Asclepiades : Epigrams

Asclepiades of Samos wrote his epigrams early in the 3rd century B.C.; he was an accomplished poet, and had a considerable influence on subsequent Hellenistic writers. About forty of his poems have been preserved in the Greek Anthology, although some of them possibly belong to other authors. For more information on Asclepiades, see the introduction to "Asclepiades of Samos and Leonidas of Tarentum" by Jerry Clack ( Google Books ).

All of his surviving epigrams are shown here, in the order that they appear scattered throughout the 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: Hellenistic 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 - 47):  

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.   Click on G to go to the Greek text of each epigram.

[5.7]   { G-P 9 }   G

Dear lamp, thrice Heracleia here present swore by you to come, and she has not come. Lamp, if you are a god, take vengeance on the deceitful girl. When she has a friend at home and is sporting with him, go out; and give them no more light.

[5.64]   { G-P 11 }   G

Snow, hail, make darkness, lighten, thunder, shake out upon the earth all your black clouds ! If you slay me, then I shall cease, but if you let me live, though I pass through worse than this, I will go with music to her doors ; for the god compels me who is your master too, Zeus - he at whose bidding you turned to gold and pierced the brazen chamber.

[5.85]   { G-P 2 }   G

You grudge your virginity ? For what purpose ? When you go to Hades you will find none to love you there. The joys of Love are in the land of the living, but in Acheron, dear virgin, we shall lie dust and ashes.

[5.145]   { G-P 12 }   G

Abide here, my garlands, where I hang you by this door, and do not shake off your leaves in haste, for I have watered you with my tears - rainy are the eyes of lovers. But when the door opens and you see him, shed my rain on his head, that at least his fair hair may drink my tears.

[5.150]   { G-P 10 }   G

The celebrated Nico promised to come to me for to-night and swore by solemn Demeter. She comes not and the first watch of night is past. Did she mean then to forswear herself? Servants, put out the light.

[5.153]   { G-P 3 }   G

Nicarete's sweet face, bathed by the Loves, peeping often from her high window, was smitten, dear Cypris, by the flame that lightened from the sweet blue eyes of Cleophon, standing by her door.

[5.158]   { G-P 4 }   G

I played once with captivating Hermione, and she wore, O Paphian Queen, a girdle of many colours bearing letters of gold ; all round it was written, "Love me and be not sore at heart if I am another's."

[5.161]   { G-P 40 }   G


Euphro, Thais and Boïdiŏn, Diomedes' old women, the twenty-oared transports of ship-captains, have cast ashore, one apiece, Agis, Cleophon and Antagoras - naked and worse off than shipwrecked mariners. But fly from Aphrodite's corsairs and their ships ; they are worse foes than the Sirens.

[5.162]   { G-P 8 }   G

Cruel Philaeniŏn has bitten me ; though the bite does not show, the pain reaches to my finger-tips. Dear Loves, I am gone, 'tis over with me, I am past hope ; for half asleep I trod upon a whore *   , I know it, and her touch was death.

*   hetairan, "whore", is put contra expectationem for echidnan, "viper".

[5.164]   { G-P 13 }   G

Night, for I call you alone to witness, look how shamefully Nicō's Pythias, ever loving to deceive, treats me. I came at her call and not uninvited. May she one day stand at my door and complain to you that she suffered the like at my hands.

[5.167]   { G-P 14 }   G

It was night, it was raining, and, love's third burden, I was in wine ; the north wind blew cold and I was alone. But lovely Moschus overpowered all. "Would that you did wander so, and did not rest at one door." So much I exclaimed there, drenched through. "How long Zeus ? Peace, dear Zeus ! You too were taught to love." *  

*   The epigram is very obscure and probably corrupt. The last words are addressed to Zeus as the weather god, but it is not evident who "you" in line 3 is.

[5.169]   { G-P 1 }   G

Sweet in summer a draught of snow to him who thirsts, and sweet for sailors after winter's storms to feel the Zephyr of the spring. But sweeter still when one cloak doth cover two lovers and Cypris is honoured by both.

[5.181]   { G-P 25 }   G

Buy us some . . . (but when will he come ?) and five rose wreaths.- Why do you say "pax " {that will do} ? You say you have no change ! We are ruined ; won't someone string up the Lapith beast ! I have a brigand not a servant. So you are not at fault ! Not at all ! Bring your account. Phryne, fetch me my reckoning counters. Oh the rascal ! Wine, five drachmas ! Sausage, two ! shell-fish you say, mackerel . . . honeycombs ! We will reckon them up correctly to-morrow ; now go to Aeschra's perfumery and get five silver bottles (?) Tell her as a token that Bacchon kissed her five times right off, of which fact her bed was entered as a witness. *  

*   The epigram is exceedingly corrupt. The point seems to lie as in No. 185 in his giving an expensive order after all his complaint about charges.

[5.185]   { G-P 26 }   G

Go to the market, Demetrius, and get from Amyntas three small herrings and ten little lemon-soles *   ; and get two dozen fresh prawns (he will count them for you) and come straight back. And from Thauborius get six rose-wreaths - and, as it is on your way, just look in and invite Tryphera.

*   I give these names of fish verbi gratia, only as being cheap. The joke lies in the crescendo.

[5.189]   { G-P 42 }   G

The night is long, and it is winter weather, and night sets when the Pleiads are half-way up the sky. I pass and repass her door, drenched by the rain, smitten by desire of her, the deceiver. It is not love that Cypris smote me with, but a tormenting arrow red-hot from the fire.

[5.194]   { G-P 34 }   G


The Loves themselves escorted soft Eireniŏn as she issued from the golden chamber of Cypris, a holy flower of beauty from head to foot, as though carved of white marble, laden with virgin graces. Full many an arrow to a young man's heart did they let fly from their purple bow-strings.

[5.202]   { G-P 35 }   G


Plango dedicated on the portals of the equestrian god her purple whip and her polished reins, after winning as a jockey her race with Philaenis, her practised rival, when the horses of the evening had just begun to neigh. Dear Cypris, give her unquestioned glory for her victory, providing for her this favour not to be forgotten. *  

*   In this and the following epigram, there is a pun on the sexual position called kelēs.

[5.203]   { G-P 6 }   G

Lysidice dedicated to you, Cypris, her spur, the golden goad of her shapely leg, with which she trained many a horse on its back, while her own thighs were never reddened, so lightly did she ride ; for she always finished the race without a touch of the spur, and therefore hung on the great gate of thy temple this her weapon of gold.

[5.207]   { G-P 7 }   G

Bitto and Nanniŏn of Samos will not go to the house of Cypris by the road the goddess ordains, but desert to other things which are not seemly. O Lady Cypris, look with hate on the truants from thy bed.

[5.209]   { G-P 36 }   G


By thy shore, O Paphian Cythereia, Cleander saw Nico swimming in the blue sea, and burning with love he took to his heart dry coals from the wet maiden. He, standing on the land, was shipwrecked, but she in the sea was received gently by the beach. Now they are both equally in love, for the prayers were not in vain that he breathed on that shore.

[5.210]   { G-P 5 }   G

Didyme by the branch she waved at me *   has carried me clean away, alas ! and looking on her beauty, I melt like wax before the fire. And if she is dusky, what is that to me ? So are the coals, but when we light them, they shine as bright as roses.

*   cf. Plato, Phaedr. 230 D.   { The identity of Didyme (is she the royal mistress mentioned by Athenaeus, 13.576'e ?) and the exact meaning of the word melaina, "black", used to describe her, have been the subject of some debate amongst scholars; see F.M.Snowden, "Asclepiades' Didyme" ( PDF ). }

[6.308]   { G-P 27 }   G

Connarus, on winning the boys' contest, since he wrote such a pretty hand, received eighty knuckle-bones, and in gratitude to the Muses he hung me up here, the comic mask of old Chares, amid the applause of the boys.

[7.11]   { G-P 28 }   G

On Erinna (inscribed on a Volume of her Poems)

This is the sweet work of Erinna, not great indeed in volume, as being that of a maiden of nineteen, but greater in power than that of many others. If Death had not come early to me, who would have had such a name?

[7.145]   { G-P 29 }   G

On Ajax

Here sit I, miserable Virtue, by this tomb of Ajax, with shorn hair, smitten with heavy sorrow that cunning Fraud hath more power with the Greeks than I.

[7.217]   { G-P 41 }   G

{A slightly different version is attributed by Athenaeus to Plato.}

I hold Archeanassa the courtesan from Colophon, even on whose wrinkles sweet Love sat. Ah, you lovers, who plucked the fresh flowers of her youth in its first piercing brilliance, through what a fiery furnace did you pass !

[7.284]   { G-P 30 }   G

Keep off from me, O fierce sea, eight cubits' space and swell and roar with all thy might. But if you destroy the tomb of Eumares, it will avail you nothing, for you will find nothing but bones and ashes.

[7.500]   { G-P 31 }   G

Wayfarer who pass by my empty tomb, when you come to Chios tell my father Melesagoras that the evil east wind destroyed me, my ship, and my merchandise, and naught but the name of Euippus is left.

[9.63]   { G-P 32 }   G

Lyde *   is my name and I am of Lydian race, and Antimachus has made me more noble than any descendant of Codrus. For who has not sung me, who has not read Lyde, the joint work of the Muses and Antimachus ?

*   The mistress of Antimachus, whose most celebrated poem was an elegy on her.

[9.64]   { G-P 45 }   G


The Muses themselves saw you, Hesiod, feeding your sheep at mid-day in the rugged hills, and all drawing round you they proffered you a branch of holy laurel with lovely leaves. They gave you also the inspiring water of the Heliconian spring, that the hoof of the winged horse {Pegasus} once struck, and having drunk your fill of it you wrote in verse the 'Birth of the Gods' and the 'Works', and the race of the ancient demigods.

[9.752]   { G-P 44 }   G


I am Drunkenness, the work of a skilled hand, but I am carved on the sober stone amethyst. The stone is foreign to the work. But I am the sacred possession of Cleopatra *   : on the queen's hand even the drunken goddess should be sober.

*   It is not clear which Cleopatra this refers to. If the epigram was written by Asclepiades, it is just possible that it refers to the sister of Alexander, who died in 308 B.C.

[12.17]   { G-P 37 }   G

-- Anonymous, possibly by ASCLEPIADES or POSEIDIPPUS

The love of women touches not my heart, but male brands have heaped unquenchable coals of fire on me. Greater is this heat ; by as much as a man is stronger than a woman, by so much is this desire sharper.

[12.36]   { G-P 46 }   G


Now you offer yourself, when the tender bloom is advancing under your temples and there is a prickly down on your thighs. And then you say, "I prefer this." But who would say that the dry stubble is better than the eared corn ?

[12.46]   { G-P 15 }   G

I am not yet two and twenty, and life is a burden to me. O Loves, why do you thus maltreat me ? why set me afire ? For if I perish, what will you do ? Clearly, Loves, you will play, silly children, at your knuckle-bones as before.

[12.50]   { G-P 16 }   G

Drink, Asclepiades. Why these tears ? What ails you? It is not you alone that cruel Cypris has taken captive ; not for you alone has bitter Love sharpened his arrows. Why while yet alive do you lie in the dust? Let us quaff the unmixed drink of Bacchus. The day is but a finger's breadth. Shall we wait to see again the lamp that bids us to bed ? Let us drink, woeful lover. It is not far away now, poor wretch, the time when we shall rest through the long night.

[12.75]   { G-P 21 }   G

If you had wings on your back, and a bow and arrows in your hand, not Love but you would be described as the son of Cypris.

[12.77]   { G-P 38 }   G


If you were to grow golden wings above, and on your silvery shoulders were slung a quiver full of arrows, and you were to stand, dear, beside Love in his splendour, never, by Hermes I swear it, would Cypris herself know which is her son.

[12.105]   { G-P 22 }   G

I am a little love that flew away, still easy to catch, from my mother's nest; but I do not fly on high from the house of Damis . Here, loving and beloved without a rival, I keep company not with many, but with one in happy union.

[12.135]   { G-P 18 }   G

Wine is the proof of love. Nicagoras denied to us that he was in love, but those many toasts convicted him. Yes ! he shed tears and bent his head, and had a certain downcast look, and the wreath bound tight round his head kept not its place.

[12.153]   { G-P 19 }   G

{The Complaint of a Girl}

Time was when Archeades loved to sit close to me, but now not even in play does he turn to look at me, unhappy that I am. Not even Love the honeyed is always sweet, but often he becomes a sweeter god to lovers when he torments them.

[12.161]   { G-P 20 }   G

Dorciŏn, who loves to sport with the young men, knows how to cast, like a tender boy, the swift dart of Cypris the Popular, flashing desire from her eye, and over her shoulders . . . with her petasus, her chlamys showed her naked thigh.

[12.162]   { G-P 23 }   G

My Love, not yet carrying a bow, or savage, but a tiny child, returns to Cypris, holding a golden writing tablet, and reading from it he lisps the love-charms that Diaulus' boy, Philocrates, used to conquer the soul of Antigenes. *  

*   As the following poems show, this epigram relates to the loves of two young boys, both of whom seem to have been beloved by the poet.

[12.163]   { G-P 24 }   G

Love has discovered what beauty to mix with beauty ; not emerald with gold, which neither sparkles nor could ever be its equal, nor ivory with ebony, black with white, but Cleander with Eubiotus, two flowers of Persuasion and Friendship.

[12.166]   { G-P 17 }   G

Let this that is left of my soul, whatever it be, let this at least, O Loves, have rest for heaven's sake. Or else no longer shoot me with arrows but with thunderbolts, and turn me utterly into ashes and cinders. Yes, yes ! strike me, O Loves ; for withered away as I am by distress, I would have from you, if I may have anything, this little gift.

[13.23]   { G-P 33 }   G

Ho ! passer by ; even if thou are hurrying, give ear a moment to the grief of Botrys that passes measure. An old man now of four-score years, he buried his boy of nine, a child already speaking with some skill and wisdom. Alas for your father and alas for you, dear son of Botrys; with how many joys yet untasted have you perished !   *

*   Written in tetrameters, composed of complete trimeters with the addition of a final basis, followed by imperfect trimeters.

[16.68]   { G-P 39 }   G


This is a statue of Cypris. But come let us see whether it may not be Berenice's. I am in doubt to say of which one it is the better likeness.

[16.120]   { G-P 43 }   G


On a Statue of Alexander of Macedon

Lysippus modelled Alexander's daring and his whole form. How great is the power of this bronze ! The brazen king seems to be gazing at Zeus and about to say, "I set Earth under my feet; for yourself, Zeus, possess Olympus."

[ - ]   { G-P 47 }

{ a fragment on papyrus, PTeb_3 }

. . .ον ἀπὸ τρισσῶν ἕνα μάτερ
. . . δ' ὑποδεξαμένα
. . .ντα τομῷ διέπαξε σιδάρῳ
. . .ε Λάκαινα γυνά
. . .

. . . a mother . . . receiving back one (?) son out of three . . . with sharp iron pierced (?) the runaway . . . Laconian woman *   . . .

*   Laconian women were famous for punishing cowardly sons. See Plutarch, Moralia 459, who quotes some other epigrams on the subject.

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