three pairs of lovers with space

THE EPIGRAMS OF ALKAIOS OF MESSENE

 

Alkaios Ἀλκαῖος of Messene was the author of twenty-two epigrams in The Greek Anthology, of which three were pederastic and are to be found in its specifically pederastic twelfth book known as the Boyish Muse. They belong roughly to the period 219 to 196 BC, to which some of his other epigrams can be dated from internal evidence.

The translations are by W. R. Paton in The Greek Anthology, Volume IV: Loeb Classical Library Vol. LXXXV (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1918). The only amendments are to undo his Latinisation of names in favour of more literal transliteration of the Greek.

 

The Boyish Muse

29

Protarchos is fair and does not wish it; but later he will, and his youth races on holding a torch.[1]   Πρώταρχος καλός ἐστι, καὶ οὐ θέλει· ἀλλὰ θελήσει
     ὕστερον· ἡ δ᾿ ὥρη λαμπάδ᾿ ἔχουσα τρέχει.
 


30

Your leg, Nikandros, is getting hairy, but take care lest your back-side also gets the same unnoticed.[2] Then shall you know how rare lovers are. But even now reflect that youth is irrevocable.[3]  Ἡ κνήμη, Νίκανδρε, δασύνεται· ἀλλὰ φύλαξαι,
     μή σε καὶ ἡ πυγὴ ταὐτὸ παθοῦσα λάθῃ·
καὶ γνώσῃ φιλέοντος ὅση σπάνις. ἀλλ᾿ ἔτι καὶ νῦν
     τῆς ἀμετακλήτου φρόντισον ἡλικίης.
 

The "fair Trojan boy" about to be seized by Zeus in disguise: Ganymede Feeding the Eagle (Roman copy of a Hellenistic original in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg)

64

Zeus, Lord of Pisa, crown under the steep hill of Kronos[4] Peithenor, the second son of Kypris.[5] And, Lord, I pray thee become no eagle on high to seize him for thy cup-bearer in place of the fair Trojan boy.[6] If ever I have brought thee a gift from the Muses that was dear to thee, grant that the god-like boy may be of one mind with me.   Ζεὺς Πίσης μεδέων, Πειθήνορα, δεύτερον υἷα
     Κύπριδος, αἰπεινῷ στέψον ὑπὸ Κρονίῳ·
μηδέ μοι οἰνοχόον κυλίκων σέθεν αἰετὸς ἀρθεὶς
     μάρψαις ἀντὶ καλοῦ, κοίρανε, Δαρδανίδου.
εἰ δέ τι Μουσάων τοι ἐγὼ φίλον ὤπασα δῶρον,
     νεύσαις μοι θείου παιδὸς ὁμοφροσύνην.
 

 

[1] As in this torch race the torch was handed on by one racer to another, so is it with the light of youthful beauty. [Translator’s footnote]. The preeminent historian of Greek homosexuality, Sir Kenneth Dover listed this together with Alkaios’s next epigram and two also in The Boyish Muse by Phanias and Thymokles as “epigrams on the theme 'Soon you'll be too old, and it'll be too late!' “ with the implication “ 'You won't have the satisfaction of being desired and admired'.” (Greek Homosexuality, 1978, p. 52).

[2] Body hair is frequently referred to by poets as signifying the end of a boy’s sexual attractiveness to men; the emphasis on the particular importance of hairless buttocks strongly suggests an assumption that Nikandros’s lover would want to consummate his love by pedicating him.

[3] The preeminent historian of Greek homosexuality, Sir Kenneth Dover listed this together with Alkaios’s previous epigram and two also in The Boyish Muse by Phanias and Thymokles as “epigrams on the theme 'Soon you'll be too old, and it'll be too late!' “ with the implication “ 'You won't have the satisfaction of being desired and admired'.” (Greek Homosexuality, 1978, p. 52).

[4] At Olympia. [Translator’s note] In other words, the poet is praying for his victory in the Olympic Games. Sir Kenneth Dover cites this as one of several examples of how “a sun-tanned skin and good muscular development must have been regarded as attractive attributes” in arousing desire for a boy (Greek Homosexuality, 1978, p. 69).

[5] In other words, Peithenor is being described hyperbolically as a son of the goddess of love, one of whose epithets was Kypris.

[6] Ganymede, a Trojan prince whom Zeus in the form of an eagle abducted to be his cup-bearer and loved-boy on Mount Olympos.

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