Friday, 28 May 2021

Bristling Nemesis

In pederastic epigram of Strato's kind at least, a boy's flowering (anthos) is all the more precious because it is so fleeting. Sooner rather than later, the fuzzy-cheeked youth will emerge from puberty as a bearded young man. His new and sudden crop of body hair will make him unattractive as a potential beloved (erōmenos). In the natural rhythm of things as envisioned by the Greeks, soon he will be off chasing boys of his own.

Here is an anonymous epigram from the Greek Anthology, AP 12.39, in a new translation that's slightly looser than I might have allowed myself before. My next blog post will give further examples.

Nicander’s loveliness is all burned out,
And all the bloom has flitted from his skin,
As if we’d dreamed it. Of his winning charms
Nothing remains, not even empty name.
It used to be we reckoned him a god.
Do not, you younglings, think so very high,
As if above mere mortals: you will die,
And first there will be hair upon your thigh.
' if we’d dreamed it' unpacks a single Greek verb, ἀποπέτομαι. It means to fly off or fly away, and according to LSJ it is especially used of dreams. When Agamemnon tells his senior advisers about the prophetic dream that visited him in the night promising victory, he describes it as flying away from him when it reached its end: 'ᾤχετ᾽ ἀποπτάμενος'.

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