[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. 95-207, 219-227.
O MOTHER, I am quite beside myself! It is impossible for me to wed the young Methymnaean, the pilot’s son, to whom my father lately betrothed me, since I have seen the young man from the city, who carried the holy palm branch, when you gave me permission to go to Athens for the festival of the Oschophoria. Ah, mother, how beautiful he is! how charming! His locks are curlier than moss; he laughs more pleasantly than the sea in a calm; his eyes are azure, like the ocean, when the first beams of the rising sun glitter upon it. And his whole countenance? You would say that the 96 Graces, having abandoned Orchomenus,1 after bathing in the fountain of Gargaphia,2 had come to folic around his cheeks. On his lips bloom roses, which he seems to have plucked from Cytherea’s bosom to adorn them. He must either be mine, or, following the example of the Lesbian Sappho,3 I will throw myself, not from the Leucadian rocks, but from the crags of Piraeus, into the waves.
1 Orchomenus: A city in Arcadia where there was a temple of the Graces.
2 Gargaphia: A fountain in Boeotia.
3 The Lesbian Sappho: Who threw herself into the sea for love of Phaon.
SILLY child, you are surely mad, without a spark of reason. You really need a dose of hellebore,4 not the ordinary kind, but that which comes from Anticyra, in Phocis, since you have lost all maiden modesty. Keep quiet, calm yourself, banish such extravagance from your thoughts and return to your right mind. If your father should hear anything of it, he would certainly throw you, without more ado, into the sea, as a dainty morsel for the monsters of the deep.
4 A dose of hellebore: Supposed to be a specific for madness. Anticyra was a town in Phocis, on the Corinthian Gulf.
RECENTLY there was an abundant supply of fish; but, since my nets were quite spoilt, I did not know what to do. An inspiration came to me, which I thought worthy of Sisyphus. I resolved to go to the money-lender Chremes, and to offer my boat to him as security for four pieces of gold, that I might be able to repair my nets. No sooner said than done. Chremes, that skinny old wretch, as a rule knits his brows and looks savagely at everybody. Perhaps it was the hope of getting possession of my boat which caused him to relax his severity. The wrinkles on his brow cleared; he even smiled at me, and assured me that he was ready to render me any service that lay in his power. So prompt an alteration made his friendliness suspicious, and clearly showed that 99 his intentions were anything but good; alas! his kindness was only skinned over, for, when the money became due, he claimed the interest with the capital, and refused to grant me so much as an hour’s grace. Then I recognised the real Chremes of Phoela,5 the common enemy of mankind, who may usually be found before the Diometian Gate, armed with a crooked stick. He was actually making preparations to seize my boat. Then I perceived in what a cruel plight I was. I ran home with all speed, took from my wife’s neck the golden necklace which I had given her in my more prosperous days, and sold it to the money-changer Paseon. With the money I got I paid both the capital and the interest, and I took an oath to myself that in future I would rather die of hunger than ever apply again to a city money-lender. It is better to die honourably than to live at the mercy of a low and avaricious old man.
5 Phloea: One of the Attic demes.
THE sun-dial does not yet mark the sixth hour, and I am in danger of wasting away under the pinch of hunger. Come, it is time to take counsel, Lopadecthambus, or rather, let us get a beam and a rope and hang ourselves. But I have an idea. If we were to throw down the whole column which supports that confounded dial, or turn the index so that it may make the hours seem to have gone faster, it will be a device worthy of Palamedes.6 I am exhausted and parched with hunger. Theochares never takes his seat at table until the servant runs to let him know that it is the sixth hour. We therefore need some plan to outwit and overreach the regularity of Theochares. For, as he has been brought up under the care of a stern and morose tutor, his 101 ideas are not those of a young man, but he is as austere in his manners as Laches or Apolexias, and he will not allow his belly to satisfy its needs before that hour. Farewell.
6 Palamedes: The great inventor amongst the Greeks. Astrology and the measuring of time were two of his notable discoveries.
YESTERDAY, late in the evening, Gorgias, of the family of the Eteobudatae, meeting me by chance, greeted me courteously, and reproached me for not going to see him more frequently. Then, after a few playful words, he said to me, “Go, by Jupiter, my good friend, have a bath and come back to me without delay. Do not forget to bring Aedonium, with whom I am very intimate, and who, as you know, is always to be found near the Leocorium.7 I have prepared a noble supper, slices of fish, and jars of wine from Mendos,8 which you would say was the nectar of the gods.” With those words, he left me. I ran in all haste to Aedonium; and when I told her by whom she had been invited, I nearly got into trouble. For, as it seems, she 103 had found Gorgias ungrateful and mean in the matter of presents in return for her favours. In her anger, which is ever rankling in her breast, she snatched a full kettle from the stove, and, unless I had avoided the danger by quickly starting back, she would have poured all its contents over the top of my head. Thus, after feeding ourselves on idle hopes, do we gain a greater share of humiliation than of pleasure.
7 The Leocorium: The temple of the daughters of Leon, who, in time of famine, sacrificed his daughters in order to put a stop to it.
8 Mendos: In Egypt. Others understand it of wine from Mende in Thrace.
I WANT a rope: you will soon see me with my neck in a noose. For I cannot endure slaps in the face, and all the drunken insult of these cursed diners; and yet I cannot control my confounded and gluttonous stomach. It is always asking for more; it is not satisfied with being filled, but clamours for luxuries. But my face cannot stand blows one after the other, and I am in danger of having one of my eyes bunged up by their slaps. Alas, alas! what misery does our greedy and ravenous stomach force us to endure! I have therefore made up my mind to have one more good dinner and to put an end to my life in disgust, since, in my opinion, a voluntary death is preferable to a painful life.
OH, Lord! what a day I had yesterday! What spirit or god interfered, unexpectedly interfered,9 to save me, just as I was on the point of going to join the majority? For, as I was returning from the banquet, had not Acesilaus the physician, by good luck, seen me, half-dead, or rather a corpse, an inhabitant of the nether world, and ordered his pupils to pick me up and carry me home, and, after administering an emetic to me, bled me till the blood flowed plentifully, nothing could have saved me from dying before I had regained consciousness. How these wealthy people treated me — and serve him right10 — one making me drink to excess, and another forcing me to eat more 106 than the skin of my belly could hold. One stuffed me with sausages, another rammed a great hunk of bread down my throat, while another made me drink a mixture, not wine, but mustard, fish-sauce, and vinegar, just as if he were pouring it into a cask. What a number of pots, pans, and pails I filled, when I brought all this up! Acesilaus was utterly astonished, and could not make out where and how I had managed to stow away such a mish-mash of food. But now that the protecting and tutelary gods have visibly preserved me from a great danger, I will in future work. I will go down to the Piraeus, and carry luggage for hire from the vessels to the warehouses. For it is better to feed one’s stomach with thyme and barley-porridge, and enjoy a certain amount of security, than to feast upon cakes and pheasants, with the uncertain prospect of death before one’s eyes ever day.
9 What god unexpectedly interfered? Lit., acted the part of the Deus ex machina (���ὸ� ἀ�ὸ ������ῆ�), a proverbial expression signifying a happier issue of a disagreeable situation than might have been expected.
10 And serve him right: Apparently a marginal note by an enemy of parasites in general.
GO, fetch your flute and cymbals; and, towards the first watch of the night, come to the Golden Alley near Agnus, where we shall be able to meet. We can make arrangements to carry off Clymene from the Scyrian quarter10a and take her to Therippides of the deme of Aexona, who has just come into a fortune. For some time he has been madly in love with her, and has spent considerable sums upon her, but all to no purpose. For she, seeing the ardour of his passion, plays the coquette and shows herself affected and indifferent; and, although he has loaded her with presents, she refuses to let him enjoy her favours unless he adds landed property in the neighbourhood of the silver mines. I think it is time to put an end to this, and to 108 carry her off by force, in case she still offers resistance: two stout fellows like ourselves ought to have no difficulty in getting possession of the charmer. When Therippides learns that this happy result is the fruit of our watching, we shall certainly get some money or clothes for our cleverness: he will give us free entry into his house; we shall henceforth enjoy every pleasure, without any hindrance, by way of reward. Perhaps he will even no longer treat us as parasites, but look upon us as friends; for those who know how to anticipate the wishes of others are not considered to be flatterers, but friends.
10a From the Scyrian quarter: The common haunt of courtesans.
WHILE I was trying my young dogs, to see if they were fit for coursing, I suddenly started a hare which was concealed in the brushwood. My sons unleashed the dogs; they rushed on and were on the point of catching the hare, when, in its efforts to escape, it ran up a hill and took refuge in a warren. The most eager of the pack, which was already snapping at it with open mouth and though to seize it with its teeth, followed it into the hole, and, in the attempt to pull it out, broke one of its fore-legs. All I could do was to pull out a lame dog and a half-eaten hare. I was only trying to gain a trifling success, but, instead, I experienced a severe loss.
CURSED be the detestable cock, which woke me up with its crowing, when I was enjoying a most delightful dream. I thought, my dear neighbour, that I was a person of wealth and distinction. I was attended by a number of slaves, stewards, and treasurers. My hands were loaded with rings and precious stones of great value; my fingers were soft and delicate, free from hardness, and showed no traces of the use of the mattock. I was surrounded by flatterers, such as Gryllion and Pataecion. At the same time, the people of Athens, assembled in the theatre, cried out for my appointment as general. But, while they were busily engaged in voting, the confounded cock crowed, and the vision disappeared. However, on 111 my first awaking, I was still full of joy. But, when I reflected that we were in the month of the fall of the leaves,11 I remembered that then dreams are always most false, and I said good-bye to my illusions.
11 Fall of the leaves: Plutarch (Symposiaca, viii. 10) says: “Dreams are unreliable and false, especially in the months when the trees shed their leaves.”
YOU have forgotten our marriage bed, our children, our country life. The city has taken complete hold of you. Pan and the Nymphs, whom you used to invoke under the name of Dryads, Epimelides, and Naiads,12 are now hated by you, and, in addition to the numerous deities already in existence, you are introducing fresh ones. Where shall I be able to find room in the country for the Coliades or Genetyllides?13 I think I also heard some other divinities mentioned, but, owing to their number, the names of most of these have slipped by memory. Foolish woman that you are, you must have lost your reason! You wish to try and rival those women of Athens who, plunged in luxury, have made-up faces, and whose morals are of the worst. 113 They paint their cheeks with dyes, ceruse, and vermilion, more skilfully than the cleverest artist. But you, if you are sensible, will not imitate them. Remain as you are; pure water and soap are enough for a respectable woman.
12 Dryads, Epimelides, and Naiads: The Wood Nymphs, Nymphs of the flocks and herds (or fruits), and the Water Nymphs.
13 Coliades . . . Genetyllidces: Both names of Venus.
WHEN the noonday heat was at its height, I selected a pine-tree, which was swept by the wind and exposed to the breeze, and threw myself beneath its shade to escape from the sweltering heat. While I was cooling myself very comfortably, the idea came into my head to try a little music. I took up my pipe; I gently moved my tongue up and down its reeds, and played a sweet pastoral melody. Meanwhile, all my goats collected round me from all directions, enchanted, I know not why, by the sweet strains. They forgot to browse upon the arbutus and asphodel, and gave no thought to anything but the music. At that time I was like the son of Calliope in the midst of the Edonians.14 My only object in communicating to you 115 this pleasant story is to let a friend know that I have a flock of goats which is exceedingly fond of music and knows how to appreciate it.
14 The son of Calliope: Orpheus.
The Edonians: A Thracian people.
WHEN the season for planting came, I was on the point of setting some young olive-trees, and watering them with water from the spring, which was brought to me from the neighbouring valley. I had already marked out the holes and dug trenches. Unfortunately, a storm of rain came on, which, for three days and as many nights, drove down from the summit of the mountains regular rivers, which, in their impetuous course, have filled the trenches with mud. All my fields have the same level; there is no trace of cultivation; all my labour is lost. The whole place has assumed a uniform and strange appearance. Who in future will work any more and flatter himself in vain with idle hopes in return for all his labour? I must try another trade. It is said that Fortune changed when we change our occupation.
MY son, if you wish to imitate your father and follow his advice, do not listen to those charlatans whom you see wandering, barefooted and with pale faces, in the neighbourhood of the Academy. They can neither do nor teach anything useful on this earth; they only pore over heavenly things, which they profess to understand. Leave these people, work, cultivate your land; this will fill your meal-sack with corn, your jars with wine, and your house with wealth.
THE vintage is close at hand; I want some baskets; lend me some, if you have any to spare; I will return them to you soon. I have several little casks; if you want any, take them without ceremony. The rule, that friends should share what they have in common, holds good in the country more than anywhere else.
IF you will be sensible, Thrasonides, listen to your father, and devote yourself to agriculture. You would present to the gods, ivy, laurels, myrtles, and flowers in season; to us, your parents, you would bring the wheat you have reaped, the wine you have pressed, and the pail full of milk from your goats. But, as it is, you despise the country and agriculture, and all your affection is devoted to a helmet surmounted with triple crest or a shield, just as if you were a Melian or Acarnanian mercenary.15 Give up such ideas, my boy; come back to us and lead a peaceful life; the fields offer greater security. There one is out of reach of danger, without having to fear cohorts, phalanxes, or ambuscades. Be the stay of our approaching old age: a life free from danger is better than a career full of perils.
15 A Melian or Acarnanian mercenary: Supposed to be a reference to characters in Menander’s plays. Compare the Miles Gloriosus of Plautus.
MAY ill-luck attend you, Lerium! may you come to a bad end, for having intoxicated me with wine and music, so that I was late in getting back to the people who had sent me from the country! The first thing in the morning they expected me with the wine jars which I had come to fetch for them; but I, like a nice fellow that I was, amused myself with you all night, and, charmed by the sound of your flute, slept until daybreak. Away with you, worthless woman! tempt city young men with your fascinations; if you molest me any more, you shall pay dearly for it.
AS I am keeping my son’s birthday, I invite you to the feast. Bring your wife, your children, your servant, and even the dog, if you life. He is a trusty protector, and his loud barking will scare away those who have evil designs upon our flocks: I am sure he will not disdain to make one of the party. We will spend the day in joviality; we will drink till we are drunk; and, when we have had enough, we will take to singing. If there is any one of us who knows how to dance the Cordax,16 he can step out into the middle, and delight the company. Answer me at once, for, on festive occasions, one must begin to make all preparations in the morning.
16 The Cordax: The Athenian representative of the cancan.
MY best wishes to you and your wife and children, my dear Eustachys, for being so ready to share your pleasure with your friends. I have caught the thief, who caused me such annoyance by stealing a plough-handle and two sickles. I have got him safe under lock and key, and am waiting for the neighbours to come and help me. For, being alone and infirm, I have not ventured to lay hands upon him myself. He has a savage look and arches his brows, his shoulders are stalwart, his legs are stout and strong; whereas I am exhausted by labour and handling the mattock, my hands are horny, my skin is as thin as the slough of a serpent. My wife and children will come to do honour to your feast. My servant is ill, so I cannot leave the house: I must stay at home with the dog and mount guard over the prisoner.
YOU remember the day when I had loaded my ass with green and dried figs? After I taken him to the stable, and sold the figs to one of my friends, someone took me to the theatre, where he put me into a good place, and gave me a treat of all kinds of spectacles. Although I forgot what else I saw — since I am not at all clever at understanding or giving an account of such things — I remember one thing, which struck me dumb with astonishment. A man came forward with a three-legged table. On this he placed three little cups, under which he hid some little round white pebbles, such as we find on the bank of a torrent. At one time he put them separately, one under each cup; at another time he showed them, all together, under one cup; 124 then he made them disappear from the cups, I don’t know how, and showed them, the next moment, in his mouth. After this he swallowed them, called some of the spectators on to the platform, and pulled out of their nose, head, and ears the pebbles which he ended by juggling away altogether. What a clever thief the man must be, far sharper than Eurybates of Oechalia,17 of whom we have often heard. I am sure I don’t want to see him in the country; since nobody would be able to catch him in the act, he would plunder the house without being noticed. What then would become of the fruit of my labours?
17 Oechalia: There were five towns of this name. This Eurybates was a well-known thief and sharper.
MY husband has been in town for three days, and Parmeno, our servant, does nothing but damage; he is so careless, and spends all his time in sleeping. We have in our neighbourhood a wolf, whose savage appearance indicates his ferocious instincts. He has carried off Chione, the finest of our goats, from the stony field.18 Now he is making a meal of the poor creature, which gave us milk in such abundance, and I am left to lament for her loss. My husband knows nothing about it as yet. When he hears of it, he will hang up the hireling on the nearest pine-tree, and will not be satisfied until he has done everything in his power to wreak vengeance upon the wolf.
18 The stony field: The name of a rocky district of Attica.
I SET a trap for those confounded foxes, and hung some pieces of meat on the trap. They ravaged my vines, and, not content with picking a few grapes, carried off whole bunches and pulled up the plants. The news came that our master would soon be here; he has the reputation of being harsh and bitter, a man who, at Athens, is always worrying the assembly with all sorts of proposals, not to mention that his spitefulness and violent speeches have brought many to the Eleven.19 With such a man, how could I help being afraid of the same lot? That is the reason why I was so anxious to hand over to him the thief who stole his grapes. Alas! no fox appeared; but Plangon, the little Maltese dog, which is kept for our mistress’s amusement, smelt 127 the bait and flung himself upon it, for he is a terrible glutton. For three days he has been stretched on is back, lifeless, almost in a state of putrefaction. Without thinking, I have brought one misfortune upon another. How can I hope for pardon from a man of such cruel disposition as our master? No, I will run away as fast as my legs can carry me. Good-bye to country life and all that I possess. It is high time to save myself, and not to wait for misfortune, but to look after myself before it comes.
19 The Eleven: Composed of one representative from each of the ten tribes of Athens, together with a clerk. They had charge of the prisons, police, and the punishment of criminals.
I LOVE to cull the fruits of the earth, of whatever kind they are; for the gathering-in of the harvest is a fitting reward of our labours; but what I am particularly fond of is to rob the hives of their honey. I have just paid a visit to some hives which I found amongst the rocks. They have provided me with some honeycombs, quite fresh. I offered the first-fruits of them to the gods; you, my friends, must now have a share of what is left. They are white in colour, and distil drops of Attic honey, such as is found in the caverns of Brilessus.20 For the moment, I send you this as a present; next year you shall have something bigger and more agreeable.
20 Brilessus: A mountain in Attica, almost as famous for its honey as Mount Hymettus.
IT seems to me that I am keeping a wolf in my house. My confounded slave falls upon my goats and does not spare a single one; he has sold some, and sacrificed others. His belly is swollen with gorging, and he spends what he has left on his gluttony. He amuses himself with pipe and flute-players, and delights in the perfumers’ shops. In the meantime the stalls are deserted, and the flocks of goats which I once had have disappeared. However, I keep quite quiet, that he may not get suspicious and take to flight. If I catch hold of him, he shall have his hands bound, and he shall be made to drag heavy chains along with him. Then, the rake, the pick, and the hoe shall help him to forget his luxurious habits; he shall learn to his sorrow what it means to choose the temperate life of a countryman.
YOU are too fond of visiting the city, Nomius, and do not condescend to look at the country for a moment. Our deserted fields no longer produce any crops, for want of someone to attend to them. I am obliged to remain at home with Syra, and do the best I can to support the children. And you, an old man with grey hairs, play the young Athenian dandy. I am told that you spend the greater part of your time in Scirus and the Ceramicus, which is said to be the meeting-place of worthless persons, who go there to spend their time in idleness and sloth.
JUST now, after I had cleaned the threshing-floor, and was laying down the winnowing-fan, the master came up, looked on, and praised my industry. But that rascal Strombichus,21 like a cunning and malicious sprite, seeing that I was following my master, took my goatskin which I had taken off during my work, and carried it away under his arm. I was obliged to put up with the loss, and, in addition, the laughter of my comrades.
21 That rascal Strombichus: Lit., Corycian evil spirit. There was a Greek proverb, 221 “A Corycian has heard him.” It had its origin from the brigands who infested Mount Corycus. (See note on 13, 16.)
UNHAPPY Salmonis! what means this haughty behaviour towards your master? You seem to forget that I rescued you from the lame botcher’s shop, without letting my mother know anything about it. Did I not after that instal you in my house as my lawful wife, who will inherit all my property? And yet, you worthless hussy, you put on these airs, laugh in my face, and always treat me with contempt. Wretch, leave off this insolent behaviour, or I will show you that your lover is your master. I will send you to roast barley in the country, and then you will understand, to your cost, to what unhappiness you have brought yourself.
I AM ready to suffer anything, master, rather than sleep with you. Last night I did not run away, or hide myself in the bushes, as you imagined; I was lying under the kneading-trough, with which I covered myself. And now, since I have made up my mind to hang myself, I am not afraid to speak frankly to you, Gemellus, for my resolution to die removes all my fear. Hear then what I have to say. I hate you; I loath your unwieldy person; your manners, like those of a wild beast, frighten me; the smell from your mouth is like poison. Wretch that you are, may you perish wretchedly! Meanwhile, go and look for some blear-eyed old woman, who has only one tooth left, and is anointed with rancid oil.
UNTIL now I always believed that you were a quiet, simple fellow, who had become a regular countryman, smelling of pressed olives and reeking with dust; but I did not know that you were a clever speaker, superior even to those who plead in foreign commercial cases in the Meticheum.22 It seems that you have taken to pleading causes before the village magistrates, and that, since then, you have always gained the day. Good luck to you! with your tongue you will become a greater chatterer than a turtle-dove.23 As the proverb says, I shall make use of you as a windfall. I am daily exposed to the greed of certain persons who have designs upon my property; you shall defend me. I love peace and quietness, but I know that my carelessness and inactivity often cause me trouble and annoyance.
22 The Meticheum: The name of an Athenian law-court.
23 A greater chatterer than a turtle-dove: A proverbial expression. According to Aelian, the turtle-dove kept up a perpetual cooing, not only in front, but also behind.
THE winter is very severe this year, and no one is able to go out. The snow has not only covered the earth, it has also whitened the hills and valleys. One must give up all idea of work, although it is disgraceful to remain idle. To amuse myself, I tried to look out. No sooner was my door opened than I saw, together with the falling snow, a regular flock of blackbirds and thrushes. I had some birdlime all ready prepared in a jar, and quickly smeared it over some wild pear-tree branches. The birds flung themselves upon it in swarms, and then found themselves caught by the branches. It was a treat to see them — some hanging by their wings, others by the head or claws. I picked out a couple of dozen of the fattest and plumpest amongst them, and I send them to you. Honest people ought to share one another’s luck; let my ill-disposed neighbours be jealous if they please!
SINCE I have never yet been in Athens, and do not know what kind of a thing that is which is called a city, I am curious to see that fresh sight — people confined within the same inclosure — and to learn the difference between the inhabitants of town and country. If, therefore, you have any occasion to go to the city, come and fetch me; we will go together. I think I ought to try and increase my knowledge, now that my beard is beginning to sprout. And who could initiate me into the mysteries of the city better than yourself? You have entered its gates often enough.
CONFOUND it! what a curse is drunkenness, my friend! I found it out, when I recently fell in with a company of dissipated fellows: they were all heavy drinkers, and not one of them knew how to take a glass in moderation. The cup went round continually, and I was obliged to drink, for there was a penalty attached to those who refused: they were obliged to give a banquet at their own expense the following day. Being obliged to do as the rest, I must have swallowed more than a whole skin. This is the third day I have had a fearful headache, and I am still very bilious.
IT seems as if rivers could flow upwards to their source, to see you, in spite of your years and the grandchildren that we have, madly in love with a flute-player; it grieves me enough to wear away my heart. You are disgracing me, who have now been your wife for thirty years; and you bestow all your affection upon a girl, a well-known street-walker, who has already eaten up your money and land. The young fellows laugh at you, but you don’t seem to mind it. Poor old man, the plaything of a prostitute!
YOU know Timon,24 the son of Echecratides, of the borough of Colyttus? He was once rich; to-day he is in a state of abject poverty, to which he has brought himself by wasting his fortune on prostitutes and parasites, like ourselves. His misfortunes have altered his opinion of mankind, and he has become as great a misanthrope as Apemantus. He has retired to a field a long way off, where he throws clods of earth at the passers-by, or hides himself, to avoid meeting anyone, so great is his abhorrence of his fellow-men. On the other hand, the other Athenians, who have lately come into money, are meaner than Phidon or Gniphon. How is one to live? I think I shall leave the city and try and earn my living by hard work. Take me as a hired labourer on your farm. I will put up with anything, if only I can satisfy my insatiable maw.
24 Timon: Compare Timon the Misanthrope as described by Lucian, and Shakspere’s Timon of Athens.
A VERY great drought prevails just now; there is not a cloud in the sky. We want rain; the soil is so dry that our land is parched. In vain have we offered sacrifice to Jupiter God of Rain. All we inhabitants of the village have done our best to appease him with our gifts, according to our means. One contributed a ram, another a goat; those who were not so well off gave a sacrificial cake; those whose means were even less, a few mouldy grains of incense. It is true that no one sacrificed a bull; but we have no large cattle, since we live on the poor soil of Attica. All our expenses have been useless; it seems as if Jupiter devoted his care to other countries, to the neglect of ours.
AH! what trouble the soldier25 brought upon us! After his arrival in the evening, when, in an ill-starred moment, he took up his quarters with us, he never ceased to din into our ears stories about decuries, phalanxes, pikes, shields, and cross-bows. Then he told us how he had routed the Thracians and run their captain through with his lance; and, after that, how he pierced an Armenian through and through. Finally, he produced his prisoners, and exhibited the women, whom, he declares, he received from different generals as the reward of his gallantry. I poured out a large cup of wine, hoping to cure his chattering; he swallowed it, and several larger ones after it, but it did not stop him; he still went on chattering.
25 The soldier: A stock character with Greek comic writers; compare Leontichus in Lucian’s Dialogues of Courtesans.
HAVING woven a garland of flowers, I was going to the temple of Hermaphroditus,26 intending to offer it in honour of him27 of Alopece.28 Suddenly a party of insolent young men came in sight, ready to attack me, led by Moschion, who, as soon as I lost my dear husband, incessantly worried me to marry him, but I refused, partly out of pity for my little ones, and partly because I could not forget the deceased Phaedrias. But I unwittingly kept myself for a disgraceful amour, and found a nuptial chamber in a grove. He took me into a shady part of the forest, where the trees grew thickly together, and there, on the top of the flowers and leaves, he compelled me to endure — I am ashamed to say what, my dear. I have gained a 143 husband by the insult I have suffered — not of my own free will, but still it is true. It is a good thing not to experience what is disagreeable; but when this is impossible, we much at least conceal our misfortune.
26 Hermaphroditus: The special god who presided over the destinies of married people.
27 In honour of him: Her late husband.
28 Alopece: One of the Attic demes.
I HAVE a good-for-nothing slave, a Phrygian, who has turned out so in the country. Since I picked him out of a number of others and bought him on the last day of the month, I immediately determined to call him Numenius.29 As he seemed to be strong and looked sharp. I was glad to take him away to help me on my farm in the country. But he has turned out a sheer loss to me; he eats as much food as four diggers, and he sleeps, as I heard a crazy sophist say, like Epimenides the Cretan,30 or for three successive nights, as when Hercules31 was born. Whatever am I go do, my friend and fellow-labourer, now that I have thrown away my money on the purchase of such a monster?
29 Numenius: Connected with the new moon. It was customary at Athens to buy and sell slaves at the commencement of the new moon.
30 Epimenides the Cretan: This person, being tired with walking, is said to have gone into a cave, where he slept for 47 years.
31 Hercules: His birth was said to have taken three nights to accomplish.
BY the Gods and Deities, mother, leave the rocks and country for a little while, and come and see the beauties of the city before you die. You don’t know what you are missing: the Haloa, the Apaturia, and the Dionysia, and the most holy festival of the Thesmophoria,32 which we are now celebrating. The Ascent took place on the first day, to-day the fast is being solemnly kept, and the sacrifice to Calligeneia takes place to-morrow. If you make haste, and start early before the morning star rises, you will be able to join in the sacrifice with the Athenian women. Come, then, don’t waste time, I beseech you, as I wish well to my brothers and myself; for to end your days without having had a taste of the city would be abominable, beastly, 146 and ill-mannered. You must excuse my freedom, mother, it is for you benefit. It is right that all should speak frankly; but above all it is necessary to be sincere with one’s own relations.
32 The Thesmophoria: An ancient festival held by the Athenian women in honour of Demeter (Ceres) Thesmophorus, the law-giver, so called as having introduced tillage and given the first impulse to civil society.
I SENT my son to the city to sell wood and barley, and gave him strict orders to come back the same day with the money; but the wrath of some Deity or other overtook him altogether. For, having seen one of those lunatics, who are nicknamed “Dogs”33 from their mad behaviour, he outdid his master in imitating his extravagances. He is a fearful and disgusting sight: he shakes his unkempt hair, he looks wild, goes about half-naked in a threadbare cloak, with a little wallet slung over his shoulders, and a staff of wild pear-tree wood in his hands. He is unshod and filthy, and no one can do anything with him; he declares he does not know his parents or the farm either: he says that 148 everything is produced by nature, and that the mixture of the elements, not our parents, is the cause of generation. It is evident that he despises money, and hates agriculture; he is lost to all sense of shame, and all trace of modesty is banished from his countenance. O Agriculture! what utter ruin this thinking-shop of impostors has brought upon you! I blame Draco34 and Solon; for, while they thought fit to punish with death those who stole grapes, they allowed those who made slaves of young men’s understandings to go scot-free.
33 Dogs: i.e. the Cynics.
34 Draco: The oldest Athenian legislator. His laws, which were very severe, were afterwards considerably modified by Solon.
I HAVE sent you the fleeces of some sheep shorn at Decelea.35 I only picked out those that were healthy; those that were full of the scab I gave to my shepherd Pyrrhias, to do what he liked with them, before they were entirely destroyed by the disease. Since you have abundance of wool, make me some clothes suitable for the different seasons; let those for summer wear be finely woven; those for winter should have plenty of nap, and be thicker; the former should rather shade than heat the body by their thinness, while the latter should keep the cold from it, and screen it from the wind by their thickness. Let our maiden daughter, who is now of an age to marry, assist the handmaids in weaving, so that, when she leaves us for a 150 husband, she may not disgrace her parents. Besides, you must know that those who are fond of spinning wool, and are the handmaids of the goddess of labour,36 devote themselves to an orderly and chaste life.
35 Decelea: About 14 miles north of Athens, on a ridge of Mt. Parnes.
36 The goddess of labour: Especially women’s labour. Minerva is meant.
I AM utterly ruined. I, who but yesterday was clad in fine garments, am now obliged to cover my nakedness with filthy rags made of hair. That accursed villain Pataecion has stripped me bare; with his lucky throws of the dice he has cleaned me out of my money, with which as you know I was well supplied, even to the last drachma.37 and obol.37b And when it was in my power, by ignoring the loss I had sustained, to escape a still greater one, in my anger and quarrelsomeness, I went on to the bitter end; I staked each of my articles of clothing as I was challenged, and, at last, was stripped naked. Where am I to go? for the north wind, blowing with cruel violence, goes through my sides like a knife. Perhaps to the Cynosarges;38 either one of the young men there will 152 out of pity give me some clothes to cover me, or I shall be able to get near the stoves and warm my wretched self by the fire; for to the naked, fire and warmth take the place of both outer and inner garments.
37b drachma: About 9¾ d.
37a obol: About 1½ d.
38 The Cynosarges: A gymnasium outside the city, sacred to Hercules, for the use of those who were not of pure Athenian blood.
THE day before yesterday, the parasites Struthion and Cynaedus and myself shaved our heads, took a bath at Serangium,39 and, about the fifth hour, hurried as fast as we could to the suburb of Ancyle, where young Charicles has an estate. He made us very welcome, being generous and fond of merriment; and, on our part, we afforded amusement to him and his guests, slapping one another in turns to the accompaniment of sonorous anapaests, full of genuine town witticisms and Attic grace and liveliness. In the meantime, while cheerfulness and merriment prevailed, that cross-grained, sulky Smicrines came on the scene from somewhere, followed by a crowd of servants, who rushed upon us from all directions. Smicrines first smote Charicles on the 154 back with a crooked stick, and then, hitting him on the face, carried him off like the meanest slave; at a nod from the old man, our hands were tied behind our backs, after which we were flogged severely with a whip of hog’s bristles: the blows inflicted upon us were more than we could count: and, at last, the cruel old man ordered us to be dragged off to prison; and, had not that good fellow Eudemus, one of the chief members of the council of Areopagus, an old acquaintance of ours, who had spent many a pleasant hour with us, opened the prison door for us, we should most likely have been handed over to the executioner, so furious against us was that harsh and cruel old man; and he did everything he could to get us led away to death, as if we had been murderers and temple robbers.
39 Serangium: In Piraeus.
WE are thought no more of than Megareans or Aegians;40 at the present time Gryllion alone is in good repute, and holds sway over the city: every house is open to him, as if he were Crates41 the Cynic from Thebes. It seems to me that he has got hold of some Thessalian or Acarnanian sorceress, with whose assistance he bewitches the unhappy youths of our city. What a fund of talk he possesses! how delightful is his conversation! But perhaps the Graces have looked upon him with favourable eyes, so that, while others have the inside of the loaf, we must be content if anyone throws us the leavings, like dogs, after he has wiped his hands upon it.41a But perhaps he is no magician, but only very fortunate; for it is fortune that prevails 156 beyond everything in human affairs. Prudence counts for nothing, fortune is everything; the man who is fortunate is pleasant, and has the reputation of being so.
40 Megareans or Aegieans: Both these people were regarded with contempt, as we learn from Homer, Theocritus, and Erasmus.
41 Crates: We are told by Diogenes Laertius that he was called �����������������, that is, the door-opener, becaue all doors were open to receive him.
41a After he has wiped his hands upon it: The meaning of this passage is greatly disputed. Others take this to mean that “the Graces have wiped their hands upon him,” that is, bestowed a part of their grace and powers of fascination upon him. According to the translation in the text, the passage refers to the custom of placing a piece of fine soft bread before each guest at an entertainment, with which he wiped his fingers, and afterwards threw it to the dogs.
I WAS much grieved, my dear Psichion, when I heard of the accident to your dace. If it happened as Leirione — I mean the servant of Phyllis the harpist — told us on her return from the banquet, you have indeed been in the wars and exposed to destruction, without any engines of war being brought against you. I hear that the disgusting and effeminate wretch broke a goblet over your head with such violence that the pieces injured your nose and your right cheek, and streams of blood spirted up from the wound, like the drippings from the rocks of Gerania. Who will be able to endure such wretches much longer? They ask so high a price for filling our bellies that we have to pay for it with the peril of our lives; and, in our fear of being starved to death, we welcome the chance of getting a good meal, even if we have to pay dearly for it.
WHAT a stroke of luck I have had! Perhaps you will ask me how. Well, I will tell you, and you will have no need to inquire. The city, as you know, was celebrating the Cureotis,42 and I, having been invited to the feast to amuse the guests, was dancing the cordax. The banqueters vied with one another in drinking, and the contest went on without stopping, until drunkenness overcame them all, and at length they became drowsy and fell asleep, even the servants. I looked round to see if I could filch some of the plate; but since this had been put away out of sight, in a place of safety, while they were still sober, I took a napkin under my arm and ran away in such a hurry that, during my flight, I lost one of my slippers. Look what expensive 159 material it is made of — Egyptian linen and purple from Hermione:43 the texture is exceedingly fine and very valuable. If I can safely dispose of it, I will treat you to a good feed at Pinacion’s inn. For, since we have often had to put up with many drunken insults together, it is only fair that you, who have been the partner of my misfortunes, should share my good luck.
42 The Cureotis: The third day of the festival of Apaturia, on which the sons of Athenian citizens were admitted, 223 at three or four years of age, among the ���������� or tribesmen, and their names entered in their register, which was afterwards a proof of thier citizenship.
43 Hermione: In Argolis.
O MERCURY, god of gain, and Hercules, averter of evil! I am saved. May I never be in such straits again. I had filched a silver pitcher from the wealthy Phanius, and had taken to flight; it was the dead of night, and I made all haste to get safely away. Suddenly the house-dogs, of Molossian and Cnosian breed,44 rushed upon me from all sides, and, barking loudly and fiercely, attacked me. I barely escaped being torn to pieces by them, as if I had offended Diana, so that not even my extremities would have remained for burial the next day, if any kind people had wanted to show their pity and sympathy. Finding, by good luck, an open watercourse of no great depth, I jumped into it and concealed myself. It makes me shake and tremble 161 even now to tell you. As soon as it was daybreak, I heard their barking no more, for they had all been tied up in the house. I immediately hurried down to the Piraeus, and, finding a Sicilian vessel just about to set sail, I sold my pitcher to the skipper, so that I now have my pockets full of money. I have returned, newly enriched, and I am in such a flutter of expectation that I am eager to support some flatterers, and to keep parasites of my own, instead of being one myself. When I have spent the money I have just gained, I shall return to my old profession. A dog who has once become accustomed to gnaw leather will never forget the habit.45
44 Of Molossian and Cnosian breed: From Molossus in Epirus. The Cnosian came from Crete.
45 A dog who, &c.: A common proverbial expression. Cf. Horace: Ut canis a corio nunquam absterrebitur uncto.
CURSED be Licymnius the tragedian! may he be struck dumb! He had gained the victory over his competitors, Critias of Cleonae and Hippasus of Ambracia in the recital of the Propompi46 of Aeschylus; and, although he owed his success only to the shrill and penetrating tone of his voice, he went mad over it, crowned his head with ivy, and gave a banquet. To my misfortune, I was invited: what insults did I not have to put up with! Some amused themselves with smearing my head with pitch, or dabbing fish-sauce in my eyes; others rammed down my throat stones moistened with honey, while they were eating cakes of milk and Indian corn. But the most mischievous of all was the little courtesan who has just taken up her quarters in the Ceramicus, 163 Hyacinthis from Phenea;47 she filled a bladder with blood, and amused herself by beating me over the head with it; besides the noise this made, I was bathed in blood; and all the guests burst out into the most immoderate shouts of laughter. And what adequate recompense did I receive for all I suffered? The only compensation for my insults was — that I got a bellyful, and that was all. May that enemy of the gods never live to see the new year! His voice is so disagreeable that I have determined that he shall be called by us and his fellow-actors48 — the prince of squallers.
46 The Propompi: Possibly the “Seven against Thebes” may be meant; or it is one of the lost tragedies of Aeschylus.
47 Phenea: A town in Arcadia.
48 His fellow-actors: Literally, flatterers of Dionysus.
O FATAL presiding genius of my destiny, how cruel thou art! how long wilt thou torture me, condemning me to all the horrors of poverty? For, if no one invites me to a meal, I shall be obliged to eat chervil and leeks, to pick herbs, and to quench my thirst with the water of Enneacrunus.49 As long as my frame was able to endure ill-treatment and was full of youthful vigour, I managed to put up with it; but now that my hair is beginning to turn grey, and all of life that is left to me is advancing towards old age, what remedy is there for my woes? Nothing is left for me but a rope from Haliartus,50 that I may go and hang myself in front of the Dipylum,51 unless it please Fortune to improve my lot. And, even if things remain as they 165 are, at least, I won’t throttle myself until I have had a regular good meal. In a short time, after the new moon of the month Pyanepsion,52 the famous and much-talked of wedding of Charito and Leocrates will take place; I shall be invited for the first, or, at any rate, for the second day.53 Marriage feasts need the presence of parasites to amuse the company: without us there is not the same air of enjoyment: the guests are more like pigs than an assembly of human beings.
49 Enneacrunus: Another name for the fountain of Callirhoe, so called from its having “nine springs.”
50 Haliartus: In Poeotia.
51 Dipylum: The “double gate,” the largest in Athens.
52 Pyanepsion: October-November.
53 The second day: Which was spent by the bridegroom at his father-in-law’s house.
I CANNOT endure to see Zeuxippe, the most infamous of all our courtesans, treat that young man so cruelly. He has not only spent all his money upon her, but, at the rate he is going, he will soon have parted with his houses54 and land. In order to keep his passion alive, she pretends to be in love with a young Euboean; by her artifices she will succeed in ruining them both; after which she will turn her attention to a fresh lover. But my heart is torn with grief, when I see the splendid inheritance which Lysias and Phanostrata, of blessed memory, have left to their heir, being squandered so rapidly. What they painfully amassed obol by obol will be swallowed up in one moment at the caprice of the commonest and most disgusting woman in Athens. 167 I feel compassion for the youth, for, as soon as he became his own master, he showed great kindness to us; it will be a great misfortune for us, if he is ruined. If this excellent young man’s entire fortune makes its way into this woman’s hands, good Heavens! what a charming feast we shall have! Philebus, as you know, is a simple fellow; he has always been gentle and kind to us parasites; he takes more pleasure in our witticisms and songs than in insulting us.
54 His houses: Properly, houses in which several families live, “flats,” or “lodging-houses,” answering to the Roman insula. Such houses were a common investment amongst the wealthier Athenians.
I HAVE travelled over the countries watered by the Eurotas55 and Lerna’s marsh; I have seen the streams of Pirene;56 now I eagerly leave Corinth for Athens, and return with renewed affection to the fountain of Callirhoe.57 The luxury and festivities of those places have no charms for me; I abandon them without regret, and hasten back to you.
The inhabitants of Peloponnesus appeared to me ill-mannered and by no means pleasant table-companions; at their drinking parties, one finds more insults than pleasure. For this reason, I prefer to content myself with the figs and raisins of Attica, rather than run the risk of growing thin58 for the gold of Corinth. They are always inventing new tortures; they make us drink while dancing on 169 one leg; they pour down our throats hot, fiery wine without water; then they throw us the bones and feet from the joints as if we were dogs, break their canes over our backs, and, by way of amusing themselves, flog us with whips and thongs. O Minerva, guardian and defender of the city, may it be my lot to live and die in Athens! It is better to be stretched out lifeless in front of the Diomeian or Knights’ gates, to be trampled under the feet of the passers-by, with the bare earth around me for a grave, than to put up with the pleasures of the Peloponnesus.
55 Eurotas: Anciently called the “king of rivers,” and worshipped by the Spartans as a powerful god. It rose in Arcadia and flowed through Laconia.
56 Pirene: A spring near Corinth.
57 : See on 164, 8.
58 Run the risk of growing thin: Others render “of being torn to pieces.”
I WILL have nothing to do with it! Let Gronthon and Sardanapalus do what they please. They are regular mad-caps, and they shall never persuade me to take part in so disgraceful a deed. I will do nothing of the sort, even though the oracle of Dodona59 were to recommend it as an honourable act. It is a rare thing to find in slaves either prudence, faithfulness, or honour. The whole affair is by all means to be avoided. You must know they are trying to seduce the mistress of the head of a household, and have already succeeded in the attempt; and, not satisfied with having got all they wanted, they are carrying off the furniture, one article after the other.
Perhaps their thefts will escape notice for a while; but, sooner or later, the neighbours will talk, the servants will 171 whisper, and the whole affair will be found out; and the end of it all will be, that the criminals will be condemned to drink hemlock, or thrown into the pit after they have suffered torture, imprisonment, and other punishments. Those who aid and abet such a crime without any shame will certainly suffer punishment in proportion to their misdeeds.
59 The oracle of Dodona: The prophetic oak of Dodona, the most ancient oracle of Greece.
YESTERDAY, while Charion was busy at the well, I slipped into the kitchen. There I saw a large dish filled with exquisite dainties, a roast fowl, and a pot containing anchovies and sardines from Megara. I seized hold of it, and, hastily retiring, looked about for a convenient spot whither I might betake myself to have a comfortable meal. As I could not find any place handy, I ran to the Painted Porch,60 and, as it just happened to be the time when it was not infested by any chattering philosophers, I began to enjoy the fruit of my labours. But, looking up from my dish, I saw approaching one of those young men from the gaming-table, and, seized with alarm, I threw what I was eating behind me, and flung myself on the ground, intending 173 to conceal my theft. I prayed to the averting gods that the storm might pass by, promising them some grains of incense, which I had picked up at the sacrifices and keep at home, although they are quite mouldy. My prayers were heard; for the gods made him turn in another direction. Having hurriedly gulped down all that was in the dishes, I gave the plate, the pot, and the fragments of what I had stolen to a friendly tavern-keeper, and departed, having thus gained a reputation for liberality and generosity.
60 The Painted Porch: See on 5, 11.
PERHAPS you will ask me why I am weeping, how I got my skull broken, and why I am wearing this fine coat torn to rags. I won some money — would to Heaven I never had! What right had I, weak as I was, to pit myself against stalwart young men? When I had swept in all the stakes, and they were entirely cleaned out, they all fell upon me; some beat me with their fists, others pelted me with stones, and others tore my clothes. But I kept tight hold of my money, resolved to die rather than surrender any of my winnings to them. For I time I resisted bravely, enduring the blows they dealt me, and the wrenching of my fingers; I was like a Spartan61 who is being flogged at the altar of Diana. But it was not at Lacedaemon 175 that I endured this treatment, but at Athens, and at the hands of the most rascally gamblers in the city. At last, I gave up the struggle and left myself at the mercy of the vile wretches, who turned out my pockets and went off with what they found in them. I thought it better to live without money than to die with it in my possession.
61 Like a Spartan: It was part of the severe discipline which prevailed among the Spartans to flog their young men to make them hardy and able to bear pain.
THOSE solemn personages,62 who are always singing the praises of the good and of virtue, differ little or nothing from ordinary individuals; I mean those fellows who go after our young men for money. What a banquet you missed, when Scamonides gave a feast in honour of his daughter’s birthday. Having recently invited a number of the wealthiest and noblest in Athens, he thought it his duty also to grace the festivities with the presence of philosophers. Amongst those was Euthycles the Stoic, an old man with a long beard, dirty, filthy-headed, decrepit, with more wrinkles in his forehead than a leather pouch. There were also present Themistagoras the Peripatetic,63 not an unpleasant person to look at, with a fine curly beard; Zenocrates the Epicurean, with carefully trimmed locks, and a long and venerable beard; 177 the “famous” Archibius the Pythagorean, as he is called, with a very pale face, waving hair that reached down to his chest, a long and pointed chin, a turned-up nose, lips drawn in and tightly compressed, an indication of his reserve.64 Suddenly Pancrates the Cynic, violently thrusting the other aside, forced his way in, leaning on a staff of holm-oak, which, in place of thick knots, was studded with brass nails, and carrying an empty wallet, conveniently slung for carrying away the remains of the feast. All the other guests, from beginning to end, maintained a uniform and orderly behaviour; but the philosophers, as the entertainment went on, and the wine-cup went round, began to behave in a most extraordinary fashion. Euthycles the Stoic, overcome by his years and having eaten and drunk too much, lay stretched out at full length, snoring loudly. The Pythagorean, breaking through his silence, began to trill the “Golden Verses” to a kind of musical air. The excellent Themistagoras, who, according to the doctrine of the Peripatetics, 178 places happiness not in bodily or mental advantages alone, but also in external enjoyment, asked for more pastry, and plenty of different dainties; Zenocrates the Epicurean took the girl who played the harp in his arms, looking at her wantonly and lasciviously with half-shut eyes, declaring that this quieted the desires of the flesh, and was the perfection of enjoyment. The Cynic, with the indifference of his sect, let down his cloak and publicly made water, and then proceeded to copulate with Doris the singing-girl, so that everyone could see him, declaring that nature was the principle of generation. No one took any notice of us parasites; none of those who were invited had a chance of showing what they could do to amuse the company, although Phoebiades, the lute-player, was there, and the comic mimes Sannyrion and Philistiades were not absent. But it was all in vain; these were not thought worth looking at; the nonsense of the sophists was the only thing that met with approval.
62 These solemn personages: This letter bears a very close resemblance to Lucian’s Symposium, or Banquet of the Philosophers.
63 The Peripatetic: The Peripatetics were the school of Aristotle and his followers, so called bacause he taught walking in a ����������� or walk of the Lyceum at Athens.
64 His reserve: The Pythagoreans were famous for their silence.
YOU are puffed up with pride for no reason at all, and swagger about full of insolence, like Pythocles65 in the proverb, and yet you carry off your share of breakfast. Give up filling your basket every day with fragments, like Harpades the Grammarian, who quoted a verse from Homer, which was singularly applicable to his own fondness for carrying off food: “To eat and drink, and then carry something away.”66 Wretch, have done with your insolence, or, in a twinkling, we shall be obliged to kick you naked out of doors.
65 Pythocles: The favourite of Epicurus.
66 To eat and drink: A quotation from the speech of Eumaeus to Ulysses, Odyssey, xv. 377.
HAVING taken too much wine, I ridiculed Zopyrus, the young master’s tutor. From that time, perhaps from listening to accusations against us, he has been less liberal, and treats us rather stingily. On feast days he used to send me a coat, or a cloak, or an upper garment; but lately, just before the Saturnalia,67 he sent me a pair of new shoes68 by Dromio. The latter gave himself airs about it, and asked me to pay him for his trouble; but I feel terribly vexed, and bite my hasty tongue, and see that I was wrong, now that it is too late; for, when words flow without reason to guide them, the tongue is bound to make mistakes. Farewell.
67 The Saturnalia: The festival in honour of Cronus or Saturn, celebrated at 225 Athens on the 12th day of the month Hecatombaeon (July-August).
68 Shoes: Called ��������������� after the Athenian general Iphicrates.
I DON‘T mind you in the least, although you threaten to whisper about me, and patch up disgraceful accusations against me. For the Malian soldier, who keeps me in food, is a simple and honourable man. Far from being jealous in the matter of women, only lately, when his tongue began to wag freely at table, he heaped abuse upon those who allow themselves to be jealous. He said that the duty of married women was to look after their household affairs and to lead a chaste life; but that courtesans ought to be looked upon as common property for all who wanted them. Just as we use the baths and their appliances in common, even though they are supposed to belong to one person, so is it with women who have registered themselves 182 courtesans. Therefore, since I know that your accusations will be fruitless, I do not tremble and bite my lip, like those who pass by the silent hero,69 for fear that some harm may come to me; for this man is not one of those puffed-up Athenian youths, but a gallant soldier, on whom flattery and slander are lost — and he who does not open his ears to slander is bound to be hated by the slanderers.
69 The silent hero: Probably Harpocrates, the god of silence, who was usually represented with his finger on his lips.
I INTEND to go to one of those people who hang out placards at the temple of Bacchus, and profess to interpret dreams. I will pay him the two drachmas which you know I have in hand, and give him an account of the vision which appeared to me in my sleep, to see if he can explain it. But it will not be out of place to communicate to you also, as a friend, my strange and incredible vision. I thought I was a handsome young man, no ordinary person, but Ganymede,70 the son of Tros, the beloved and beautiful boy of Ilium. I had a shepherd’s crook and a pipe; my head was encircled with a Phrygian tiara, and I was tending a flock of sheep on Mount Ida. Suddenly, a large eagle, with crooked talons and bent beak, and a savage look, flew 184 towards me, lifted me up in his claws from the rock on which I was sitting, and flew away with me into the air up to heaven: when I was close to the gates, guarded by the Hours, I fell, smitten by a thunderbolt; and methought the bird was no longer the mighty eagle, swooping down from the clouds, but a vulture, stinking foully, and I was the same Limenterus as I am now, without any clothes on, as if I had been getting ready for the bath or the wrestling-ground. Greatly shaken, as was natural, by such a fall, I awoke. I am still troubled by the strange vision, and I want to find out from those who are experienced in such things what is the meaning of my dream, if anyone really knows for certain, and is willing to tell me the truth.
70 Ganymede: Who was carried up to heaven by an eagle to Jupiter to be his cupbearer.
I HAVE not been to Corinth again; for I soon discovered, the disgusting manners of its rich men, and the misery of its poor. After most of them had been to the bath, when it was midday, I saw some talkative and comely young men, who were sauntering, not round the houses, but in the neighbourhood of the Craneium,71 where the bakers’ and fruiterers’ shops are. With their eyes bent upon the ground, one picked up bean-pods, another carefully examined nut-shells, to see if any of the kernel had been left in them accidentally, while another peeled off with his nails pomegranate-skins (which we Athenians call Sidia), to see if he could lay hands on any of the seeds; while others picked up pieces of bread, which had fallen on 186 the ground and been trodden underfoot, and greedily gulped them down. Such is the entrance to Peloponnesus. The city lying between the two seas is certainly agreeable to look at and abundantly furnished with luxuries, but its inhabitants are disagreeable and unamiable; and yet they say that Venus, when she rose from the sea near Cythera,72 saluted the citadel of Corinth. Perhaps Venus is the protecting goddess of the women only, and Famine is the tutelary god of the men.
71 The Craneium: The market-place of Corinth.
72 Cythera: The modern Cerigo, where Venus is said to have sprung from the sea.
O HERCULES, what a job I have had to wash off the sticky soup, which was thrown over me yesterday, with soap and Chalastraean nitre!73 It was not so much the insult itself that annoyed me as that it was undignified. I am the son of Anthemion, one of the richest men in Athens; my mother Axiothea is descended from Megacles; while the father of the man who treated me like this is some low fellow, and his mother a barbarian, a Scythian or Colchian slave, bought at the monthly fair: at least, some of my acquaintances have told me so. And now I, having lost all the fortune that my father left me, in humble guise am content if I can procure enough to satisfy the cravings of my belly. In the meantime, O ye gods! Dosiades harangues the 188 people from the Pnyx,74 is one of the judges of the Heliaea, and guides the people who imprisoned Miltiades, in whose honour the trophy at Marathon was set up, and ostracised75 Aristides the Just. But what most grieves me is the loss of my name: my parents called me Polybius; but Fortune has changed it, and forced me to take the name of Hydrosphrantes76 amongst those of my profession.
73 Chalastraean nitre: From Chalestra, the name of a town and lake in Macedonia. It is highly spoken of by Pliny.
74 The Pnyx: The place at Athens where the �������������� or assemblies of the people were held; it was cut out of a hill about a quarter of mile west of the Acropolis or citadel, and was semi-circular in form like a theatre.
75 Ostracised: When it was decided to remove a powerful party-leader, after the Senate and Ecclesia had decided that such a step was necessary, each citizen wrote upon a tile or oystershell (ὀ�����ὸ�) the name of the person whom he desired to banish. The votes were then collected, and if it was found that 6,000 had been recorded against any one person, he was obliged to withdraw from the city within ten days.
76 Hydrosphrantes: Water-smeller.
YOU know the reason why the women jeered at me. An old slave lately abused me, telling me to go to the devil for a troublesome chatterbox. There is a secret amongst them which they keep more carefully than the Eleusinian mysteries, and they try to conceal it from us, who know all about it, or else think that, although we have heard of it, we do not believe it. But I know what is going on, and I intend presently to tell my master; for I do not want to show myself less grateful than the dogs, which bark in defence of those who feed and take care of them. An adulterer is laying siege to the household — a young man from Elis, one of the Olympian fascinators;77 he sends neatly-folded notes every day to our master’s wife, together with faded bouquets and 190 half-eaten apples. These accursed servants are in the plot, as well as the old woman, with one foot in the grave, whom the rest call Empusa,78 because she is ready to do and suffer anything. I can hold my tongue no longer; I want to show myself a friend, not a parasite; besides, I thirst to have my revenge upon them. For I am certain, if this affair be brought to light, the servants will be put in the stocks, and the adulterer will be put to death, with a radish79 stuffed up his backside. And the abandoned wife shall pay the just penalty of her wantonness, unless Lysicles is more stupid in such matters than the hunchback Polyagrus, who, after exacting compensation in money from his wife’s lovers, let them go without further punishment.
77 One of the Olympian fascinators: The commentators do not venture upon an explanation. It may simply refer to the athletes who had gained prizes at the Olympic games, and gave themselves airs in consequence.
78 Empusa: A hobgoblin that assumed various shapes.
79 A radish: This, as is well known, formed part of the punishment of an adulterer.
WHAT tricks these accursed harlots are always devising! They are in league with my mistress, and Phaedrias knows nothing of what is going on. Five month after marriage, the woman had a child ̵ a boy; they wrapped him in his swaddling-clothes, fastened a necklace and some tokens,80 by which he might be afterwards recognised, round his neck, and gave him to Asphalion, one of the labourers, to carry to the summit of Mount Parnes, and leave him there. In the meanwhile, we were obliged to keep the cruel deed a secret, and I would keep silence now, but silence is the food of anger. If they annoy me ever so little, reproaching me for a flatterer and parasite, and heaping the usual insults upon me, Phaedrias shall be informed of what has taken place.
80 Some tokens: The recognition of children in later life through these tokens is a favourite device with Greek and Roman dramatists.
CRITO has been so foolish and such a dotard as to allow his son to go to a philosopher’s school; he has sent him to that austere and gloomy old Stoic, whom he thinks the fittest instructor for the youth, that he may learn from him the art of splitting straws, and turn out disputatious and double-tongued. The lad has copied his instructor most faithfully; he has paid more attention to imitating his life and manners than to learning his doctrines. Seeing that his master, during the day, was solemn and severe and always lecturing the young men, while at night he covered his head with his cloak and haunted the brothels, he has admirably copied his model; and for the last four days he has been madly in love with Acalanthis of the Ceramicus. She is a 193 friend of mine, and professes to love me; she knows that the youth is mad with desire, but refuses to yield to him, and declares that he shall not enjoy her favours until I give my consent to it, for she has left the decision to me. O Venus, goddess of sensual love,81 bestow every blessing upon this excellent woman; she has behaved more like a friend than a prostitute! Since that time I have been loaded with handsome presents; if they pour in upon me even more abundantly, as time goes on, nothing shall prevent me from ransoming her from her master and making her my lawful wife. For she to whom I owe my support has every right to share my comforts.
81 Goddess of sensual love: Venus popularis, or ������������, the goddess of “common” as opposed to “spiritual” love.
THE vessel from Istria,82 which is anchored off the pier, has brought great good luck. One of its passengers is the wonderful merchant, whose lavish open-handedness makes the wealthiest and most generous of our citizens seem mean and niggardly by comparison. He has invited not one parasite only from the city, but all of us, as well as the most expensive courtesans, the most beautiful singing-girls, in fact, all who perform in public. He is not squandering his patrimony, but all the money he spends has been honestly earned by himself. He is fond of music, makes his stay in the city very agreeable to all, and is never rude to anybody. He is very pleasant to look at; you would say that his face was the dancing-ground of the Hours, and that 195 Persuasion was seated on his lips. His wit is refined, his conversation agreeable. “The Muse has poured sweet nectar over his lips,” in the words of the poet; for it does not seem inappropriate for a native of Athens to use the language of those who have received a liberal education — which is the case with all of us.
82 Istria: On the Euxine Sea.
YOU saw how that accursed barber83 who lives by the roadside treated me; I mean that chattering gossip, who offers his mirrors for sale at Brentesium, who tames jackdaws, and plays a kind of tune with his razors. When I went to him to get shaved, he received me most politely, made me sit down in a high chair, and put a clean cloth around my neck; then he gently drew the razor over my cheeks, and took off my thick hairs. But, in doing this, he was cunning and mischievous, for he only half shaved me, and left one part of my face rough, while the other was smooth. I, knowing nothing of the trick he had played me, went as usual to Pasion’s house, without waiting to be invited. When the guests saw me, they nearly killed themselves 197 with laughing. I could not make out what had excited their mirth, until one of them came forward into the middle of the room and caught hold of and pulled at the hairs which had been left. I took a knife, and, feeling greatly annoyed, uprooted them somehow; and now I intend to look for a big stick and go and break the rascal’s skull. What those who keep us do, in order to amuse themselves, this fellow had the audacity to do, although he has never contributed anything to my support.
83 That accursed barber: We are reminded of the barber in the Arabian Nights.
WHEN I first saw Neuris, the maiden who carried the basket,84 with her beautiful arms and fingers, her eyes flashing glances like lightning, her charming figure and complexion, and her glistening cheeks, I was so inflamed with passion that, forgetting who I was, I ran up and attempted to kiss her; then, when I came to my senses, I was ready to follow her and kiss the marks of her footsteps. Alas, alas, for my insolent folly! to think that I could not be content with lupins, beans, and pulse, but, grown wanton with high feeding, must needs long for what was beyond my reach. Assemble, all of you, and stone me to death, before I am consumed by my desires, and let me have, as a lover’s tomb, a mound of pebbles.
84 Who carried the basket: This basket contained the sacred things that were carried in procession at the feasts of Ceres, Bacchus, and Minerva. The office was highly prized.
O BLESSED gods, be kind and propitious! What a danger did I escape, when those thrice-accursed clubmen tried to throw a kettle of boiling water over me! I saw what they were ready to do when I was a long way off, and jumped out of the way. They poured at random, and the boiling contents, falling over Bathylus, the lad who was handing the wine, completely flayed him; the skin has peeled off his head, and his back is covered with blisters. Who then of the gods was it that protected me? Was it the Saviour princes,85 who preserved me from the streams of fire, as in time past Simonides the son of Leoprepes at the banquet of Cranon?
85 The Saviour princes: The Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux. The following is the story of Simonides: He was at a banquet, when someone came to tell him that two young men in the street wanted to speak to him. He went out: and at the same moment, the roof of the house fell in, and destroyed all beneath it. The two young men were supposed 227 to have been Castor and Pollus. Simonides of Ceos was the most prolific poet of Greece, and is considered as a first inventor of a mnemonical system.
I HAVE informed Mnesilochus of Paeania of his wife’s wantonness; and he, when he ought to have thoroughly sifted and investigated the matter in various ways, like the precious fool that he is, left it to his wife’s oath. The woman led him to the well of Callichorum86 at Eleusis, swore she was innocent, and cleared herself. He was somehow or other convinced, and has abandoned all suspicion; and I am ready to let anyone who pleases cut out my chattering tongue with a potsherd from Tenedos.
86 The Well of Callichorum: Wives suspected of infidelity to their husbands were obliged to declare their innocence at this well.
I WAS fairly intimate with Corydon the farmer, who often used to laugh heartily at me, since he understood city wit better than country people usually do. When I first saw him, I thought it would be a regular piece of luck for me, if I could give up a city life and retire to the country, and live with a friend who passed his life quietly working on his farm; then I need no longer think about making money by questionable practices in the courts, but could wait patiently to enjoy the fruits of the earth. Having determined to do this, I made friends with Corydon, dressed myself like a countryman, clad myself in a sheepskin, took up a mattock, and got myself up as a regular ditcher. As long as I did this for amusement, it was endurable, and I thought I had made a very good 202 bargain, since I was free from blows and insults, and the unequal footing on which I stood with my wealthy patrons; but when he made a daily practice of ordering me to work, and I had either to plough, clear the stony ground, dig holes, or plant in the ditches, then this kind of life became unbearable; I repented of my foolish act, and longed for the city again. When I returned after my long absence, I did not meet with the same reception as before; instead of being looked upon as a wit, I was considered rough and uncultivated, in fact, a regular boor. All the houses of the wealthy were from that time forth shut against me, and hunger knocked at the doors of my belly. Hard pressed for the bare necessaries of life, I joined a band of Megarian brigands, who lie in wait for travellers near the Scironian rocks; and since then I have gained a dishonest livelihood without working. I do not know whether I shall escape detection; but I am alarmed about my new profession, for such a change of life generally ends in destruction rather than safety.
LEXIPHANES, the comic poet, seeing me treated with drunken insults, took me aside. He first advised me not to continue my present manner of life, which only ended in insult; and then, having tested my abilities, got me into the comedians’ company, which he said would enable me to earn my living. He ordered me to get up the part of a slave for the next Dionysia,87 at which I was to make my first appearance. As it was rather late in life for me to change my nature and habits, I seemed peevish and hard to teach; but, as I had no other alternative, I learned my part, and, now that I have studied and practised it, I am ready to perform with the rest of the company. You and your friends must be ready to 204 start the applause, so that, if I should happen to make any mistakes, the city young men may have no opportunity of hooting or hissing me. Let the clapping of hands in applause drown the noise of the scoffers.
87 For the next Dionysia: At which new plays were performed.
THOSE who have mutilated the Hermae,88 or betrayed89 the secrets of the Eleusinian goddess, have never endured such agony as I did, when I fell into the clutches of that accursed woman Phanomache. When she found out that her husband was devoted to that Ionian wench,90 who is clever at tossing up balls and swinging lamps round, she immediately suspected that I was the go-between in the connexion, ordered her servants to seize me, and clapped me into the stocks. The next day, she took me before her father, the sulky Cleaenetus, who is now President of the Council, and held in great respect by the members of the Areopagus. But when it is the will of the gods that anyone should escape, they can draw him up even from the 206 bottom of the pit, just as they saved me from the clutches of the three-headed dog,91 who, they say, keeps guard before the entrance to the nether world. For, before the terrible old man could bring my case before the Council, he was attacked by the hot ague, and died in the morning. He now lies stretched out in death, and his household are making preparations for the funeral; meanwhile, I ran off as fast as my feet could carry me. I owe my safety and freedom, not so much to the escort of the son of Maia,92 the daughter of Atlas, as to the swiftness of my feet and my own boldness.
88 Hermae: Figures of Hermes (Mercury) in the public streets, which it was considered a heinous offence to mutilate or remove.
89 Betrayed: Literally, “danced out,” apparently referring to cetain dances which burlesqued these solemn rites.
90 That Ionian wench: Ionian girls were famous for their wanton dances.
91 The three-headed dog: Cerberus, who guarded the gates of the nether world.
92 The son of Maia: Hermes (Mercury), who escorted the souls (�����������ῖ�) of the dead to Hades.