aleator classicus

Reading at Random in Classical Literature

Archive for August 2010


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I’ll be taking a summer break from Random Reading for a couple of weeks. I hope to be back on the Kalends of September; don’t go away!

Written by aleatorclassicus

August 16, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Martial, Epigrams 12.20

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Martial makes a nasty insinuation of impropriety.

quare non habeat, Fabulle, quaeris,
uxorem Themison. habet sororem.

You want to know, Fabullus, why Themison doesn’t have a wife. He has a sister.

Written by aleatorclassicus

August 15, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Martial

Lucian, Long-lived people 23

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From an essay (which some think might not be by Lucian) listing people who lived to exceptionally advanced ages. As is obligatory even today, people asked centenarians what they considered the secret of long life.

ῥητόρων δὲ Γοργίας, ὅν τινες σοφιστὴν καλοῦσιν, ἔτη ἑκατὸν ὀκτώ· τροφῆς δὲ ἀποσχόμενος ἐτελεύτησεν· ὅν φασιν ἐρωτηθέντα τὴν αἰτίαν τοῦ μακροῦ γήρως καὶ ὑγιεινοῦ ἐν πάσαις ταῖς αἰσθήσεσιν εἰπεῖν διὰ τὸ μηδέποτε συμπεριενεχθῆναι ταῖς ἄλλων εὐωχίαις.

And among the orators, Gorgias (whom some call a ‘sophist’) lived 108 years; he died after starving himself of food. They say that, when he was asked the reason for his great age and the good health of all his faculties, he said that it was through never going to other people’s dinner parties.

Written by aleatorclassicus

August 14, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Lucian

Cicero, Philippics 2.64

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Caesar Alexandria se recepit felix, ut sibi quidem videbatur; mea autem sententia, qui rei publicae sit hostis, felix esse nemo potest.

Caesar came back from Alexandria a fortunate man – in his own opinion at least. But my feeling is that no man who is an enemy of the state can be a fortunate man.

Caesar returned from Alexandria in 47 BC, having pursued Pompey there after the latter’s defeat at the battle of Pharsalus.

Written by aleatorclassicus

August 13, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Cicero

Aeschylus, Myrmidons fr. 139

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In a much-quoted passage from one of Aeschylus’ lost tragedies, Achilles uses an animal fable to parallel how he caused himself sorrow by sending Patroclus to his death in battle.

ὧδ’ ἐστὶ μύθων τῶν Λιβυστικῶν κλέος,
πληγέντ’ ἀτρακτῷ τοξικῷ τὸν αἰετὸν
εἰπεῖν ἰδόντα μηχανὴν πτερώματος·
“τάδ’ οὐχ ὑπ’ ἄλλων, ἀλλὰ τοῖς αὑτῶν πτεροῖς

This is what people say about a story from Libya: an eagle was shot with an arrow from the bow. Seeing the means by which the arrow was flighted, he said, “This is how we succumb, not at the hands of others, but with our own feathers!”

Written by aleatorclassicus

August 12, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Aeschylus

Seneca, Mad Hercules 1-5

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Juno speaks the prologue to the play. She is not happy with her brother/husband Jupiter’s dalliances with other women and has left him. Her opening words mean that she has ceased to be called Jupiter’s wife, only his sister.

soror Tonantis (hoc enim solum mihi
nomen relictum est) semper alienum Iovem
ac templa summi vidua deserui aetheris,
locumque, caelo pulsa, paelicibus dedi.
tellus colenda est: paelices caelum tenent.

I am the Thunderer’s sister (for this is the only name left to me); I have left Jupiter, as he is always with another woman, and I have left the temples of the highest heaven as a widow. Driven from the sky, I have given my place to his mistresses. I must live on earth: his mistresses are occupying the sky.

Written by aleatorclassicus

August 11, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Seneca the Younger

Lucian, Life of Demonax 32

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ἄλλου δέ ποτε ἐρομένου εἰ ἀθάνατος αὐτῷ ἡ ψυχὴ δοκεῖ εἶναι, “ἀθάνατος,” ἔφη, “ἀλλ’ ὡς πάντα.”

One day someone else asked him whether he thought the soul was immortal. ‘Yes, it’s immortal,’ he said, ‘but so is everything.’

Written by aleatorclassicus

August 10, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Lucian

Martial, Epigrams 12.7

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In this two-liner on a follicularly-challenged lady, Martial, as ever, is short and to the point. And not a little offensive.

toto vertice quot gerit capillos
annos si tot habet Ligeia – trima est.

If the number of hairs she has on her whole head is equal to her age – Ligeia is three years old.

Written by aleatorclassicus

August 9, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Martial

Xenophanes, fr. 7

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This fragment of Xenophanes’ poetry survives in a quotation by Diogenes Laertius (8.36). The 6th-century BC poet-philosopher tells a story about Pythagoras’ opposition to animal cruelty – although, to quote Catherine Osborne (Dumb Beasts and Dead Philosophers, Oxford 2007, 47), ‘It is wholly unclear from the context whether Xenophanes is poking fun at Pythagoras[…] or whether he is an admirer’.

ὁ δὲ περὶ αὐτοῦ φησιν, οὕτως ἔχει·

καί ποτέ μιν στυφελιζομένου σκύλακος παριόντα
φασὶν ἐποικτῖραι καὶ τόδε φάσθαι ἔπος·
‘παῦσαι μηδὲ ῤάπιζ᾿, ἐπεὶ ἦ φίλου ἀνέρος ἐστίν
ψυχή, τὴν ἔγνων φθεγξαμένης ἀίων’.

And what he says about him (=Pythagoras) is as follows:

And on one occasion, they say, he was walking past when a puppy was being maltreated. Taking pity on it he made this speech: ‘Stop! Don’t thrash him, because it’s the soul of a man dear to me; I recognised it when I heard it screaming.’

Written by aleatorclassicus

August 8, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Horace, Odes 3.30.1-5

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Horace ends his third book of Odes with some bragging about his poetry’s immortality. That we are reading him 2000 years later kind of proves he was right. 🙂

exegi monumentum aere perennius
regalique situ pyramidum altius,
quod non imber edax, non Aquilo impotens
possit diruere aut innumerabilis
annorum series et fuga temporum.

I have built a monument more enduring than bronze and taller than the pyramids’ royal site: neither can devouring rain nor furious northerly wind destroy it, nor the uncountable succession of the years and the flight of time.

The little pun on impotens is quite nice: the wind is both ‘furious’ (impotens in the sense of ‘unable to control itself’), but it is impotens (the basic sense of ‘powerless’, ‘ineffective’) in its inability to destroy the poetry.

Written by aleatorclassicus

August 7, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Horace