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin' down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppin', Easter's on its way

Try to do the things you should
Maybe if you're extra good
He'll roll lots of Easter eggs your way

You'll wake up on Easter mornin'
And you'll know that he was there
When you find those choc'late bunnies
That he's hiding ev'rywhere

Oh, here comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin' down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppity, Happy Easter Day

Hippity hoppity, Happy Easter Day
There are several good renditions on YouTube.


Invitation to Eight Gods

Bernhard Zimmerman, "Structure and Meter," Brill's Companion to the Study of Greek Comedy, ed. Gregory W. Dobrov (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. 455-469 (at 458):
The second section of the parabasis, the so-called epirrhematic syzygy, belongs entirely to the chorus. It consists of two metrically identical lyric parts, an ode and antode, that reflect the ancient form of a hymnic call for the gods (hymnos kletikos).
Aristophanes, Clouds 563-574, 595-606 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson, with his notes):
High guardian of the gods,
Zeus the great chieftain,
I invite first to my dance;
and the hugely strong Keeper of the Trident,
wild upheaver
of land and salty sea;48
and our own father of glorious name,
most august Empyrean,49 nourisher of all life;
and the Charioteer, who
covers the plain of earth
with dazzling rays, a mighty deity
among gods and mortals.


Join me as well, Phoebus, Lord
of Delos, who dwell on Cynthus'
sheer escarpment of rock;53
and you, blest Maiden, who dwell at Ephesus
in the golden house, where Lydian maidens
greatly revere you;54
and our own native goddess,
wielder of the aegis, guardian of the city;
and he who haunts Parnassus' rock
and glows in the light of pine torches,
eminent among Delphic bacchants,
the reveller Dionysus.

48 I.e. Poseidon.
49 Aether, a scientific entity; cf. 265.
53 I.e. Apollo.
54 I.e. Artemis.

ὑψιμέδοντα μὲν θεῶν
    Ζῆνα τύραννον εἰς χορὸν
    πρῶτα μέγαν κικλήσκω·        565
τόν τε μεγασθενῆ τριαίνης ταμίαν,
    γῆς τε καὶ ἁλμυρᾶς θαλάσσης
    ἄγριον μοχλευτήν·
καὶ μεγαλώνυμον ἡμέτερον πατέρ᾿
    Αἰθέρα σεμνότατον, βιοθρέμμονα πάντων·        570
τόν θ᾿ ἱππονώμαν, ὃς ὑπερ-
    λάμπροις ἀκτῖσιν κατέχει
    γῆς πέδον, μέγας ἐν θεοῖς
    ἐν θνητοῖσί τε δαίμων.


ἀμφί μοι αὖτε Φοῖβ᾿ ἄναξ        595
    Δήλιε, Κυνθίαν ἔχων
    ὑψικέρατα πέτραν·
ἥ τ᾿ Ἐφέσου μάκαιρα πάγχρυσον ἔχεις
    οἶκον, ἐν ᾧ κόραι σε Λυ-
    δῶν μεγάλως σέβουσιν·        600
ἥ τ᾿ ἐπιχώριος ἡμετέρα θεὸς
    αἰγίδος ἡνίοχος, πολιοῦχος Ἀθάνα·
Παρνασσίαν θ᾿ ὃς κατέχων
    πέτραν σὺν πεύκαις σελαγεῖ
    Βάκχαις Δελφίσιν ἐμπρέπων        605
    κωμαστὴς Διόνυσος.
Athena is explicitly named in the Greek (602). Shouldn't she also be explicitly named in the translation? Two of the unnamed gods are identified by the translator's notes, but not Helios (571-574). See K.J. Dover in his commentary (1968; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), p. 173:
Poseidon, Helios, and Artemis are not named outright in this song, but are identified by their attributes. The names of Athena (604 [sic, read 602]) and Dionysos (606) are delayed until their characterizations are complete, and Zeus and Aither are partially characterized before they are named.
See also Eduard Fraenkel, Beobachtungen zu Aristophanes (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1962), pp. 196-198, and L.P.E. Parker, The Songs of Aristophanes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 194-196.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Assumption of Infallibility

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), On Liberty, II:
But I must be permitted to observe, that it is not the feeling sure of a doctrine (be it what it may) which I call an assumption of infallibility. It is the undertaking to decide that question for others, without allowing them to hear what can be said on the contrary side. And I denounce and reprobate this pretension not the less, if put forth on the side of my most solemn convictions.



Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), "Théophile Gautier," II (tr. P.E. Charvet):
He then asked me, with a curiously suspicious eye, and as though to put me to the test, if I liked reading dictionaries. The question was put with the calm manner he brings to all he says, and in a tone of voice someone else might have adopted to inquire whether I preferred reading travel books or fiction. Fortunately, I had been seized very young with lexicomania, and I saw that my stock had risen as a result of my reply. It was precisely with reference to dictionaries that he added that 'The writer incapable of expressing everything, caught on the wrong foot by an idea, be it never so strange or subtle, never so unexpected, falling like a stone from the moon, was no writer at all'.

Il me demanda ensuite, avec un oeil curieusement méfiant, et comme pour m'éprouver, si j'aimais à lire des dictionnaires. Il me dit cela d'ailleurs comme il dit toute chose, fort tranquillement, et du ton qu'un autre aurait pris pour s'informer si je préférais la lecture des voyages à celle des romans. Par bonheur, j'avais été pris très-jeune de lexicomanie, et je vis que ma réponse me gagnait de l'estime. Ce fut justement à propos des dictionnaires qu'il ajouta «que l'écrivain qui ne savait pas tout dire, celui qu'une idée si étrange, si subtile qu’on la supposât, si imprévue, tombant comme une pierre de la lune, prenait au dépourvu et sans matériel pour lui donner corps, n'était pas un écrivain.»
Related post: Reading the Dictionary.


A Greek Verse Inscription

Werner Peek, Griechische Vers-Inschriften, Vol. I: Grab-Epigramme (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1955), p. 327, # 1146 (= Inscriptiones Graecae XIV 2002 + Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum VI 26282; only relevant portions of page shown):

The stone (photograph from Epigraphischen Datenbank):

Text and apparatus adapted by me from Peek (subscript dots for uncertain letters omitted):
                                                      ὅσιον βίον ἀίξοντι·
ἀλλ' ὅτε Μοιράων ὁ τριπλοῦς μίτος ἐξεκενώθ[η]
καὶ λοιπὸν θανάτῳ μετὰ τοῦτο τὸ φῶς μετεβλή[θη],
ψυχὴ μὲν πρὸς Ὄλυμπον ἀνήλλατο, σῶμα δὲ πρὸ[ς γῆν]
καὶ λυθὲν ἐξεπόθη καὶ οὐδὲν ἔχω πλέον ὀστῶ[ν].        5
ὡς οὖν καιρὸν ἔχεις, λοῦσαι, μύρισαι, σπατάλησον
καὶ χάρισαι, δαπάνησον ἅπερ δύνασαι· τίνι τηρεῖς;

M. Septimius Diocles fecit sibi et Iul. Ca — — | fi[liae]

3 μετεβλή[θη] J.L. Ussing, "Om nogle af Fr. Rostgaard efterladte Papirsaftryk af graeske og latinske Indskrifter," Oversigt over det Kongelige Danske videnskabernes selskabs forhandlinger (1866) 202-221 (204-205); μετέβαι[νον] Georg Kaibel, Epigrammata Graeca ex Lapidibus Conlecta (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1878), p. 529, no. 646a
According to Stephan Busch, Versus Balnearum. Die antike Dichtung über Bäder und Baden im römischen Reich (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1999), pp. 530-531 (at 531), the Latin portion of the inscription has been expanded as follows:
M. Septimius Diocles fecit sibi et Iul. Ca[liste coniugi et Sept. Vibiae] fi[liae].
Latin translation of the Greek (lines 2-7) from Ed. Cougny, Epigrammatum Anthologia Palatina cum Planudeis et Appendice Nova Epigrammatum Veterum ex Libris et Marmoribus Ductorum, Vol. III (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1890), p. 207, number 695:
sed ubi parcarum triplum stamen exinanitum est
et postremo ad mortem post hanc lucem transii,
anima quidem ad Olympum exsiluit, corpus autem terra
dissolutum exhaustum est, et nihil habeo praeter ossa.
Dum igitur tempus habes, balneis, unguentis deliciis utere,
et te amabilem-praebe, splendide-vive, quoad potes: cuinam servas?
Unavailable to me:
The epigram isn't in Werner Peek, Griechische Grabgedichte. Griechisch und Deutsch (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1966).

In the fragmentary first line, ὅσιον βίον is pious life (accusative), and ἀίξοντι seems to be aorist active participle (dative singular) of ᾄσσω (alt. ἀΐσσω) = shoot, dart, glance (intransitive) or put in motion (transitive). I can extract no sense from ὅσιον βίον as the object of ἀίξοντι.

In line 3 what is the subject of Ussing's supplement μετεβλήθη (3rd person singular aorist indicative passive of μεταβάλλω)? Presumably φῶς, but I take the entire phrase τοῦτο τὸ φῶς to be the object of the preposition μετὰ. The inscription is number 1329 in Luigi Moretti, Inscriptiones Graecae Urbis Romae, vol. III (Rome: Istituto italiano per la storia antica, 1978), p. 184. The book is unavailable to me, but I think he prints μετεβλήθην (1st person) instead of μετεβλήθη (3rd person). The 1st person makes more sense to me.

The first καὶ in line 5 also puzzles me. ψυχὴ μὲν πρὸς Ὄλυμπον ἀνήλλατο (4) should be balanced by σῶμα δὲ πρὸς γῆν / καὶ λυθὲν ἐξεπόθη (4-5), but καὶ seems to get in the way of that.

Here is my tentative translation of all but the first line:
But when the threefold thread of the Fates was spun out
and finally after this light I was thrown over to death,
my soul leaped up to Olympus, but my body to earth
wasted away and was drained, and I have nothing but bones.
So therefore, while you have time, bathe, anoint yourself with perfume, live indulgently,
and gratify yourself, spend all the money you can — for what are you keeping it?

Marcus Septimius Diocles made this for himself and his wife Julia Callista and his daughter Septimia Vibia.
Thanks very much to Ian Jackson for a photocopy of the relevant page of Peek's Griechische Vers-Inschriften.


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