5 August 2009

Schematic of a cithara.

Another donkey item (often that means I’m actually preparing something else, a large item, in the background, which I am): the article Cithara from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Now one can reasonably wonder why on earth put a bland article from a 98-year-old encyclopedia, commonly accessible in libraries thruout the world; and sure enough, from time to time I get some acid-penned e-mail to that effect. And that article is available elsewhere online: in one place, scanned and unproofread, with none of its 6 woodcuts; in another, as a photocopy, the citations unlinked, and itself unlinkable. OK well maybe Wikipedia’s article now supersedes it, since they often start by grabbing the 1911 (about which Wikipedians by and large have nothing good to say), then improve or degrade it, as the mood strikes ’em over there — mostly the latter, as in this case: the article Cithara at Wickedpedia has been dumbed down, has seen some errors introduced, and is next to worthless. But what of “my” own Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities? Well, what of it indeed: no separate article, the cithara covered mixed in with the lyre, really a different instrument, and in an unsatisfactory and confusing way: Smith’s is often not as good as it could be, its writers being classicists and not technical experts in the topic in question. So — now at least there’s a basic article on the instrument out there, written by a historian of musical instruments, and properly done.


Finishing things, sort of

26 June 2009

Plutarch, bust from the museum of Delphi.

When I was a kid I collected stamps. Back in those days, it was still not so far in the past that many countries issued stamps in “series” — a set of stamps with a single design, but each denomination in a different color. The stamp collector was thus very often enticed into trying to get the whole series, an amusing and harmless semi-competitive endeavor.

Well, this compulsive trait has surfaced again from my childhood. I originally had no intention of putting all of Plutarch online, many of his works being concerned with philosophy and Greek stuff, and I’m not fond of either. But little by little — at Attalus there is a page entitled “Plutarch: Moralia — list of translations”; and if anyone out there has been wondering why certain Plutarch items have been going up at Lacus rather than others, it goes far to explain it. I’m filling in the blanks, starting by and large with those texts that don’t appear to be online anywhere at all; and when I’m done with those, I’ll probably wind up by putting up the others as well … to “complete the series”. Right now, in addition to the Lives (complete), Lacus has just short of 30% of the Moralia.

Today’s item is an exception, though, since already up elsewhere, but it was short: On Envy and Hate (envy rather than hate, in fact) with Philippe Remacle’s Greek and French linked, as before. It’s a bland little essay, tells us a bit about envy, but not what to do about it; reminds me of the oft-told story, with various famous American divines in the title rôle, of the preacher who gave a two-hour sermon on Sin: when a parishioner was asked by an absent friend what he’d said, the reply — “He was against it.”

More Plutarch

20 June 2009

Plutarch, bust from the museum of Delphi.

And there’s more from Plutarch‘s Moralia to announce. Today’s addition:

There’s also a brief piece on Patrimi and Matrimi from Smith’ Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. It may not be the most important essay ever put online, but take a close look and you see why the internet can be relevant and why PDF-scans of ancient books are of less use than html-webpages: the article contains fifteen references to sources and secondary literature, and eight of them are accessible through hyperlink.

Oh, what a difference 40 years makes….

18 June 2009

Plutarch, bust from the museum of Delphi.

Plutarch, or at least the body of work transmitted to us under his name, covers a multitude of sins.

Some of these works are so fragmentary as to be next to nothing; some very few are so bizarre or so inept that they cannot possibly be by him (unless they’re impish self-parodies); some seem to be his own working notes or collections extracted from him by others; some are abstruse Gnostic-like disquisitions on the slenderest of topics, the kind of thing that gives philosophy a bad name; finally, many are banal and derivative; and many, and not just either the longest and the best-known, are marked by warmth, humanity, psychological insight, humor, and outright genius: the Plutarch of Montaigne and Shakespeare.

I’ve just put online two of these unpredictable critters — as it turns out, one each of the last two types mentioned; amazing they should be by the same man, but to me, at least, they both bear the unmistakable imprint of Plutarch: the first, the dull one, On the Love of Wealth (De cupiditate); the other, Should Old Men Take Part in Affairs of State? (An seni respublica gerenda sit). The “only” thing that separates them is forty years or so of living; the latter is clearly addressed by one old man to another he has known for many years — “neither of us shall desert the long companionship in the journey which we have thus far made together” — this one sentiment and the gracious expression of it sufficient to place the essay in a class of its own; the other essay, so the Loeb editor tells us, is characterized by youthful “exuberance and fancifulness of diction”: but we need not be proficient in ancient Greek prose style to recognize it clearly as the work of a very young man, just by its inadequate and regurgitative treatment of the subject.

I feel privileged to see the beginning and end of such a man’s life, and as it were share in his journey; would we all did so well in the business and art of being human.

No Greek onsite for either one, since Philippe Remacle has the Greek original of both on his site; I was off the hook easily: you will find links to him on each of my pages, under the Greek and French flags of course.

New Online Journals

18 June 2009

Maybe these French journals were already available online for some time, but I learned about it today:

And there’s a lot more (but unrelated to ancient history) here. This is really something to be very, very happy about.

Plutarch, That a Philosopher ought to Converse especially with Men in Power

18 June 2009

Plutarch, bust from the museum of Delphi.

Although LacusCurtius‘ Bill Thayer is also occupied with putting online texts on the history of the United States, he continues to put online the Moralia by Plutarch. Today’s contribution is a brief treatise with the dazzling title That a Philosopher ought to Converse especially with Men in Power.

Plutarch addresses an old question. Plato had argued that in the best constitution, the state was ruled by philosophers. When he was offered to organize Syracuse according to his ideas, Plato failed miserably. His pupil, Aristotle, argued that it was better if a king had philosophers as his advisers. Plutarch essentially sides with the latter, arguing that one should not put a light under a bushel.

Love, alla greca

15 June 2009
A satyr trying to rape Aphrodite (Athens, National Archaeological Museum)

Aphrodite and a satyr

New on Lacus today: ps-Plutarch, Love Stories/Ἐρωτικαί διηγήσεις. Five charming stories of rape, murder, and vengeance — not a word about love in any of them — as only the Greeks could write them.

Actually, that’s not quite true: parental love is in there, poking its head out from the various slaughters, curses, and suicides. If you really do want to read a Greek love story though, you’ll do much better to read Heliodorus’ Aethiopica.