Sunday, November 27, 2022

Christianizing the Myth of Achilles & Patroclus: Synesius to His Friend Troilus, Ep. 123

 Roman men often had deep, loving and affectionate friendships with their peers. There was no shame or stigma in expressing love and support to one another.


Quod si Erebo vita functorum oblivia tangant, 

illic vel chari potero meminisse sodalis.

Sunt illi quidem ab Homero versus scripti; sed eorum sensus nescio an ab Achille potius de Patroclo quam a me de te amicissimo, ac benefico capite, usurpari merito possit. quam eloquidem, ut testis est mihi Deus, quem philosophia colit, sacri tui ac suavisissimi animi infixam imaginem medio in corde circumfero, et auribus etiamnum illa sapientissimorum tuorum sermonum vox insonat. Cum autem ex Aegypto in patriam rediissem, ac duorum annorum simul epistolas legissem, magnam equidem in litteras vim lacrimarum profudi. Non tam enim, quod te per litteras quodammodo fruerer, mihi voluptatem afferebat, quam illud dolore afficiebat, cum ex scriptis tuis litteris praesentem ac vivam in animam consuetudinem revocarem; cuiusmodi scilicet et amico simul, et vere parente vivo essem orbatus. Libenter igitur graviora pro patria certamina subeam, mihi ut iterum profectionis occasio praebeatur. Num quando conspectu tuo perfruar, Pater vere germanissime? num quando sacrum tuum caput amplectar? num concilii propter te beati particeps ero?  Si enim ea mihi obtinere contigerit, efficiam profecto, ut iam fabula non sit, quod de Aesone Thessalo dicitur praedicant, cum ex sene repente esset iuvenis factus.

--Synesius, Epistula 123, (Greek forthcoming); Translated by J. P. Migne (1864)

Dear Troilus,

Even if death erases the memory of our souls,

I will still be able to remember you there, dear friend!

This is a quote of Homer, but I don’t know if they were written more for Achilles and Patroclus than for us, dear friend! May God above, Whom wisdom cherishes, bear witness that the image of your sacred and most precious spirit is fixed deep within my heart, and even now, the words of your wisdom-instilled voice still resonate in my ears. When I returned home from Egypt, I read the letters you’d written me for the past two years and I wept profusely. Your letters didn’t cause me happiness, but rather grief, for as I read them, I recalled from spending time with you in real life, and now it seems I’m mourning the loss of a friend, even a parent, with your absence—even through you are still alive! I’ll proudly do my duty and undertake serious challenges for my country, if only I can find an opportunity to leave it. When will I enjoy seeing your face again, dearest Father? When will I wrap my arms around your sacred neck? When will I spend time with you again? If this ever should happen, I would be like what they say about Aeson from Thessaly, and become young again.



Name:  Synesius

Date:  4th c. CE

Works:  Letters



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 Synesius was a Greek writer and statesman from Cyrene (modern Libya). He is known as one of Hypatia’s most famous students. His education took him to both Alexandria, Egypt and Athens, Greece; he spent many years in Constantinople advocating on behalf of his community. His letters are still extant, and provide us with unique insights into this time period.


ARCHAIC: (through 6th c. BCE); GOLDEN AGE: (5th - 4th c. BCE); HELLENISTIC: (4th c. BCE - 1st c. BCE); ROMAN: (1st c. BCE - 4th c. CE); POST CONSTANTINOPLE: (4th c. CE - 8th c. CE); BYZANTINE: (post 8th c CE)

Friday, November 25, 2022

Remembered in the Stars: Antinous, Caelum Astronomico-poeticum, 179-180


Puer Adrianeus, Adriani Amasius, Puer Bithynicus, Novus Aegypti Deus; aliis Ganymedes, Puer Troius, Troianus, Iliacus, Phrygius, Catullo Iovis Cinaedus, catamitus, Puer Aquilae, Iovis Pincerna, sive Pocillator. Meridianum media nocte transit medio Iulii: et septem in globo nosro continet stellas, de quibus in praecedenti egimus Signo.

[Antinous admirandae pulchritudinis puer Claudiopoli Bithyniae natus, postquam Nilo submersus erat, Ariani Caesaris iussu, cuius amasius fuit, ab Aegyptiis cultus, ac in coelum locatus, prope Viam lacteam, sub Aquila, inter Zodiacum, et Aequatorem, Arae quasi insistitit. Devicta enim ab Augusto Cleopatra Aegypti regina,ac Adriano postea imperium consecuto, novum hic Aegyptiis Duem, nempe hunc Antinoum dedit. Unde apud Goltzium in Thesauro rei antiquariae, vetus inscriptio Romae reperta in Campo Martio ad Isidis fanum, haec habet: ANTINOΩI SYNΘΡONΩI TΩN EN AIGYPTΩI ΘEΩN, hoc est, Antinoo eundem cum Diis Aegyptiis thronum occupanti. Quin et idem Adrianus in eiusdem Antinoi honorem urbem Antinoiam, quae et Adrianopolis dicta, in Aegypto condidit: imo non solum statuas erexit, templa & sacerdotes constituit; sed etiam numismata procudit, aut procudi fecit. Quod praeter alios, testatur nummus Bayeri aeneus, in cuius altera facie Caput Antinoi expressum, cum hac inscriptione: OCTILIOS MKELLOS O IEΡEΥS TOΥ ANTINOOΥ, hoc est, Hostilius Marcellus Sacerdos Antinoi: in altera conspicitur Mercurius cum Pegaso, circumque haec legitur epigraphe: TOICAIOC ANEΘEKE , hoc est, Achaeis consecravit.

--Phillippi Caesi a Zesen. Caelum Astronomico-poeticum, sive Mythologicum Stellarum Fixarum, 1662.p. 179-180


Hadrian’s Boyfriend / Hadrian’s Lover / Bythinian Lad / New Egyptian God / (Others think it’s Ganymede, the Trojan Lad, The Trojan, The Trojan, The Phrygian, Jupiter’s Lover (according to Catullus), The Lover, The Eagle’s Boyfriend, Jupiter’s Cupbearer, The Cupbearer.

This constellation passes through the south in the middle of the night, during the middle of July. It is comprised of seven stars in a cluster, as we saw in the previous sign [Aquila].

Antinous was an extremely beautiful youth born in Claudiopolis, Bithynia. After he drowned in the Nile, his lover, the Emperor Hadrian, ordered him to be worshipped by the Egyptians, and had a constellation named after him. The constellation is near the Milky Way under the constellation Aquila, between the Zodiac signs and the Equator (which is also part of the constellation Ara). It was taken away from the Egyptian Pharoah Cleopatra by Augustus, and then rededicated by Hadrian as a new god for the Egyptians, (of course—he named it in honor of Antinous).

In Goltzius’ Thesaurus of Antiquities, there was an ancient inscription found in the Campus Martius in Rome, in a shrine to Isis, which reads: “Dedicated to Antinoos, sharing the same throne as the Egyptian Gods.”  Hadrian also named a town after Antinous in Egypt, which is also called Hadrianopolis. He not only dedicated statues for Antinous there, but he also established temples and priests for him as well. He also created coins in his honor, or rather, had them minted. One of these is a bronze coin in Bavaria. On one side is the head of Antinous, with the inscription “Hostilius Marcellus, the Priest of Antinous.” On the other side is Mercury with Pegasus, with the inscription “dedicated to the Achaeans.”

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Remembered Among the Flowers: Claudian, De Raptu Proserpinae 2.128-136

The loss of Hyacinthus and Narcissus foreshadow Persephone / Proserpina's abduction. 

pratorum spoliatur honos : haec lilia fuscis

intexit violis ; hanc mollis amaracus ornat ;

haec graditur stellata rosis, haec alba ligustris.

te quoque, flebilibus maerens Hyacinthe figuris,  

Narcissumque metunt, nunc inclita germina veris,

praestantes olim pueros : tu natus Amyclis,

hunc Helicon genuit ; disci te perculit error,

hunc fontis decepit amor ; te fronte retusa

Delius, hunc fracta Cephisus harundine luget. 

--Claudian, De Raptu Proserpinae 2.128-136 

Together, they [Proserpina and her companions]  gather the flowers, the glory of the fields:

This one weaves lilies with dark violets,

That one decorates herself with marjoram.

Another one strides onwards, crowned with roses, and another is sparkly with white flowers.

This one wears you as well, sorrowful Hyacinthus, with your mournful petals*,

They pluck Narcissus, too:

Once, long ago, you were awesome youths,

But now you are the famous companions of the spring.

You, Hyacinthus, were a son of Amyclae,

But Helicon created Narcissus.

A stray discus killed you, Hyacinthus,

But a water [nymph]’s love led you astray.

The Delian god [Apollo] wears you upon his forehead, Hyacinthus;

And Cephisus mourns your loss, Narcissus, with a broken reed [panpipe].




Name:  Claudius Claudianus

Date:  370 – 404 CE

Works: The Abduction of Proserpina

          On the Consulship of Stilicho

          Against Eutropius






 Claudian was born in Alexandria, Egypt during the 4th century CE. He is one of the best poets of the time period, and he provides a unique perspective as a non-Christian writer in Christian Rome. Many of his works are still extant, including panegyric [official praise literature] for the Roman Emperor Honorius and his general Stilicho, a poem criticizing the eunuch consul Eutropius, and an epic retelling of the abduction of Persephone.



Saturday, November 12, 2022

Honoring Women Veterans: Telesilla of Argos, Plutarch, Virtutes Mulierum 245c-d

To the Veterans out there: Thank you for your service!

οὐδενὸς δ᾽ ἧττον ἔνδοξόν ἐστι τῶν κοινῇ διαπεπραγμένων γυναιξὶν ἔργων ὁ πρὸς Κλεομένη περὶ Ἄργους ἀγών, ὃν ἠγωνίσαντο, Τελεσίλλης τῆς ποιητρίας προτρεψαμένης. ταύτην δέ φασιν οἰκίας οὖσαν ἐνδόξου τῷ δὲ σώματι νοσηματικὴν εἰς θεοῦ πέμψαι περὶ ὑγιείας: καὶ χρησθὲν αὐτῇ Μούσας θεραπεύειν, πειθομένην τῷ1 θεῷ καὶ ἐπιθεμένην ἐν ᾠδῇ καὶ ἁρμονίᾳ τοῦ τε πάθους ἀπαλλαγῆναι ταχὺ καὶ θαυμάζεσθαι διὰ ποιητικὴν ὑπὸ τῶν γυναικῶν.

ἐπεὶ δὲ Κλεομένης ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Σπαρτιατῶν πολλοὺς ἀποκτείνας οὐ μήν, ὡς ἔνιοι μυθολογοῦσιν, ἑπτὰ καὶ ἑβδομήκοντα καὶ ἑπτακοσίους πρὸς ἑπτακισχιλίοις ἐβάδιζε πρὸς τὴν πόλιν, ὁρμὴ καὶ τόλμα δαιμόνιος παρέστη ταῖς ἀκμαζούσαις τῶν γυναικῶν ἀμύνεσθαι τοὺς πολεμίους ὑπὲρ τῆς πατρίδος. ἡγουμένης δὲ τῆς Τελεσίλλης, ὅπλα λαμβάνουσι καὶ παρ᾽ ἔπαλξιν ἱστάμεναι κύκλῳ τὰτείχη περιέστεψαν, ὥστε θαυμάζειν τοὺς πολεμίους.  τὸν μὲν οὖν Κλεομένη πολλῶν πεσόντων ἀπεκρούσαντο: τὸν δ᾽ ἕτερον βασιλέα Δημάρατον, ὡς Σωκράτης φησίν, ἐντὸς γενόμενον καὶ κατασχόντα τὸ Παμφυλιακὸν ἐξέωσαν, οὕτω δὲ τῆς πόλεως περιγενομένης, τὰς μὲν πεσούσας ἐν τῇ μάχῃ τῶν γυναικῶν ἐπὶ τῆς ὁδοῦ τῆς Ἀργείας ἔθαψαν, ταῖς δὲ σωθείσαις ὑπόμνημα τῆς ἀριστείας ἔδοσαν ἱδρύσασθαι τὸν Ἐνυάλιον


Inter res a feminis communiter gestas nulla nobiliior praelio est cum Cleomene ad Argos ab eis commisso Telesilla conciente poetria. Hanc ferunt illustri natam domo, cum valetudinaria esset deos de recipienda sanitate consuluisse: responso dato, ut Musas coleret, eae consilium secutam carminibus se et harmoniae dedisse: ita morbo cito levatam, et ob artem poeticam apud mulieres in honore fuisse. Cum autem Lacedaemoniorum rex Cleomenes multis necatis, non tamen, ut quidam fabulantur, septem millibus septingentis septuaginta septem, infestis signis urbem peteret: ardor & audacia incessit feminas aetate florentes incredibilis, ut adversus hostem pro patria propugnarent. Duce Telesilla arma capiunt, in pinnaculisque, stantes muros corona cingunt attonitis miraculo hostibus. Cleomenem multis amissis repellunt. Alterum regem, ut tradit Socrates, qui iam urbem evaserat, tenebatque, Pamphyliacum, Demaratum expellunt. Hac ratione cum conservata urbs esset: mulieres, quae pugnantes ceciderant, via Argiva humaverunt. Incolumibus concessum, ut virtutis monimentum Marti signum ponerent.


--Plutarch, Virtutes Mulierum, 245c - 245d; Translated into Latin by Hermannus Cruserius, 1580

There is no better example of women working on behalf of their community than what they did in defense of Argos against Cleomenes’ [assault], under the leadership of the poet Telesilla.

They say that Telesilla was born from a noble family, but was sent to the temple of the gods to cure her ill health. There she received a prophecy to worship the Muses, and so she obeyed the god’s command and studied poetry and song. She was healed of her illness and her art was the object of wonder among women.

When Cleomenes, the King of Sparta, killed a large amount of [Argive soldiers]—but not, as the rumor holds, 7,777 of them—he marched against the city with death on his mind. A bold wave of courage beset the young women, hoping to fight against the enemy in defense of their homeland. At the head of this counteroffensive was Telesilla, who took up weapons and, standing on the town’s battlements,  manned completely the circuit of defensive walls, and completely shocked the enemy by this sight.

They fended off Cleomenes’ attack, taking down many of his soldiers in the process. The other Spartan king, Demaratus, who according to Socates was able to broach the city walls and gain possession of the Pamphyliacum, was also routed.  And so they saved their city. The women who fell in battle were buried on the road into town, and the women veterans were granted a monument to Ares in honor of their valor.




Name:  Plutarch

Date:  46 – 119 CE

Works:  Parallel Lives



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 Plutarch was a Greek author and Roman citizen who lived during the 1st century CE. He had minor governmental and religious administrative roles during his lifetime, but he is best known for his writings. He has numerous philosophical and historical works still extant, including the Parallel Lives, in which he compares the lives of a Roman and Greek statesman for moralistic purposes.


ARCHAIC: (through 6th c. BCE); GOLDEN AGE: (5th - 4th c. BCE); HELLENISTIC: (4th c. BCE - 1st c. BCE); ROMAN: (1st c. BCE - 4th c. CE); POST CONSTANTINOPLE: (4th c. CE - 8th c. CE); BYZANTINE: (post 8th c CE)






Saturday, November 5, 2022

Gone, But Not Forgotten: The Undeath of Caeneus, Pindar, fr. 166f / 147 f.

Although it does not mention the transformation aspect of the myth of Caeneus, this version does attest to his invulnerability. 


ο δε χλωραϊς ελάταισι τυπείς ώχετο Καινεύς σχίσαις ορθω ποδι γαν

Caeneus vero virentibus abietibus percussus abiit, recto pede terra scisa.

--Pindar, fragment 45 (1821; modern number 166f/147f; attested in Schol. Apollon. Argon.I.61); Translated into Latin by Augustus Boeckhius (1821)

Struck by the green pines, Caeneus broke the earth with his foot and disappeared.




Name: Pindar

Date:   518 – 438 BCE

Works:   Odes







  Pindar is a famous Greek poet from Boeotia (modern Greece) known for his victory odes. These odes, for victors of Pythian, Nemean, and Olympic games, are rich in mythological imagery, and help us understand the relationships of the ancient Greeks to their cultural heritage and their understanding of the past. 




Friday, November 4, 2022

Achilles' earrings! Servius, Aen. 1.30

apud Sigeum Achillis statua fuisse dicitur, quae in lanna, id est in extima auris parte elenchum more femineo habuerit.

 --Servius, In Aen. 1.30

It is said that there’s a statue of Achilles in Sigeum where he wears an earring in his ear just like a woman does.



Name:  Maurus Servius Honoratus

Date:  4th – 5th c. CE (???)

Works:  In Vergilii carmina comentarii



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 Little is known about the author or manuscript tradition for the grammatical commentary of Vergil’s Aeneid.


Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE