Thales

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jeidsath
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Thales

Post by jeidsath »

"ἀρχὴν δὲ τῶν πάντων ὕδωρ ὑπεστήσατο, καὶ τὸν κόσμον ἔμψυχον καὶ δαιμόνων πλήρη."

I saw this in the Thales section of Vitae philosophorum. They are from two iambic lines, aren't they?

x _ . _ ἀρχὴν δὲ τῶν πάντων ὕδωρ
τὸν κόσμον ἔμψυχον καὶ δαιμόνων πλήρη
"Here stuck the great stupid boys, who for the life of them could never master the accidence..."

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Re: Thales

Post by Hylander »

The basic scheme of the iambic metron is x _ υ _. The third syllable (leaving aside the possibility of resolutions of long/heavy syllables) in each iambic metron needs to be short/light. και and πλη- don't conform to this.
Last edited by Hylander on Mon Aug 15, 2022 4:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Thales

Post by jeidsath »

I think I even wrote a metron in my post...But yes, they are in need of some fixing.
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Re: Thales

Post by Hylander »

Also, the word breaks are unusual (though not absolutely impermissible). The caesura typically occurs after the initial anceps of the second metron ("penthemimeral"). "Hephthemimeral" caesura are rare. See West, Greek Meter, p. 40.
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Re: Thales

Post by jeidsath »

The point of this thread wasn't really to discuss the basics, but to propose fixes. I specifically didn't mention mine (getting rid of that καί, and moving δαιμόνων πλήρη up in the line), because I hoped to see some other suggestions (as unfortunately didn't happen on Sappho thread before, where I did include a fix in the first post).
"Here stuck the great stupid boys, who for the life of them could never master the accidence..."

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Re: Thales

Post by Hylander »

Are you sure this broad summary of Thales' views is a direct representation or near-quotation of iambic verses? The second part seems to juxtapose two distinct speculative and counter-empirical ideas -- (1) that the cosmos is endowed with psykhe, and (2) that it's full of daimons. I'd expect each of these ideas to be developed separately and at greater length, and not simply stated and joined by και. The first part looks like it could be a near-quotation, but δε might be intrusive, fitting the statement into the narration of the vita text.
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Re: Thales

Post by jeidsath »

I agree with you on the case and δέ and καί and separation of the original lines. My guess is that any fix will have ἀρχή nominative with ἔστι somewhere, or ὑπῆρχε to replace ἀχρή entirely.

You could connect the lines by assuming a simple case change, converting the second to genitive, a restatement of τῶν πάντων. But then there are just too many philosophical concepts flying around. I agree that they are probably separate.

Your question, Am I sure? No. This is obviously not a high (or even medium) confidence activity. A game, really. But I do think that this does look very much like a quotation of something originally metrical, filtered through memory, with the author not attempting to give the exact original (he is good about saying "in iambics" and so on when he does).
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Re: Thales

Post by mwh »

Why try to fix what doesn’t need fixing? It seems to me quite clearly prose, and I see no good reason to think it was ever verse.

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Re: Thales

Post by cb »

Hi, I agree with Michael. Nothing at first glance suggests to me that these are iambic. As Aristotle says in the Poetics, prose often comes close to falling into iambic patterns more than any other metrical pattern (which means one can often play with prose to versify it easily into trimeters), but this is not to say that prose is iambic.

I can't tell from the context above whether these words are attributed to Thales or not, but if they are, then it seems even less likely to me that these are iambic. It's not clear whether Thales left any written works, and (if he did) whether these were in verse or not (Guthrie, History of Greek philosophy vol. 1 p. 54); even if we assume that he did write in verse, I haven't looked into this but I would not expect that Thales would likely have used iambics for this topic: iambics were originally associated with other themes (e.g. humorous abuse, narrative etc.): there is a useful history of iambics in early times in Iambic ideas: Essays on a poetic tradition from Archaic Greece to the late Roman empire, chapter 1.

Cheers, Chad

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Re: Thales

Post by jeidsath »

Diogenes Laertes has been quoting right and left from Callimachus here.

Look at his previous quote:

Θάλης με τῷ μεδεῦντι Νείλεω δήμου
δίδωσι, τοῦτο δὶς λαβὼν ἀριστεῖον

Notice the end in _ _ for both lines and 4th foot caesura in the first. (But to fit this to my flagged lines, we'd need to move the ἀρχὴν δὲ τῶν πάντων ὕδωρ up in the line or otherwise do something about the ὑδωρ and we're left with the bad καὶ.) Callimachus seems to have several lines of "Thales said X", somewhat close to this format.

I think that you both far overestimate the density of good feet in Diogenes. You are free to look for other examples in his prose where you can identify them packed this closely.
"Here stuck the great stupid boys, who for the life of them could never master the accidence..."

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Re: Thales

Post by cb »

Hi, there are two points here. On the one hand, Diogenes does quote some limping iambics in this chapter (i.e. with a heavy penultimate syllable), as you quote above from 1.29. Diogenes makes clear that these are quotes (and they are set off in critical editions as quoted verse), e.g. those limping iambics in 1.29 are introduced: ὁ δὲ τῷ Διδυμεῖ Ἀπόλλωνι ἀπέστειλεν, εἰπὼν οὕτω κατὰ τὸν Καλλίμαχον· ….

On the other hand, the text you are asking about is part of the main prose text of the chapter itself, without any words introducing a quote. As I mentioned above, Greek prose often comes somewhat close to iambic rhythm (without actually complying with the rules for versification). One could play this game with other random parts of Diogenes’ prose. e.g. you’ve picked out the start of 1.27; if you took some of the other surrounding sections starts, one could tweak them too into iambics for fun with a few changes. Take e.g. the opening sentences from sections 1.13, 1.18 and 1.22:

1.13 σοφοὶ δὲ ἐνομίζοντο οἵδε· Θαλῆς, Σόλων, …
1.18 μέρη δὲ φιλοσοφίας τρία, φυσικόν, ἠθικόν, …
1.22 ἦν τοίνυν ὁ Θαλῆς, ὡς μὲν Ἡρόδοτος καὶ Δοῦρις…

If this goes beyond a game and is suggested as a "fix" to the text, however, one would need to follow the rules for textual criticism; emending prose text to meet a target metrical pattern would not by itself be robust enough. I don't see anything in the apparatus for Diogenes suggesting that the "non-metrical" parts of the quote are in question.

Cheers, Chad

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Re: Thales

Post by jeidsath »

So instead of 20 syllables with a couple of errors, you identified 3 lines that have errors every 2-3 syllables? That does illustrate the sort of line that you normally expect in prose, yes.
"Here stuck the great stupid boys, who for the life of them could never master the accidence..."

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Re: Thales

Post by mwh »

Joel,
Looking through Diogenes Laertius’ chapter on Thales I see the quotations from Callimachus’ Iambi are all expressly identified (they’re choliambs, as expected) and would be readily identifiable even without that. It’s crystal clear that the bit of the main text that you fastened on is simply prose, and provides no basis for thinking it originated as an incomplete pair of iambic trimeters.

There’s no point in arguing about this, though I fear your habitual obduracy is incurable.

[Written independently of Chad]

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Re: Thales

Post by jeidsath »

Michael, if you don't stop with constant personal comments about "habitual obduracy" and so on in every single thread, at some point I will reply with something or other equivalent, and it will cause me regret at a later time. So I would please ask you to refrain.

In fact, I was the one who brought out exactly that express identification of quotations first in this thread, and gave my explanation that *if* there is a metrical background to this, we can expect that Diogenes was going from memory, and did not have it quite perfect enough to give as a metrical quotation. Hardly impossible, and in fact only a question of probability or improbability.
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Re: Thales

Post by mwh »

Joel,
I think you’re quite wrong about DL going from memory.
And what is this about my making constant personal comments “in every single thread”? You must not have been paying attention, and you clearly have no idea how I have been restraining myself in the face of your incessantly bumptious posts.

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Re: Thales

Post by Hylander »

Deleted because I made a point I see Chad had already made.
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