Friday, July 21, 2017


Cleopatra's Polyglottism

Plutarch, Life of Antony 27.3-4 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
There was sweetness also in the tones of her voice; and her tongue, like an instrument of many strings, she could readily turn to whatever language she pleased, so that in her interviews with Barbarians she very seldom had need of an interpreter, but made her replies to most of them herself and unassisted, whether they were Ethiopians, Troglodytes, Hebrews, Arabians, Syrians, Medes or Parthians. Nay, it is said that she knew the speech of many other peoples also, although the kings of Egypt before her had not even made an effort to learn the native language, and some actually gave up their Macedonian dialect.

ἡδονὴ δὲ καὶ φθεγγομένης ἐπῆν τῷ ἤχῳ· καὶ τὴν γλῶτταν, ὥσπερ ὄργανόν τι πολύχορδον, εὐπετῶς τρέπουσα καθ᾿ ἣν βούλοιτο διάλεκτον ὀλίγοις παντάπασι δι᾿ ἑρμηνέως ἐνετύγχανε βαρβάροις, τοῖς δὲ πλείστοις αὐτὴ δι᾿ αὑτῆς ἀπεδίδου τὰς ἀποκρίσεις, οἷον Αἰθίοψι, Τρωγλοδύταις, Ἑβραίοις, Ἄραψι, Σύροις, Μήδοις, Παρθυαίοις. πολλῶν δὲ λέγεται καὶ ἄλλων ἐκμαθεῖν γλώττας, τῶν πρὸ αὐτῆς βασιλέων οὐδὲ τὴν Αἰγυπτίαν ἀνασχομένων παραλαβεῖν διάλεκτον, ἐνίων δὲ καὶ τὸ μακεδονίζειν ἐκλιπόντων.
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Thursday, July 20, 2017


Wisdom of Montaigne

Montaigne, Essais 3.5 (tr. Donald M. Frame):
Even the slightest occasions of pleasure that I can come upon, I seize.

Jusques aux moindres occasions de plaisir que je puis rencontrer, je les empoigne.
Empoigner, from poing (fist).


A Tree Amid the Wood

Ezra Pound (1882-1973), "The Tree," Selected Poems (New York: New Directions, 1957), pp. 6-7 (line numbers added):
I stood still and was a tree amid the wood,
Knowing the truth of things unseen before;
Of Daphne and the laurel bough
And that god-feasting couple old
That grew elm-oak amid the wold.        5
'Twas not until the gods had been
Kindly entreated, and been brought within
Unto the hearth of their heart's home
That they might do this wonder thing;
Nathless I have been a tree amid the wood        10
And many a new thing understood
That was rank folly to my head before.
3 Daphne and the laurel bough: Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.452-567
4 that god-feasting couple: Baucis and Philemon, see Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.620-724

Bernini, Apollo and Daphne (Galleria Borghese, Rome, inv. CV)


Entrance Examination

Joseph Fontenrose (1903-1986), Classics at Berkeley: The First Century 1869-1970 (Berkeley: Department of Classics, History Fund, 1982), pp. 1-2:
In 1869 all candidates for admission to the Fourth Class (first year) of the College of Letters had to pass a satisfactory examination in Latin Grammar, four books of Caesar, Aeneid I–VI, six orations of Cicero, Greek Grammar, and three books of Xenophon's Anabasis (besides examinations in algebra, geometry, English Grammar, geography, and United States history). These represented high-school studies; the University did not offer primary courses in Caesar, Cicero, Virgil, and Xenophon.


The Greatest Danger to Mankind

Cicero, On Duties 2.5.16 (tr. Walter Miller):
There is no curse so terrible but it is brought down by man upon man. There is a book by Dicaearchus on "The Destruction of Human Life." He was a famous and eloquent Peripatetic, and he gathered together [fragment 24 Wehrli] all the other causes of destruction—floods, epidemics, famines, and sudden incursions of wild animals in myriads, by whose assaults, he informs us, whole tribes of men have been wiped out. And then he proceeds to show by way of comparison how many more men have been destroyed by the assaults of men—that is, by wars or revolutions—than by any and all other sorts of calamity.

nulla tam detestabilis pestis est, quae non homini ab homine nascatur. est Dicaearchi liber de interitu hominum, Peripatetici magni et copiosi, qui collectis ceteris causis eluvionis, pestilentiae, vastitatis, beluarum etiam repentinae multitudinis, quarum impetu docet quaedam hominum genera esse consumpta, deinde comparat, quanto plures deleti sint homines hominum impetu, id est bellis aut seditionibus, quam omni reliqua calamitate.
Andrew R. Dyck in his commentary (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996), pp. 383-384:
Dicaearchus evidently collected material to confirm such statements as Arist. Pol. 1253a31: ὥσπερ γὰρ καὶ τελεωθὲν βέλτιστον τῶν ζῴων ἄνθρωπός ἐστιν, οὕτω καὶ χωρισθὲν νόμου καὶ δίκης χείριστον πάντων. χαλεπωτάτη γὰρ ἀδικία ἔχουσα ὅπλα; and MM 1203a22: ἐπεὶ πότερος ἂν πλείω κακὰ ποιήσειεν λέων ἢ Διονύσιος ἢ Φάλαρις ἢ Κλέαρχος ἤ τις τούτων τῶν μοχθηρῶν; ἢ δῆλον ὅτι οὗτοι; ἡ γὰρ ἀρχὴ ἐνοῦσα φαύλη μεγάλα συμβάλλεται, ἐν δὲ θηρίῳ ὅλως οὐκ ἔστιν ἀρχή; cf. Sen. Ep. 103.1: rari sunt casus, etiamsi graves, naufragium facere, vehiculo everti: ab homine homini cotidianum periculum; Plin. Nat. 7.5; Wehrli ad Dicaearch. fr. 24; Martini, RE 5.1 (1903), 557.40 ff.
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Wednesday, July 19, 2017


More Misprints

Peter Levi (1931-2000), Horace: A Life (New York: Routledge, 1998), p. 62:
The most memorable and haunting of the episodes is surely Altera iam teritus bellis civilibus aetas — Another age is crushed with civil wars, with its beautiful, despairing solution and its vision of the fall of Rome.
For episodes read Epodes, and for teritus read teritur.



No Rest From Toil

Euripides, Hippolytus 189-197 (tr. David Kovacs):
But the life of mortals is wholly trouble, and there is no rest from toil. Anything we might love more than life is hid in a surrounding cloud of darkness, and we show ourselves unhappy lovers of whatever light there is that shines on earth because we are ignorant of another life, and the world below is not revealed to us. We are aimlessly borne along by mere tales.

πᾶς δ' ὀδυνηρὸς βίος ἀνθρώπων
κοὐκ ἔστι πόνων ἀνάπαυσις.        190
ἀλλ' ὅ τι τοῦ ζῆν φίλτερον ἄλλο
σκότος ἀμπίσχων κρύπτει νεφέλαις.
δυσέρωτες δὴ φαινόμεθ᾿ ὄντες
τοῦδ' ὅ τι τοῦτο στίλβει κατὰ γῆν
δι' ἀπειροσύνην ἄλλου βιότου        195
κοὐκ ἀπόδειξιν τῶν ὑπὸ γαίας,
μύθοις δ' ἄλλως φερόμεσθα.

191-197 versus delendos suspicatur Barrett ("fort. recte" Diggle)
191 τοῦ ζῆν] τούτου Σ Ar. Ran. 1082
Gilbert Murray's translation:
Yet all man's life is but ailing and dim,
And rest upon earth comes never.
But if any far-off state there be,
Dearer than life to mortality;
The hand of the Dark hath hold thereof,
And mist is under and mist above.
And so we are sick for life, and cling
On earth to this nameless and shining thing.
For other life is a fountain sealed,
And the deeps below us are unrevealed,
And we drift on legends for ever!


Pitfalls of Linguistic Field Work

William W. Elmendorf, Twana Narratives: Native Historical Accounts of a Coast Salish Culture (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993), p. 5 (quoting Henry Allen, member of the Skokomish Indian tribe):
Myron Eells was the missionary here. People didn't like him very well. He was collecting Klallam words from some Klallam Indians who were visiting here one time. I had to translate for him. So he would ask them for words like father, mother, house, dog, and so on. And those people didn't think much of Eells, so they would give him all sorts of dirty, nasty words, and he would write them down in a book. Then he would try to use some of these words, thinking he was talking Indian, and people would just about bust trying to keep from laughing.
Joseph Wood Krutch, The Forgotten Peninsula: A Naturalist in Baja California (New York: William Sloane Associates, 1961), p. 109:
Of the minor difficulties of Father Juan de Ugarte, a former professor of philosophy who was sent to take charge at San Javier, Clavijero writes: "At the beginning [the natives] were very restless at the time of the Catechism. Often bursting out into loud laughter. He noticed that the principal reason for the mockery was his mistakes in speaking the language, and that some of the Indians, when he consulted them about the words or pronunciation, intentionally answered him with absurdities in order to have something to laugh at in the Catechism and for that reason, from then on, he asked only children about the language, for they were more sincere."
Francis Parkman, Pioneers of France in the New World, part II (Champlain and His Associates), chap. VI (Jesuits in Acadia):
[Father Pierre] Biard's greatest difficulty was with the Micmac language. Young Biencourt was his best interpreter, and on common occasions served him well; but the moment that religion was in question he was, as it were, stricken dumb, the reason being that the language was totally without abstract terms. Biard resolutely set himself to the study of it, a hard and thorny path, on which he made small progress, and often went astray. Seated, pencil in hand, before some Indian squatting on the floor, whom with the bribe of a mouldy biscuit he had lured into the hut, he plied him with questions which he often neither would nor could answer. What was the Indian word for Faith, Hope, Charity, Sacrament, Baptism, Eucharist, Trinity, Incarnation? The perplexed savage, willing to amuse himself, and impelled, as Biard thinks, by the Devil, gave him scurrilous and unseemly phrases as the equivalent of things holy, which, studiously incorporated into the father's Indian catechism, produced on his pupils an effect the reverse of that intended.
Francis Parkman, The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, chap. IV (Le Jeune and the Hunters):
At the outset, he had proffered his aid to Le Jeune in his study of the Algonquin; and, like the Indian practical jokers of Acadia in the case of Father Biard, palmed off upon him the foulest words in the language as the equivalent of things spiritual. Thus it happened, that, while the missionary sought to explain to the assembled wigwam some point of Christian doctrine, he was interrupted by peals of laughter from men, children, and squaws.
Hat tip (for the first quotation): tarnmoor.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Ballast to the Mind

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), The Return of the Native, I.i:
To recline on a stump of thorn in the central valley of Egdon, between afternoon and night, as now, where the eye could reach nothing of the world outside the summits and shoulders of heathland which filled the whole circumference of its glance, and to know that everything around and underneath had been from prehistoric times as unaltered as the stars overhead, gave ballast to the mind adrift on change, and harassed by the irrepressible New.

Monday, July 17, 2017


A Real Conservative

A.E. Housman, letter to Dr. Barnes (June 5, 1914), in The Letters of A.E. Housman, ed. Archie Burnett, Vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007), p. 326 (cf. p. xvi: "Housman's cancellations are placed within angle brackets..."):
I am obliged to you for sending me your petition, but I am returning it without signature. I confess I am attached to the current forms of words, and <I> also I am what you have often heard of but perhaps not often seen, a real conservative, who thinks change an evil in itself.
I don't have access to Burnett's edition of Housman's letters in its entirety, but it appears that he doesn't identify Dr. Barnes, who must be William Emery Barnes (1859-1939), Hulsean Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge, and member of the Simplified Spelling Society.


Criticism and Forbearance of the Young

Euripides, Hippolytus 114-115 (tr. David Kovacs):
We should not imitate the young when their thoughts are like these.

                     τοὺς νέους γὰρ οὐ μιμητέον
φρονοῦντας οὕτως.
Id. 117-119:
One should be forgiving: if youth makes someone's heart stiff with pride and he utters folly, pretend not to hear him.

                                    χρὴ δὲ συγγνώμην ἔχειν·
εἴ τίς σ᾿ ὑφ᾿ ἥβης σπλάγχνον ἔντονον φέρων
μάταια βάζει, μὴ δόκει τούτου κλυεῖν.
The young probably say similar things about the old:
We should not imitate the old when their thoughts are like these.

One should be forgiving: if old age makes someone's heart stiff with pride and he utters folly, pretend not to hear him.


A Scholar Working in Isolation

Maurice Platnauer, review of John Jackson, Marginalia Scaenica (London: Oxford University Press, 1955), in Classical Review 6.2 (June, 1956) 112-115 (at 112):
The greater part of Jackson's life was spent not in the studious seclusion of a university but in a remote village in the wilds of Cumberland, where he managed his mother's farm, his reading and writing being of necessity done on his return from the day's work. He was further inhibited by having no public library to which to go for new editions or books of reference, and by the fact that his own texts and commentaries were neither very numerous nor always up to date; yet he has produced a collected body of emendations the like of which, at least for brilliance and ingenuity, has not seen the light of day since the publication of Madvig's Adversaria and Cobet's Variae and Novae Lectiones more than a century ago.


Reading and Knowing Great Books

Joseph Fontenrose (1903-1986), Classics at Berkeley: The First Century 1869-1970 (Berkeley: Department of Classics, History Fund, 1982), pp. 40-41:
A staunch defender of the traditional curriculum was Arthur W. Ryder, who came to Berkeley as Instructor in Sanskrit and German in January, 1906. He was in this respect even more conservative than Merrill: Ryder would have pretty much limited the university curriculum to Latin, Greek, and mathematics. Study of history, philosophy, physics, for example, and of languages such as Sanskrit, Hebrew, German, and French would be entered upon only after thorough grounding in the basics as a sort of reward for serious study. As for psychology, sociology, and the like, he dismissed them out of hand as not worth damning. Ryder especially loved Latin ("a man's language," he said), and once said that he had loved Caesar's Gallic Wars from the very first sentence. In later years he limited his reading in ancient languages mostly to Sanskrit and Latin (and in modern to English and French). It was not that he disliked Greek; he was glad to see young men go into Greek studies (he did much to help and encourage Harold Cherniss and me); but he had decided that he could not perfect himself in all three ancient languages, and so he limited himself to the two that he liked most. Certainly he read little Greek in later years, and yet he could recite long passages from Greek tragedy.
Id., p. 43:
Ryder graduated from Harvard and took his Ph.D. in Germany, and then worked with C.R. Lanman on Sanskrit texts for the Harvard Oriental Series before coming to Berkeley. Perhaps it was this experience that turned him against scholarly writing. He did none after 1906. As he told it, he had observed a feature of Sanskrit drama and had mentioned it to a Sanskritist (perhaps Lanman), who was impressed and urged him to write it up in an article. Ryder set out to do so and then reflected that to anyone who knows Sanskrit the point is obvious, and to anyone who does not, it would be meaningless; hence he never wrote the article. To him most scholarship was concerned with trivialities, and so he especially enjoyed translating an epigram in the Panchatantra in these words:
Scholarship is less than sense;
    Therefore seek intelligence.
For him reading and knowing great books were what Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek are all about.
Id., p. 44:
Ryder loved the civilization of India, its literature, religions, philosophies; he even had good words for the caste system—but he never went to India. As a young man he wanted very much to go there; but, when older, he apparently no longer wanted to make the effort. One could say that his life rippled inwards: he limited himself more and more, dropping one interest after another. If a new book on war by Liddell Hart came out, he would buy it and read it—but otherwise he would say, citing Emerson (whom he admired), "Whenever a new book is published, I read an old one." And so Ryder read Dickens's novels, Boswell's Johnson, and Gibbon's Decline and Fall over and over again. Death came to him, as he would have wished, suddenly as he was teaching Sanskrit (an advanced class of just one student, on March 21, 1938), when he was just sixty-one years old. An Italian Sanskritist said after a conversation with him, "Ten men like that would make a civilization."
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Sunday, July 16, 2017


An Embarrassing Mistake

Joseph Fontenrose (1903-1986), Classics at Berkeley: The First Century 1869-1970 (Berkeley: Department of Classics, History Fund, 1982), pp. 19-20:
It was [William A.] Merrill's practice to read a certain amount every day in some (usually) previously unread text. Thus in time he read about all Latin literature. But for all his profound knowledge of Latin he once made an embarrassing mistake. He had the task of composing the Latin inscription for the arch of the bridge that crosses Strawberry Creek into Faculty Glade, and he began it HANC PONTEM, which was cut in the stone. At once his error was pointed out, and someone said that this was the only feminine bridge in the world. Merrill defended the gender as written, having found feminine pons in some late ancient or early medieval writings (perhaps in Hisperica Famina, which has female bridges). But as the last act of his administration (so I have heard) Benjamin Ide Wheeler had the A of HANC changed to V. The repair is still visible.

Merrill was a convinced conservative in everything. He used to say that the founding fathers had not established a democracy but a republic. For him our government, society, and schools were steadily getting worse. The weakening of Greek and Latin in school and college curricula was a major example of the loss of standards, a symptom of general decline. If he had lived another half-century, he would not have changed his mind; rather he would have thought his worst fears confirmed.
See University of California Chronicle 13 (1911) 213:
The class of 1910, with the generous cooperation of Mrs. Phoebe A. Hearst, will soon have erected a memorial footbridge over Strawberry Creek north of the Faculty Club. The bridge will be of concrete, from plans drawn by John Bakewell '93, and Arthur Brown, Jr., '96. On the walk of the South Drive a Roman arch will be built, from which nine steps will lead to an arched bridge across the creek. On the south side of the creek nine steps will descend to the path. Professor W. A. Merrill has written the following inscription which will be placed over the portal:
Here is a photograph of the inscription:

Hisperica Famina, A-Text, line 160 = arboreas pontes pedestri tramite tranant, obelized in Francis John Henry Jenkinson's edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1908), p. 6. Here is the manuscript (Vat. Reg. lat. 81, fol. 4, look at lines 5-6):

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


Song of the Slackers

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), "Song of the Lotos-Eaters," lines 11-24:
Why are we weigh'd upon with heaviness,
And utterly consumed with sharp distress,
While all things else have rest from weariness?
All things have rest: why should we toil alone,        15
We only toil, who are the first of things,
And make perpetual moan,
Still from one sorrow to another thrown;
Nor ever fold our wings,
And cease from wanderings,        20
Nor steep our brows in slumber's holy balm;
Nor harken what the inner spirit sings,
'There is no joy but calm!'—
Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?
Id., lines 41-53:
Death is the end of life; ah, why
Should life all labour be?
Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast,
And in a little while our lips are dumb.
Let us alone. What is it that will last?        45
All things are taken from us, and become
Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.
Let us alone. What pleasure can we have
To war with evil? Is there any peace
In ever climbing up the climbing wave?        50
All things have rest, and ripen toward the grave
In silence—ripen, fall and cease:
Give us long rest or death, dark death, or dreamful ease.
Id., lines 108-116:
Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.        110
For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurl'd
Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curl'd
Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world;
Where they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,
Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,        115
Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships, and praying hands.
Related posts:


A Handmaiden

Siegfried Wenzel, "Reflections on (New) Philology," Speculum 65.1 (January, 1990) 11-18 (at 12):
In this wider sense, I would think of philology not so much as an academic discipline with a clearly defined object and proper methods of investigation, but rather as an attitude. It is precisely what the etymology of the word declares, "love of the word": an appreciative attraction to verbal documents that seeks to understand their meaning, starting with the surface and penetrating to whatever depths are possible, but also alert to the fact that a given text comes from and is shaped by a specific time and place that usually is significantly different from that of the observer.
Id. (at 17-18):
To these and a host of other contemporary critical questions and approaches to literature, philology continues to serve as a handmaiden, furnishing the material basis on which they must stand. Handmaidens are proverbially humble and modest; and however fascinating, even all-consuming for its practitioner, the quest for an elusive etymology or textual variant may become, in the larger scheme of humanistic scholarship and the pursuit of the examined life it certainly has its limitations. At the same time, scholarship is not an absolute monarchy but a republic, in which the handmaiden, while doing her job of preparing the necessities of life — intelligible texts and tools for their understanding — will also remain constantly watchful and critical of the nobility. To order the disciplines devoted to the understanding of literary texts hierarchically, in the shape of a pyramid with paleography at the base and semiotics at the apex, is tempting but dangerous, because such a model allows the semiotician as well as the literary critic in the middle ranges to remain above and aloof from the concerns of philology. Not just an ancillary discipline, philology is an attitude of respect for the datum, for the facts of the text and its contexts, which should be cultivated at all levels of our enterprise to understand and appraise.

Philology thus holds not only a material value, in that it provides the raw materials for understanding, but equally a disciplinary one, by continuously demanding that the intellectual systems built by interpreters or theoreticians be tested against and anchored in the realities of the subject matter.
Id. (at 18):
But as I have defined it, "love of the word" that seeks understanding is a lasting concern of the intellectual life and as such stands above the currents of fashion. This is not to denigrate the many -isms that strut for a while; not only do they play their part in the ongoing performance of intellectual exploration, but they occasionally refine and enrich the more basic work of philologists by developing new "optics," thus sharpening our sights and adding new dimensions of awareness. Yet respect for the facts, for the concrete realities of the text, is and must remain basic.


Usefulness of Pedantic Exactitude

R.G.M. Nisbet, "William Smith Watt, 1913-2002," Proceedings of the British Academy 124 (2004) 359–372 (at 363; footnote omitted):
In May 1941 Watt joined the Inter-Services Topographical Department, then based in Oxford, as a temporary civilian officer, Admiralty; the department had been set up by Admiral J.H. Godfrey, the Director of Naval Intelligence, who had been appalled by the lack of geographical information in the bungled Norwegian campaign in the spring of 1940. It was the duty of the civilian officer to coordinate and edit the data about beaches, roads, and possible airfields collected by the representatives of the three services. Watt commonly worked a twelve-hour day, and sometimes into the night as well when information was needed for plans that were not necessarily executed (perhaps they included some of Churchill's rasher inspirations). Classical scholars were thought suitable for such research as they were used to collating defective scraps of evidence, their pedantic exactitude was seen to be worthwhile when lives were at stake, and they had a reputation at that time for writing concisely and clearly...



Paolo Fedeli, "The History of Propertian Scholarship," Brill's Companion to Propertius (Leiden: Brill, 2006), pp. 3-21 (at 18, n. 63):
Apart from anything else, Richmond can take the credit for bringing into the critical apparatus the lessons of P, which like FL descends from the Petrarchan manuscript...
For lessons read lections or readings (Italian lezioni).



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