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three pairs of lovers with space



Rhianos Ῥιανὸς was a Greek poet and grammarian of the second half of the third century BC, who probably wrote in Alexandria.[1] According to the Souda, a tenth century Byzantine encyclopaedia of the ancient world based on ancient sources, he was mostly thought to have come from the city of Bene in Crete, he “was originally the warden of the palaistra and a slave; subsequently he was educated and became a grammarian.”[2] Six of his epigrams were preserved in The Boyish Muse, a compilation of pederastic verse initially compiled by Straton of Sardis in the 2nd century AD.

The translation of all but one are by W. R. Paton in The Greek Anthology, Volume IV: Loeb Classical Library Vol. LXXXV (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1918), but for that of no. XXXVIII the very similar translation by Sonya Lida Tarán in The Art of Variation in the Hellenistic Epigram (Leyden, 1979) p. 43 has been preferred. The only amendments are to undo their Latinisation of names in favour of more literal transliteration of the Greek.



The Hours and Graces shed sweet oil on you, buttocks, and you do not let even old men sleep.[3] Tell me, whose are you, blessed one, and which of the boys do you adorn? The buttocks answered: “Menekrates’ “. Ὧραί σοι Χάριτές τε κατὰ γλυκὺ χεῦαν ἔλαιον,
     ὦ πυγά· κνώσσειν δ᾿ οὐδὲ γέροντας ἐᾷς.
λέξον μοι τίνος ἐσσὶ μάκαιρα τύ, καὶ τίνα παίδων
     κοσμεῖς; ἁ πυγὰ δ᾿ εἶπε· “Μενεκράτεος.”



Troizen[4] is a good nurse; thou shalt not err if thou praisest even the last of her boys. But Empedokles excels all in brilliance as much as the lovely rose outshines the other flowers of spring.  Ἡ Τροιζὴν ἀγαθὴ κουροτρόφος· οὐκ ἂν ἁμάρτοις
     αἰνήσας παίδων οὐδὲ τὸν ὑστάτιον.
τόσσον δ᾿ Ἐμπεδοκλῆς φανερώτερος, ὅσσον ἐν ἄλλοις
     ἄνθεσιν εἰαρινοῖς καλὸν ἔλαμψε ῥόδον.
Kylix inscribed "The Beautiful Boy" (The Louvre)



Boys are a labyrinth from which there is no way out; for wherever thou castest thine eye it is fast entangled as if by bird-lime. Here Theodoros attracts thee to the plump ripeness of his flesh and the un-adulterate bloom of his limbs, and there it is the golden face of Philokles, who is not great in stature, but heavenly grace environs him. But if thou turnest to look on Leptines thou shalt no more move thy limbs, but shalt remain, thy steps glued as if by indissoluble adamant; such a flame hath the boy in his eyes to set thee afire from thy head to thy toe and finger tips. All hail, beautiful boys! May ye come to the prime of youth and live till grey hair clothe your heads.  Οἱ παῖδες λαβύρινθος ἀνέξοδος· ᾗ γὰρ ἂν ὄμμα
     ῥίψῃς, ὡς ἰξῷ τοῦτο προσαμπέχεται.
τῇ μὲν γὰρ Θεόδωρος ἄγει ποτὶ πίονα σαρκὸς
     ἀκμὴν καὶ γυίων ἄνθος ἀκηράσιον·
τῇ δὲ Φιλοκλῆος χρύσεον ῥέθος, ὃς τὸ καθ᾿ ὕψος
     οὐ μέγας, οὐρανίη δ᾿ ἀμφιτέθηλε χάρις.
ἢν δ᾿ ἐπὶ Λεπτίνεω στρέψῃς δέμας, οὐκέτι γυῖα
     κινήσεις, ἀλύτῳ δ᾿ ὡς ἀδάμαντι μενεῖς
ἴχνια κολληθείς· τοῖον σέλας ὄμμασιν αἴθει
     κοῦρος καὶ νεάτους ἐκ κορυφῆς ὄνυχας.
χαίρετε καλοὶ παῖδες, ἐς ἀκμαίην δὲ μόλοιτε
     ἥβην, καὶ λευκὴν ἀμφιέσαισθε κόμην.



Tell me, Kleonikos, did the bright Graces meet thee walking in a narrow lane and take thee in their rosy arms, dear boy, that thou hast become such a Grace as thou art? From afar I bid thee all hail, but ah! dear, it is not safe for a dry corn-stalk to draw nearer to the fire.   Ἦ ῥά νύ τοι, Κλεόνικε, δι᾿ ἀτραπιτοῖο κιόντι
     στεινῆς ἤντησαν ταὶ λιπαραὶ Χάριτες·
καί σε ποτὶ ῥοδέαισιν ἐπηχύναντο χέρεσσιν,
     κοῦρε; πεποίησαι δ᾿ ἡλίκος ἐσσὶ χάρις.
τηλόθι μοι μάλα χαῖρε· πυρὸς δ᾿ οὐκ ἀσφαλὲς ἆσσον
     ἕρπειν αὐηρήν, ἆ φίλος, ἀνθέρικα.


Dexionikos, having caught a blackbird with lime under a green plane-tree, held it by the wings, and it, the holy bird,[5] screamed complaining. But I, dear Love, and ye blooming Graces, would fain be even a thrush or a blackbird, so that in his hand I might pour forth my voice and sweet tears.  Ἰξῷ Δεξιόνικος ὑπὸ χλωρῇ πλατανίστῳ
     κόσσυφον ἀγρεύσας, εἷλε κατὰ πτερύγων·
χὠ μὲν ἀναστενάχων ἀπεκώκυεν ἱερὸς ὄρνις.
     ἀλλ᾿ ἐγώ, ὦ φίλ᾿ Ἔρως, καὶ θαλεραὶ Χάριτες,
εἴην καὶ κίχλη καὶ κόσσυφος, ὡς ἂν ἐκείνου
     ἐν χερὶ καὶ φθογγὴν καὶ γλυκὺ δάκρυ βάλω.
Bronze mirror cover with winged Eros, ca. 300 BC (Boston Museum of Fine Arts)


I caught the fawn and lost him; I, who had taken countless pains and set up the nets and stakes, go away empty-handed, but they who toiled not carry off my quarry, O Love. May thy wrath be heavy upon them.   Ἀγρεύσας τὸν νεβρὸν ἀπώλεσα, χὠ μὲν ἀνατλὰς
     μυρία, καὶ στήσας δίκτυα καὶ στάλικας,
σὺν κενεαῖς χείρεσσιν ἀπέρχομαι· οἱ δ᾿ ἀμόγητοι
     τἀμὰ φέρουσιν, Ἔρως· οἷς σὺ γένοιο βαρύς.


[1] The suppositions as to Alexandria and his age are based on the statement of the Souda rho 158 that he was “contemporary with Eratosthenes”.

[2] Souda rho 158.

[3] Kenneth Dover, in his ground-breaking book Greek Homosexuality (1978) p. 99, words it that Rhianos here “rapturously apostrophises the 'glorious bum' of a boy, so beautiful that even old men itch for it”, which he cites as evidence that the Greeks were drawn to pedicating boys. This evidence has become more important in view of a myth growing in popularity that they disdained pedication.

[4] Troizen was a particularly ancient city in the south-east of the Argolis district of the Peloponnese.

[5] Holy because it is a singing bird. [Translator’s note]




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