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Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quinn)

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Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quinn)

Postby Blindman6 » Wed Jun 25, 2014 5:48 pm

Hello,

I'm a graduate student trying to brush up on my Greek going through Hansen and Quinn. While I've found some great answer keys online, I haven't found any for the "Readings" sections at the end of some of the chapters. I'm sure I'll have many more questions as time goes on, but here's the first one:

Γάμος γὰρ ἀνθρώποισιν εὐκταῖον κακόν. (fyi: unit 5, page 137)

I want to say it's "For marriage is for men an evil to be prayed for [i.e. much desired]". That fits with the emphasis of the last few chapters on these kinds of nominal sentences. But, Γάμος is masculine and εὐκταῖον κακόν is neuter (or at least not nominative).

So, my alternative idea is "For marriage brings to men an evil to be prayed for", with the verb being implied. But that would be a bit of a fastball for H&S at this point.

Any help greatly appreciated.
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby ariphron » Fri Jun 27, 2014 7:34 pm

I noticed the same issue in Unit 6, exercise 10. My translation of that one: "The hope of victory is not, let me tell you, a sufficient thing in battle." Here ἱκανόν (neuter) does not agree with ἐλπίς (feminine), and I interpret it by supplying a generic neuter noun (thing) that's omitted as having no information. Probably, though, your "bring" construction would work here too.
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby mwh » Fri Jun 27, 2014 11:25 pm

Your first take was right, except it's not "to be prayed for" but rather just "prayed for." "For marriage is an evil men pray for." εὐκταῖον κακόν is neuter, as you say. κακόν is being used as a noun, "an evil," "a bad thing," and in a statement taking the form "A is B," B is not necessarily the same gender as A.
εὐκταῖον makes it paradoxical: people desire marriage but marriage is not a good thing, it's a bad one.

Many of the monostichoi are similarly misogynistic and similarly pointed. One very close in sentiment to this one, but so very much better, goes something like "There are two good days in a man's life, the day he gets married and the day she's carried out dead."
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby Qimmik » Sat Jun 28, 2014 3:46 pm

"There are two good days in a man's life, the day he gets married and the day she's carried out dead."

Haven't you transgendered (so to speak) Hipponax 68 (West, but it seems to have the same number in most editions)?

I can't find the Greek text online, but the translation is "Two days of a woman are sweetest: when she gets married and when she is carried out dead [i.e., buried]." It's not clear whether this is from the husband's perspective or a commentary on the hard lot of women in ancient Greece. Unfortunately, I suspect the former. If this is really Hipponax--a marginally legible papyrus seems to attribute it to someone else who is not identifiable but clearly not Hipponax--I wouldn't expect anything but cruel, repulsive misogyny.

It's the last selection under Hipponax in Campbell's Greek Lyric Poetry, and he labels it "Adespoton." It's choliambic trimeter, which is Hipponax's "signature" meter. Gerber's Loeb states that Hippponax's authorship is rejected "by many, but on inadequate grounds." However, I sometimes get the feeling that many of the fragments of the archaic Greek poetry got attached to a particular big name poet simply because they were in the appropriate meter and exhibited the appropriate outlook and sensibility. Nasty choliambics gravitated towards Hipponax.

The bad old Edmonds Loeb of the Greek Lyric and Iambic Poets, which is available online, doesn't seem to include Hipponax--probably too nasty for his tender sensibilities--but he does include Archilochus. I suppose that's because the Cologne epode had not yet been discovered. If you really want to read something obscenely misogynistic, here it is:

http://www.aoidoi.org/poets/archil/Archilochus-196A-Aoidoi.pdf

Edmond's ludicrous Loeb edition of the Greek Bucolic Poets is even worse and cries out for replacement. It's the one big gap in the really excellent new Loeb series of Greek poetry and drama.
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby mwh » Sat Jun 28, 2014 5:35 pm

Yes that’s it. I was paraphrasing/interpreting. The Greek is (if I have it right)
δυ’ ημεραι γυναικος εισιν ηδισται,
οταν γαμῃ τις κἀκφερῃ τεθνηκυιαν.

Hipponax is the only really obscene Greek poet. I once stated in print that Hipponax is at his best when at his most obscene, a judgment I would be more prudent than to voice today. (The Cologne Archilochus is uncharacteristically decorous in expression—observing the proprieties of the largely dactylic meter, I fancy.) I share your suspicion regarding attributions in general (both ancient and modern), and about this one in particular. The squib reads nothing like Hipponax to me, and I imagine it’s much later. I agree with you (as my hasty post indicated) in taking it as being from the man’s perspective. Can’t live without 'em, can’t live with 'em, as it were.

Edmonds did actually hit the mark now and again but yes is best avoided. Lobel was scathing. If you want a really execrable old Loeb there's Way's Euripides, which had the dubious merit of making the Greek easier than the English. ουκ οιδα became "I not thy gist." (I kid you not.) A collector's piece. Now we have the admirable Kovacs (and I say that not just because he adopts a conjecture of mine that Diggle didn't), and the Fragments volumes are exemplary. Until Dover and Hunter came along Theocritus was especially ill-served. When I was a student there was nothing but Gow, whom I found deadening. Edmonds’ Loeb did have the genuine merit of introducing me to Moschus.
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby Qimmik » Sat Jun 28, 2014 6:19 pm

"observing the proprieties of the largely dactylic meter, I fancy."

That's a really good and important point, and one that had never occurred to me, but it's true. Dactylic -- the meter of epic and elegy -- observes a certain decorum (and the language is to a large extent conventional, derived from the same sources as Homer). In iambic -- the meter of blame poetry -- anything goes.

But epodes combine them. They start like an elegiac couplet and end with an iambic punch. It's unfortunate that the corpus of preserved archaic poetry is so small, and the corpus of epodes is even smaller. It would be interesting to see how epodes negotiate the difference in language and tone between hexameter/elegy and iambus. I have to re-read Archilochus with that in mind.
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby mwh » Sun Jun 29, 2014 1:03 am

It's worth taking a look at the Margites fragments too, which don't break down quite as you might expect.

I shouldn’t have implied it was a monostich, of course. And it’s significant that the woman is not the subject of the second verse (despite the translation), but the object. The τις is to be understood as the man who (i) marries and (ii) carries her out dead (which doesn’t quite mean buried, btw: this is the εκφορα: he finally gets her out of the house).
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby daivid » Mon Jun 30, 2014 10:35 am

mwh wrote:Your first take was right, except it's not "to be prayed for" but rather just "prayed for." "For marriage is an evil men pray for." εὐκταῖον κακόν is neuter, as you say. κακόν is being used as a noun, "an evil," "a bad thing," and in a statement taking the form "A is B," B is not necessarily the same gender as A.
εὐκταῖον makes it paradoxical: people desire marriage but marriage is not a good thing, it's a bad one.

Many of the monostichoi are similarly misogynistic and similarly pointed. One very close in sentiment to this one, but so very much better, goes something like "There are two good days in a man's life, the day he gets married and the day she's carried out dead."


I take it that these quotes from Menander are quotes from plays?
Hence in defense of Menander: that such misogynistic opinions appear in a play of his indicates only that one of his characters was misogynistic. Indeed his plays only work if it is given that for the boy to get the girl is indeed a desirable happy ending.
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby Qimmik » Mon Jun 30, 2014 12:43 pm

No point in defending Menander. Misogynistic one-liners weren't collected by Stobaeus to disparage misogyny--they were collected because male Greek readers thought they were witty and accurate, and that's how Menander intended them.

Anyone who engages with ancient Greek civilization can't avoid the largely negative attitudes towards women reflected in Greek literature--after all, many of these attitudes were prevalent and openly expressed in our own societies only a few decades ago.

Other aspects of ancient Greek life that are difficult to accept today but can't be avoided if you want to read ancient Greek literature: slavery, pederasty and sexual exploitation of both minors and adults, torture and cruel indifference towards, and willingness to inflict, suffering and death. But many of these things have been prevalent in all human societies from the beginning of time and still are. Misogyny is not unique to the ancient Greeks.
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby daivid » Mon Jun 30, 2014 2:23 pm

Qimmik wrote:No point in defending Menander. Misogynistic one-liners weren't collected by Stobaeus to disparage misogyny--they were collected because male Greek readers thought they were witty and accurate, and that's how Menander intended them.

Anyone who engages with ancient Greek civilization can't avoid the largely negative attitudes towards women reflected in Greek literature--after all, many of these attitudes were prevalent and openly expressed in our own societies only a few decades ago.

To say that Menander is not misogynist is not to say that he had a positive attitude towards women. The women in his plays are far too passive for that to be tenable. But to say that Menander displays the male chauvinism of his time is not the same as saying he was misogynist.

And to say that you not judge the attitudes of a playwright by quotes taken out of context from a play really should not be controversial.
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby Qimmik » Mon Jun 30, 2014 2:40 pm

OK, I should have written "male chauvinist" rather than "misogynist." But I don't think it's really possible to draw such a fine distinction.

And to say that you not judge the attitudes of a playwright by quotes taken out of context from a play really should not be controversial.


Maybe quotable male chauvinist one-liners (well, this one is really misogynistic) that Menander puts in the mouths of his characters, which echo other Greek writings about women (e.g., Hesiod, Hipponax, Lysias on the murder of Eratosthenes), weren't expected to find a resonance among his audience and really don't reflect his own, personal, more benevolent attitudes towards women.
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby daivid » Mon Jun 30, 2014 3:05 pm

Qimmik wrote:OK, I should have written "male chauvinist" rather than "misogynist." But I don't think it's really possible to draw such a fine distinction.

A male chauvinist expects women to act in a subordinate role. A misogynist actively hates women. That's an important distinction.
Qimmik wrote:Maybe quotable male chauvinist one-liners (well, this one is really misogynistic) that Menander puts in the mouths of his characters, which echo other Greek writings about women (e.g., Hesiod, Hipponax, Lysias on the murder of Eratosthenes), weren't expected to find a resonance among his audience and really don't reflect his own, personal, more benevolent attitudes towards women.


But we do not need to rely on out of context quotes. We have several large sections of his plays. They clearly celebrate marriage out of love. As such the view that marriage is a evil prayed for by men goes against the thrust of his plays. Short of more papyrus' being dug up we are left with as the most probable explanation that the words were spoken by an unsympathetic character and that Menander included that view in order to disparage it.
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby Qimmik » Mon Jun 30, 2014 3:56 pm

A male chauvinist expects women to act in a subordinate role. A misogynist actively hates women. That's an important distinction.


"Male chauvinism" is a term that was unknown before about 1970 and certainly not viewed as reprehensible before then. And I think the term "misogyny" is used today to embrace male chauvinism as often as not.

I have to admit I've never engaged with Menander. But from what I've read about him, it strikes me that he's not one of those authors who aim to conduct a serious examination of the values and attitudes of his contemporaries--or one who is incapable of entertaining two mutually contradictory ideas simultaneously. Perhaps this clever, catchy oxymoron, neatly encapsulated in a trimeter, was put into the mouth of an unsympathetic character who was trying to thwart the ultimate goal of the play, namely, the marriage of the hero to the heroine. But that's not to say that it wasn't meant to resonate with male members of Menander's public. It's a line that could only have been intended to be quotable.
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby mwh » Mon Jun 30, 2014 4:00 pm

The monostichoi are not all Menander’s, in fact, and I don't know if it's known that this one is. There were all sorts of gnomologies and we have dozens of them on papyrus, with various verses excerpted from famous authors, mostly New Comedy and Euripides. They’re largely moralistic and were used in school context.

Those that are Menander’s (and likewise with Euripides) are divorced from their context and as such—this was daivid’s point—are no sort of guide to Menander’s own attitudes (unknowable) or to the overall thrust of his plays. Some of Menander’s characters express misogynistic views (less so than in Euripides, where you find splendid tirades against women being in the world at all), but I would not call his plays (nor Eur’s) misogynistic, nor witty, for that matter. Naturally they reflect contemporary cultural norms (some of which we might find repellent because they’re not the same as ours), but they’re consistently on the side of humanitas. Chrysis’ plight in the Samia for instance is very sympathetically presented, and the guy who tossed her out did so under a misapprehension.

And now I’m regretting having called the line in question misogynistic in the first place. It’s not inherently so. And in Menandrean context, someone might be advising a young man against getting married because of the expense of supporting a wife, for instance. Would that make him a misogynist? (And couldn’t we imagine precisely the same view being expressed by a first- or third-wave feminist, say?) Where we do have the original context for these monostichs, they sometimes turn out to be wildly different from what one would have guessed. In any event, Menander has to be let off the hook. I'm definitely with daivid on that. If anyone’s to incur our righteous disapproval it shouldn’t be the playwright but those who exploited the verse’s decontextualized potential (Hansen&Quinn exempted, or not?).
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby daivid » Tue Jul 01, 2014 10:30 pm

Qimmik wrote:
A male chauvinist expects women to act in a subordinate role. A misogynist actively hates women. That's an important distinction.


"Male chauvinism" is a term that was unknown before about 1970 and certainly not viewed as reprehensible before then. And I think the term "misogyny" is used today to embrace male chauvinism as often as not.

Precisely for that reason we should hesitate from assuming that certain aspects of Menander such as the passive role of some of his female characters indicates the total disregard for women's needs and feelings that we would assume should we see it in a modern writer.

Qimmik wrote:I have to admit I've never engaged with Menander. But from what I've read about him, it strikes me that he's not one of those authors who aim to conduct a serious examination of the values and attitudes of his contemporaries--or one who is incapable of entertaining two mutually contradictory ideas simultaneously. Perhaps this clever, catchy oxymoron, neatly encapsulated in a trimeter, was put into the mouth of an unsympathetic character who was trying to thwart the ultimate goal of the play, namely, the marriage of the hero to the heroine. But that's not to say that it wasn't meant to resonate with male members of Menander's public. It's a line that could only have been intended to be quotable.

Nor would I claim to have done more than sample Menander. I agree that Menander's main aim is to entertain but I do think a case can be made that he he had a slightly more positive attitude than the average Athenian male of the time (which is not setting the bar very high) . In Aspis for instance he does seem to have a fairly low opinion of the law by which a daughter without brothers might be forced to marry her uncle in order to ensure the inheritance stayed in the family, However, I think it be worthwhile reading up Menander more extensively before seriously defending that claim (or perish the thought retract it if a closer reading of Menander makes it clear that the claim is untenable).
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby Blindman6 » Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:56 pm

This got off topic fast! :)

I have a new translation question. Agathon, Fragment 11 (TrGF 39F11)

τό μέν πάρεργον ’έργον ‘ώς ποιούμεθα,
τό δ' ’έργον ‘ως πάρεργον ’εκπονούμεθα.

(Typed on my phone, so can't get grave accents)

This one has me stumped. H&Q says πάρεργον means "secondary work, secondary business".

1. "As we make the secondary work work, we complete the work as secondary work"

2. Or, perhaps more loosely, "As we make the second task the first so we finish the first as the second"

3. Or perhaps the sense of lesser, "As we make the lesser task the main one, we execute the main task as a subordinate one".

4. One more thought--since H&Q says ποιέω in the middle can given a verbal sense to the object, "As we do lesser work, so we complete lesser work"

Not sure. Could use very detaile help.
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Jul 22, 2014 7:19 pm

I'm not sure. But let me try, as an exercise!

"As we make a secondary task our task, we accomplish our [actual/whole] task as if it were [just] a secondary task."

I.e. I think the idea is that if we have some big task to do, it's easier to concentrate on one smaller task at a time; that way, before we notice, we've done the whole thing. But it could be something completely different...

I think the middle is used because it's our task, we're doing it for ourselves.
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby Qimmik » Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:59 am

For what they're worth---

Link to a French translation of the quotation in Athenaeus:

http://remacle.org/bloodwolf/erudits/athenee/livre5.htm#185a

English translation:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A2013.01.0003%3Abook%3D5%3Achapter%3Dpos%3D338

It's difficult to know exactly what Agathon meant because they've probably been taken out of context by Athenaeus.
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jul 23, 2014 2:08 pm

I think those translations linked by Qimmik make sense; the second half of my own version is incorrect. I think the point here is that ἐκπονούμεθα cannot mean "accomplish", as the second half can't be interpreted as a consequence of the first – both verbs are in the present tense and act simultaneously. But if we changed ἐκπονούμεθα to the future ἐκπονησόμεθα, do you think it could then mean what I wrote?

What was misleading is that ἐκ- doesn't the nuance of completing the work; rather it just strengthens the idea of working hard at it.
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Re: Translation Question: Menander's Gnomai (Hansen and Quin

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jul 23, 2014 2:30 pm

Actually, the two translations translate the first line differently. The English one takes ὡς with ἔργον, the French one apparently with ποιούμεθα. But the English interpretation would require ὥς with an accent, the French an unaccented ὡς.

Do what is more than needful as if needful,
And treat our real work as if it were superfluous.

Nous faisons de l'accessoire l'œuvre principale, et nous travaillons à l'œuvre principale comme si c'était l'accessoire.
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