[For purists, the Greek text of the letters will follow the English translation in the (distant) future.]
From p. 207: “These Notes are merely intended to give brief explanations of names or allusions, and do not deal with matters of textual criticism.”
[The notes are here inserted after the pertinent letter and footnoted, instead of at the end of the book in the hard copy. — Elf.Ed.]
From Alciphron, Literally and Completely Translated From the Greek, with Introduction and Notes, Athens: Privately Printed for the Athenian Society; 1896; pp. 79-94, 214-219.
YOU are to blame for the liberty I am taking; of you, though so mighty a monarch, have allowed a courtesan to write to you, and do not disdain to accept my letters, after you have accepted me. O my Lord Demetrius,1 when I see you in public, and in the midst of your body-guards and soldiers, and with the ambassadors, wearing your diadem, by Venus, I shudder and am afraid: I am confounded and turn my eyes away from you, as from the blazing sun, lest your splendour consume them: then in truth you appear to me as Demetrius, the besieger of cities.2 How fierce and warlike is your look! Then I can hardly believe by own eyes, and I say to myself: 71 O Lamia, is this the man with whom you sleep? is this the man to whom you sing and play all night? is this the man who has just written to you? does he think Gnathaena3 as beautiful as yourself? But this does not grieve me:4 I silently utter a prayer that I may see you at my house. When you come, I adore you, and when you take me to your arms and kiss me fondly, I say to myself on the other hand: Is this the besieger of cities? is this the man of war? is this the terror of Macedonia, Greece, and Thrace? By Venus, I will take him by storm this day with my pipes alone, and I will see how he will treat me. Wait until the day after to-morrow, and you shall sup with me. I celebrate the feast of Venus every year, and I do all I can to make each succeeding feast surpass the last. I will receive you lovingly and winningly, if you assist me generously; for I have committed no act that should make me undeserving of your kindness since that blessed night, although you gave me permission to make what use I pleased of 72 my person; but I have not abused your kindness, and I have had intercourse with no one. I will not play the harlot, nor, my Lord, will I lie, as others do; in truth, by Diana! since that time but few have sent me presents, in their awe of the besieger of cities. O my King, Love is swift to come and to fly away: when in hope, he flutters his wings; when in despair, he droops and sheds his feathers. Wherefore it is a favourite trick of courtesans to wheedle their lovers with hopes of ever-deferred enjoyment, although with a man like yourself there is no excuse for delay, since there is no fear of your being sated; we pretend to be ill, to be busily engaged, to be singing, playing the flute, dancing, preparing a supper, or furnishing a house, by such means interrupting the fulfilment of their enjoyment, which, unless we do this, soon becomes insipid. The result is, that the hearts of our lovers are more easily caught and inflamed, since they are afraid that some fresh obstacle may arise in the way of their present fortune. In the case of others, 73 I might perhaps carefully practise these arts; but towards you, who are so devoted to me, that you publicly make a show of me and delight in telling other women that I excel them all, I could not endure to be so deceitful. I am not so silly: if I gave up everything, even my life, to do you pleasure, I should consider the sacrifice a trifling one. For I well know that my preparations will be talked about, not only in Therippidium’s house, where I intend to entertain you during the feast of Venus, but throughout Athens; yes, by Artemis, throughout the whole extent of Greece. Above all, the hateful Lacedaemonians, that they, who behaved like foxes at Ephesus,5 may pretend to be heroes, will not cease to abuse our banquet on the mountains of Taygetus6 and in their solitary fastnesses, inveighing against your humanity and kindness with the severity of Lycurgus. But think no more of them; remember to observed the day of my banquet, and fix the hour yourself. Whatever time suites you will be the best. Farewell.
1 Demetrius: Surnamed Poliorcetes, son of Antigonus, one of the generals of Alexander the Great. He was sent by his father against Ptolemy at the age of 22. He defeated this prince, delivered Athens from the yoke of Cassander, and drove out the garrison established by Demetrius of Phalerum. He seized Cyprus, forced Cassander to raise the siege of Athens, defeated him at Thermopylae, and restored their liberty to the Rhodians and Phocidians. He was appointed commander-in-chief of the Greeks, took part of Thessaly from Cassander, and was defeated at Ipsus (302) by Lysimachus and Seleucus. The Athenians refused to admit him to Athens, but he afterwards forced his way there, took possession of the city, defeated the Lacedaemonians, and ascended the Macedonian throne. He died in B.C. 209
2 Demetrius, the besieger of cities: He was called Poliorcetes.
3 Gnathaena: A contemporary and rival courtesan.
4 But this does not grieve me: The meaning of htis passage is much disputed; others render ἠ��������������, “I am greatly perplexed.”215
5 Who behaved like foxes at Ephesus: There was a Greek proverb, ��ἴ����� �ὲ� ����������, ἐ� ����ῃ 뫉�� ἀ���������. We are told that this was applied to the Lacedaemonians by Lamia, in consequence of their having been corrupted in Ionia by the influence of Lysander.
6 Taygetus: A mountain in Laconia.
NO one is so hard to please, it seems to me, as an old man who plays the youth. How strangely this Epicurus7 treats me, always finding fault, suspicious of everything, sending me letters that I cannot make out, even threatening to drive me out of his garden. By Venus! if he were an Adonis eighty years old, I could not endure him, full of vermin as he is, and always unwell, wrapped up in garments of raw wool instead of felt. How long can anyone endure a man like this philosopher? Let him stick to his doctrines about nature,8 and his perverted canons, but let him allow me to enjoy my natural freedom without his insults or annoyance. I have a regular besieger, Lamia, but not one like your Demetrius. How can one be patient with such a man? 75 He tries to play the part of Socrates, to imitate him in his mouthing and his irony;9 he looks upon Pythocles10 as another Alcibiades, and thinks to make of me his Xantippe. I shall in the end be obliged to remove from here, and will flee from one country to another, rather than put up with his incoherent letters. But about the most monstrous and intolerable thing that he has had the audacity to do, I have written already to ask your advice. You know the handsome Timarchus from Cephisus: I do not deny that I have been intimate with the young man for a long time — it is only right to tell the truth to you, Lamia — it is to him that I owe almost my first acquaintance with the goddess of Love, for he seduced me when I lived in his neighbourhood. Ever since then he has continually sent me all kinds of presents, clothes, money, Indian male and female slaves, and other things, which I need not mention. In the smallest trifles he anticipates the seasons, that no one may taste their delicacies before myself. Yet Epicurus 76 tells me to shut my door upon him, and not let him come near me, calling him by all sorts of names, which you would not expect to hear from an Athenian or a philosopher, but from some Cappadocian11 on his first visit to Hellas. But, if Athens were inhabited entirely by such as Epicurus, by Diana! they could not, in my estimation, be compared to Timarchus’s arm — no, not even to one of his fingers. What do you think, Lamia? Is not what I say just and true? Do not ever imagine such a thing, I entreat you by Venus. Yet this Epicurus is a philosopher, a man of distinction, a man who has many friends! Let him take and keep and teach others: reputation has no charms for me; but, O Ceres! give me him whom I love — Timarchus. All through me the youth has been forced to leave the Lyceum,12 his youthful pleasures, and the companionship of his friends, and to live with Epicurus, to flatter him, and to praise his windbag doctrines. “No poaching on my preserves,” exclaims this Atreus;13 “do not go 77 near my Leontium”; as if Timarches had not a far better right to say, “Do you keep your hands off mine.” But he, although the younger, submits to an older rival, while the other will not endure him who has the juster claim. What am I to do, Lamia? Tell me, I beseech you, by the gods! By the sacred mysteries, by my hopes of relief from my misery, when I think of being separated from Timarchus, I grow now cold, now hot, in my extremities, and my heart is quite upset. I beseech you, let me come and stay with you for a few days, and I will make him feel what blessings he enjoyed when he had me in his house. I am sure he cannot long endure my contempt; he will soon send me one messenger after another, Metrodorus, Hermachus, and Polyaenus. How often do you think I have said to him privately, “What are you doing, Epicurus? Do you not know that Timocrates, the son of Metrodorus, ridicules you for your conduct in the assemblies, in the theatres, in the company of other sophists?14” 78 But what can you do with a man like this? He is utterly shameless in his love. I will be equally shameless: I will not desert my Timarchus. Farewell.
7 Epicurus: The founder of the Epicurean sect of philosophers, whose motto, roughly speaking, was that pleasure was the chief good, the summum bonum. His antithesis was Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school. Consult Zeller’s Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics.
8 His doctrines about nature: His �������� �όξ���, or special tenets.
9 In his irony: A reference to the Socratic �ἰ��������, an ignorance purposely affected to confound the opponent.
10 Pythocles: The favourite of Epicurus, as Alcibiades was of Socrates.
11 Some Cappadocian: A reference to the inelegance of Epicurus’s style, which is mentioned by Athenaeus.
12 The Lyceum: A building dedicated to Apollo, on the banks of the Ilissus, one of the three Gymnasia, the other two being the Academy and the Cynosarges.
13 This Atreus: The following is the comparison drawn. If Epicurus is Atreus, king of Mycenae, Timarchus will represent Thyestes, the younger brother of Atreus, and Leontium Aerope the wife of Atreus, who committed 216 adultery with Thyestes, who on that account was driven out of the kingdom.
14 Sophists: The so-called “professors of wisdom,” who undertook to teach everything for a consideration. There is a celebrated chapter on these people in Grote’s History of Greece.
BY the Eleusinian goddesses and their mysteries,15 by which I have often sworn in your company alone, dear Glycera, I swear that, in making this declaration in writing, I have no wish to exalt myself, or to separate from you. For what pleasure could I enjoy apart from you? in what could I take more pride than in your friendship? Thanks to your manners and disposition, even extreme old age shall seem youth to me. Let us be young and old together, and, by the gods, let us be together in death, understanding that we die together, that jealousy may not go down with either of us to the grave, in case the survivor may enjoy any other blessings. May it never be my misfortune to see you die before me; for then, what enjoyment would be left 80 for me? I am staying in Piraeus owing to my ill-health; you know my usual ailments, which those who are not fond of me call effeminacy and affectation. The reasons which have induced me to write to you, while you are staying in the city for the sacred festival of Ceres, the Haloa,16 are the following: I have received a letter from Ptolemy, King of Egypt,17 in which he entreats me, promising me right royally all the good things of the earth, and invites me to visit him, together with Philemon,18 to whom also, they say, a letter has been sent. In fact, Philemon has sent it on to me: it is to the same effect as mine, but not so ceremonious or splendid in the promises it holds out, since it is not written to Menander.19 Let him consider and take counsel what he intends to do; but I will not wait for his advice, for you, my Glycera, are my counsel, my Areopagus, my Heliaea,20 yea, by Minerva, you have ever been, and shall ever be my all. So then I have sent you the King’s letter; but, to spare you the double trouble of reading my letter and his, I wish you also to know 81 what answer I have decided to make to it. By the twelve great gods, I could not even think of setting sail for Egypt, a kingdom so far remote from us; but, not even if Egypt were in Aegina, close at hand as it is, I could not even then think of leaving my kingdom of your friendship, and the wandering alone in the midst of the crowded inhabitants of Egypt, looking upon a populous desert, as it would seem to me without my Glycera. I prefer your embraces, which are sweeter and less dangerous than the favours of all the kings and satraps. Loss of liberty is loss of security; flattery is contemptible: the favours of Fortune are not to be trusted.
I would not exchange for his Thericlean drinking-cups,21 his beakers, his golden goblets, and all the envied valuables of his courts, our yearly Choes,22 the Lenaea in the theatre, a banquet such as we had yesterday, the exercises in the Lyceum and the Sacred Academy — no, I swear it by Bacchus and his ivy-wreaths, with which I would rather be 82 crowned, in the presence of my Glycera seated in the theatre, than with all the diadems of Ptolemy. For where in Egypt shall I see a public assembly and votes being given? where shall I see a democracy enjoying liberty? the legislators23 in the sacred villages crowned with ivy? the roped inclosure?24 the election of magistrates? the feast of Pots? the Ceramicus?25 the market-place? the law-courts? the beautiful Acropolis? the dread goddesses? the mysteries? the Stenia?26 neighbouring Salamis, Psyttalia,27 Marathon, all Greece in Athens, all Ionia, all the Cyclades? Shall I leave all these, and Glycera as well, and set out for Egypt? And for what? to receive gold and silver and riches? And with whom am I to enjoy it? with Glycera separated from me by so wide an expanse of sea? Will not all this be simple poverty to me without her? And should I hear that she has transferred her honoured affections to another, will not all these treasures be to me no more than dust and ashes? and, when I die, shall I not carry away with me my 83 sorrows to the grave, and leave my riches a prey to those who are ever on the watch to seize them? Is it so great an honour to live with Ptolemy and his satraps and others with like idle names, whose friendship is not to be trusted, and whose enmity is dangerous? If Glycera is angry with me, I clasp her in my arms and snatch a kiss; if she is still angry, I press her further, and, if she is indignant, I shed tears; then she can no longer resist my grief, but entreats me in her turn; for she has neither soldiers, nor spearmen, nor body-guards, but I am all in all to her. Is it so great and wonderful a thing to see the noble Nile? Are not the Euphrates, the Danube, the Thermodon, the Tigris, the Halys, and the Rhine equally deserving of admiration? If I had to visit all the rivers in the world, my life would be utterly swamped, unless I saw my Glycera. And this Nile, though a beautiful river, is full of savage monsters; and it is impossible to approach its streams, in which so many dangers lie concealed. May it be my lot, King 84 Ptolemy, ever to be crowned with Attic ivy! to die and be buried in my own native land, and to join every year in the Dionysiac hymns at the altars! to be initiated into the mystic rites, to produce a new play ever year upon the stage, now laughing and rejoicing, now in fear and trembling, and now victorious! Let Philemon go to Egypt and enjoy the happiness that is promised to me, for Philemon has no Glycera; perhaps he does not deserve such a blessing. And do you, my dear Glycera, I beseech you, immediately after the Haloan festival, mount your mule and fly to me. I have never known a festival that seemed to last longer, or one more ill-timed. O Ceres, be propitious!
15 The Eleusinian goddesses and their mysteries: These mysteries were celebrated every fifth year at Eleusis, a borough town in Attica, in honour of Ceres and her daughter Proserpine. It was the most solemn and mysterious of all the Greek festivals.
16 The Haloa: See note on 50, 17.
17 Ptolemy, King of Egypt: Ptolemy Soter or Lagus (360-283). He had been one of Alexander’s most trustworthy generals, and, at the partition of the Empire, was made governor of Egypt. He remained as a nominal tributary to the Macedonian power until 306, when he became the actual king and assumed the title of the Pharaohs. He laid the foundation of the greatness of Alexandria by inaugurating its library and school.
18 Philemon: A comic poet, contemporary of Menander.
19 Menander (B.C. 342-290): He was drowned while bathing in the harbour of Piraeus. He wrote more than 100 comedies; but was only crowned eight times, through the intrigues of his rival Philemon. Only a few fragments of his works remain, found in Athenaeus, Suidas, and 217 Stobalus; he was the creator of what was called the New Comedy.
20 My Heliaea: The Heliaea was the chief law-court of Athens.
21 Thericlean drinking-cups: Broad drinking-cups, of black clay or wood, called after Thericles, a Corinthian potter.
22 Our yearly Choes: The Feast of Pitchers, the second day of the Anthesteria, or Feast of Flowers, the three days’ festival in honour of Dionysus (Bacchus) in the month Anthesterion (the eighth month of the Attic year, answering to the end of February and the beginning of March).
23 The legislators: The ���������������, or six junior archons at Athens, who after their year of office expired, became members of the Areopagus.
24 The roped inclosure: In the Athenian law-courts, the judges were separated from the people by a rope. There may also be an allusion to the vermilion-painted rope, with which loiterers were driven out of the Agora into the Pnyx. See Aristophanes, Acharnians, 22; and Ecclesiazusae, 379.
25 The Feast of Pots: The third day of the Anthesteria.
The Ceramicus: Literally, the Potters’ Quarter; there were two places of this name, the inner and outer.
26 The Stenia: A nightly festival in which the return of Demeter (Ceres) from the lower world was celebrated by 218 women. Others propose ���������, the name of a deme or borough in the tribe of Pandionis.
27 Psytallia: A small island near Salamis.
AS soon as I received the King’s letter, I read it. By the glorious Mother,28 in whose temple I now stand, I rejoiced exceedingly, Menander, being mad with joy, which I could not conceal from my companions. There were with me my mother, my sister Euphorium, and one of my friends whom you know, who has often supped with you, and whose Attic dialect you so commended, but as if you were half afraid to praise her, whenever I smiled and kissed you more warmly. Don’t you remember, Menander dear? When they saw my unwonted joy in my face, and my eyes, they asked me, “What extraordinary good fortune has happened to you, dear Glycera? You seem altered in mind, in body, in everything. Joy beams over your person; cheerfulness 86 and happy contentment pervade your whole being.” I told them, raising my voice and speaking louder, that all who were present might hear me: “Ptolemy, King of Egypt, has invited my Menander to visit him, and promised him the half of his kingdom,” and, at the same time, in proof of this, I shook triumphantly in the air the missive bearing the royal seal. “Will you be glad if he leaves you?” they asked. Most certainly, dear Menander, that was not the reason, by all the goddesses. Even if an ox were to speak,29 to use the words of the proverb, I would never believe that Menander would have the heart to leave his Glycera in Athens and reign alone in Egypt, in the midst of such grandeur. It was clear to me, besides, from the King’s letter, which I read, that he knew of our relations, and my affection for you. It seemed to me that he meant to banter you in a roundabout way with Egyptian witticisms. I am delighted to think that the report of our love has crossed the sea. The King, 87 from what he has been told, will see the utter uselessness of wishing Athens to be transported to Egypt. For what would Athens be without Menander? What would Menander be without Glycera, who prepares his masks, puts on his costumes for him, and stands at the wings to give the signal for applause in the theatre, and to accompany it with her own? Then, may Diana be my witness! I tremble, then I breathe again, and clasp you in my arms, the sacred fount of comedy. Need I tell you the reason of the joy I exhibited before my friends? It was simply the thought that not Glycera alone, but even distant monarchs love you, and that the fame of your merits has extended across the sea. Egypt, the Nile, the promontory of Proteus,30 the tower of Pharos, are all full of eager curiosity to behold Menander, and to hear the conversations of the misers, the lovers, the superstitious, the faithless, the fathers, the slaves — in short, all the characters that are introduced upon the stage. They may indeed 88 be able to hear your pieces, but those who wish to see the author in person will have to come to Athens to me: here they will be witnesses of my happiness in the possession of a man whose renown fills the universe, and who never quits my side by day or night. However, if the promised happiness which awaits you there has charms for you — at any rate, magnificent Egypt, with its pyramids, its echoing statues, its famous labyrinth,31 and the other marvels of antiquity and art — I beg you, dear Menander, do not let me stand in the way: this would make me hated by the Athenians, who are already reckoning the bushels32 of corn which the King, out of regard for you, will bestow upon them. Go, under the protection of the gods and Fortune, with a favourable wind, and may Jupiter be propitious to you! As for me, I will never leave you: do not expect ever to hear me say that; and, even if I desired to do so, it would be impossible for me. I will leave my mother and sisters and join you on board. I feel sure that I 89 shall soon turn out to be a good sailor. If the motion of the oars affects you, and the unpleasantness of sea-sickness, I will tend and look after you. Without any thread, I will guide you, like another Ariadne,33 to Egypt; although you certainly are not Bacchus himself, but his attendant and priest. I have no fear of being abandoned at Naxos, to lament your perfidy in the midst of the solitudes of the ocean. What care I for Theseus and the infidelities of the men of ancient times? No place can change our affection, Athens, the Piraeus, or Egypt. There is no country which will not find our love unimpaired: even if we had to live upon a rock, I know that our affection would make it the seat of love. I am convinced that you seek neither money, nor opulence, nor luxury: your happiness consists in the possession of myself and the composition of comedies; but your kinsmen, your country, your friends — all these, you know, have many needs; they all wish to grow rich and to heap up money. Whatever happens, 90 you will have nothing to reproach me with, either great or small, of that I am certain; for you have long felt the deepest affection for me, and you have now learnt to judge me aright. This, dearest Menander, is a matter of rejoicing to me, for I always used to fear the brief duration of a love founded upon simple passion. Such a love, however violent it may be, is always easily broken up; but, if it be accompanied by reason, the bonds of affection are drawn tighter, it gains sure possession of its pleasures, and leaves us free from care. Do you, who have often guided me on several occasions, tell me whether I am right in this. But, even if you should not reproach me, I should still have great fear of those Athenian wasps,34 who would be sure to buzz around me on all sides at the moment of my departure, as if I were taking away the wealth of Athens. Wherefore, dear Menander, I beg you, do not be in to great a hurry to reply to the King; think it over a little longer; wait until our meeting and we see our 91 friends Theophrastus35 and Epicurus; for perhaps their opinion will be different. Or rather, let us offer sacrifice, and see what the entrails of the victims portend: whether they advise us to set out for Egypt or to stay here; and, since Apollo is the god of our country, let us also send messengers to Delphi, to consult the oracle. Whether we go or whether we stay, we shall always have an excuse — the will of the gods.
I have a better plan still. I know a woman, very clever in all these matters, who has just arrived from Phrygia. She excels in the knowledge of the art of divination, the stretching of the branches of the broom,36 and the nightly evocation of the shades. As I do not believe merely in words, but require acts as well, I will send to her; for she says she must perform an initiatory lustration and prepare certain animals for the sacrifice, as well as the male frankincense, the tall styrax,37 the round cakes for the moon, and some leaves of wild flowers. I think that you have decided to come from the Piraeus; 92 if not, tell me how long you will be able to exist without seeing Glycera, that I may prepare this Phrygian and hasten to you. But perhaps you have already of your own accord considered with yourself how you may gradually forget the Piraeus, your little estate, and Munychia. I indeed can do and endure anything; but you are not equally your own master, since you are entirely wrapped up in me. Even if kings summon you, I am more your queen and mistress than them all, and I consider you as a devoted lover and a most diligent observer of your oath. Therefore, my darling, try all the more to come without delay to the city, so that, in case you change your mind in regard to visiting the King, you may nevertheless have those plays ready which are most likely to please Ptolemy and his Bacchus, no ordinary one, as you know: for instance, either the Thaises, the Misumenos, the Thrasyleon, the Epitrepontes, the Rhapizomene, or the Sicyonian. But how rash and venturesome am I to take upon myself to judge the compositions of 92 Menander — I, a woman who knows nothing about such matters! But I have a clever master in your affection, which has taught me to understand even them; you have shown me that any woman, who possesses natural ability, quickly learns from those she loves, and that love acts without delay. I should be ashamed, by Diana, if I were to show myself unworthy of such a master by being slow to learn. Anyhow, dear Menander, I entreat you also to get ready that play in which you have described myself, so that, even if not present in person, I may sail by proxy to the court of Ptolemy; so the King will more clearly understand how strong your love must be, since you take with you at least the written history of the same, although you leave behind you in the city the living object of our affections. But you shall not even leave that behind; you may rest assured that I shall practise myself in the mysteries of guiding the helm and keeping look-out, until you come to me from the Piraeus, that I may safely guide you over the waves 94 with my own hands, if you think it best to go. I pray to all the gods that what may be to the advantage of us both may be disclosed, and that the Phrygian may prophesy what is to our interest even better than your damsel inspired with divine frenzy.38 Farewell.
28 The glorious Mother: Ceres.
29 Even if an ox were to speak: That is, if something unnatural were to happen.
30 The promontory of Proteus: The promontories of the island of Pharos, which was afterwards famous for its lighthouse.
31 Its echoing statues: Especially the statue of Memnon.
Its famous labyrinth: For a description, see Herodotus, ii. 148.
32 Bushels: A ����������� was properly a measure containing six bushels.
33 Like another Ariadne: Ariadne, having fallen in love with Theseus, delivered him from the Minotaur, by giving him a ball of thread, which conducted him out of the labyrinth, after he had destroyed the monster. In return for this, Theseus carried Ariadne with him as far as Naxos, and there abandoned her. She afterwards became the priestess of Bacchus.
34 Those Athenian wasps: In the well-known play (The Wasps) of Aristophanes, the chorus is composed of these creatures, the chief reason given for this being the “irritable and passionate character of the Athenians.”
35 Theophrastus: The tutor of Menander.
36 The stretching of the branches of the broom: Others read ἄ������ ������������, “the arrangement of the stars.”219
37 Styrax: The shrub which produces the sweet-smelling gum or resin used for incense.
38 Your damsel inspired with divine frenzy: The title of one of Menander’s comedies (������������������). It may simply allude to Glycera herself.