Friday, November 24, 2017


Si Quid Mali, in Pyrrham

An example of epipompē in a proverb, from Erasmus, Adages II vii 1 to III iii 100, translated and annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), p. 224 (III ii 1, with end omitted), plus notes on p. 389:
Si quid mali, in Pyrrham
If there's anything bad, on Pyrrha's head

Εἴ τι κακόν, εἰς Πύρραν, If there's anything wrong, on Pyrrha's head — we must understand 'be it' or 'let if fall,' or something of the kind. In this way, if they feared some impending evil, they sought to avoid it by turning it aside, and prayed that it might fall on their enemy's head. Hence too that form of words well known in both Greek and Latin authors, 'May this befall our enemies.' Ovid:1 'Would that such parties might befall our foes.' Again, in book three of the Art of Love: 'May cause of such foul shame befall my foes'; in book three of the Fasti: 'Would that that colour might befall my foes'; in book two of the Elegies: 'Sleep in an empty bed befall my foes! And let my foes live such a Spartan life!' and again in book three: 'Such cause for shame befall my enemies!' Virgil2 too in book three of the Georgics: 'May the gods send good men a better fate, And send that error on our enemies!' and in the eighth Aeneid, speaking of Mezentius: 'May the gods keep this in store for him and for his race.' Propertius:3 'May a cold-blooded wench await my foes!' And Horace4 in the Odes: 'Let enemies' wives and children feel / The gathering south-wind's angry roar.' And Terence5 in the Heautontimorumenos, that is, the old self-tormentor 'Oh dear! I do beseech you, let that be for your enemies,' and again in the Eunuchus: 'Would that all those who wish me ill were in the same plight.'

The traditional origin of the proverb is as follows. In old days the people of Pyrrha were intensely unpopular with all their neighbours, with the result that if they ever saw trouble threatening, they sought to avoid it by praying that it might fall on the Pyrrhaeans instead, saying 'On Pyrrha's head be it!'


In 1508 this stood after what is now III ii 7; it was moved here in 1515. The basis is a translation of Zenobius 4.2.

1 Ovid] Heroides 15.217, already used in II iii 11 and added in 1515 to III ii 78; Ars amatoria 3.247; Fasti 3.494; Amores 2.10.16-17 in reverse order; 3.11.16. The first of these is of 1508, the other four of 1533.

2 Virgil] Georgics 3.513; Aeneid 8.484, both of 1533

3 Propertius] 3.8.20, added in 1533

4 Horace] Odes 3.27.21-2 (trans Conington); this is of 1508, and had already appeared in II iii 11.

5 Terence] Heautontimorumenos 1015, added in 1517/8 with the title of the play given in Latin. In 1533 Erasmus inserted the usual form of it, and appended Eunuchus 655.
Εἴ τι κακόν, εἰς Πύρραν, id est Si quid mali, in Pyrrham, subaudiendum 'recidat' aut 'abeat' aut eiusmodi quidpiam. Ad hunc modum malum, si quod timeretur, deprecabantur abominantes et in hostium caput imprecantes. Vnde et illa figura Graecis pariter ac Latinis scriptoribus familiaris: Hostibus nostris hoc eueniat. Ouidius:
Hostibus eueniant conuiuia talia nostris.
Idem in tertio De arte amandi:
Hostibus eueniat tam foedi causa pudoris.
Idem libro tertio Fastorum:
Eueniat nostris hostibus ille color.
Idem libro secundo Elegiarum:
Hostibus eueniat vacuo dormire cubili.
    Hostibus eueniat vita seuera meis.
Idem libro tertio Elegiarum:
Eueniat nostris hostibus ille pudor.
Rursum Vergilius libro iii. Georg.:
Dii meliora piis erroremque hostibus illum.
Idem in viii. Aeneidos de Mezentio: Dii capiti illius generique reseruent.

Hostibus eueniat lenta puella meis.
Et Horatius in Odis:
Hostium vxores puerique caecos
Sentiant motus orientis austri.
Et Terentius in Heauton timorumeno, in Sene seipsum excruciante: Au, obsecro te, isthuc inimicis siet. Idem in Eunucho: Vtinam sic sint qui mihi male volunt.

Originem prouerbii tradunt huiusmodi: Quondam Pyrrhaeos, quotquot erant finitimi, graui odio persequebantur; vnde si quod malum aliquando videretur impendere, id abominantes precabantur, vt in Pyrrhaeos auerteretur, dicentes εἰς τὴν Πυρραίων, id est in Pyrrhaeorum regionem.

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Happiness Guaranteed

Jules Renard, Journal (June 23, 1902; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
When I think of all the books still left for me to read, I am certain of further happiness.

Quand je pense à tous les livres qu'il me reste à lire, j'ai la certitude d'être encore heureux.

Charles Emmanuel Biset, Still Life with Books, a Letter and a Tulip

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Deaths and Births

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2.576-580 (tr. W.H.D. Rouse, rev. Martin F. Smith):
With the funeral dirge is mingled the wail that children raise when they first see the borders of light; and no night ever followed day, or dawn followed night, that has not heard mingled with their sickly wailings the lamentations that attend upon death and the black funeral.

                             miscetur funere vagor
quem pueri tollunt visentes luminis oras;
nec nox ulla diem neque noctem aurora secutast
quae non audierit mixtos vagitibus aegris
ploratus mortis comites et funeris atri.


Growing Old

Montaigne, Essays 3.2 (On Repenting; tr. M.A. Screech):
What we call wisdom is the moroseness of our humours and our distaste for things as they are now. But in truth we do not so much give up our vices as change them — for the worse, if you ask me. Apart from silly tottering pride, boring babble, prickly unsociable humours, superstition and a ridiculous concern for wealth when we have lost the use of it, I find that there are more envy and unfairness and malice; age sets more wrinkles on our minds than on our faces. You can find no souls — or very few — which as they grow old do not stink of rankness and of rot.

Nous appellons sagesse, la difficulté de nos humeurs, le desgoust des choses presentes: mais à la verité, nous ne quittons pas tant les vices, comme nous les changeons: et, à mon opinion, en pis. Outre une sotte et caduque fierté, un babil ennuyeux, ces humeurs espineuses et inassociables, et la superstition, et un soin ridicule des richesses, lors que l'usage en est perdu, j'y trouve plus d'envie, d'injustice et de malignité. Elle nous attache plus de rides en l'esprit qu'au visage: et ne se void point d'ames, ou fort rares, qui en vieillissant ne sentent l'aigre et le moisi.


The Voice of Blood

Genesis 4.10:
The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.
Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 400-404 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
Well, it is certainly the law that when drops of gore flow to the ground, they demand other blood; for slaughter cries out for a Fury who comes from those who perished before to bring further ruin upon ruin.

ἀλλὰ νόμος μὴν φονίας σταγόνας
χυμένας εἰς πέδον ἄλλο προσαιτεῖν
αἷμα· βοᾷ γὰρ λοιγὸς Ἐρινὺν
παρὰ τῶν πρότερον φθιμένων ἄτην
ἑτέραν ἐπάγουσαν ἐπ᾿ ἄτῃ.

400 ἀλλὰ νόμος Turnebus, μὴν West: ἀλλ᾿ ἄνομος μὲν M
402 λοιγὸς Ἐρινὺν Schütz: λοιγὸν ἐρινὺς M
403 πρότερον Portus: προτέρων M

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Fearfully Different

Reflections of a Statesman: The Writings and Speeches of Enoch Powell (London: Bellew, 1991), p. 98:
They were different, fearfully different, these Greeks, whose voices we could still hear and (at a pinch) understand. What had we in the vast, sprawling suburbs of Sydney with the gardens and the poinsettias and jacarandas, that would deserve their envy rather than their contempt?
Related post: Renaissance Men versus Modern Men.


How to Become a Novelist

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Sermons in Cats," Music at Night and Other Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1949; rpt. 1957), pp. 258-269 (at 258):
I met, not long ago, a young man who aspired to become a novelist. Knowing that I was in the profession, he asked me to tell him how he should set to work to realize his ambition. I did my best to explain. 'The first thing,' I said, 'is to buy quite a lot of paper, a bottle of ink, and a pen. After that you merely have to write.'
Jules Renard, Journal (November 17, 1900; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
Writing. The most difficult part is to take hold of the pen, dip it in the ink, and hold it firm over the paper.

Ecrire. Le plus difficile, c'est de prendre la plume, de la tremper dans l'encre et de la tenir ferme au-dessus du papier.


A Pious Prayer

Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 122-123 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
And is this a righteous thing for me to ask of the gods?
How could it not be—to return your enemy evil for evil?

καὶ ταῦτά μοὔστιν εὐσεβῆ θεῶν πάρα;
πῶς δ᾿ οὔ, τὸν ἐχθρόν γ᾿ ἀνταμείβεσθαι κακοῖς;

Monday, November 20, 2017


Result of a Google Search

Title page of original book:


Sunday, November 19, 2017


A Textual Pervert

Simon Heffer, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (London: Faber & Faber, 2014), chapter 2 (page number unknown):
[A.P.] Treweek recalled that 'his scholarly achievements were very strong, but of narrow interest. He found faults in Greek texts where there were none. He couldn't read a page without finding mistakes — so much so that at times he was referred to as a textual pervert.'140

140 Sunday Express, 26 April 1970.


Introduction to Byzantine Thought

Norman H. Baynes, "St. Antony and the Demons," Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 40 (December, 1954) 7-10 (at 7):
To become familiar with Byzantine popular thought it is essential to remember that the East Roman Christian knew and believed his New Testament; he read it or heard it read in church; it became a part of his life. Thus for the modern student the most useful introduction to Byzantine thought is perhaps to re-read the New Testament.


Belief in God

Jules Renard, Journal (November 19, 1898; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
God does not believe in our God.

Dieu ne croit pas à notre Dieu.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


The New Worship

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XXVIII:
The ruin of the Pagan religion is described by the sophists as a dreadful and amazing prodigy, which covered the earth with darkness, and restored the ancient dominion of chaos and of night. They relate, in solemn and pathetic strains, that the temples were converted into sepulchres, and that the holy places, which had been adorned by the statues of the gods, were basely polluted by the relics of Christian martyrs. "The monks" (a race of filthy animals, to whom Eunapius is tempted to refuse the name of men) "are the authors of the new worship, which, in the place of those deities who are conceived by the understanding, has substituted the meanest and most contemptible slaves. The heads, salted and pickled, of those infamous malefactors, who for the multude of their crimes have suffered a just and ignominious death; their bodies, still marked by the impression of the lash, and the scars of those tortures which were inflicted by the sentence of the magistrate; such" (continues Eunapius) "are the gods which the earth produces in our days; such are the martyrs, the supreme arbitrators of our prayers and petitions to the Deity, whose tombs are now consecrated as the objects of the veneration of the people."
Eunapius, Lives of the Sophists 6.11.6-10 = p. 472 Westermann (tr. Wilmer C. Wright):
Next, into the sacred places they imported monks, as they called them, who were men in appearance but led the lives of swine, and openly did and allowed countless unspeakable crimes. But this they accounted piety, to show contempt for things divine. For in those days every man who wore a black robe and consented to behave in unseemly fashion in public, possessed the power of a tyrant, to such a pitch of virtue had the human race advanced! All this however I have described in my Universal History. They settled these monks at Canobus also, and thus they fettered the human race to the worship of slaves, and those not even honest slaves, instead of the true gods. For they collected the bones and skulls of criminals who had been put to death for numerous crimes, men whom the law courts of the city had condemned to punishment, made them out to be gods, haunted their sepulchres, and thought that they became better by defiling themselves at their graves. "Martyrs" the dead men were called, and "ministers" of a sort, and "ambassadors" from the gods to carry men's prayers,—these slaves in vilest servitude, who had been consumed by stripes and carried on their phantom forms the scars of their villainy. However these are the gods that earth produces!


Following the Crowd

Seneca, On the Happy Life 1.3-4 (tr. John Davie):
Accordingly, the most important point to stress is that we should not, like sheep, follow the herd of creatures in front of us, making our way where others go, not where we ought to go. And yet there is nothing that brings greater trouble on us than the fact that we conform to rumour, thinking that what has won widespread approval is best, and that, as we have so many to follow as good, we live by the principle, not of reason, but of imitation. What follows from this is that men are piled high, one on top of another, as they rush to their ruin.

Just as it happens that in a great crowd of humanity that is crushed together, when the people jostle against each other, no one falls without dragging someone else down with him, and the ones in front bring destruction on the ones behind, so you may see the same thing happening throughout all of life. No one who goes astray affects himself alone, but rather will be the cause and instigator of someone else going astray; it is harmful to attach oneself to the people in front, and, so long as each one of us prefers to trust someone else's judgement rather than relying on his own, we never exercise judgement in our lives but constantly resort to trust, and a mistake that has been passed down from one hand to another takes us over and spins our ruin. It is the example of others that destroys us: we will regain our health, if only we distance ourselves from the crowd.

nihil ergo magis praestandum est, quam ne pecorum ritu sequamur antecedentium gregem, pergentes non quo eundum est, sed quo itur. atqui nulla res nos maioribus malis implicat, quam quod ad rumorem componimur, optima rati ea, quae magno adsensu recepta sunt, quodque exempla nobis multa sunt, nec ad rationem sed ad similitudinem vivimus. inde ista tanta coacervatio aliorum super alios ruentium.

quod in strage hominum magna evenit, cum ipse se populus premit — nemo ita cadit, ut non et alium in se adtrahat, primique exitio sequentibus sunt —, hoc in omni vita accidere videas licet. nemo sibi tantummodo errat, sed alieni erroris et causa et auctor est; nocet enim applicari antecedentibus et, dum unusquisque mavult credere quam iudicare, numquam de vita iudicatur, semper creditur versatque nos et praecipitat traditus per manus error. alienis perimus exemplis; sanabimur, separemur modo a coetu.


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