three pairs of lovers with space

THE EPIGRAMS OF ANTIPATROS OF SIDON

 

Antipatros of Sidon was a poet of the second half of the 2nd century BC who wrote sixty-nine epigrams included in the Garland of Meleagros, the first collection of poems eventually included in The Greek Anthology. Presented here are the four which touch on pederasty.

The translations are by W. R. Paton in The Greek Anthology, Volumes II and IV: Loeb Classical Library Vols. LXVIII and LXXXV (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1917-8). The only amendments are to undo his Latinisation of names in favour of more literal transliteration of the Greek.

 

VII.  Sepulchral Epigrams

Anakreon (ca. 570-ca.485 BC), the subject of all three of Antipatros’s sepulchral epigrams, was one of the nine lyric poets most highly esteemed by the ancients, and widely celebrated for his passion for boys, including in other poems in The Greek Anthology attributed to Simonides and Dioskourides.. The girl Euryple and the boys Megistheus, Smerdis and Bathyllos were named by him in his own surviving poems as loved by him in Samos.

 

27

On Anakreon

Anakreon, glory of Ionia, mayest thou among the dead be not without thy beloved revels, or without thy lyre, and still mayest thou sing with swimming eyes, shaking the entwined flowers that rest on thy essenced hair, turned towards Eurypyle, or Megisteus, or the locks of Thracian Smerdies, spouting sweet wine, thy robe drenched with the juice of the grape, wringing untempered nectar from its folds. For all thy life, O old man, was poured out as an offering to these three, the Muses, Bacchus, and Love.  Εἴης ἐν μακάρεσσιν, Ἀνάκρεον, εὖχος Ἰώνων,
     μήτ᾿ ἐρατῶν κώμων ἄνδιχα, μήτε λύρης·
ὑγρὰ δὲ δερκομένοισιν ἐν ὄμμασιν οὖλον ἀείδοις,
     αἰθύσσων λιπαρῆς ἄνθος ὕπερθε κόμης,
ἠὲ πρὸς Εὐρυπύλην τετραμμένος, ἠὲ Μεγιστῆ,
     ἢ Κίκονα Θρῃκὸς Σμερδίεω πλόκαμον,
ἡδὺ μέθυ βλύζων, ἀμφίβροχος εἵματα Βάκχῳ,
     ἄκρητον λείβων νέκταρ ἀπὸ στολίδων.
τρισσοῖς γάρ, Μούσαισι, Διωνύσῳ καὶ Ἔρωτι,
     πρέσβυ, κατεσπείσθη πᾶς ὁ τεὸς βίοτος.
Anakreon and Eros by Bertel Thorvaldsen, 1827

 29

On Anakreon

Thou sleepest among the dead, Anakreon, thy good day’s labour done; thy sweet lyre that talked all through the night sleepeth too. And Smerdies sleeps, the spring-tide of the Loves, to whom, striking the lyre, thou madest music like unto nectar. For thou wast the target of Love, the Love of lads, and to shoot thee alone he had a bow and subtle archer craft.   Εὕδεις ἐν φθιμένοισιν, Ἀνάκρεον, ἐσθλὰ πονήσας,
     εὕδει δ᾿ ἡ γλυκερὴ νυκτιλάλος κιθάρη·
εὕδει καὶ Σμέρδις, τὸ Πόθων ἔαρ, ᾧ σὺ μελίσδων
     βάρβιτ᾿ ἀνεκρούου νέκταρ ἐναρμόνιον.
ἠϊθέων γὰρ Ἔρωτος ἔφυς σκοπός· εἰς δὲ σὲ μοῦνον
     τόξα τε καὶ σκολιὰς εἶχεν ἑκηβολίας.
 

 

30

On Anakreon

This is Anakreon’s tomb; here sleeps the Teian swan and the untempered madness of his passion for lads. Still singeth he some song of longing to the lyre about Bathyllos, and the white marble is perfumed with ivy. Not even death has quenched thy loves, and in the house of Acheron thou sufferest all through thee the pangs of the fever of Kypris.[1] Τύμβος Ἀνακρείοντος· ὁ Τήϊος ἐνθάδε κύκνος
     εὕδει, χἠ παίδων ζωροτάτη μανίη.
ἀκμὴν οἱ λυρόεν τι μελίζεται ἀμφὶ Βαθύλλῳ
     ἵμερα, καὶ κισσοῦ λευκὸς ὄδωδε λίθος.
οὐδ᾿ Ἀΐδης σοι ἔρωτας ἀπέσβεσεν, ἐν δ᾿ Ἀχέροντος
     ὢν ὅλος ὠδίνεις Κύπριδι θερμοτέρῃ.
Anacreon's Tomb by Geoffrey Hamilton Rhoades, 1950

XII.  The Boyish Muse

97

Unlike the preceding epigrams, this one was attributed in The Greek Anthology simply to Antipatros, rather than to Antipatros of Sidon, but there is general agreement that it was by the latter rather than his namesake of Thessalonike who wrote in the following century some epigrams included in the same anthology.

Eupalamos is ruddy red like Love, as far as Meriones,[2] the captain of the Cretans; but from Meriones onwards Podaleirios no longer goes back to the Dawn: see how envious Nature, the universal mother, is. For if his lower parts were equal to his upper he would excel Achilles, the grandson of Aiakos.   Εὐπάλαμος ξανθὸν μὲν ἐρεύθεται, ἶσον Ἔρωτι,
     μέσφα ποτὶ Κρητῶν ποιμένα Μηριόνην·
ἐκ δέ νυ Μηριόνεω Ποδαλείριος οὐκέτ᾿ ἐς Ἠὼ
     νεῖται· ἴδ᾿ ὡς φθονερὰ παγγενέτειρα φύσις.
εἰ γὰρ τῷ τά τ᾿ ἔνερθε τά θ᾿ ὑψόθεν ἶσα πέλοιτο,
     ἦν ἂν Ἀχιλλῆος φέρτερος Αἰακίδεω.
 

 

Interpretation.

It is hardly obvious what the poet was getting at in this in this last epigram, the translator claiming in his footnote to be baffled by it.  Fortunately, P. G. Maxwell-Stuart later explained it in his essay Antipater's Eupalamus: A Comment on Anth. Graec. 12.97,[3] from which the following quotations should suffice to convey those of his points most pertinent here.

In his Loeb translation Paton confesses that the joke in this epigram is obscure, an admission caused perhaps as much by embarrassment as by a mistake which offers Meriones as a synonym for thighs. Unfortunately it is nothing of the kind; Meriones stands for anus or sphincter and unless this be admitted from the start little or no sense can be made of the poem.

Eupalamus is flushed ξανθός colour as far as his anus; in other words he has a fine tan. […]

It is not until the second line that we realize we are in for a joke. Meriones, "captain of the Cretans," contains two sources of wit. We know that Cretans were notorious for paederasty,[4] so Homer's account of the death of Tecton, slain by Meriones who thrust a spear through his buttock, provides one bawdy allusion.[5] The other is contained in "Meriones" itself. Paton draws our attention to μηρός, but forgets the play on words. [Maxwell-Stuart then quotes Rufinus and Aristophanes using the word to mean “vagina”]. Strato, too, has a desire to treat a boy, Theodorus, as his woman (ἑταιρόσυνος) and urges him to "essay Meriones" (πειρῶμεν …. Μηριόνην) which is clearly an invitation to sodomy.[6] Meriones, therefore, should be taken here to refer to Eupalamus' anus.

From there (ἐκ δέ νυ), Podaleirius no longer returns to the dawn, that is, there is no more flushing red. "From that point onwards" can, anatomically, only bring us to the penis, "lilyfoot" as the name means. Foot can be a euphemism for the penis; [Maxwell-Stuart demonstrates this with quotations from the Bible as well as Apollodoros] Lilies are white, and the pallor of  Eupalamus' penis contrasts with the attractive reddish-tan of the rest of his body. "White" was often an opprobrious adjective implying weak or womanish; […]. This poor, pale Podaleirius no longer returns towards the dawn, that is to say it is no longer suffused with blood: he is incapable of managing an erection, and since λείριος implies not only white but also weak the notion of impotence is thus reinforced and doubly hinted.

So we have another poem about impotence of which there are several in the Anthology,[7] and Antipater has given us a variation on the theme. The poem ends with a sigh. If only Eupalamus could achieve tumescence he would be more excellent than Achilles, the grandson of Aeacus. Why mention Aeacus? He was, if we recall, King of Aegina which had fallen prey to famine and drought: death and disease were everywhere. Aeacus prayed to Zeus for relief and his prayers were answered. He repeatedly kissed the sacred oak, Zeus' own tree, whereupon rain began to fall - a clear image of fellatio.[8] Presumably Antipater wants us to recall the story and connect Eupalamus' present impotence with his potential sexuality. It is an original but not obscure allusion.

 

[1] Acheron was the river of sorrow in Hades, and Kyoris was a common epithet of the goddess of love.

[2] He means his thighs (meros). In line 5 there is a play on Podaleirius, “lily-footed,” and so pale and unlike the rosy dawn, but the joke is obscure. [Translator’s note]

[3] Published in The American Journal of Philology , Spring, 1975, Vol. 96, No. 1 (Spring, 1975), pp. 13-15.

[4] Sextus Empiricus Pyrrhonism 3.24 (199). Servius Comment. ad Aeneid. 10.325. [Maxwell-Stuart’s footnote]

[5] Iliad 5.65-66. [Maxwell-Stuart’s footnote]. This epigram is therefore yet another in The Greek Anthology that assumes an association between pederasty and the anus, ie. with pedication.

[6] The Greek Anthology XII 247.

[7] The Greek Anthology XI 29 (by Automedon) and XII 11, 216 (by Straton) and 232 (by Skythinos).

[8] Ovid Metamorphoses 7.631-32. Ovid is the only person to mention the kissing, so the image of fellatio may well be peculiar to him. It is not necessary, however, to an understanding of Antipater. Aeacus' power in bringing fertility to a sterile land is sufficient and obvious. [Maxwell-Stuart’s footnote]

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