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MARCUS ARGENTARIUS : EPIGRAMS

Marcus Argentarius probably wrote his epigrams during the early days of the Roman empire, certainly not later than the middle of the first century A.D.   Although he wrote in Greek, his name is Roman: "Marcus the Banker".

All of his surviving epigrams are shown here, in the order that they appear scattered throughout the Greek Anthology. The labels in red at the start of each epigram are their numbers within the Anthology. The labels in green are the numbers assigned to the epigrams in the edition by A.S.F.Gow & D.L.Page, "The Greek Anthology: The Garland of Philip and Some Contemporary Epigrams". To go to a specific epigram in the Gow-Page edition, type the number in the box below, and hit [go].
  → (in range 1 - 36):  
 

The translations are taken from the edition by W.R.Paton (1916-18), but have been modified to remove some of the archaic language. The translator's notes are shown in green.   The translations of 5.105 & 116 ( G-P 7 & 10 ) are taken from the Gow-Page edition.   Click on G to go to the Greek text of each epigram.




[5.16]   { G-P 1 }   G

Golden-horned Moon, and all you stars that shine around and sink into the bosom of Ocean, look on this ! Perfumed Ariste is gone and has left me alone, and for six days I have sought the witch in vain. But we shall catch her notwithstanding, if I put the silver hounds of Cypris on her track.


[5.32]   { G-P 2 }   G

You do everything, Melissa, that your namesake the flower-loving bee does. I know this and take it to heart. You drop honey from your lips, when you sweetly kiss, and when you ask for money you sting me most unkindly.


[5.63]   { G-P 3 }   G

Antigone, I used to think you were Sicilian, but now you have become an Aetolian I have become a Mede *   .

*   Aetolian = a beggar, from aiteō; Mede = don't give (mē dos).


[5.89]   { G-P 4 }   G

That is not love if one, trusting his judicious eyes, wishes to possess a beauty. But he who, on seeing a homely face, is pierced by the arrows and loves and set alight by fury of the heart - that is love, that is fire. For beauty delights equally all who are good judges of form. *

*   The best-known English translation of this poem begins "Love is not just a function of the eyes", and has been copied in many places on the internet.   There is also an older verse translation that begins "When dazzled by an eye" ( Google Books ).


[5.102]   { G-P 5 }   G

"You will see Diocleia, a rather slim little Aphrodite, but blessed with a sweet disposition."   "Then there won't be much between us, but falling on her thin bosom I will lie all the nearer to her heart."


[5.104]   { G-P 6 }   G

Take off these nets, Lysidice, you tease, and don't roll your hips on purpose, as you walk. The folds of your thin dress cling well to you, and all your charms are visible as if naked, and yet are invisible. If this seems amusing to you, I myself will dress in gauze too, to cover my erect part.


[5.105]   { G-P 7 }   G

Quite different is the world-order of Menophila, so runs so runs the tale among her sinful sisters, quite different. She leaves no incontinence unsampled. Go visit her, Chaldaeans: her heaven keeps both Canis and Gemini hidden.


[5.110]   { G-P 8 }   G

Pour in ten ladles of Lysidice, cup-bearer, and of charming Euphrante give me one ladle. You will say I love Lysidice best. No ! I swear by sweet Bacchus, whom I drain from this cup. But Euphrante is as one to ten. Doth not the light of the moon that is single overcome that of countless stars ?


[5.113]   { G-P 9 }   G

You fell in love, Sosicrates, when rich ; now you are poor, you are in love no longer. What an admirable cure is hunger ! And Menophila, who used to call you her sweety and her darling Adonis, now asks your name. "What man are you, and whence, your city where ?" *   You have perforce learnt the meaning of the saying, "None is the friend of him who has nothing."

*   From Homer, Od. 1.170.


[5.116]   { G-P 10 }   G

The love of women is best for those men who are serious in their attachments. If you cherish desire for males too, I can teach you a remedy to stop that sick-love malady: turn Menophila's fine hips about, and in your mind imagine that you have nothing but a male Menophilus in your embrace.


[5.118]   { G-P 11 }   G

Isias, though your perfumed breath be ten times sweeter than spikenard, awake, and take this garland in your dear hands. Now it is blooming, but as dawn approaches you will see it fading, a symbol of your own fresh youth.


[5.127]   { G-P 12 }   G

I was very fond of a young girl called Alcippe, and once, having succeeded in persuading her, I brought her secretly to my room. Both our hearts were beating, lest any superfluous person should surprise us and witness our secret love. But her mother overheard her talk, and looking in suddenly, said, "We go shares, my daughter." *  

*   Literally, "Hermes is shared." Treasure trove was supposed to come from Hermes. Hence the proverb.


[5.128]   { G-P 13 }   G

Breast to breast supporting my bosom on hers, and pressing her sweet lips to mine I clasped Antigone close with naught between us. About the rest, of which the lamp was entered as witness, I am silent.


[6.201]   { G-P 17 }   G

Euphrante, when she was happily delivered of the burden of her womb, dedicated in the temple of Artemis her sandals and beautiful head-band, and this scented curl cut from her lovely locks, her girdle, too, and this fine under-vest, and the bright band that encompassed her bosom.


[6.246]   { G-P 18 }   G

Charmus from his Isthmian victory dedicates in your porch, Poseidon, his spurs that urge the horse on its way, the muzzle that fits on its nose, its necklace of teeth, *   and his willow wand, also the comb that drags the horse's hair, the whip for its flanks, rough mother of smacking blows. Accept these gifts, god of the steel-blue locks, and crown the son of Lychnis in the great Olympic contest too.

*   To protect from the evil eye.


[6.248]   { G-P 23 }   G

This should be compared with No. v.135.

Rest here, consecrated to Cypris henceforth, my tipsy flagon, sister of the sweet wine-cup, devotee of Bacchus, liquid-voiced, boon-companion in the "equal feast," *   slim-necked daughter of our dining club, self-taught minister of men, sweetest confidant of lovers, ever ready to serve at the banquet ; rest here, a lordly gift from Marcus who sang your praises, you tippler, when he dedicated you, the old companion of his wanderings.

*   a Homeric phrase.


[6.333]   { G-P 14 }   G

A Love Epigram misplaced

Thrice have you sneezed, dear lamp ! Is it, perhaps, to tell me that delightful Antigone is coming to my chamber? For if, my lord, this be true, you shall stand by the tripod, like Apollo, and prophesy to men.


[7.364]   { G-P 21 }   G

Myro made this tomb for her grasshopper and cicada, sprinkling a little dust over them both and weeping regretfully over their pyre ; for the songster was seized by Hades and the other by Persephone.


[7.374]   { G-P 19 }   G

My ill-fated body was covered by the sea, and beside the waves my mother, Lysidice, wept for me much, gazing at my false and empty tomb, while my evil genius sent my lifeless corpse to be tossed with the sea-gulls on the deep. My name was Pnytagoras and I met my fate on the Aegean, when taking in the stern cables because of the north-wind. Yet not even so did I end my voyage, but from my ship I embarked on another boat among the dead. *  

*   i.e. Charon's.


[7.384]   { G-P 31 }   G

Old Aristomache the talkative friend of the vine, who loved Bacchus much more than did his nurse Ino, when she went under holy earth, and the spirit of her who had enjoyed so many a cup had utterly faded, said "Shake, Minos, the light urn. *   I will fetch the dark water from Acheron ; for I too {like the daughters of Danaus} slew a young husband." This falsehood she told in order that even among the dead she should be able to look at a jar.

*   i.e. condemn me. cp. Virg.Aen. vi. 492.


[7.395]   { G-P 20 }   G

This is the cenotaph of Callaeschrus, whom the deep undid as he was crossing the Libyan sea, then when the force of Orion at the stormy season of his baneful setting *   stirred the water from its depths. The sea-monsters devoured his wave-tossed corpse, and the stone bears but this empty inscription.

*   Early in November.


[7.403]   { G-P 32 }   G

Psyllus, who used to take to the pleasant banquets of the young men the venal ladies that they desired, that hunter of weak girls, who earned a disgraceful wage by dealing in human flesh, lies here. But do not cast stones at his tomb, wayfarer, nor bid another do so. He is dead and buried. Spare him, not because he was content to gain his living so, but because as keeper of common women he dissuaded young men from adultery.


[9.87]   { G-P 22 }   G

No longer warble, blackbird, by the oak-tree, no longer perch on the highest branch and call. This tree is your enemy ; go to where the vine mounts with shady green leaves. Set your feet on its branch and sing by it, pouring shrill notes from your throat. For the oak bears the mistletoe which is the foe of birds, but the vine bears grape-clusters ; and Bacchus loves songsters.


[9.161]   { G-P 15 }   G

As I was turning over the pages of a volume of Hesiod, I suddenly saw Pyrrhe approaching. Throwing the book on the ground I exclaimed : " Why should I be bothered by your works, *   old Hesiod ? "

*   There is a play on the title "Works and Days" of one of Hesiod's poems.


[9.221]   { G-P 35 }   G

I see upon the signet-ring Love, whom none can escape, driving a chariot drawn by mighty lions. One hand menaces their necks with the whip, the other guides the reins ; about him is shed abundant bloom of grace. I shudder as I look on the destroyer of men, for he who can tame wild beasts will not show the least mercy to mortals.


[9.229]   { G-P 24 }   G

{ cp. Book V., No. 135 }

My ancient boon-companion, friend of the vintner's measures, sweet babbler with the gentle laugh, pretty mouth and long neck, my flagon, ever knowing the secret of my poverty but contributing little to relieve it, I have waited for you long, but I hold you now. Would I had you unmixed and unwedded, *   coming like a maiden undefiled to her husband.

*   The Greek word means also " unwatered."


[9.246]   { G-P 25 }   G

You are broken, sweet flagon, dear to the wine-bibbers, and have shed from your belly all the liquor of Bacchus. For from afar fell on you, with a dreadful crash, a stone like a thunderbolt hurled by the hand, not of Zeus {Dios}, but of Dion. And when it smote you there was much laughter and many gibes, and a great noise among the company. I do not lament you, flagon, who gave birth to Bacchus the crier of euai, for your fate has been the same as Semele's. *  

*   The flagon is said to have given birth to Bacchus by spilling the wine, as Semele when smitten by the thunderbolt spilt the child from her womb.


[9.270]   { G-P 26 }   G

I keep revel, gazing at the golden dance of the stars of evening, nor do I rudely disturb the converse of others. Tossing my hair that scatters flowers, I awake with musical fingers the deep-toned lyre. And in doing so I lead an orderly life, for the order of the universe itself lacks not a Lyre and a Crown. *  

*   kosmos has the two senses of "order, propriety" and "the Universe." The constellations are Lyra and Corona Borealis.


[9.286]   { G-P 16 }   G

Why have you, cockerel, robbed me of beloved sleep, and the sweet image of Pyrrha has flown away from my bed ? Is this my recompense for bringing you up and making you, ill-starred fowl, the lord of all the egg-laying herd in my house ? I swear by the altar and sceptre of Serapis, no more shall you call in the night, but shall lie on that altar by which I have sworn.


[9.554]   { G-P 33 }   G

In secret, Heracleia, you do our pretty boys that service with your lips. For long all the town says it of you. How do you venture to do such a shameful thing ? Did anyone catch you by your beautiful hair and force you to it ? Or is it because your pretty name is derived from Heracles that in your depravity you choose to kiss his wife Hebe *   in young men.

*   The word hēbē, "youthful vigour", is often used in an obscene sense.


[9.732]   { G-P 36 }   G

Stranger, if you see my herdsman, give him this message, that the sculptor Myron tied me up here.


[10.4]   { G-P 28 }   G

Loose the long hawers from your well-moored ships, and spreading your easily-hoisted sails set to sea, merchant captain. For the storms have taken flight and tenderly laughing Zephyr now makes the blue wave gentle as a girl. Already the swallow, fond parent, is building with its lisping lips its chamber out of mud and straw, and flowers spring up in the land; therefore listen to Priapus and undertake any kind of navigation.


[10.18]   { G-P 29 }   G

Gobrys, let Dionysus and Aphrodite, who loves dalliance, delight thee, and the sweet Muses too with their letters. Their wisdom you have plucked; but enter now on her loves and drain his dear bowls.


[11.26]   { G-P 27 }   G

I reel drunk with wine; but who shall save me from Bacchus who makes my limbs totter? How unjust a god have I encountered, since while I carry you, Bacchus, by you, in return, I am carried astray.


[11.28]   { G-P 30 }   G

Dead, five feet of earth shall be yours and you shalt not look on the delights of life or on the rays of the sun. So take the cup of unmixed wine and drain it rejoicing, Cincius, with your arm round your lovely wife. But if you consider wisdom to be immortal, know that Cleanthes and Zenon went to deep Hades.


[11.320]   { G-P 34 }   G

Philostratus loved Antigone. He was poorer by five palms, poor fellow, than Irus. The cold, however, taught him a sweet remedy ; for tucking up his knees (with antia gonata) he slept so, stranger, with Antigone.


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