aleator classicus

Reading at Random in Classical Literature

Archive for November 2010

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Sorry, very busy right now. Back very shortly with the Cicero I promised!

Written by aleatorclassicus

November 28, 2010 at 9:22 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Varro, Menippean Satires, fragment 114

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From the satire Est Modus Matulae ‘There’s due measure for the pot!’ (or, peri methes ‘On Drunkenness’) – the title is evidently a proverb meaning something like ‘You should drink in moderation’. These lines seem to be spoken by someone who enjoys their drink…

vino nihil iucundius quisquam bibit!
hoc aegritudinem ad medendam invenerunt,
hoc hilaritatis dulce seminarium,
hoc continet coagulum convivia.

No one’s ever drunk anything more delightful than wine! They’ve found it’s a remedy for illness; it’s the sweet nursery-garden of joy; it’s the bond that holds dinner parties together!

Written by aleatorclassicus

November 28, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Varro

Euripides, Hippolytus 612

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One of Euripides’ most notorious lines – and ‘one of the most famous lines in Greek tragedy’, to quote H.C. Avery. Hippolytus has been sworn to secrecy, but before he was in full possession of the facts.

ἡ γλῶσσ’ ὀμώμοχ’, ἡ δὲ φρὴν ἀνώμοτος.

My tongue swore, but my mind was not bound by the oath.

Tomorrow we’ll see Cicero’s translation of this line into Latin.

Written by aleatorclassicus

November 23, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Euripides

Ennius, Annals 1.103

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Another fragmentary poet from the early days of Roman literature, and another much-quoted line. Donatus, for example, gives it as an example of what we would call alliteration, a feature for which Ennius’ work was particularly noted.

o Tite tute Tati tibi tanta, tyranne, tulisti!

O Titus Tatius, you tyrant, you yourself took upon yourself such troubles!

Written by aleatorclassicus

November 22, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Donatus, Ennius

Babrius, Fables 121

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ὄρνις ποτ’ ἠσθένησε. τῇ δὲ προσκύψας
αἴλουρος εἶπε ‘πῶς ἔχεις; τίνων χρῄζεις;
ἐγὼ παρέξω πάντα σοι· μόνον σῴζου.’
ἡ δ’ ‘ἢν ἀπέλθῃς’ εἶπεν ‘οὐκ ἀποθνήσκω.’

Once upon a time a bird was unwell. A cat sidled up to her and said, ‘How are you? Is there anything you need? I’ll get everything for you; just don’t die!’ The bird said, ‘If you were to go away I wouldn’t die.’

Written by aleatorclassicus

November 21, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Babrius

Accius, Atreus, fragment 168

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oderint dum metuant.

Let them hate me, as long as they fear me.

A line from the tragedy Atreus by Lucius Accius (170-86 BC), whose work survives only in fragments. This one, evidently spoken by the tyrannical Atreus himself, was much quoted, appearing in Seneca the Younger (On Anger 1.20.4), Cicero (On Duties 1.97), and most famously in Suetonius’ Life of Caligula 30: it was, we learn there, a line that the bad emperor particularly liked to quote.

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November 20, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Plutarch, Life of Alexander 27.9

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A slip of the tongue by the prophet of the Egyptian god Ammon reveals Alexander the Great’s descent from Zeus!

ἔνιοι δέ φασι τὸν μὲν προφήτην Ἑλληνιστὶ βουλόμενον προσειπεῖν μετά τινος φιλοφροσύνης “ὦ παιδίον”, ἐν τῷ τελευταίῳ τῶν φθόγγων ὑπὸ βαρβαρισμοῦ πρὸς τὸ σίγμ’ ἐξενεχθῆναι καὶ εἰπεῖν “ὦ παιδίος,” ἀντὶ τοῦ νῦ τῷ σίγμα χρησάμενον, ἀσμένῳ δὲ τῷ Ἀλεξάνδρῳ τὸ σφάλμα τῆς φωνῆς γενέσθαι, καὶ διαδοθῆναι λόγον ὡς παῖδα Διὸς αὐτὸν τοῦ θεοῦ προσειπόντος.

Some say that the prophet wished to address him ‘O son’ [o paidion] in Greek to be friendly, but at the end of words because of his foreign accent he pronounced a sigma and said ‘O sonzs’ [o paidios], using an S instead of an N. This fault in pronunciation pleased Alexander, and the story got around that the god had addressed him as the ‘son of Zeus’ [i.e., o pai Dios].

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November 19, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Plutarch

Ovid, Loves 1.8.43

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This is one of a number of quotations from ancient authors that make it into Matthew Paris’ Scorn: The Anthology, a volume described by Oliver Pritchett as ‘a hubbub of bitchiness’.

casta est, quam nemo rogavit.

That girl is chaste whom no one has asked.

To even things up, maybe I should also quote HL Mencken, from the same page: ‘Masculinity and stupidity are often indistinguishable.’

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November 18, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Ovid

Philostratus, Love Letters 2 (Kayser)

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Philostratus also wrote fictional letters. This one is short but quite sweet.

πέπομφά σοι στέφανον ῥόδων, οὐ σὲ τιμῶν, καὶ τοῦτο μὲν γάρ, ἀλλ’ αὐτοῖς τι χαριζόμενος τοῖς  ῥόδοις, ἵνα μὴ μαρανθῇ.

I’ve sent you a garland of roses, not to do you honour (although I would do that), but to pay the roses themselves a favour, so that they won’t wither.

Written by aleatorclassicus

November 17, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Philostrati

Virgil, Georgics 2.458

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Following on from yesterday’s less than fortunate farmer, here is Virgil’s hyperbolic assessment of the unrecognised benefits of living in the country.

o fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint, agricolas!

Oh, how excessively happy farmers would be, if only they were aware of their good fortune!

This line is mentioned in a letter which I serendipitously discovered in the Gentleman’s Journal and Historical Chronicle, on Dr Johnson’s objections to ‘the particle O used at the beginning of a sentence’. A quick Google also leads us to this page which records the inscription of this line on a rustic gate-post!

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November 16, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Virgil