Saturday, February 17, 2018


Between the Thighs

[Warning: X-rated.]

Konstantinos Kapparis, Prostitution in the Ancient Greek World (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2018), p. 198:
The absurd concept of intercrural sex initially developed by Dover on the basis of a few vase paintings and scarce references to the term διαμηρίζειν has found an unexpected amount of support.135 It is astonishing that such weak and unsafe evidence has been considered sufficient to declare intercrural sex to be universal practice and the ideal form of Greek homosexual love. At the same time it is noteworthy that the only instance in which "taking apart the thighs" (διαμηρίζειν) appears in classical Greek literature it refers to heterosexual sex, and may simply imply intercourse in the missionary position.136 Several references in a male-to-male context come from authors of later antiquity, and even in those instances "taking the thights [sic, read thighs] apart" does not inevitably indicate intercrural intercourse.137 These scant and problematic references suggest that intercrural contact on occasion might have been one possible hypotonic and somewhat unsatisfactory avenue of sexual gratification, but it certainly would not have been worth a long pursuit, lavish gifts, and the fuss which ancient sources make over same sex relations. If anything, Athenian men were never that desperate for sex, having a large and diverse prostitutional market at their disposal, and slaves to satisfy their whims. Moreover, if intercrural sex had been this universal and morally superior practice in homosexual love, the one associated with the Uranian Aphrodite, as Kenneth Dover, Harald Patzer and others have suggested, we should have expected to hear a lot more about it in classical sources. This forced interpretation of such scanty evidence is fueled by modern taboos about anal intercourse, domination, penetration and shame, which the ancient world obviously did not share.

135 Dover 1978: 100-109; Halperin 88-112.

136 Ar. Av. 1254, where Pisthetairos is threatening to give Iris a demonstration of how stiff his penis can get despite his old age.

137 Some of these references are reported as quotes from classical authors like Zenon and Kleanthes: Zenon fr. 250-252 von Arnim = S.E.M. 190; Kleanthes fr. 613 von Arnim = D.L. 7.172.
Evidence might be scanty, but that is all the more reason to make the most of what little there is. For example, Kapparis' "only instance" of διαμηρίζειν in classical Greek literature actually turns out to be three instances, all in Aristophanes' Birds. Two of the examples refer to girls (669, 1274) and one to boys (706), a fact noticed by Hesychius of Alexandria, who in his Lexicon, s.v. διαμηρίσαι, says τοῦτο καὶ ἐπὶ παίδων ἀρρένων καὶ θηλείων ἔλεγον, i.e. they used to say this about both boys and girls.

As for Kapparis' contention that intercrural sex would not have been worth "lavish gifts," it so happens that gifts are mentioned in one of the aforementioned passages from Aristophanes' Birds (lines 705-707, the chorus of birds speaking, tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Many are the fair boys who swore they wouldn't, and almost made it to the end of their eligible bloom, but thanks to our power men in love did get between their thighs, one with the gift of a quail, another with a porphyrion, a goose, or a Persian bird.

πολλοὺς δὲ καλοὺς ἀπομωμοκότας παῖδας πρὸς τέρμασιν ὥρας
διὰ τὴν ἰσχὺν τὴν ἡμετέραν διεμήρισαν ἄνδρες ἐρασταί,
ὁ μὲν ὄρτυγα δούς, ὁ δὲ πορφυρίων᾿, ὁ δὲ χῆν᾿, ὁ δὲ Περσικὸν ὄρνιν.
I have read only one page of Kapparis' book, the page quoted above, and my remarks are just nit-picking,

References to most of the relevant ancient linguistic evidence can be found in Diccionario Griego-Español, Vol. V (1997; rpt. Madrid: Instituto de Filología, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, 2008), p. 1007, col. 3:
διαμηρίδιον, -ου, τό sent. dud., quizá coito intercrural (cf. διαμήριον) o tal vez un tipo de tanga o taparrabos ζῶστρα καὶ διαμηρίδια ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ ἰσχυρὰ (prob. l. τὰ αἰσχρὰ) παιζόντων Hdn.Philet.207.

διαμηρίζω tr. abrir los muslos, abrir de piernas rel. relaciones sexuales ἐγὼ διαμηρίζοιμ' ἂν αὐτὴν ἡδέως Ar.Au.669, cf. 1254, ref. tb. al amor efébico (cf. διαμήριον): πολλοὺς δὲ καλοὺς ... παῖδας διεμήρισαν ἄνδρες ἐρασταί Ar.Au.706, παιδικά Zeno Stoic.1.59, τὸν ἐρώμενον Zeno Stoic.1.59, cf. Phld.Sto.15.8, Hsch.

διαμήριον prob. coito intercrural ἀπόδος τὸ διαμήριον déjame masturbarme entre tus muslos en un vaso, en boca de un hombre que se dirige a un jovencito ABV 664 (arc.).

διαμηρισμός, -οῦ, ὁ práctica del coito intercrural plu., como tema de una parte de la Πολιτεία de Zenón, Zeno Stoic.1.59, σὺ μὲν τοὺς διαμηρισμοὺς ἔχε, μειράκιον Cleanth.Stoic.1.137.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Related post: Diogenes Laertius 7.172.


The America of Antiquity

Giuseppe di Lampedusa (1896-1957), The Leopard (tr. Archibald Colquhoun), part 3:
The term "countryside" implies soil transformed by labor; but the scrub clinging to the slopes was still in the very same state of scented tangle in which it had been found by Phoenicians, Dorians, and Ionians when they disembarked in Sicily, that America of antiquity.

Nel termine "campagna" è implicito un senso di terra trasformata dal lavoro: la boscaglia invece, aggrappata alle pendici di un colle, si trovava nell'identico stato d'intrico aromatico nel quale la avevano trovata Fenici, Dori e Ioni quando sbarcarono in Sicilia, quest'America dell'antichità.

Friday, February 16, 2018


Xenocrates, Phryne, and Lais

Diogenes Laertius 4.2.7 (on Xenocrates; tr. R.D. Hicks):
He spent most of his time in the Academy; and whenever he was going to betake himself to the city, it is said that all the noisy rabble and hired porters made way for him as he passed. And that once the notorious Phryne tried to make his acquaintance and, as if she were being chased by some people, took refuge under his roof; that he admitted her out of ordinary humanity and, there being but one small couch in the room, permitted her to share it with him, and at last, after many importunities, she retired without success, telling those who inquired that he whom she quitted was not a man but a statue. Another version of the story is that his pupils induced Lais to invade his couch; and that so great was his endurance that he many times submitted to amputation and cautery.

διῆγέ τ᾿ ἐν Ἀκαδημείᾳ τὰ πλεῖστα· καὶ εἴ ποτε μέλλοι εἰς ἄστυ ἀνιέναι, φασὶ τοὺς θορυβώδεις πάντας καὶ προυνίκους ὑποστέλλειν αὐτοῦ τῇ παρόδῳ. καί ποτε καὶ Φρύνην τὴν ἑταίραν ἐθελῆσαι πειρᾶσαι αὐτόν, καὶ δῆθεν διωκομένην ὑπό τινων καταφυγεῖν εἰς τὸ οἰκίδιον. τὸν δὲ ἕνεκα τοῦ ἀνθρωπίνου εἰσδέξασθαι, καὶ ἑνὸς ὄντος κλινιδίου δεομένῃ μεταδοῦναι τῆς κατακλίσεως· καὶ τέλος πολλὰ ἐκλιπαροῦσαν ἄπρακτον ἀναστῆναι. λέγειν τε πρὸς τοὺς πυνθανομένους ὡς οὐκ ἀπ᾿ ἀνδρός, ἀλλ᾿ ἀπ᾿ ἀνδριάντος ἀνασταίη. ἔνιοι δὲ Λαΐδα φασὶ παρακατακλῖναι αὐτῷ τοὺς μαθητάς· τὸν δὲ οὕτως εἶναι ἐγκρατῆ, ὥστε καὶ τομὰς καὶ καύσεις πολλάκις ὑπομεῖναι περὶ τὸ αἰδοῖον.
Bill Thayer pointed out to me that this translation omits περὶ τὸ αἰδοῖον (around the private parts). Bill also rightly questioned "many times" (πολλάκις) in conjunction with "amputation" (τομὰς). How many times, after all, can someone's private parts be amputated? I wonder if the cuttings might have been far less than amputation, e.g. nicks with a knife in order to subdue the sexual impulse. Of course the story, at least as far as Lais is concerned, is apocryphal, because chronology makes it impossible. I might translate as follows:
... so great was his endurance that he many times submitted to cuttings and burnings around his private parts.
Valerius Maximus 4.3 ext. 3a (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey) tells only the anecdote about Phryne:
We are told that Xenocrates' old age was equally abstemious, and the following story will be no small argument in support of that opinion. Phryne, a celebrated courtesan in Athens, lay at an all-night revel by his side when he was heavy with wine, having made a wager with some young men that she would be able to seduce his temperance. He did not rebuff her either with touch or words, but let her stay in his arms as long as she wished and then let her go foiled of her purpose. An abstemious act of a mind steeped in wisdom, but the little whore's comment too was really amusing. For when the young men jeered at her because for all her beauty and chic she had not been able to cajole a drunken old man with her enticements and demanded the agreed price of their victory, she answered that she had made the bet with them about a man, not a statue. Can anyone put this continence on Xenocrates' part more truly and more aptly on view than the little whore expressed it herself?

aeque abstinentis senectae Xenocraten fuisse accepimus. cuius opinionis non parva fides erit narratio quae sequetur. in pervigilio Phryne, nobile Athenis scortum, iuxta eum vino gravem accubuit, pignore cum quibusdam iuvenibus posito an temperantiam eius corrumpere posset. quam nec tactu nec sermone aspernatus, quoad voluerat in sinu suo moratam, propositi irritam dimisit. factum sapientia imbuti animi abstinens, sed meretriculae quoque dictum perquam facetum: deridentibus enim se adulescentibus, quod tam formosa tamque elegans poti senis animum illecebris pellicere non potuisset, pactumque victoriae pretium flagitantibus, de homine se cum iis, non de statua pignus posuisse respondit. potestne haec Xenocratis continentia a quoquam magis vere magisque proprie demonstrari quam ab ipsa meretricula expressa est?
Here are some artistic representations of Xenocrates resisting temptation:

Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656), The Steadfast Philosopher

Salvator Rosa (1615-1673), Phryne Tempting Xenocrates

Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807), Phryne Seduces Xenocrates

Carl Russ (1779-1843), Xenocrates and Phryne

Related posts:


Surveillance by Big Brother

Cicero, Against Catiline 1.1 (tr. C. Macdonald):
Do you think that there is a man among us who does not know what you did last night or the night before last, where you were, whom you summoned to your meeting, what decision you reached?

quid proxima, quid superiore nocte egeris, ubi fueris, quos convocaveris, quid consili ceperis quem nostrum ignorare arbitraris?
Id. 1.6:
Furthermore, although you will not be aware of them, there will be, as there have been in the past, many eyes and ears observing you and keeping watch upon you.

multorum te etiam oculi et aures non sentientem, sicut adhuc fecerunt, speculabuntur atque custodient.

Related post: The Surveillance State.

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Diogenes Laertius 7.172

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers. With an English Translation by R.D. Hicks, Vol. II (1925; rpt. London: Heinemann, 1931 = Loeb Classical Library, 185), pp. 276-277 (7.172, on Cleanthes):
φησὶ δ᾿ ὁ Ἑκάτων ἐν ταῖς Χρείαις, εὐμόρφου μειρακίου εἰπόντος, "εἰ ὁ εἰς τὴν γαστέρα τύπτων γαστρίζει, καὶ ὁ εἰς τοὺς μηροὺς τύπτων μηρίζει," ἔφη, "σὺ μέντοι τοὺς διαμηρισμοὺς ἔχε, μειράκιον· αἱ δ᾿ ἀνάλογοι φωναὶ τὰ ἀνάλογα οὐ πάντως σημαίνουσι πράγματα."

Dicit autem Hecato in Sententiis eum, cum adulescens quidam formosus dixisset, Si pulsans ventrem ventrizat, pulsans coxas coxizat, dixisse, Tibi habeas, adulescens, coxizationes: nempe vocabula quae conveniunt analogia non semper etiam significatione conveniunt.
Here Hicks departs from English into the decent obscurity of Latin. The camouflage persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library. Even Liddell-Scott-Jones take refuge in Latin when defining διαμηρίζω (femora diducere, inire) and διαμηρισμός (femorum diductio).

The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius. Literally Translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell and Sons, 1901), p. 324, has the following:
Hecaton tells us in his Apophthegms, that once when a young man said, "If a man who beats his stomach γαστρίζει then a man who slaps his thigh μηρίζει," he replied, "Do you stick to your διαμηρίζει." But analogous words do not always indicate analogous facts.
Here is my attempt at a translation:
According to Hecato in his Apophthegms, when a good-looking young man said, "If a man striking against the stomach stomachizes, so also a man striking against the thighs thighizes," Cleanthes replied, "By all means accept inter-thighizings, young man; but similar words don't always denote similar things."
K.J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality, updated ed. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), p. 98 (footnotes omitted), explains the meaning of διαμηρίζω:
When courtship has been successful, the erastes and eromenos stand facing one another; the erastes grasps the eromenos round the torso, bows his head on to or even below the shoulder of the eromenos, bends his knees and thrusts his penis between the eromenos's thighs just below the scrotum. Examples are: B114*, B130, B250*, B482, B486*, B534, R502*, R573*, in all of which the erastes is a man and the eromenos a youth....The original specific word for this type of copulation was almost certainly diamērizein, i.e. 'do ... between the thighs (mēroi) '. When we first encounter the word in Aristophanes' Birds it takes an object of either sex (male in 706, female in 669), and in 1254, where Peisetairos threatens Iris that he will 'stick [her] legs in the air' and diamērizein her, the reference is most naturally to any one of several modes of vaginal copulation from the front (cf. p. 101). The inscription on the bottom of B406, from the richest period of homosexual iconography, says apodos to diamērion, which is to be interpreted as 'grant me' (or 'pay me back') 'the act of diamērizein' (or 'payment for diamērizein') 'which you promised' (or 'which is my due').
For B114 etc. see Dover, "List of Vases," pp. 207-227.

The fragment is number 25 in Heinz Gomoll, Der stoische Philosoph Hekaton. Seine Begriffswelt und Nachwirkung unter Beigaben seiner Fragmente (Leipzig: W. Hoppe, 1933), p. 113 (non vidi), and number XXIV in Harold N. Fowler, Panaetii et Hecatonis Librorum Fragmenta (Bonn, 1885), p. 62. See also Hans von Arnim, Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta, Vol. I (1905; rpt. Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1964), p. 137 (number 613).

Hat tip: Bill Thayer.

Related posts:

Wednesday, February 14, 2018



Theognis 780-781 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
For indeed I am afraid when I look upon the mindless,
people-destroying strife of the Greeks.

    ἦ γὰρ ἔγωγε δέδοικ᾿ ἀφραδίην ἐσορῶν
καὶ στάσιν Ἑλλήνων λαοφθόρον.

781 λαοφθόρον AC: -ων O
Strife here is civil strife, internal dissension (Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. στάσις, sense III.2, citing this passage: "faction, sedition, discord"). According to Liddell-Scott-Jones, λαοφθόρος is a hapax legomenon.

Because the conjunction καὶ joins the nouns ἀφραδίην and στάσιν, a more literal translation would be:
For indeed I am afraid when I look upon the thoughtlessness
and people-destroying strife of the Greeks.


People Who Don't Read

Carlos García Gual, interviewed by José Andrés Rojo in El País (February 12, 2018; my translation):
Today students read very little. Outside of what is required, they know nothing. They spend a lot of time tethered to their mobile phones and have almost no time left to read.


People who don't read are people of very limited understanding: they live in the prison of the present.

Ahora los alumnos leen muy poco. Fuera de lo que es obligatorio, no saben nada. Pasan mucho tiempo dedicados al móvil y no les queda casi nada para leer.


La gente que no lee es gente de mentalidad muy reducida: viven en la prisión del presente.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Related post: Reading Books.


Prime Pinister?

Ben Farmer, "Would-be jihadist took out £10,000 bank loan for Islamic State travel plans," Telegraph (February 13, 2018, quoting Barnaby Jameson for the prosecution):
"They are talking across the encrypted messages on Threema about killing the then Prime Pinister and the Queen."
Screen capture:

I confess that the British political system has always mystified me. Is there really an official known as the Prime Pinister? What is his portfolio?


Tuesday, February 13, 2018


The Ideal University Education

J. Enoch Powell (1912-1998), Greek in the University. Inaugural Lecture to the University of Sydney, May 7th, 1938 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1938), rpt. in Reflections of a Statesman: The Writings and Speeches of Enoch Powell (London: Bellew, 1991), pp. 87-96 (this excerpt on p. 95):
Borrowing and utilising an idea of the Newnham scholar Jane Harrison, I would offer as the ideal university education, apart entirely from any vocational considerations, the following curriculum of study: Latin, and some one modern Romance language, preferably perhaps Italian; Greek, and the modern language of that country which stands in the same relation to Byzantium as we of the West of Europe do to Rome, namely, Russian....Nourished from seventeen to twenty-one upon this fare, our ideal student would be in a position to become a man of true culture and a good European, a 'guter Europäer' in the sense in which Nietzsche coined that term.


Master of My Fate, Captain of My Soul

Robert H. Lowie, The Crow Indians (1935; rpt. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004), pp. 329-330:
Yet here is a curious fact. Battered by natural forces and surrounded by enemies, the Crow managed to wrest from existence his portion of happiness. Ask an Indian of the old school whether he prefers modern security to the days of his youth: he will brush aside all recent advantages for a whiff of the buffalo-hunting days. If there was starvation then, there were buffalo tongues, too,—supreme among earthly dishes; if you were likely to be killed, you had a chance to gain glory. What is a Crow to look forward to nowadays? Shall he enter unequal competition with white farmers? And his sister aspire to wash the laundry of frontier towns? Under the old régime, harassed as he might be, the Crow was owner of his soul.


Bedtime Reading

T.L. Heath (1861-1940), Introduction to The Elements of Euclid (1933; rpt. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1948 = Everyman's Library, No. 891), p. vi:
I should be surprised if such qualified readers, making the acquaintance of Euclid for the first time, did not find it fascinating, a book to be read in bed or on a holiday, a book as difficult as any detective story to lay down when once begun. I know of one actual case, that of an undergraduate at Cambridge suddenly presented with a copy of Euclid, where this happened.

Thanks to Eric Thomson for drawing my attention to Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), Autobiography (London: Routledge, 2010), p. 25:
At the age of eleven, I began Euclid, with my brother as my tutor. This was one of the great events of my life, as dazzling as first love. I had not imagined there was anything so delicious in the world.
and George Sturt (1863-1927), A Small Boy in the Sixties (Horsham, Sussex: Caliban Books, 1982), p. 238:
But I was never a mathematician; and when at last I revelled in Euclid the admiration it excited was of an unexpected kind. It was such clean and agile brain work. Though I could not exercise on the horizontal bar, I liked climbing over the Pons Asinorum; and if I shed tears over the Thirteenth Proposition, it was because its clearness suggested to me that there must be something more in it, which I was missing altogether. I never got far into Third Book; but the Second Book charmed me through and through. It seemed so shapely, so perfect; faultless as the "cuttle-bones" on Bognor beach, or as the sparrow's skull in my museum; or as the cast of Greek sculpture at the School of Art. It had its own finished and unimpeachable beauty.

Monday, February 12, 2018



Peter Green, "Juvenal and His Age," The Shadow of the Parthenon: Studies in Ancient History and Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), pp. 216-267 (at 233, footnote omitted):
Juvenal was a bred-in-the-bone rentier, with all the characteristics of his class: contempt for trade, indifference to practical skills, intense political conservatism, with a corresponding fear of change and revolution; abysmal ignorance of, and indifference to, the economic realities governing his existence; a tendency to see all problems, therefore, in over-simplified moral terms, with the application of right conduct to existing authority as a kind of panacea for all ills.
Without being a rentier (Oxford English Dictionary: "A person who derives his or her income from property or investment"), I possess some of the same characteristics.


Dear Zeus

Theognis 373-380 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
Dear Zeus, I'm surprised at you. You are lord over all, you alone have great power and prestige, you know well the mind and heart of every man, and your rule, king, is the highest of all. How then, son of Cronus, does your mind bear to hold sinners and the just man in the same esteem, whether the mind of men is disposed to prudent discretion or to wanton outrage, when they yield to unjust acts?

Ζεῦ φίλε, θαυμάζω σε· σὺ γὰρ πάντεσσιν ἀνάσσεις
    τιμὴν αὐτὸς ἔχων καὶ μεγάλην δύναμιν,
ἀνθρώπων δ᾿ εὖ οἶσθα νόον καὶ θυμὸν ἑκάστου,        375
    σὸν δὲ κράτος πάντων ἔσθ᾿ ὕπατον, βασιλεῦ·
πῶς δή σευ, Κρονίδη, τολμᾷ νόος ἄνδρας ἀλιτροὺς
    ἐν ταὐτῇ μοίρῃ τόν τε δίκαιον ἔχειν,
ἤν τ᾿ ἐπὶ σωφροσύνην τρεφθῇ νόος ἤν τε πρὸς ὕβριν
    ἀνθρώπων, ἀδίκοις ἔργμασι πειθομένων;        380

Sunday, February 11, 2018


A Drug to Ward Off Old Age

Aelian, Characteristics of Animals 6.51 (tr. A.F. Scholfield):
It is said that Prometheus stole fire, and the story goes that Zeus was angered and bestowed upon those who laid information of the theft a drug to ward off old age. So they took it, as I am informed, and placed it upon an ass. The ass proceeded with the load on its back; and it was summer time, and the ass came thirsting to a spring in its need for a drink. Now the snake which was guarding the spring tried to prevent it and force it back, and the ass in torment gave it as the price of the loving-cup the drug that it happened to be carrying. And so there was an exchange of gifts: the ass got his drink and the snake sloughed his old age, receiving in addition, so the story goes, the ass's thirst.

τὸν Προμηθέα κλέψαι τὸ πῦρ ἡ φήμη φησί, καὶ τὸν Δία ἀγανακτῆσαι ὁ μῦθος λέγει καὶ τοῖς καταμηνύσασι τὴν κλοπὴν δοῦναι φάρμακον γήρως ἀμυντήριον. τοῦτο οὖν ἐπὶ ὄνῳ θεῖναι τοὺς λαβόντας πέπυσμαι. καὶ τὸν μὲν προϊέναι τὸ ἄχθος φέροντα, εἶναι δὲ ὥραν θέρειον, καὶ διψῶντα τὸν ὄνον ἐπί τινα κρήνην κατὰ τὴν τοῦ ποτοῦ χρείαν ἐλθεῖν. τὸν οὖν ὄφιν τὸν φυλάττοντα ἀναστέλλειν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀπελαύνειν, καὶ ἐκεῖνον στρεβλούμενον μισθόν οἱ τῆς φιλοτησίας δοῦναι ὅπερ οὖν ἔτυχε φέρων φάρμακον. οὐκοῦν ἀντίδοσις γίνεται, καὶ ὁ μὲν πίνει, ὁ δὲ τὸ γῆρας ἀποδύεται, προσεπιλαβὼν ὡς λόγος τὸ τοῦ ὄνου δίψος.
Nicander, Theriaca 343-358 (tr. A.F. Scholfield):
Now there is a tale of ancient days current among men how, when the first-born seed of Cronus became lord of heaven, he apportioned to his brothers severally their illustrious realms, and in his wisdom bestowed upon mortals Youth, honouring them because they had denounced the Fire-Stealer. The fools, they got no good of their imprudence: for being sluggards and growing weary, they entrusted the gift to an ass for carriage, and the beast, his throat burning with thirst, ran off skittishly, and seeing in its hole the deadly, trailing brute, implored it with fawning speech to aid him in his sore plight. Whereat the snake asked of the foolish creature as a gift the load which he had taken on his back; and the ass refused not its request. Ever since then do trailing reptiles slough their skin in old age, but grievous end attends mortals. The affliction of thirst did the deadly brute receive from the braying ass, and imparts it with its feeble blows.

ὠγύγιος δ' ἄρα μῦθος ἐν αἰζηοῖσι φορεῖται,
ὡς, ὁπότ' οὐρανὸν ἔσχε Κρόνου πρεσβίστατον αἷμα,
Νειμάμενος κασίεσσιν ἑκὰς περικυδέας ἀρχάς        345
Ιδμοσύνῃ, νεότητα γέρας πόρεν ἡμερίοισι
Κυδαίνων· δὴ γάρ ῥα πυρὸς ληίστορ' ἔνιπτον.
Αφρονες· οὐ μὲν τῆς γε κακοφραδίῃς ἀπόνηντο·
Νωθεῖ γὰρ κάμνοντες ἀμορβεύοντο λεπάργῳ
Δῶρα· πολύσκαρθμος δὲ κεκαυμένος αὐχένα δίψῃ        350
Ρώετο, γωλειοῖσι δ' ἰδὼν ὁλκήρεα θῆρα
Οὐλοὸν ἐλλιτάνευε κακῇ ἐπαλαλκέμεν ἄτῃ
Σαίνων· αὐτὰρ ὁ βρῖθος, ὃ δή ῥ' ἀνεδέξατο νώτοις,
ᾔτεεν ἄφρονα δῶρον, ὁ δ' οὐκ ἀπανήνατο χρειώ.
ἐξότε γηραλέον μὲν ἀεὶ φλόον ἑρπετὰ βάλλει        355
ὁλκήρη, θνητοὺς δὲ κακὸν περὶ γῆρας ὀπάζει·
νοῦσον δ' ἀζαλέην βρωμήτορος οὐλομένη θήρ
δέξατο, καί τε τυπῇσιν ἀμυδροτέρῃσιν ἰάπτει.
Note the acrostic showing the poet's name, formed by the letters at the beginning of lines 345-353.

See Malcolm Davies, "The ancient Greeks on why mankind does not live forever," Museum Helveticum 44.2 (1987) 65-75.


Seven Against Thebes

M.L. West (1937-2015), The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth (1997; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), pp. 455-456:
Seven champions simultaneously assault the seven gates of the city, where each is faced by a matching champion and laid low. This is obviously an artificial scheme. It is unlikely that any Mycenaean citadel ever had seven gates. The principles of fortification were based on the restriction of access points to the minimum. The hill on which Thebes lies has only three natural approaches. The late Bronze Age city, in the view of archaeological experts, can have had only three or four gates. Even if there had been seven, what general, supposing he happened to have precisely seven heroes at his disposal, would divide his forces equally between the gates instead of concentrating them at the weakest point of the defences?


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