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PHILODEMUS : EPIGRAMS

Philodemus was born in Gadara, but later moved to Italy, where his patron was L.Piso, the Roman consul of 58 B.C.; he probably lived in Piso's villa, the famous Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum. Philodemus was an Epicurean philosopher as well as a poet, but his poems seem to have had a greater reputation than his philosophical works in ancient times. Even Cicero, a bitter enemy of Piso, was suprisingly polite about the accomplishments of Philodemus and his "elegant" poetry ( Cic:Pis_68-72 ).

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: The Garland of Philip and Some Contemporary Epigrams".

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.


[5.4]   { G-P 1 }   G

Philaenis, make drunk with oil the lamp, the silent confidant of things we may not speak of, and then go out : for Love alone loves no living witness ; and, Philaenis, shut the door close. And then, dear Xantho, - but you, my bed, the lovers' friend, learn now the rest of Aphrodite's secrets.


[5.13]   { G-P 2 }   G

Charito has completed sixty years, but still the mass of her dark hair is as it was, and still upheld by no encircling band those marble cones of her bosom stand firm. Still her skin without a wrinkle distils ambrosia, distils fascination and ten thousand graces. You lovers who shrink not from fierce desire, come hither, unmindful of her decades.


[5.24]   { - }   G

Probably by Meleager.

My soul warns me to fly from the love of Heliodora, for well it knows the tears and jealousies of the past. It commands, but I have no strength to fly, for the shameless girl herself warns me to leave her, and even while she warns she kisses me.


[5.25]   { G-P 3 }   G

As often as I come to Cydilla's embrace, whether I come in the day time, or more venturesome still in the evening, I know that I hold my path on the edge of a precipice, I know that each time I recklessly stake my life. But what advantage is it to me to know that? My heart is bold (?), and whenever Love leads it, it knows not at all even the shadow of fear.


[5.46]   { G-P 4 }   G

He. Good-evening.   She. Good-evening.   He. What may your name be ?   She. And yours ?   He. Don't be so inquisitive all at once.   She. Well don't you.   He. Are you engaged ?   She. To anyone that likes me.   He. Will you come to supper to-night ?   She. If you like.   He. Very well ! How much shall it be ?   She. Don't give me anything in advance.   He. That is strange.   She. Give me what you think right after sleeping with me.   He. That is quite fair. Where do you live ? I will send.   She. I will tell you.   He. And when will you come ?   She. Any time you like.   He. I would like now.   She. Then go on in front.


[5.107]   { G-P 5 }   G

"I know, charming lady, how to love him who loves me, and again I know right well how to bite him who bites me. Do not vex too much one who loves you, or try to provoke the heavy wrath of the Muses." So I ever cried to you and warned, but you listened to my words no more than the Ionian Sea. So now you sob sorely and complain, while I sit in Naias' lap.


[5.112]   { G-P 18 }   G

I loved. Who has not ? I made revels in her honour. Who is uninitiated in those mysteries ? But I was distraught. By whom ? Was it not by a god ? - Good-bye to it ; for already the grey locks hurry on to replace the black, and tell me I have reached the age of discretion. While it was playtime I played ; now it is over I will turn to more worthy thoughts.


[5.115]   { G-P 6 }   G

I fell in love with Demo of Paphos - nothing surprising in that : and again with Demo of Samos well that was not so remarkable : and thirdly with Demo of Naxos - then the matter ceased to be a joke : and in the fourth place with Demo of Argos. The Fates themselves seem to have christened me Philodemus *   ; as I always feel ardent desire for some Demo.

*   The name means "Lover of the people."


[5.120]   { G-P 7 }   G

By midnight, eluding my husband, and drenched by the heavy rain, I came. And do we then sit idle, not talking and sleeping, as lovers ought to sleep ?


[5.121]   { G-P 8 }   G

Philaeniŏn is short and rather too dark, but her hair is more curled than parsley, and her skin is more tender than down : there is more magic in her voice than in the girdle of Aphrodite, and she never refuses me anything and often refrains from begging for a present. Such a Philaeniŏn grant me, golden Cypris, to love, until I find another more perfect.

[5.123]   { G-P 9 }   G

Shine, Moon of the night, horned Moon, who love to look on revels, shine through the lattice and let your light fall on golden Callistiŏn. It is no offence for an immortal to pry into the secrets of lovers. You bless her and me, I know, O Moon ; for did not Endymion set your soul afire ?

[5.124]   { G-P 10 }   G

Your summer's flower hath not yet burst from the bud, the grape that puts forth its first virgin charm is yet green, but already the young Loves sharpen their swift arrows, Lysidicē, and a hidden fire is smouldering. Let us fly, we unlucky lovers, before the arrow is on the string. I foretell right soon a vast conflagration.


[5.126]   { G-P 25 }   G

So-and-so gives so-and-so five talents for once, and possesses her in fear and trembling, and, by Heaven, she is not even pretty. I give Lysianassa five drachmas for twelve times, and she is better looking, and there is no secret about it. Either I have lost my wits, or he ought to be rendered incapable of such conduct for the future.


[5.131]   { G-P 11 }   G

Xanthippe's touch on the lyre, and her talk, and her speaking eyes, and her singing, and the fire that is just alight, will burn thee, my heart, but from what beginning or when or how I know not. You, unhappy heart, shall know when you are smouldering.


[5.132]   { G-P 12 }   G

O feet, O legs, O thighs for which I justly died, O rump, O genitals, O flanks, O shoulders, O breasts, O slender neck, O arms, O eyes I am mad for, O accomplished movement, O admirable kisses, O exclamations that excite ! If she is Italian and her name is Flora and she does not sing Sappho, yet Perseus was in love with Indian Andromeda.


[5.306]   { G-P 13 }   G

Addressed by a Girl to a Man

You weep, you speak in piteous accents, you look strangely at me, you are jealous, you touch me often and go on kissing me. That is like a lover ; but when I say "Here I am next you" and you dawdle, you have absolutely nothing of the lover in you.


[5.308]   { - }   G

Attributed to ANTIPHILUS or PHILODEMUS

O you pretty creature, wait for me. What is your name ? Where can I see you ? I will give what you choose. You don't even speak. Where do you live ? I will send someone with you. Do you possibly belong to anyone ? Well, you stuck-up thing, goodbye. You won't even say "goodbye." But again and again I will accost you. I know how to soften even more hard-hearted beauties ; and for the present, "goodbye, madam !"


[6.246]   { - }   G

Attributed to PHILODEMUS or ARGENTARIUS

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 Olympian contest too.

*   To protect from the evil eye.


[6.349]   { G-P 19 }   G

O Melicertes, son of Ino, and you sea-blue queen of the sea, Leucothea, goddess that averts evil, and you Nereids linked in the dance, and you waves, and you, Poseidon, and Thracian Zephyr, gentlest of winds, be gracious to me and bear me, escaping the broad billows, safe to the sweet beach of Piraeus.


[7.222]   { G-P 26 }   G

Here lies the tender body of the tender being ; here lies Trygoniŏn *   the ornament of the wanton band of the emasculated, he who was at home by the holy shrine of Rhea, amid the noise of music and the gay prattling throng, the darling of the Mother of the gods, he who alone among his effeminate fellows really loved the rites of Cypris, and whose charms came near those of Lais. Give birth, you holy soil, round the grave-stone of the maenad not to brambles but to the soft petals of white violets.

*   "Little dove".


[9.412]   { G-P 20 }   G

It is already the season of the rose, Sosylus, and of ripe chick-peas, and the first cut cabbages, and smelts, and fresh salted cheese, and the tender leaves of curly lettuces. But we do not go up to the headland or sit on the belvedere, Sosylus, as we used. Yet Antigenes and Bacchius were sporting but yesterday, and to-day we carry them to their graves.


[9.570]   { G-P 14 }   G

Xantho, modelled of wax, with scented skin, with a face like a Muse's, sweet-voiced, fair darling of the twin-winged Loves, play to me with your scent-bedewed hands. "I must lie and sleep for long, dying not, on a single bed cut out of stone." Sing it to me again, Xantho dear ; yea ! yea ! sing me that sweet song. [Do you not hear it, man who amasses interest of moneys ? On a single bed cut out of stone you shalt live for ever, unhappy wretch.] *  

*   Rightly excluded by Kaibel as a late interpolation.

[10.21]   { G-P 15 }   G

Cypris of the Calm, lover of bridegrooms ; Cypris, ally of the just ; Cypris, mother of the tempest-footed Loves ; save me, Cypris, a man but half torn away from my saffron bridal chamber, and chilled now to the soul by the snows of Gaul. Save me, Cypris, your peaceful servant, who utters no vain words to any, tossed as I am now on your deep blue sea ! Cypris, who love to bring ships to port, who love the solemn rites of wedlock, save me now, my queen, and bring me to the haven of my Naias. *

*   We may compare 5.17, and for Naias see 5.107. Although he talks as if she were his wife here, she was, of course, his mistress. It is a question if the cold of Gaul and the voyage are literal or metaphorical.

[10.103]   { G-P 24 }   G

Neither look into nor pass by [the place where they sell scarce delicacies ?]. Now be off to the tripe-stall to spend a drachma. *   One fig too at times may cost a drachma, but if you wait, it will buy you a thousand. Time is the poor man's god.

*   Lines 1 and 2 are hopeless.


[11.30]   { G-P 27 }   G

{ Translated by Gow & Page - see the comments of Richard Thomas ( PDF ) }

I who in time past was good for five or nine times, now, Aphrodite, hardly manage once from early night to sunrise. The thing itself, - already often only at half-strength, - is gradually dying. That's the last straw. *   Old age, old age, what will you do later when you come to me, if even now I am as languid as this. ?

*   The 'fate of Termerus' was a proverbial expression for an appropriate punishment. The robber Termerus used to kill his victims by butting them with his head, and Heracles broke his head.


[11.34]   { G-P 21 }   G

I wish no garlands of white violets again, no lyre-playing again, no Chian wine again, no Syrian myrrh again, no revelling again, no thirsty whore with me again. I hate these things that lead to madness. But bind my head with narcissus and let me taste the crooked flute, and anoint my limbs with saffron ointment, wet my gullet with wine of Mytilene and mate me with a virgin who will love her nest.


[11.35]   { G-P 22 }   G

Artemidorus gave us a cabbage, Aristarchus caviar, Athenagoras little onions, Philodemus a small liver, and Apollophanes two minas of pork, and there were three minas still over from yesterday. Go and buy us an egg and garlands and sandals *   and scent, and I wish them to be here at four o'clock sharp.

*   Worn especially at table by the Romans, cp. Hor. Ep. i. 13. 15.


[11.41]   { G-P 17 }   G

Seven years added to thirty are gone already like so many pages torn out of my life ; already, Xanthippe, my head is sprinkled with grey hairs, messengers of the age of wisdom. But still I care for the speaking music of the lyre and for revelling, and in my insatiate heart the fire is alive. But O Muses, my mistresses, bring it to a close at once with the words " Xanthippe is the end of my madness."


[11.44]   { G-P 23 }   G

To-morrow, dearest Piso, your friend, beloved by the Muses, who keeps our annual feast of the twentieth *   invites you to come after the ninth hour to his simple cottage. If you miss udders and draughts of Chian wine, you will see at least sincere friends and you will hear things far sweeter than the land of the Phaeacians. But if you ever cast your eyes on me, Piso, we shall celebrate the twentieth richly instead of simply.

*   The birthday of Epicurus, to whose sect Philodemus and Piso belonged.


[11.318]   { G-P 28 }   G

Anticrates knew the constellations much better than Aratus, but could not tell his own nativity ; for he said he was in doubt whether he was born in the Ram or the Twins, or in both the Fishes. But it was clearly found to be in all three, for he is a lecher and a fool, and effeminate, and fond of fish. *  

*   As malakos certainly refers to didumoi ( = Gemini vel testiculi) I think both ocheutēs and mōros must refer to the Ram.


[12.173]   { G-P 16 }   G

Demo and Thermiŏn are killing me. Thermiŏn is a courtesan and Demo a girl who knows not Cypris yet. The one I touch, but the other I may not. By thyself, Cypris, I swear, I know not which I should call the more desirable. I will say it is the virgin Demo ; for I desire not what is ready to hand, but long for whatever is kept under lock and key.


[16.234]   { G-P 29 }   G

The stone has place for three immortals ; for the head clearly shows me to be goat-horned Pan, the breast and belly tell I am Heracles, the rest of the thighs and the legs are the portion of wing-footed Hermes. Refuse me not a sacrifice, stranger, for your one sacrifice will earn the thanks of the three gods.


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