(c. 110 to 30 B.C)
by George Economou
Philodemos was born in Syria, studied in Athens and taught (Horace and Virgil attended his lectures) at the Epicurean School in Naples. He probably knew Catullus and influenced his poetry. Many of the papyrus rolls that survived Vesuvius's biggest blast under the ash and lava at Piso's estate in Herculaneum near Pompeii are of his works on various topics.
Philodemos, b. Gadara c 110 B.C. Poet, Scholar, Teacher.
Educ. Philosophy in Athens with Zeno, the Epicurean.
Prof. Exp. Epicurean School, Naples. Concurrent Pos:
Patronage of L. Caipumius Piso Caesoninus, villa at
Herculaneum, from 58 B.C. Mem: Poetry Society of Rome.
Res: aesthetics, ethics, music, poetry, rhetoric. Publ: sel.
frag. Rhetorica, Peri orges, Peri mousikes, Peri kakion
Perioikonomias, Peritheon, Peripoiematon, and twenty-nine
poems of certain ascription in The Greek Anthology.
d. c. 40 B.C.
The texts used for these translations are from W.R. Paton. The Greek Anthology, 5 volumes, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1916; and A.S.F. Gow & D. L. Page, The Greek Anthology: The Garland of Phillip and Some Contemporary Epigrams 2 volumes Cambridge University Press, 1968.
Douse the lamp with oil, Philainis,
that mute watcher of private affairs,
then exit yourself (Love wants no one looking),
and shut the door tight. Now in you come
Xantho, my friend. And you, hot bed of passions,
take these lessons we press on you.
Sixty times has Grace gone round with the sun
but the dark sheen of her hair has not gone,
and so too the marble cones of her breasts
stand firm and free of any foundation.
Her flawless body glistens heavenly,
she fascinates and lives up to her name.
So step up you red hot well-hung lovers
and lose track of her threescore years.
What's your name?
Don't come on so.
Got a date?
With whoever digs me.
How about dinner?
If you say so.
OK, what'll it cost?
Play me, then pay me.
Alright, what's your number?
Take it down.
And you'll come?
Whenever I hold Cydilia tight, come I
by day or with a lot of nerve by night,
I know I walk a line right on the edge,
I know I shoot craps with loaded dice.
What good's it to me? Reckless Love, when you
have me in tow, I won't see fear's shadow.
Demo and Thermion both slay me,
one's a pro, the other still unversed in your ways,
the one I can grope, the other mustn't touch.
I swear, goddess, I don't know which I want more.
I'll say little virgin Demo I don't want it off the rack,
but long for what's under lock and key.
"Darling, I know how to return love
and how to give back bite for bite.
Don't overvex your lover or
ignite a poet's deepest anger."
I kept warning you, but you paid
about as much attention as Lake Michigan.
Now tears run down your tits
and I lay my head in Flo's.
I loved who hasn't? I worshiped hasn't
everyone been in that congregation?
But I was crazy did a god do it?
The force that through my black hair drives the grey
announces the age of reason I'm done.
At playtime I played, now I'll act my age.
I fell in love with Demo from Paphos
no wonder. Then with Demo from Samos
not such a big deal. Then with Demo
auf Naxos now it's no longer child's play:
Demo number four is from Argos. Seems
the Fates have named me eponymously
for my pandemic affections . . . .
'Round midnight through the rain
out of my husband's bed
soaked to the skin I came.
So we sit doing zero
not gurgling and dozing
like lovers are supposed to?
Philainion's petite and on the dark side,
kinkier than parsley, softer than down,
a voice more magic than divine lingerie,
and does everything yet asks for nothing
usually. O, I'll take her, golden Cypris,
till I uncover one that's better.
Shine on horny Moon for all-night stands
shine right through the window screen
spotlight priceless Calliston. Deathless,
you peer without spite on lover's bedwork.
I know we have your blessing, Moon,
didn't Endymion light up your soul?
Your summer bud's not yet blown
nor that charming bunch of virgin grapes full ripe
and already the young Loves file their darts,
Lysidike, and a fire smolders out of sight.
Let's run, so lovesick, before the arrow's strung.
I feel a blaze coming on.
Whoosis pays What's-her-face a pile for just once
and suffers goosebumps screwing an unattractive girl.
I pay Lysianassa a few bucks for a dozen
and screw the clearly better looking woman.
Well, either I'm out of my mind or he ought to lay
his twin whatchmacallits on the chopping block!
For style on the lyre, voice, meaningful eyes, and song
it's Xanthippe, and this brand new fire mall burn you,
my heart exactly how or when I'm not sure,
but you'll know it, poor thing, when you've caught on.
O feet, shins, thighs that just destroy me,
O buns, chest, and flanks,
shoulders, breasts, O slender tender neck,
arms, eyes that drive me crazy,
O movement most artful, soul kisses
supreme, O little cries that stir me!
So what if Flora's Italian and can't sing Sappho,
Perseus loved Andromeda the Indian.
You cry, whine, peer strangely at me,
you're jealous, cling and clutch, kiss too much:
now that's a lover. But when you say, "Here I Am,"
and just lay back, you make me wonder.
Melicertes and his mother, sea-blue queen
of the deep, Leucothea, goddess against evil,
and dancing Nereids, and waves, and Poseidon,
and Zephyrus eek of the gentlest breath,
be good and bear me clean over the big swells
safe and sound to the sweet shore of Piraeus.
Here the delicate form of one tender as a dove lies,
Trygonion, special among a crazy bunch of eunuchs,
who fit in so well, in the music and playful chatter,
at the shrine of the gods' mother whose darling he was,
who alone of those semi-women really loved
doing Cypris' work, and whose charm approached any Lady's.
Put out, good earth, round this true bacchante's gravestone
not the prickly shrub but the calyx of soft white petals.
Now it's rose and ripe chick-pea time, time,
Sosylos, for first-cut cabbages,
sea-savory smelts and freshly salted cheese,
for tender-leaved heads of lettuce.
But do we go down to the shore
or up to our lookout like old times?
And just yesterday two friends joked
whom today we bear to their graves.
Xantho, girl of wax, with scented skin and Muse's face,
sweet-voiced, beautiful gift of the twin-winged Loves,
play for me with your fragrant, shining hands:
"On a single-bed cut of stone I must sleep,
though I must live a long, long time." Please. again,
yes, dear, yes, with that same sweet song.
Cypris of the calm, friend to high and low,
mother of the stormy-footed Loves, Cypris,
me, a man half-torn from the saffron bridal,
soul frost-bitten by the snows of Gaul,
a peaceful man that says nothing idle, Cyptis,
a man washed away on the deep blue sea, me,
Cypris for-harbors-and-honeymoons, bring me
safe now, my queen, into the port of my Naias.
Don't look into this nor pass up that counter,
now part with a drachma for some tripe.
You can get a fig for a drachma, and if you wait
maybe a thousand. Time's the poor man's god.
I who was once good, Aphrodite, for five to nine
now barely manage the first between sundown and up
(mostly down). Good grief, this thing (that's often suffered
half-deaths) is just dying! And the only perfect fit
is the punishment to the crime. Old age, what will you do
once you come if I'm this droopy now?
Of violets white and lively lyres,
of Chian wine and Syrian myrrh,
of cutting up and thirsty whores,
I've had my fill: foolish things I hate.
Now tie narcissus in my hair, and toot
the crooked flute, rub my limbs with saffron oil,
wet my whistle with wine of Mytilene,
and pair me with a virgin who loves her nest.
Artemidorus, Aristarchus, and Athenagoras,
cabbage, smoked fish, scallions, respectively,
Philodemos liver, Apollophanes pork,
two pounds, plus three left over from yesterday.
Now go buy an egg, garlands, sandals, scent,
and tell them I want them here at four sharp.
Thirty-seven years have already turned,
pages torn out of my life's work;
already my hair's sprouting whites,
messengers, Xanthippe, of wisdom's age.
But the lyricism of carousal I
still care for, and a hungry fire burns in my heart.
So write me an ending with a flourish, Muses,
to my madness with this very girl.
Your muse-befriended friend prompts you
to his humble cottage tomorrow afternoon
for a birthday dinner honoring our sect's founder.
And if you won't have sips and quaffs of Chian there,
you'll see friends full of truthfulness and hear
discourse sweeter than the land of the Phaeacians did.
And if you ever set your sights on me, Piso,
we'll observe Epicurus' Day rather richly.
Anticrates' a much better astronomer than Aratus,
though he couldn't tell his own nativity.
He says he isn't sure if he was born in
Aries, in Gemini, or in Pisces.
But it's perfectly clear it's in all three
he's a stud, a stupid jerk-off, and loves filet of fish.
This stone embodies three immortals:
the head plainly figures me goat-horned Pan,
the chest and belly Herakles, the rest,
from the thighs down, belongs to Hermes wingfoot.
Never, ever, refuse me offering, stranger,
for to your single sacrifice three gods respond.
First Published in a limited edition by Perishable Press, Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, 1983, and reprinted in Harmonies and Fits, Point Riders Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1987.
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