an apple on a high branch (Sappho)

This fragment from Sappho is an epithalamium, a poem for a bride on her wedding-day, to be sung praise of her by the bridesmaids.

οἶον τὸ γλυκύμαλον ἐρεύθεται ἄκρῳ ἐπ’ ὔσδῳ,
ἄκρον ἐπ’ ἀκροτάτῳ· λελάθοντο δὲ μαλοδρόπηες,
οὐ μὰν ἐκλελάθοντ’, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐδύναντ’ ἐπίκεσθαι.

1 οἶον = οἷον—γλυκύ|μᾱλον ‘sweet apple’ (Ionic-Attic μῆλον, Latin mālum ‘apple’)—ἐρεύθομαι ‘redden, become red’—ὔσδῳ = ὄζῳ dat sg ὄζος ‘branch, bough, twig.’
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A dog’s epitaph

In light of a recent canine death in the family, I thought I would publish this nice little epitaph from the Inscriptiones Graecae, and some of my notes on it.

Τὴν τρίβον ὃς παράγεις, ἂν πως τόδε σῆμα νοήσῃς,
 μή, δέομαι, γελάσῃς, εἰ κυνός ἐστι τάφος·
ἐκλαύσθην· χεῖρες δὲ κόνιν συνέθηκαν ἄνακτος,
 ὅς μου καὶ στήλῃ τόνδ’ ἐχάραξε λόγον.

IG 14.2128

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“Who, O Sappho, does you wrong?”

(Featured image: Sappho and Alcaeus by Lawrence Alma-Tadema)

Fragment 1, Sappho’s best-known and most complete work in our possession, is an urgent prayer to Aphrodite that the goddess might use her famous charms to reciprocate an unrequited love.

buffy_sappho
Sappho 1 painted on Tara’s back in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Sapphic stanza: ¯ ˘ ¯ x ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ¯ (3x)
¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯

Ποικιλόθρον’ ἀθάνατ’ Ἀφρόδιτα,
παῖ Δίος, δολόπλοκε, λίσσομαί σε,
μή μ’ ἄσαισι μηδ’ ὀνίαισι δάμνα,
πότνια, θῦμον,

1   ποικιλόθρον[ε] ποικιλό|θρονος voc sg fem ‘[one with a] multicolored (ποικίλος) throne (θρόνος),’ an exocentric compound adjective; but Ann Carson reads this word as ποικίλοφρον (voc. of ποικιλόφρων) ‘with a spangled (ποικίλος) mind (φρήν)’—Ἀφρόδιτα is the Aeolic vocative of Ἀφροδίτᾱ ‘Aphrodite’

2   Δίος Ζεύς gen sg; here and elsewhere note the recessive accent characteristic of this dialect; Attic and Ionic have Διός—δολόπλοκε δολό|πλοκος voc sg fem ‘weaver (πλοκός, from πλέκω ‘weave’) of wiles (δόλος)’

3   ἀσαισι ἄσᾱ dat pl ‘vexations’—ὀνίαισι ὀνίᾱ dat pl = ἀνίη ‘sorrows’—δάμνα δαμνάω imperat ‘overpower’

4   θῦμον = θυμόν, an accusative of respect

ἀλλὰ τυῖδ’ ἔλθ’, αἴ ποτα κἀτέρωτα 5
τᾶς ἔμας αὔδως ἀίοισα πήλυι
ἔκλυες, πάτρος δὲ δόμον λίποισα
χρύσιον ἦλθες

5   τυῖδ[ε] ‘to here, hither’ (Aeolic)—αἴ ποτα = εἴ ποτε—κἀτέρωτα = καὶ ἀτέρωτα ‘also at another time’  = ‘also at a previous time’

6   τᾶς ἔμας αὔδως = τῆς ἐμῆς αὐδῆς—ἀίοισα = ἀίουσα αἰω fem pres part ‘hearing,’ taking genitive object τᾶς ἔμας αὔδωςπήλυι = τηλοῦ ‘far away’

7   λίποισα = λιποῦσα λείπω fem aor part

8   χρύσιον ambiguous as to whether it agrees with l. 7 δόμον or l. ἄρμ[α]; the latter seems better

ἄρμ’ ὐπασδεύξαισα· κάλοι δέ σ’ ἆγον
ὤκεες στροῦθοι περὶ γᾶς μελαίνας 10
πύκνα δίννηντες πτέρ’ ἀπ’ ὠράνω αἴθε-
ρος διὰ μέσσω.

9   ὐπασδεύξαισα = ὑποζεύξασα ὑπο-ζεύγνυμι ‘put under the yoke’—ἆγον = ἦγον ἄγω 3 pl imperf

10   στροῦθοι = στρουθοί ‘sparrows’—περὶ γᾶς μελαίνας = ὑπὲρ γῆς μελαίνης

11   πύκνα ‘close-packed; numerous’—δἰννηντες pres part ‘whirling, spinning’—ὠράνω = οὐρανοῦ; earlier *εhε and *οhο contract into η and ω, not ει and ου, respectively (cf. the present active infinitive ending in l. 19 ἄγην)

αἶψα δ’ ἐξίκοντο· σὺ δ’, ὦ μάκαιρα,
μειδιάσαισ’ ἀθανάτῳ προσώπῳ
ἤρε’, ὄττι δηὖτε πέπονθα κὤττι 15
δηὖτε κάλημι,

15   ἤρε[ο] = ἤρεο 2 sg aor mid ‘asked’—ὄττι ‘what (indirect question)’; this begins the threefold line of indirect questioning, which becomes direct in l. 18)—δηὖτε = δὴ αὖτε ‘now, this time’—πέπονθα πάσχω 1 sg perf ‘I have undergone’; note the switch to present-tense (well, present perfect) here and in l. 16 κάλημι and in l. θέλω to make the dialogue sound more immediate—κὤττι = καὶ ὄττι

16   κάλημι = καλέω; verbs in -άω, -έω, -όω tend to be -μι verbs in Aeolic; cf. l. 20 ἀδίκησι

κὤττι μοι μάλιστα θέλω γένεσθαι
μαινόλᾳ θύμῳ· ‘τίνα δηὖτε Πείθω
μαῖσ’ ἄγην ἐς σὰν φιλότατα, τίς σ’, ὦ
Ψάπφ’, ἀδίκησι; 20

17   γένεσθαι = γενέσθαι, an aorist infinitive with recessive accent

18   μαινόλᾳ μαινόλης ‘raving, frenzied’; technically a noun, but here in apposition to θύμῳ—ΠείθωPersuasion’; accusative subject of infinitive l. 19 ἄγην and the object of μαῖσαι; “Whom do you now want Persuasion to bring … ?”

19   μαῖσ[αι] μάομαι 2 sg ‘desire’—ἄγην = ἄγειν—ἐς σὰν φιλότατα lit. ‘into your love’ = ‘into loving you’

20   Ψάπφ[α] Ψάπφω voc; the narrator is Sappho herself—ἀδίκησι = ἀδικεῖ ‘does wrong to’

καὶ γὰρ αἰ φεύγει, ταχέως διώξει,
αἰ δὲ δῶρα μὴ δέκετ’ ἀλλὰ δώσει,
αἰ δὲ μὴ φίλει, ταχέως φιλήσει
κωὐκ ἐθέλοισα.’

21   διώξει διώκω 3 sg fut ‘follow’

24   κωὐκ = καὶ οὐκ—ἐθέλοισα = ἐθέλουσα; this is the only word in the poem that explicitly identifies Sappho’s beloved as female (note that the masculine participle ἐθέλων would not fit the meter)

ἔλθε μοι καὶ νῦν, χαλέπαν δὲ λῦσον 25
ἐκ μερίμναν, ὄσσα δέ μοι τέλεσσαι
θῦμος ἰμέρρει, τέλεσον· σὺ δ’ αὔτα
σύμμαχος ἔσσο.

25   χαλέπαν is an Aeolic 1st-declension genitive plural, like l. 26 μερίμναν

26   μερίμναν gen pl ‘cares, thoughts’—ὄσσα ‘as much as …’ = ‘whatever …’; its correlative τόσσα is implied with l. 27 τέλεσον

27   ἰμέρρει = ἱμείρει ‘longs for, desires’

28   σύμμαχος ‘ally, co-fighter’—ἔσσο εἶναι 2 sg pres imper ‘be!’; for the deponent morphology, cf. also the future ἔσεσθαι

And now, a treat for making it to the end of the poem (or at least for mousing down to my translation). Here is a enthralling rendition of Sappho 1, with music and in a solid reconstructed pronunciation. The faithfulness to the meter of the poem, on the part of both the singer and the guitarist, is impressive and refreshing. I cannot speak to the authenticity of the melodies; reconstruction of ancient music is something I have great curiosity about but have not spent a substantial amount of time looking into. I would be very interested to know how the music was put together.

Fragment 1 (Sappho)

Immortal Aphrodite of the pied throne,
child of Zeus, weaver of wiles, I entreat you—
do not overwhelm me with vexations and sorrows,
Lady, in my mind;

Rather, come hither, if ever once before 5
you—listening to my voice from afar—
heard me, and you left your father’s house
and came, yoking

your golden chariot; lovely ones led you,
swift sparrows, over the black earth, 10
whirling their many wings, out of the sky through
the middle of the air.

They arrived immediately; and you, O blessed one,
smiling with your deathless countenance,
asked what I have undergone this time and why 15
I call this time

and what it is that I most wish to happen
in my raving heart; “Whom this time do you wish Persuasion
to lead into loving you? Who, O
Sappho, wrongs you? 20

For even if she flees, she will soon follow you,
and if she does not receive your gifts, she will give to you,
and if she does not love you, she will soon love,
even unwillingly.”

Come to me even now, and release me from grievous 25
thoughts, and whatever my heart wishes you
to do for me, do it; and you yourself
do be my ally.

Isthmian 7 (Pindar)

The lyric poet Pindar composed victory odes for winners in the four Panhellenic Games (Olympian, Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian). This one is to a certain Strepsiades from Thebes who won in the pankration, a form of competitive fighting that combined wrestling and boxing, with few rules besides a prohibition on biting or attacking the eyes. This ode to Strepsiades begins with an iteration through seven events, some historical and some mythical, associated with the victor’s hometown of Thebes (which happens to be Pindar’s place of origin as well).

Part I (ll. 1–15)

Part II (ll. 16–30)

Part III (ll. 31–51)

Isthmian 7 (Pindar)—Part III

Go to Part II

τὺ δέ, Διοδότοιο παῖ, μαχατὰν
αἰνέων Μελέαγρον, αἰνέων δὲ καὶ Ἕκτορα
Ἀμφιάραόν τε,
εὐανθέ’ ἀπέπνευσας ἁλικίαν

31   τύ = σύ ‘thou’—Διοδότοιο Διόδοτος gen sg; the father of Strepsiades the uncle—μαχατάν = μαχητήν; in apposition to l. 32 Μελέαγρον

32   This line and the next liken the elder Strepsiades to legendary heroes who died famous deaths.—αἰνέων ‘bringing glory to’ = ‘imitating’—ΜελέαγρονMeleager,’ host of the hunt for the Calydonian Boar, killed by his mother thereafter—ἝκτοραHector,’ prince of Troy and paragon of virtue, slain by Achilles while defending his homeland towards the end of the Trojan War

33   ἈμφιάραονAmphiaraus‘ fought in the war of the Seven Against Thebes, and avoided death on the battlefield when Zeus opened up the earth to bury him along with his horses and chariot (a subject treated more extensively in Pindar’s Nemean Ode IX)

34   εὐανθέα acc sg ‘blooming’ lit. ‘well (εὐ)-flowered (ἄνθος)’—ἀπέπνευσας ἀπο-πνεύω 2 sg aor ind ‘breathed out’—ἁλικίαν lit. ‘lifetime’ = ‘life’

προμάχων ἀν’ ὅμιλον, ἔνθ’ ἄριστοι (στρ. γ’) 35
ἔσχον πολέμοιο νεῖκος ἐσχάταις ἐλπίσιν.
ἔτλαν δὲ πένθος οὐ φατόν· ἀλλὰ νῦν μοι
Γαιάοχος εὐδίαν ὄπασσεν
ἐκ χειμῶνος. ἀείσομαι χαίταν στεφάνοισιν ἁρ- 39a
μόζων. ὁ δ’ ἀθανάτων 39b
μὴ θρασσέτω φθόνος, 39c

35   προμάχων πρό|μαχος gen pl ‘one fighting (μαχέομαι) in the front (πρό)’—ἔνθα ‘where (relative)’

36   νεῖκος neut ‘strife, quarrel’

37   ἔτλαν τλάω 3 pl root aorist ‘endured, suffered’—φατόν adj neut ‘spoken, speakable’ from φημί ‘I speak’; take οὐ φατόν as ‘unspeakable’

38   Γαιάοχος ‘Earth (γαίη)-Shaker (*ϝεχ- ’cause to move’ < PIE *weģʰ-),’ an epithet of Poseidon, god of the ocean and of earthquakes—εὐδίαν ‘fair weather’ = ‘tranquility, peace’

39   χειμῶνος usually ‘winter, winter storm’ but here = ‘storm’—ἀεἴδω 1 sg fut mid/pass—ἁρμόζων ‘fitting, entwining’ looks ahead to l. 39c φθόνος—μὴ θρασσέτω θράσσω (Att. θράττω) 3 sg pres imp ‘may it not trouble’; the object is the following clause, beginning with l. 40 ὅ τι ‘that which’—φθόνος ‘ill-will, jealousy’

ὅ τι τερπνὸν ἐφάμερον διώκων (ἀντ. γ’) 40
ἕκαλος ἔπειμι γῆρας ἔς τε τὸν μόρσιμον
αἰῶνα. θνᾴσκομεν γὰρ ὁμῶς ἅπαντες·
δαίμων δ’ ἄϊσος· τὰ μακρὰ δ’ εἴ τις
παπταίνει, βραχὺς ἐξικέσθαι χαλκόπεδον θεῶν 44a
ἕδραν· ὅ τοι πτερόεις 44b
ἔρριψε Πάγασος 44c

40   τερπνόν adj neut acc ‘delightful, pleasant’—ἐφάμερον ἐπ-ήμερος ‘lasting but a day, short-lived’ (cf. ephemeral) from ἐπὶ + ἡμέρα

41   ἕκαλος = ἕκηλος ‘gladly’—ἔπειμι ‘I come (εἶμι) upon (ἐπί), approach’—μόρσιμον ‘allotted, appointed by fate’

42   θνᾴσκομεν = θνῄσκομενὁμῶς ‘in the same way’

43   δαίμων = ‘fate, destiny’—ἄϊσος ‘unequal,’ from ἀ- + ἴσος—τὰ μακρά ‘far-off things’—εἴ is the first word of this clause in sensible English

44   παπταίνει ‘look about at’—βραχύς here has the sense of ‘too short to’ + inf.; take the adjective as predicative, i.e. ‘he is too short’—ἐξικέσθαι ‘reach’; the infinitive limits the domain of βραχύς—χαλκόπεδον ‘with floor (πέδον) of bronze (χαλκός)’ἕδραν ‘sitting-place,’ from ἕζομαι ‘sit’— looks ahead to Πάγασος—πτερόεις ‘winged’ lit. ‘feather-having,’ with the same suffix as in l. 22 μορφάες; cf. πτερόν ‘feather’—ἔρριψε ῥίπτω 3 sg aor ‘threw,’ as horses do; the object is in ll. 45 and 46—Πάγασος = Πήγασος ‘Pegasus

δεσπόταν ἐθέλοντ’ ἐς οὐρανοῦ σταθμοὺς (ἐπ. γ’) 45
ἐλθεῖν μεθ’ ὁμάγυριν Βελλεροφόνταν
Ζηνός. τὸ δὲ πὰρ δίκαν
γλυκὺ πικροτάτα μένει τελευτά.
ἄμμι δ’, ὦ χρυσέᾳ κόμᾳ θάλλων, πόρε, Λοξία,
τεαῖσιν ἁμίλλαισιν 50
εὐανθέα καὶ Πυθόϊ στέφανον.

45   δεσπόταν = δεσπότην ‘master,’ as of an animal; from PIE *dems (gen. of *doms ‘house’) + potis ‘master’; cf. despotἐθέλοντα ‘wishing’ agrees with δεσπόταν and l. 46 Βελλεροφόνταν—σταθμούς here = ‘dwelling-places’

46   ἐλθεῖν is dependent on l. 45 ἐθέλοντα—ὁμάγυριν = ὁμήγυριν ‘assembly’ (ὁμός + ἀγείρω)—Βελλεροφόνταν = Βελλεροφόντην acc ‘Bellerophon,’ who tamed Pegasus

47   Ζηνός gen ‘of Zeus’—τὸ … πὰρ δίκαν γλυκύ ‘that which is sweet beyond measure, sweetness beyond measure’ is the beginning of a gnomic line

48   πικροτάτα πικρός fem nom sg superlative ‘most bitter,’ here figurative—μένει ‘awaits’ = ‘is the consequence of’ takes l. 47 τὸ … γλυκύ as its object

49   ἄμμι is Aeolic for ἡμῖν—θάλλων ‘blooming’—πόρε 2 sg aor imp act ‘give!’—Λοξία Λοξίης voc a nickname of Apollo, in whose honor the Pythian Games were held

50   τεαῖσιν τεός fem dat pl ‘thy’—ἁμίλλαισιν ‘contests’

51   Πυθόϊ loc adv ‘at Pytho’ i.e. ‘at the Pythian Games

And you, son of Diodotus, emulating
the warrior Meleager, and also emulating Hector
and Amphiaraus,
breathed out your blooming life

Strophe Γ
in the crowd of those at the front, where the very best 35
kept up the strife of war with their final hopes.
They endured unspeakable grief; but now
the Earth-Shaker has provided me with tranquility
out of the storm. I shall sing, fitting my hair with 39a
wreaths. May the 39b
jealousy of the immortals not disturb 39c

Antistrophe Γ
whatever day-to-day delight I pursue as 40
I gladly approach old age and my fate-appointed
time. For we all die in the same way,
but our destinies are unequal; if someone is looking at
far-off things, he is too short to reach the gods’ bronze-floored 44a
seat; for that winged one, 44b
Pegasus, threw 44c

Epode Γ
his master Bellerophon when he wished to go 45
to the dwelling-places of heaven among the assembly
of Zeus. A most bitter end awaits that which is
sweet beyond measure.
Give to us, O Loxias blooming with golden hair,
from your contests, 50
a flowery wreath at Pytho as well.

Isthmian 7 (Pindar)—Part II

Go to Part I

ἀλλὰ παλαιὰ γὰρ
εὕδει χάρις, ἀμνάμονες δὲ βροτοί,

16   παλαιά = παλαιή fem nom sg ‘ancient, of earlier days’

17   εὕδει ‘sleeps’—ἀμνάμονες adj ἀ|μνήμων ‘forgetful’; take as the predicate of βροτοί

ὅ τι μὴ σοφίας ἄωτον ἄκρον (στρ. β’)
κλυταῖς ἐπέων ῥοαῖσιν ἐξίκηται ζυγέν.
κώμαζ’ ἔπειτεν ἁδυμελεῖ σὺν ὕμνῳ 20
καὶ Στρεψιάδᾳ· φέρει γὰρ Ἰσθμοῖ
νίκαν παγκρατίου· σθένει τ’ ἔκπαγλος ἰδεῖν τε μορ- 22a
φάεις· ἄγει τ’ ἀρετὰν 22b
οὐκ αἴσχιον φυᾶς. 22c

18   ἄωτον τὸ ἄωτον ‘the choicest, the flower of its kind’

19   ζυγέν ζεύγνυμι neut sg aor pass participle ‘joined’

20   κώμαζε κωμάζω 2 sg pres imp ‘revel! make merry!’; the addressee is still l. 1 Θήβα ‘Thebes’—ἁδυμελεῖ ἡδυ|μελής ‘sweetly (ἡδύς) singing (cf. μελῳδέω)’

21   Ἴσθμοῖ a locative adverb = the eponymous Isthmus

22   σθένει dat sg ‘strength, might’—ἔκπαγλος ‘marvelous’—ἰδεῖν ‘to see’ is an infinitive that limits μορφάεις, i.e. ‘shapely to behold’ = ‘shapely, as one looking upon him can see’—μορφάεις = μορφή-εις lit. ‘having (-εις) a shape (μορφή)’ = ‘having a pleasing shape’; the suffix -εις (cf. νιφόεις ‘having snow’ = ‘snowy’; ἠνεμόεις ‘having wind’ = ‘windy’) is from *-went-s (cf. Skt -vant- with the same meaning; e.g. bhaga-vān ‘fortune-having’ = ‘blessed’)—αἴσχιον αἰσχρός comp; the neuter accusative is used adverbially, i.e. ‘more shamefully, more basely’; οὐκ αἴσχιον thus means ‘in no baser a way’ which basically = ‘no less’—ἀρετὰν … φυᾶς ‘excellence of stature’; φυή is from the verb φύω ‘grow’

φλέγεται δὲ ἰοπλόκοισι Μοίσαις, (ἀντ. β’)
μάτρωΐ θ’ ὁμηνύμῳ δέδωκε κοινὸν θάλος,
χάλκασπις ᾧ πότμον μὲν Ἄρης ἔμειξεν, 25
τιμὰ δ’ ἀγαθοῖσιν ἀντίκειται.
ἴστω γὰρ σαφές, ὅστις ἐν ταύτᾳ νεφέλᾳ χάλα- 27a
ζαν αἵματος πρὸ φίλας 27b
πάτρας ἀμύνεται, 27c

23   ἰοπλόκοισι ‘with violet (ἰο-) hair (πλόκος ‘lock of hair, plait’)’—Μοίσαις = Μούσαις; in Aeolic, *-nts clusters (as in *montsya ‘memory’ = ‘Muse’) are always resolved with loss of the nasal and the emergence of a diphthong ending in ι

24   μάτρωϊ = μήτρως ‘maternal uncle’; Strepsiades had uncle with the same name (ὁμηνύμῳ ‘homonymous’) who had previously fallen in battle, and who Pindar is now going to tell us a little bit about—θάλος ‘olive wreath,’ of victory

25   χάλκασπις ‘with shield (ἄσπις) of bronze (χαλκός),’ here an epithet of Ἄρηςἔμειξεν μίγνυμι 3 sg aor ind lit. ‘mixed’ but here fig. ‘concocted, devised’

26   This is a gnomic statement.

27   ἴστω οῖδα 3 sg perf imp ‘let him know’; the subject is ὅστις—νεφέλᾳ = νεφέλη ‘cloud’ = ‘cloud of battle’—χάλαζαν ‘hail, hailstorm,’ here fig.

λοιγὸν ἄντα φέρων ἐναντίῳ στρατῷ, (ἐπ. β’)
ἀστῶν γενεᾷ μέγιστον κλέος αὔξων
ζώων τ’ ἀπὸ καὶ θανών. 30

29   ἀστῶν ἀστός gen pl ‘townsmen, citizens’—κλέος ‘fame’ < PIE ḱlew- ‘hear’ cf. Rus слушать ‘listen,’ also Eng ‘loud,’ ‘listen’—αὔξων is the main verb in the indirect discourse started by l. 27 ἴστω (verbs of knowledge and perception, like οἶδα, use participles and not infinitives in oratio obliqua), i.e. ‘may he know that he increases…’

But ancient glory
sleeps, and mortals are forgetful

Strophe B
of whatever does not reach the highest peak of wisdom,
joined with renowned streams of words.
Therefore, with a sweet-singing chant, rejoice 20
also in Strepsiades; for at the Isthmian Games he has carried away
victory in the pankration; marvelous in his might and 22a
shapely to behold; and he brings excellence 22b
of physique no less. 22c

Antistrophe B
He shines bright by the violet-haired Muses,
and gave a common olive-wreath to his uncle of the same name,
for whom Ares of the bronze shield concocted death; 25
honor is offered as recompense to brave men.
Let that one know, whoever wards off the hailstorm of blood 27a
in this cloud of war for the sake 27b
of his dear homeland 27c

Epode B
by bringing destruction to the opposing army,
that he increases the utmost fame for the generation of townsmen,
both while living and dying. 30

Go to Part III