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Copernicus' Translation of Theo phylactus' Letters - translation

Theophylactus Simocatta, the Moralist, his Ethical, Rustic, and Love Letters in a Latin Translation


Notary of the city of Wrocław, the capital [of Silesia]


Wherein he bids farewell to the Prussians, and describes how much pleasure the following letters of Theophylactus afforded him, and how sweet it is for an exile from his native soil to return to his fatherland

O Prussia, land on which gaze the northern Bear with its shining stars and the bright Wain together with the Bear-keeper, land which possesses fertile soil, rivers and bays stocked with fish, hills covered by vines and rich in cattle, farewell! Where you are washed by the tide of the far northern sea, you collect precious amber, the tears of Helios’ daughters. Not content with your own wealth, you gather greater riches from alien shores by land and sea.

Outstanding among Prussian cities, O Toruń, under an auspicious sign twice and thrice farewell! With unstinted generosity you cherished me while the golden sun twice traversed its curved path through the celestial signs. May your Council be happy and your people safe! May your every citizen lead a joyful life! When for your favors and the honor of your kindnesses worthy thanks cannot be returned by me, yet will you forever be glorified by me, as long as the River Vistula glides past your walls. Under a friendly star Atlas’ grandson fitly attends you, who as bountiful mother give birth to most splendid men.

Among them is conspicuous for his piety Lucas [Watzenrode], bishop and prelate, revered for his grave demeanor. Subject to him is Varmia, an extensive division of the land of Prussia that rightly rejoices under his rule. Linked to him, like faithful Achates to Aeneas, is the scholar who translates this work from Greek into Latin. He discusses the swift course of the moon and the alternating movements of its brother as well as the stars together with the wandering planets – the Almighty’s marvelous creation – and he knows how to seek out the hidden causes of phenomena by the aid of wonderful principles.

I make no mention of very many others since our driver has loosened the reins and does not check his steeds. He had been bidden to speed his swift wheels by Anna, my spouse, because of her deep affection for her exceedingly sweet fatherland. Hence, again and again, farewell, Toruń, and may your glory be ever enhanced by your deeds!

Thence through the pines of a fragrant grove, through deep woods, over valleys and many a ridge am I borne, and through towns subject to your mighty rule, O King Sigismund, am I transported across your broad realms. Traversing these spacious region s in three days, thus do I joyfully hasten toward the domiciles of my forefathers. However tedious the trip, still all by itself the perusal of the Hellene Simocatta notably shortened the journey, until I reach the boundaries of the territory of Poland. This is severed from our fields by a meandering stream [Prosna], a sandy stream, winding through rocks strewn with rushes, that adds to the somnolent sound the swish of its waters. Here we take shelter beneath the exceedingly scanty cover of a humble hut and rightly feed our weary horses. A generous beldam brings us in a basket of twigs morsels of cheese, not yet thoroughly dried. But since this product of the farm contained no fluid, I quench my parched thirst at a nearby torrent. Cupping her hands, Anna too lifts the silvery drops, watched as they wash the soil of Silesia, and exclaims: “Goblets of the winter’s vintage did I fancy myself imbibing, so sweet to my gullet is this fluid.”

When the fourth dawn breaks, we are received by Silesia with its gentle breeze and more propitious sky. Here my spouse, having reached the land she had so long yearned for, greets her native ground with the following discourse:

Hail, O land of my salvation, desire, and joy, which nourished me from infancy with profound solicitude. Welcome me returning from the confines of the land of Prussia, and be gracious to your daughter with your customary kindness. As long as I was far away from you, naturally I clutched you to my mindful breast, the remembrance of you being sweet. Had Prussia furnished me with a sail-studded harbor , and a dark vessel brought me foreign treasure; had the Hermus lavished its auriferous waters on me or the Caucasian Mountains poured down on me the gold gathered from the driving rain by the realm of Colchis as I, who have never been to school, have often been told by my loving husband, you, dear parent, are far more agreeable to me, and nothing exists in the world which I esteem more highly than you.

Having uttered these words, with a vow of an offering she cheerfully asks the cherished local deities for their habitual aid. Thereupon I too spoke:

O ye gods on high, most gentle divinities, under whose rule this land flourishes, and likewise you, O saintly Jadwiga, under whose sway in former times Silesia lay, and now the entire kingdom of heaven reclines, bring it to pass that the lord of almighty Olympus keeps us safe and restores us to our forefathers’ hearth.

While I am speaking, the cloudy peaks of the mountain beyond loom into sight, as well as a dim tower atop the ridge. Little by little are revealed the lofty walls of Wrocław, rising toward the round moon. Thence with bounding step we approach the mighty city as the fading light withdrew into the western waters. And after our dear friends congratulate us on our return, we seek out the charming rooms of the house we left behind. Here, where the fish-laden Oława twists through seven turns and its gushing waters sweetly murmur, may a gracious god grant me leave to occupy this domicile securely for many a year with my cherished wife. Let some other exile seek his fortune amid the northern storms; travel to the Strait of Gibraltar, sailing past the shriveled traces of the burning [Tropic of] Cancer and beyond the parched places of the low-lying beach; press on toward the [southern constellation] Altar, famous for its brilliant stars; behold the hidden signs of the South Pole; toss about on a hitherto uncharted sea; bring us the wrinkled pepper from the other hemisphere; seize numerous acres in far-off lands; and heap up vast riches as a wealthy alien. Let me have quiet repose at home, a glowing hearth, and nourishment to still my hunger. Sweeter is it to possess a paltry plot in the fatherland than to cultivate soil abroad with a hundred oxen.

That the letters of sage Simocatta may circulate widely, they have been cast in the printer’s mold. The first teaches morals; the second, rustic life; the third, love. Thus is the work continuously fabricated of intertwining branches whence, like variegated blossoms from a well-watered sprig, the reader may pluck a bouquet of virtues.


Most excellently, as it seems to me, O right reverend ruler and father of our country, did the moralist Theophylactus commingle ethical, rustic, and love letters, according to the principle that variety usually gives greater pleasure than anything else. Indeed, different minds delight in different things, since some enjoy seriousness, others gaiety, some austerity, others fantasy, with each one rejoicing in his own favorite. Theophylactus so interspersed the gay with the serious, and the playful with the austere, that every reader may pluck what pleases him most in these letters, like an assortment of flowers in a garden. Yet Theophylactus disposed so much of value in all of them that they seem to be not letters but rather laws and rules for the conduct of human life, clearly by reason of their compactness. He collected them from various authors as the briefest and most effective.

With regard to the ethical and rural letters, it may be, nobody at all will raise any questions. The title of the love letters, however, seems to portend licentiousness. Nevertheless, just as physicians usually moderate the bitterness of drugs by sweetening them to make them more palatable to patients, so these love letters have in like manner been rectified, with the result that they ought to receive the label “moral” no less [than the others]. In view of these considerations, deeming it improper that these letters were available only in Greek and were not more accessible in Latin, I have undertaken to translate them into Latin to the best of my ability.

To you, Right Reverend Bishop, do I dedicate this modest gift which, however, can by no means be compared to your generosity. For, everything of this sort which my meager talent attempts or produces may be properly considered yours, if that is true (as it surely is) which Ovid once said to Germanicus Caesar:

In rapport with your mien, my inspiration stands or falls.


1. Ethical. From CRITIAS to PLOTINUS

The cricket is a musical being. At the break of dawn it starts to sing. But much louder and more vociferous, according to its nature, is it heard at the noon hour, because intoxicated by the sun’s rays. As the songster chirps, then, it turns the tree into a platform and the field into a theater, performing a concert for the wayfarers.

Accordingly, I too am impelled to celebrate your virtues, because they inspire and absolutely incite me to praise you. For once, while I lay perishing in a foul existence, by your letters you brought me back to a virtuous [life]. So may I, Critias, become Plotinus. Either disembodied, he philosophizes on earth, or philosophy, become incarnate, lives among mankind in the guise of a human being.

2. Rustic. From DORCON to MOSCHON

The leader of my flock, a marvelous ram, died and my beasts are bereft of the head of their herd. I sustain a huge loss, and I presume that [the god] Pan is somewhat angry with me since I failed to honor him with the first fruits of the beehives. Hence I am on my way to town to appease his wrath. And I shall tell the townsmen about his cruelty by saying: “For the sake of a honey-cake Pan destroyed the leader of my flock.”

3. Love. From THEANO to EURYDICE

Your natural beauty has faded and your good looks are approaching [the stage of] wrinkles. But you try to give the impression of truth when you deceive your lovers with artificial cosmetics. Hearken to time, you hag, for in the autumn meadows are not the place for flowers. Be mindful of death too, for you have drawn close to it, and of necessity plan to practice discretion. For you do wrong to old age and youth alike. In promising the latter you lied, but having acquired the former, you falsified it.

4. Ethical. From EVAGORAS to ANTIPATER

Horus the workman was put in charge of the sea’s turbulence, and he checked the watery tides by means of jetties. Some sand was also interposed between the land and the sea. As a result the sea was not allowed to damage the land nearby. On the contrary, it turned back on itself its savage swell, which had threatened a massive assault on the mainland.

Assuredly, O Antipater, Horus imposed a restraint upon your rage to prevent you from making your hand the accessory of your wrath. To unite the tongue with the hands in combined activity is indeed the loftiest peak of perfect virtue. But if you cannot achieve this state, assuage your temper with insults, provided you want to act like a barking dog. For thus does the angry sea show no further marks of its wrath than froth and commotion.

5. Rustic. From AEGIRUS to PLATANUS

We have cranes, my friend, as bad neighbors. They wage war constantly around the farm. For they came to no agreement with our fathers, nor thereafter did they stop their campaign against us. Yet we have often honored them with the first fruits of our harvest. Moreover, we have even given a part of the property to these marauders, as if to an embittered god. Yet the gifts were unacceptable to them, it so happened. Hence we are all going away from here. For it is better for us to cultivate stones than to inhabit fields and hills with nasty neighbors.


A valuable portrait of you was painted by Callicrates, they say. But the picture seems to me to represent, not Terpsithea, but Helen of Troy in Parrhasius’ lifelike panel. Therefore you have injured both art and nature by finding fault with the latter and falsifying the former. For you compelled Parrhasius’ art to be deceptive and to blend into the sketches of you what is no part of you at all, as though you were correcting the errors of Nature and showing its great ineptness. Yet I praise your painter because he declined to depict your ugliness, and I admire the wisdom of Nature, which did not entrust a beautiful body to an exceedingly corrupt mind.


Among mares there is a rule, and it seems to me quite wise. Indeed I praise their profound kindliness. But what is this rule? If they see that a foal lacks a teat and the mother is far away, any one of them nurses the foal. For they do not forget their own species and, with a single purpose and no ill will, they do their nursing as though having to do with their own true descendant. They were granted this trait by Nature, for they were not coerced by a law of Solon [the famous Athenian lawgiver].

Now I shall apply this discourse to you. You scorn your brother’s son as he roams from door to door, clad in most wretched rags. Your feelings are less sensible than the brutes’. You feed others’ hounds, for that is what I would quite properly call the flatterers around you. For they appear to be completely loyal as long as they are stuffed full of your food, you wretch! Yet they constantly bark at you even while they are still belching out the booze they just drank. For, flatterers constitute a breed that is mindful of harm and most forgetful of favors. Therefore, O Terpander, take care of your nephew at last. If you do not, you will have your conscience as your implacable foe, sharpening his sword with Nature’s tears.

8. Rustic. From DAPHNO to MYRON

How long will you hollow out your field and drain off the rain water, you wretch? Or will you perhaps even contrive to have my sons grow faint with hunger on account of the drought? On the one hand your land is flooded, whereas mine is not even acquainted with the properties of water. For heaven’s sake, ask the clouds whether they drop their water only for Myron. A jealous man is a big nuisance. But if he happens also to be one’s neighbor, the misfortune is unyielding and death will scarcely lay it to rest.


You promised to visit me on 1 November and you broke your word, Dexicrates. But my spirit grew faint with love, and my heart flared up like a torch, and daily my tears poured forth, and every day I dreamed that you were arriving, and a knock at the door always seemed to me an intimation of your presence. But you, Dexicrates, share your love with some other girl, and you always find pleasure in new ones. For, the feelings of the fickle are wont to be depressed by satiety, which comes very quickly. Money, passion, and love are untrustworthy. Some day you too will be affected. For, the misfortunes of those who have suffered injury often recoil upon those who inflicted the injury.


You bemoan your poverty very disgracefully, I hear, and revile wealth because it is held inequitably by people, being easily acquired by some as their own possession, but unobtainable by others, as if Nature were ill-disposed to mankind in this respect. For if the sun shines equally on human beings and a supply of fire is instantly available to everybody, why then, you ask, has Nature put gold so sparingly at the disposition of people, and imparted to those who dwell beneath the moon so contentious a gift from which man’s worst misfortunes arise?

As for me, I emit a loud heehaw at your mouthings. For what is praiseworthy in Nature, you have turned into a topic for censure, at which you have hooted with the owl. For it supposes the cause of its blindness to be the all-encompassing brilliance of the sun.

It is useful, O Sosipater, for mankind to be gnawed by a hunger for gold. For from this origin spring the arts of life, the development of cities, and the convenience of contracts. And if I must speak concisely, had gold not brought about man’s mutual interdependence, the earth’s habitations would have been shorn of all adornment. For neither would the sailor have embarked, nor the traveler undertaken a journey, nor the farmer acquired a plow ox, nor the scepter of royal power received respect, nor princes and potentates obtained obedience, nor the commander led his army. But if you also want to learn the hidden truth, control over virtue and vice is exercised by gold. Through it is the soul’s desire put to the test, and it is the counterpart of the Celtic river, for it is the truest indicator of fake virtue and roguery.


Simichidas set fire yesterday to a species of non-fruitbearing and wild trees, for be passed this sentence on useless growths. But all-devouring fire by its nature launched an unrestrained assault and unexpectedly destroyed the estate of the neighboring farmer. Throwing down his two-edged ax and hoe, he rushed to town to get a lawyer to help him, and summoned Simichidas to court.

I too shall play this game against you, O Cyparisso, unless you order your bees to stay away from my meadows. You will learn you do not have a just approach through intrusive forays.


Chrysogone the flute-player gave her concerts on the public highway. Maybe she thinks that she pleases my lovers too, and the little whore claims that I am greatly annoyed by this performance. But I don’t attach much importance to this behavior. For Chrysogone’s manners put my lovers, whoever they are, to the test. I beseech you, however, to be the completely honest bearer of my sincere reply, and to tell the lady from Sparta:

We owe you, O Chrysogone, the most profound thanks on this account. For your ugliness makes us look more beautiful, since even when the jackdaw does not show up, the raven is listed with the good-looking birds.

13. Ethical. From ARISTO to NICIAS

The elephant, they say, is the animal that is the most eager to learn, and quite an apt pupil of human teachings. For its astounding bodily mass is not in itself as famous as the elegance of its training, and these are the traits talked about by the sons of the Hindus.

I am amazed, on the other hand, that in intellect Nicias is more irrational than brute beasts. For as the son of an educated man, you had access to your father’s knowledge. Yet you have wasted most of the leisure time of your life on gambling and sports, and you brag about your noble birth. Therefore, if you want to be called Hermagoras’ son, turn back at last to his way of life. For even in old age it is good to have wisdom and reason, as Plato too believes. But if you refuse to give up your old vices and proclaim yourself to be the son of Hermagoras, I want you to know that you have become a defiler of your father’s grave. For by your misconduct you dishonor his virtues.

14. Rustic. From MYRONIDES to DAMALUS

Your boy has ruined the whole herd, and always filling his pail with milk, proceeds on foot to the plane trees, and bedding himself down, nonchalantly stretches out and embraces the soft life. Afterwards he produces his pipe, gives vent to a sweet song as though inducing sleep, and violates the customs of the countryside. By this misbehavior he has scattered the fodder, and he is sluggish in haggling with a customer. The scoundrel even sold the fertilizer at a low price. Moreover, he is not ashamed to harm Myronides after dining magnificently at the vintage festival yesterday. For, my delicacies were dried figs and grasshoppers. Indeed that marvelous youth gobbled up most of the figs and I wonder how he swallowed the locusts. The lout also gaped, and after eating his fill, he put aside taking home a certain portion. Let him yield the rest of he land to me. For, enduring an evil from afar is preferable to nourishing a hidden enemy at home.

15. Love. From ATALANTA to CORINNA

In the gymnasium, O Corinna, I saw Augeas too. But that sight will not be described in words nor depicted by the hands of painters. For the young man was built strong and straight, with a solid chest. His eyes [were like] a gazelle’s. His face was not flushed with frenzy nor wan with softness, but manly and gentle at the same time. The color of his body was neither womanly white nor duskily dark. His hair was slightly wavy in a soft curl and resembled the azure sea in an hour of calmness, when it unfolds its quiet waves on the neighboring land before releasing the savage fury of a storm. His cheeks were not very reddish, for this is effeminate, nor again did they exhibit an unbecoming sadness by their pallor. By contrast his nose was quite elegantly shaped and indicated the great skill of creative Nature. The oil with which he had been rubbed shone like the sun, and by the reflection of its splendor brightened the gymnasium, as though with dazzling rays. In my heart, O Corinna, I sighed and now I feel sharper pains, for the female sex is ashamed to reveal its erotic lust.

16. Ethical. From GORGIAS to ARISTIDES

After borrowing, you were happy. When you are asked to repay, you are sad. And when you encounter your creditors, you are paralyzed with fright as though thinking that you are falling into some dreadful horrors. You look about you at the crossroads and inspect the doors in your desire to avoid the wrath of your creditors, just as people in danger of shipwreck during a big storm seek refuge in a harbor. Moreover, you add misfortune to misfortune. For you pay back your debt to some by borrowing from others. This is the behavior of those who, out of fear of dying, destroy themselves. But borrowing brings manifold troubles to people and is more dangerous than the spontaneous regeneration of the legendary hydra. In accordance with all sound thinking, beware of borrowing. For in that way you will be free to gaze at the sun’s rays and quite calmly breathe the open air anywhere.

17. Rustic. From LOPHO to PEDIADES May Leucippus drop dead! For near the top of the hill he conducted the business harmful to us. He summoned Sostratus and me to court. But Leucippus’ mind was completely corrupt, and he wanted to see the courtroom full of gold, so strong a feeling of avarice gripped the wretch. This was understood also by Sostratus, who bought victory with gold and stuffed Leucippus’ throat with gifts. The maiden, Justice, is ruined, and gold purchases victory for people. Impartial judgment is dead, since bribes are valued more than what is right.


Even the palm trees are stirred by natural love. The male yearns for the female. The male is convulsed with passion as it embraces the female with its foliage. But if the female is far away, they take the feminine parts, put them in contact with the male, and by a certain trick revive its passion.

Therefore, if you can’t come to me soon, assuage my love with a portrait, and let a painting or a likeness furnish me with a view of your image. For even a suggestion is enough to fool those who love deeply.

19. Ethical. From DIOGENES to CHRYSES

You are the guardian of the wealth, I declare, not the owner of the money. For, this judgment of you was rendered by your character, since wicked souls should not share in anything good. Therefore dig up the earth and guard the gold, you wretch. For, the wealth is believed to be not yours but in your custody. In your thirst for riches, you vie with Midas of Phrygia, you who are choked with gold as if by a cord.

20. Rustic. From CHLOAZO to MECO

I sent wild fruit, O Meco, to my sweetheart yesterday. But she pushed her loom aside, stood up at once from her weaving, and taking my presents threw them to the: pigs. She also sent my messenger away as an unworthy intermediary. But I lament, for I am attacked by a more dreadful love, striking on account of an impatient girl. Both chance and love are blind; the latter hands out pain, and the former, pleasure, at random and fortuitously.


You sing jarringly and make lovers sad, not happy. For you introduce tragedy, not some song pleasing to your listeners, and the lovers weep from sorrow. For your melodies scold them for their jollity, and you have given voice to no charming tune. Therefore, I beg you, spare us in our sadness. For to your audience you seem to be not a musician but a mourner. And we will all stop our ears with wax. For we will listen to the Sirens rather than to the weeping Muses.


Alexander [the Great], son of Philip [king of Macedonia], was not at all blinded by his successes. On the contrary, he wisely recognized the haughtiness of Chance, which usually entices the imprudent with great honors. For this reason, when in the ups and downs of war he saw Darius [the Persian ruler] falling, Alexander covered his foe with his cloak, displaying the excellence of his character and of his fortunes at the same time. Thereupon his subjects reproached Alexander, and the king’s mercifulness was a fault. Hence Alexander, like a philosopher, feared the unreliability of Chance. Accordingly, when many hailed him for his victory, he declared: “Some adversity too, O Jupiter, is mixed things when they are at their best.” Thus was Alexander very intelligently circumspect with regard to the vagaries of Fortune at its height.

If, therefore, you have not learned the nature of fickle Fortune, you will soon see experience as your teacher. But if you persist in your blindness, you will call down on yourself fiercer retributions by undergoing the punishments of fines and a trial.

23. Rustic. From ASTACHYON to MILO

Clean the hemlocks off your land, for you l have harmed my bees. Don’t make trouble for a working farmer, please! To me at any rate you have not passed along any drones. Why do you annoy your neighbor so unreasonably, you scoundrel? Unless you stop this mischief, I shall write up your misbehavior on my door, and show the damage to our neighbors so that they may all avoid you like some accursed evil.

24. Love. From TELESILLA to LAIS

Miners searching for veins of gold, and diggers of wells trying to see pockets of water and the secrets of the earth, do not ply their trade as hard as I did in roaming through the entire city to catch sight, if possible, of Agesilaus anywhere. For I heard that disreputable Leucippa made a party for him. A wild rage came over me, and my grief swells up with a flood of tears, on account of which I shall be a character in the tragedy. For I shall no longer see the sun rise. Thus shall I be fiercer than Medea and Phaedra.

25. Ethical. From SOSIPATER to AXIOCHUS

You recently buried your brother, they say, and you are profoundly stricken by an inconsolable grief. How am I to admire you as a wise man when you are overcome so violently by your emotions?

Death, as we commonly say, is a sleep, longer to be sure than is usual, but quite short in the light of that day which is to come. The dead have departed from us for a brief pilgrimage, not for a long separation. Be resigned to the parting, while awaiting a reunion. Don’t afflict your soul with a craving for the flesh. For Plotinus too thought it “shameful that he was in a body”, so much did this mortal coil sadden that philosopher. For my sake, don’t weep any more. Put limits on your grief. Heal your feelings with sagacity. Be your own physician. You have the saying that cures:

Without anger and sadness, forgetfulness of all troubles.

The Creator never downgrades his work from better to worse. Let us leave to the dead that which is dead. For here life, the most excellent product of the spirit, is afflicted by great disgraces. Indeed I would lament a birth rather than a death, since a birth is the beginning of weeping whereas death is the release from sorrows. Ignorance makes us cowards, and we are wary of death, not because it is evil, but because mortals do not know it. For nobody has brought back to us any knowledge of it; you complain about it constantly. Then don’t imitate Niobe, lest perhaps you too be thought to have consigned your human nature to a rock.

26. Rustic. From THERISTRO to SPIRO

We are leaving for Etna, the mountain in Sicily, and saying farewell to Attica. For I never saw a land less fertile for the production of crops. Instead of pears, it gave us myrtle; instead of barley, ivy. Therefore, my first seeds having failed to sprout, I shall never again sow that ungrateful soil. The farmer cannot endure hunger and a hostile army, nor can sailors contend with gales and thunder.


The magnetic stone loves iron, they say, and the more it is united with its mate the livelier it is, according to report. For after the stone is taken away from its partner, it loses its strength at once, and is deprived of its power.

Reactions of this kind, O Dexicrates, are present even in lifeless objects. Why I am so deeply troubled by the loss of your presence is harder to say than to feel, in my judgment. So may I sadden those who sadden me, and become a Cupid’s dart, a flash more impetuous than sea foam.


You have not yet overcome your anger toward me, O Antisthenes. On the contrary, you still feel bitter about me, and you hide your annoyance under the pretense of well-disposed words, as though preserving the glow of fire beneath the ashes.

Purge your heart of the remaining hurt, for this is ordained by our conversations. Otherwise you will be even more savage than the sea. For it lulls its ferocity and presents a mild appearance to sailors, when they soothe it with oil during exceptionally wild storms.

29. Rustic. From LACHANO to PEGANO

Come to me tomorrow near the oil market. For I shall go into town and make a feast, dearest friend, since I shall dedicate the firstlings of my flock to the Nymphs and to Pan.

At last the gods are gracious to us. My pails are full of milk. The ewes gave birth abundantly. The she-goats jump as though rejoicing at their good fortune. We have stopped struggling against poverty, that vicious and hostile beast which clings to those who have it like a sore. It is an evil which intrudes itself very intimately, creating sluggishness and sadness, leading inevitably to misery and swiftly to grief, destructive of sleep and productive of anxiety, troublesome, leading to crime and disreputability, despicable, and inspiring no envy, since nobody wants to endure such an evil, not even if he were sentenced to suffer the insanity of Orestes.

Therefore, leaving poverty to the poor, we shall establish ourselves in a different style of life by switching to high spirits together with pride.

30. Love. From RHODINA to CALLIOPE

In the presence of my lovers, you disparage me and mock my pregnancy, my slim figure having become distended, and you even laugh out loud at my body. On the other hand, you suppose that you have covered up your villainy. For you pluck out undeveloped fetuses, you wicked woman, and you have made abortions more desirable than births. Smothering with powerful drugs the embryos alive in your womb, you have committed atrocities more abominable than African Medea’s. For although she had been a praiseworthy ally in her husband’s struggles, his infidelity made her a child-killer.

On the other hand, countless horrors are perpetrated by you, you little whore, for the sake of your beautiful appearance. Now finally stop hiding your cruelty and mocking our decency. Birth, in my judgment, is more humane than abortion. I want you to know, moreover, that the earth too has been aroused by you and will not delay in imposing on you the punishment for destroying your offspring.

31. Ethical. From HEPHAESTIO to THALES

The peacock, a Persian bird, has acquired the arrogance of the Persians, its beauty giving it a sense of greatness, in which it seems to go beyond even its female consort. It therefore puffs its feathers out like a crest and furnishes a magnificent spectacle to onlookers. When it opens out its round shapes, it resembles the heavenly display, with the eyes on its feathers duplicating the form of the stars. And this is the habit of Persian birds in their zeal for excellence. For when they reveal their pulchritude, they do not begrudge it to painters.

You, on the other hand, sit on your writings, hide your accomplishments, and setting your works aside in obscurity, you disregard us who are deprived of so great a boon. If, then, there is any ill-will in your making us sad, what you are trying to do is unreasonable and quite far from your promise. However, if laziness was the cause of your delay, then you are on the same footing as the farmer who, having expended much sweat on the land, at the height of the summer gathers no grain.

32. Rustic. From POAS to AMPELIUS

Come, we shall wail together, as of yore. The river has overflowed, pouring forth dreadful hardships over us. It has drenched the whole countryside and wantonly drowned the newly planted vines. But the disaster is greater inasmuch as the abomination refuses to recede from here. For it wants to tarry in the land and has made my field into its channel, a spectacle worthy of tears. Instead of vines, in our misery we shall plant fish. When the river so desires, we shall go prowling; when it so wishes, we shall suffer from hunger, a great favor having been conferred on me, as it seems.

Would that in the summer we did not pray at all to the clouds to bring rain to us in our drought! For thus we would never lose what we possess. For by itself the river is bad enough. But if the rains too are profuse, they are more destructive than fire and no moderation restrains their roar.

33. Love. From GALATEA to THETIS

I praise your foresight and approve of it as very professional. For as if from some Pythian tripod you predicted the future to me, and more penetratingly than the lynx you examined deep secrets.

Callimachus has abandoned me. Rising on the swiftest wings of insolence, the wretch has flown away and fled from me, satiety having overcome his lust. You often warned me: “O Galatea, don’t trust oaths. Nothing comes more easily to a suitor than promises.” For youths are intoxicated with erotic pleasures, lose their good sense, and do and say whatever Cupid commands. For what they want to do is not under their own control. Skepticism is safer than trustfulness, and for the purposes of trickery a promise is a deceiver who engenders confidence.


Since wisdom is honored in fables too, now O Chrysippus, I shall tell you a tale not without significance.

Once upon a time the birds went to Jupiter and acknowledged the Olympian as their ruler. For the birds were troubled by the absence of government and, being deprived of that noble blessing, leadership, they therefore suffered from great disorder. Then Jupiter consented, his decision took effect, and he granted the suppliants a splendid gift, namely, their request for the appointment of a king.

He thereupon bade the birds go to ponds and springs and wash off their dirt, so that he entrusted to water the determination of the leadership. For, Jupiter’s preference was for the display of beauty. Therefore the birds took a bath, then they come back at once to Jupiter, and each displayed its own comeliness. But the magpie, being concerned about its misshapenness, falsified Nature’s handiwork by decking out its own ugliness with another’s charm. The owl, however, detected the fraud and proved that the adornment was spurious. For, recognizing a feather as its own, the owl took it away as its own, setting an example to all the other birds that each should remove its own feather. And the magpie became a magpie once more.

This fable, O Chrysippus, certainly teaches a truth that expounds profound wisdom to us. For in like manner we humans possess nothing of our own here. Yet we who live but a short time, take pride in our alien adornment. For when we are dead, we shall be deprived of what is not ours. Therefore despise wealth and the body, but take care of that immortal substance, your soul. For this is eternal and deathless, whereas those other things are perishable and belong to us briefly.

35. Rustic. From MYRONIDES to MOSCHIO

I lent my plow ox to Tycanias, since he did not have a second as a mate for his yoke. But Tycanias also promised to let me have his bull, for I too had a defective herd, my very fine bull having died when mat fierce epidemic raged in the pastures. That honorable man, Tycanias, however, broke the agreement and as long as his purpose was being accomplished, he seemed to respect public opinion. However, I bewail his cruel guile. For I have no plow oxen, he argues, yet the plowmen’s season has already passed. Therefore I shall organize a trial against Tycanias, and I shall summon the whole countryside to be judges, and he will be subject to a sentence for his chicanery. Moreover, I shall warn rogues to refrain from mischief by taking a lesson in decent behavior from the ruin of one man.


Cupids mock men, the winged gods of love making slaves of those who live beneath the moon, if we may believe the painters at all. Would that we might see the enemy himself! For thus the Cupids, who hurl the darts, would themselves be smitten. But the harm we suffer is greater because we do not even know the nature of our enemies.

I have become involved in just such an irrational passion. I am mad about Melanippe, Diodorus’ daughter, from afar, though I have never seen the lady even in a dream, but have only heard from somebody that she is wonderfully charming. I am pierced in my heart, having suffered no injury through my eyes, as was usually the case, O Lysistratus. Now, however, my eyes have become ears also, so powerful was the force of the Cupids. Then she is either a Fury or an apparition of some sort – I do not know what is said about these matters, since there is not a single trustworthy witness to the truth. Nevertheless I am sick at heart, loving a girl I have not beheld. And I realize that I have been blocked by an unforeseen disorder. What was loved was unseen, and only a feeling of love was real.

37. Ethical. From EURYADES to CIMON

You promise much and do little, your tongue being more conspicuous than your deeds. But if you are renowned for the elegance of your diction, the artists wield greater power than your mouth does, since in their paintings they invent such things as Nature cannot produce. But if you think that with your promises you make your audience happy, you do cheer them up for a short while, but later you sadden them so much the more painfully. For even the most beautiful dreams do not give us as much pleasure when we are asleep as they sadden us when we wake up, since all hope vanishes with sleep. Therefore let your actions agree with your rhetoric, lest you be hatefully regarded by your friends as a liar, and furnish your enemies with grounds for assailing you as indifferent to the truth.

38. Rustic. From TETTIGO to ORTYGO

You wretch, why in the world did you change your clothes and let the partridges fly away? Wine was your trouble. With wine, too, did Ulysses buy the eye of the Cyclops, as they say. Therefore, unless you recover the birds, together with you I shall jump off a cliff. For a boy to live a bad life is bard to bear. But if a son claims his grave sooner than his father does, that is more unendurable.


You cannot love Thetis and Galatea at the same time. For passions do not engage in struggle, since love is not divided. Nor will you endure a twofold involvement. For just as the earth cannot be warmed by two suns, so one heart does not support two flames of love.

40. Ethical. From SOCRATES to PLATO

On the one hand, nobody is injured. On the other hand, everybody spontaneously harms himself, since we are in control of our virtues and vices.

Philonides took away your farm, which is external to you, and he did not sadden your soul at all. Philip did you harm by taking possession of your ring, while in yourself you suffered no damage, for what we have acquired is not ours. The barbarians did away with your son; you suffered no fearful harm, since you did not acquire your child for all time. After a period when you did not have him, he was born to you recently, and once more he is not yours, since he did not subsist, but was created. Therefore people do harm; they are not harmed.

I admired that Cyclops in Homer, for he says that nobody harms him while he is suffering an injury. And this denial on the part of the shepherd was a declaration of the truth.

41. Rustic. From MARATHON to PEGANO

Fleeing from political disorders and the unbearable uproar of the city, I rented this farm with the hope of finding a change in my spirit. But I have fallen upon even worse evils. For sometimes I have blight as my enemy, at other times locusts, and also hail now and then. Frost ruins my crops, like an implacable despot. And in my misery I donate my sweat to the winds. Alas, poor me! Where shall I turn? When I recall farm work, I cherish the city. When I encounter the hubbub in town, I love the country. What is not present seems better than what is at hand. The only escape from my troubles is death, whether natural or, on the contrary, self-inflicted. Accordingly, with hanging as the cure for me, I feel awful, since it is stupid for unhappy people to choose death.

42. Love. From PERICLES to ASPASIA

If you are looking for presents, you are not in love, since the gods of love are not influenced by gifts and instruct lovers to behave in the same way. Therefore, if you are in love, it is surely more befitting to give than to receive. But if you thirst for money and pretended, for the sake of wealth, to be in love, your feelings are belied by your tongue, which sells pleasures for gold to anyone who wants them.

43. Ethical. From DIOGENES to DEMONICUS

The eunuch Lydus, an artificial little woman, half a man, whose nature conforms completely to no model, is despicable. For he is said to have a shameful tongue in every limb of his body. In imitation of Homer’s Ulysses, however, I am not susceptible to his darts. For if the female sex smites heroes, that is ineffectual, to say something terse and weighty to you, in the manner of Diomedes. It is surely befitting for eunuchs to bark and rave. For, being deprived of strength in their hands, they try to do everything with their tongues. My friends, however, emphasize my forbearance in not subjecting that insolent rogue to punishment. For if in like manner the braying bad been done by a donkey, I would of course never summon it to court. This surely is proclaimed with a discreet command.

44. Rustic. From PRIAMIDES to CORYDO

Tomorrow I shall be at the feast. I have to prepare everything for the wedding: beans, chickpeas, lots of dried figs, sweets, honey cake, and cookies. Bring your well-made shepherd’s pipe and sing your very melodious tunes, your knowledge of country music being most professional, O Corydo. For I have made up my mind to shift the bridal bed altogether in the direction of pleasure, heightened by the instrument’s tones.

45. Love. From LEANDER to PYLADES

The gods of love distress me greatly. I am in love, but my beloved hates me. What shall I do, poor wretch that I am? The gods of love do not hold the balance even, as they weigh out bitter tears for mankind. Then if they do an injustice, let them not be called gods at all. But if they do not belie their title, let them decide justly and allot sorrow to me according to what is fair.


Alexander frightened Macedonia when he rode on his horse Bucephalus, who did not obey the reins at all, they say nor was he calmed down by caressing hands. For he was an intractable beast, whose high spirit did not allow him to be ridden, an unapproachable evil, much feared by those around him. Then when it was his lot to have Alexander as his rider, with his ferocity he mixed gentleness, as it were, exchanging loud neighing for docility, and he was seen to be tamed. For it was impermissible to oppose Alexander. Therefore, you too, O Aristarchus, pay heed to Fortune, since it was not Alexander, but Fortune, that Bucephalus obeyed.

47. Rustic. From POIMNIO to ARNON

The udders of my ewes threaten to burst, and I am short of milk pails, I know not how. Therefore give me pails, while I supply you with milk as I exchange small favors for generous gifts.


Don’t spurn a girl who abuses and also insults you. For lovers certainly receive pleasures and delights, yet they are often adorned with blows and scars. But if you don’t tolerate a scolding, neither will you gather the rose out of fear of the thorn.

49. Ethical. From LEONIDES to PERIANDER

Thetis’ son [Achilles] had respect even for aged Priam and for his enemy’s white hair, and he gave back to the father his dead son, honoring Priam with a most calamitous gift. I marvel at Priam’s recklessness, but I praise Achilles’ kindness.

Be you also for me a grandson of Aeacus [Achilles], and pitying my white hair and my tears, give me back my son while he is alive. For I am just as unlucky as Priam. For since you are not a foe, I would have communicated with you about the boy, the letters of the message being written with tears, not ink. If you too, however, wish to be praised for your generosity, let your gift precede my request. On the other hand, if you are not controlled by reason, but rage and grief are uppermost, you will rejoice, to be sure, for a short while. Yet you will be sorry longer when for your irrational anger you pay heavy penalties too.

50. Rustic. From CALAMO to SPIRO

If you wanted to be a farmer, stay away from the uproar of the town. But if you have a liking for courtroom attorneys and tribunals, throw away your hoe, pick up pen and paper, and plunge straight ahead, devil take you! For the farm community does not accept pettifoggers and those who constantly exclaim “Gentlemen of the jury.”


As I was strolling through Piraeus last night, I saw your lover with Chrysippa. Light was provided by a boy, and the arranger of the affair was the old woman Habrotonon. But when I greeted the procuress, your lover urged that the incident be kept secret. Therefore don’t believe him when he pledges [faithfulness] nor when he flatters you. For in both cases his tongue lies atrociously.

52. Ethical. From SOCRATES to CLEON

When wolves have surrounded a huge prey, after eating their fill they then become philosophical, as though they had the self-restraint of lambs, and they exchange their beastly ways for a certain kindness, a full belly having taught the wolves excellent justice. They mingle with the sheep and respect them, until their belly subsides.

You too, having taken on traits more ruthless than the wolves’, have a much greater lack of control of your greed. When an overabundance of gold bursts out of your coffers, you behave like the drunkards. For they become thirsty the more they stuff themselves with wine, and with drunkenness they beguile the peak of drunkenness. For they pass through the greatest ecstasy to the opposite mood, as the wine cheers the drunkards up and burns them out. Get rid of your unrestrained drunkenness, you profligate, lest you fall into the opposite state of affairs, being deprived by Lady Luck even of those things which she herself brought you. For by such punishments does she smite ingrates.

53. Rustic. From MINTHO to RHIZO

The Chrysippus River has carried away part of our land and attached it to yours. Because it does something stupid and silly, it is considered unjust. If, however, your shoulders can’t stand the weight of a lawsuit, don’t accept gifts from rivers. On the other hand, if you covet the property of others, you will soon be deprived of your own too, and you’ll be sorry.

54. Love. From MEDEA to JASON

Nothing intrigues men more, yet nothing is more cloying than the condition of love. Where are the floods of your tears that gushed forth at my feet? Whither have your thousand styles of speaking gone, and the humility and submissiveness of your language? Such words, I am absolutely convinced, were never used by debtors in dealing with their creditors, nor by wounded prisoners under the control of their enemies.

No longer do you go without sleep night after night; you have given up your morning serenades. You have cast aside the innumerable messages, agreements, oaths, which you communicated to me through match-making women. You have suddenly fallen for another girl, just as slumberers switch from one subject to another in their dreams without any interruption. I praise the painters because they depict the gods of love as winged, and by their art reshape reality and enhance the truth with their inventions.


To be awake without interruption is the mark of an immortal nature. A moderate amount of sleep, on the other hand, is our lot, as it should be, and the mark of a human being. But to keep on sleeping past the permissible limit suits the dead rather than the living. You, O Chrysosthenes, have lost the greatest part of your life. For you are always asleep and in this respect you have overstepped the bounds, like Humer’s Ulysses who, being about to leave the earth, uses sleep as an ocean, and sees neither the rising nor the setting sun.

56. Rustic. From DAPHNO to AEGIRUS

Your fig trees spread their roots to my land because they do not wish to end up under your control, and by passing beyond your jurisdiction they surrender their fruit to me, since they have fled to my field of operations. Besides, this is the law of the farmers. Obey the ancient statutes, you little old man. But if you want to object to our customs, we shall throw you out of the Farmers’ Association on the ground that you are a new and upstart lawgiver, and we shall banish you from our territory as an alien.


If you are in love, do not find fault with the blemish in your beloved. For a lover’s soul cannot fail to be blind, since the passion of lovers is irrepressible. If, on the other hand, you are not in love, why do you weep and moan and of your own free will create a commotion in yourself? Therefore you do wrong in both respects, since sometimes as a lover you are more than covetous, at other times as a critic you express an abhorrence.

58. Ethical. From DAMASCIUS to ANTIGONUS

If Socrates does not hold a lifelong pledge, do not engage him as your boy’s teacher. On the other hand, let sons be deemed pledged for life. For he who has been taught by Nature to be a father is especially qualified to be a teacher too, learning through experience the conditions of procreation and the agonies of love.

59. Rustic. From CEPIAS to CORIANNUS

Be my assistant, O Coriannus, by the noon hour. I shall enclose my land with fences since we have wicked wayfarers, and I cannot contend with wild creatures and men at the same time: the hares ruin my vines, the caterpillars my vegetables. What, finally, shall I say about the moles? Surely they are a dreadful evil for the farmer, an unconquerable foe. Therefore, work with me and take part in my labors. In such efforts I in turn shall cooperate with you. For this is how the ants likewise overcome their difficulties by their combined activities and achieve prodigious results.

60. Love. From ANTHIA to ORION

Everything is enslaved by love of women. Lais is adored by Diogenes, Sostrate by Phrygius. Their philosophical skill has vanished; they have rejected pure morals, forsaken heavenly virtue, and broken a lofty vow. Everything previously held by them in the strictest observance is discarded.

To me it seems an untimely sport for an old man, wearing a venerable beard and exalted for his uprightness, to consort with a young prostitute. I laugh out loud and can’t hold back my jeers whenever I meet old men. For once upon a time they used to denounce love vociferously, and they declared lovers to be mad of their own free will, love being defined as a passion of an intemperate soul. A wise man endures everything. To hope for this is too presumptuous, since Time and Chance can accomplish much.


When I gave you much wonderful advice, I seemed to be weaving Penelope’s shroud. Here I am still starting with fabulous tales on the chance that you may benefit by hearing what I say.

Flitting through the trees when they were sprouting their leaves, at the time of the heat the grasshopper chirped and enjoyed listening to its own music. The ant, however, followed the reapers, made its rounds about the threshing-floor, and buried its food in the hollows of the earth. Finally the sun departed from the north, autumn passed, and winter raged everywhere. The sea swallowed up the libations offered it to be calm. Sailors saluted their harbors as their saviors. The farmer sought refuge near his hearth, as did the ant in the recesses of the earth and it had its food supply handy as the result of its exertions.

Then the grasshopper begged the hard-working ant for a share of its treasure. The ant, however, sent the grasshopper back to its singing, laughing loudly at its idleness, and reproaching it for its summer concerts. Accordingly, the grasshopper gained hunger from its song, while by its efforts the ant acquired delicacies.

This fable fits you, O Lysistratus. Therefore get rid of your nonchalance, for you will spoil your natural gifts if you fail to improve your strength and the undeveloped health of your body by forgoing exercise as a matter of principle.

62. Rustic. From TETTIGO to PORPHYRIO

Corydo is a happy man and is favored by Fortune. His vines are loaded with grapes; his pear-trees are full and eager to be picked; his olive-trees bend toward the ground, the mass of fruit crushing the heavily laden branches; and his meadow are lush.

His wife, moreover, gives her husband additional reasons to rejoice. For he has so many children that by his fertility he seems to surpass both Danaus and Aegyptus. One child clings to the mother’s breasts, another is weaned. Others crawl around, having not yet begun to stand up straight. Others babble and acquire their second set of teeth. Others walk vigorously and have attained steadiness on two feet. The differences in their height are arranged like the holes in a shepherd’s pipe.

Yet you advised against my daughter’s marrying Corydo, and you disparaged that tie as though abominating his humble ancestry. Woe is me, I have been cheated, I had little foresight. Noble birth is of no use to people, for all of them value nothing more than wealth.


You are not in love with Diodota, you have extinguished the embers of passion. For you have no feelings of jealousy concerning her when you see her keeping company with Lysistratus. Nothing provokes quarrels more than love does. How, then, are you in love if you endure such pains so calmly?


As teachers of boys and instructors in deportment, we firmly control our pupils’ misconduct by threats, since the youngsters are still unresponsive to reasoning and rules. For we frighten them by words rather than by whips.

On the other hand, I am astonished by your obduracy. For you are not afraid of being punished by the judges, nor do you pay any attention to words of warning. In your old age your attitude is less sensible than the youngsters’. Go to hell, if that is what you want. For if anybody can’t be reformed by words and whips, putting up with his resentment when we are exhorting him is too irksome, and more disagreeable than cleaning out stable dung or draining the entire Atlantic Ocean with a cup.

65. Rustic. From BUBALIO to CISSYBIUS

We are wronged by Gorgias’ son, for the scoundrel trespasses on horseback and covers up his misconduct by pretending to be hunting. Fur there are no hares among us, nor does the goat abound, nor the gazelle, nor the stag, nor any other game animal. For, the hares are kept down by warrens and snares, by which they are also trapped. The goats and gazelles are preyed upon by the lions hereabout. But after all why should I enumerate for you a thousand species of wild animals, which we too do not have? We are kept down by our unmanliness, but the beasts by our astuteness. Now since you, O Cissybius, are related to the malefactor, give him useful advice, and let your words teach him to behave better. For I want you to know that be is going to be torn to pieces by my dogs if he encroaches on my fields hereafter. For, my bitch and her pups are already guarding my property, eager to get hold of soft human fat.


Lovers pursue beauty, not virtue. For their lusts do not teach them restraint, but bodily beauty entices their roving eye. Hence, if you love Rhodoclea for her character, your affection is not controlled by your carnal desires. For, virtuous thoughts are not affected by Love’s dart.


You swallow your promises as though they were vegetables, and the clacking of your teeth seems to you to put an end to the matter. To those who accuse you, O most evil of men, your rebuttal is:

My tongue made the promise, but my mind made no promise.

Don’t you see that a more severe form of punishment awaits an unrestrained tongue? For whatever words we have misspoken, we shall suffer the penalty in deeds. By all means control your tongue. Avoid swearing, even to the truth. Does an oath perhaps seem a light matter to you? In fact it is weightier than any load. That is why Tantalus too was punished. For toward the gods his tongue was irreverent.

68. Rustic. From SEUTLION to CORIANNUS

I have finally caught that very mischievous little fox, and I am keeping that nuisance tied down in a network of ropes. I shall carry her to the highway, O Coriannus, and call all the farmers together so that I may triumph publicly over the enemy. She will pay the penalty in front of the people for her many misdeeds by suffering a single punishment.

69. Love. From CALLIOPE to LAIS

Gorgias prides himself on his hair rolled up in a knot with a golden clasp, while his cheeks are not yet darkened by whiskers. He is haughty in his handsomeness, and with his charm he entices us to swoon. But I shall depict old age, illness, and suffering on panels, which I shall put in front of the brute’s door. For these are what he will have some day as adversaries of his good looks.

70. Ethical. From PLATO to AXIOCHUS

We control horses with bridles and whips. Sometimes we set a boat in motion by unfurling the sails, and at other times we hold it in check with anchors. That is how the tongue should be regulated, O Axiochus, now loaded with words, now lulled to silence.

71. Rustic. From RHODON to CYPARISSUS

The Lucanians are back again, it is said. Casting aside my scythe, I shall forge a spear and spike, and practice the art of war. For, the evil one does not let us rest. For me, summer is chillier than winter. For what is more horrible than war? I wept when spring drew near, so teeming with flowers is the field, so sweet the fragrance of myrtle in the land, so beautifully leafed out the plane tree. The crops are greening everywhere, all my plantings are ripening rapidly. Our enemies, however, harry us. For they love the sword better than the plough.


Had Nature not mingled satiety with the pleasures of love, the male sex would have been subordinated to the female, O Telesilla. Don’t you therefore develop a swelled head, you little whore! The flame of love has grown cold in me. For, the pain caused by Cupid’s darts does not last forever.

73. Ethical. From PROCLUS to ARCHIMEDES

The octopus’ habits are said to be ridiculous. For they swallow their own tentacles and their unfortunate parts as handy food. The wretched creatures, then, do away with the usefulness of their own members and are seen feasting on their own flesh.

Don’t you, O Xanthippus, seem to be completely an octopus [in spirit]? For my part, I think this is quite obvious. For you wrong your own father too cruelly, neither revering Nature nor heeding retribution, such as hell. But if you repent, the fading memory of your past misdeeds will intercede for you. On the other hand, if with implacable fervor you pursue a greedy course, the godhead will pay you back in equal measure. You will have sons who will be the spit and image of their father’s knavery. Just so do the viper’s offspring follow their mother’s viciousness by tearing to shreds the belly that bore them and nourished them.

74. Rustic. From ELAPHO to DORCON

Animal dung promotes fertility. Therefore give me the dung of your beasts, and you will receive fruit and vegetables in payment for the productivity. In addition, I shall reward your friendship with resounding thanks.


Nothing lasts less than fun with a harlot. The kisses of your lips are treacherous. For, a desire without roots languishes quite rapidly. Henceforth I shall adopt the self-restraint that is distasteful to many men. For it is said to be more enduring. By using a dowry, I’ll enjoy marriage. For to buy a prostitute’s faithfulness is very difficult.

76. Ethical. From DIOGENES to SOTION

A bit of fame, that wee thing, seems to wise men to be a dream, more monstrous and worthless than fabricated fables, fleeting, trivial, a plaything more insubstantial than echoes and breezes. When absent, it saddens; but when it arrived, it caused greater grief. For it soon disappointed its pursuers. Don’t let Fortune’s bubble delude you. For it mocks men just as it pleases. For, vanity of vanities is the business of man.

77. Rustic. From BUCOLIO to MYRONIDES

Your grandson, O Myronides, has misbehaved. With a red rag he caused great disarray in my herd, and threw my favorite heifer down. This misfortune was treated by his pals as a joke. Don’t give the boy double rations any more. Even if well-nourished, youths are unruly. And if you indulge them, their unruliness goes to extremes.


To win a maiden’s love is quite difficult, in fact too difficult. My spirit is lackadaisical. What shall I do? For, pitiless Cupid bas hurled his dart. You be the judge between Cupid and me, and give me a favorable decision. For, love is jealous. Even when it proposes love, it denies fulfillment.

79. Ethical. From ISOCRATES to DIONYSIUS

Guards, standard bearers, heralds, and thrones raised on high cast a shadow over philosophy. This great departure from the virtues resulted. With your [change of] fortune, your character hasn’t changed, has it? You still have your thick skin. For from the start you had a perishable nature. Why then did this empty and insubstantial bit of fame inflate the muddy sack so much? You are overcome by stark madness, you wretch, and have lost your understanding of Nature. In this way the wavering shifts of Fortune forced you to abandon your previous point of view and pass beyond your reasonable aberration. Formerly, what was humble was, for you, exalted. Now, however, what is lowly and earth-bound is [for you] Fortune’s loftiest peak. Therefore abandon your pretense of happiness. Flee fleeting Fortune. For by anticipating its treacherousness, you will not suffer from the sudden onset of its vicissitudes.

80. Rustic. From CROMYLO to AMPELO

Nothing is more miserable than farming. We, poor wretches, are damaged even by the tyranny of the winds. The south wind ruins us. It made my grain bare, destroyed my vines, and spoiled my grapes. And I can’t summon this assailant to court. I shall therefore throw away my scythe and sickle, don a shield, helmet, and sword, and become a soldier. By changing my trade, I shall cheat fate.


If anything is dearer to men than gold, show me how bliss is attained through more precious gifts. But if not, grant me your favors that much sooner. For you do not have the beauty of Danae nor are you more charming nor am I richer than Jupiter, I who am buying your maidenhead with gold.

82. Ethical. From SOCRATES to ALCIBIADES

Even poetic fancies are full of all wisdom. Ulysses’ comrades are said to have stuffed their ears with wax when their ships bore them toward the lewd Sirens, while Ulysses was bound in chains, as though in an escape-proof prison. Here the secrets of philosophy are introduced. For in my opinion poetry invented the Sirens to stand for illicit pleasures. And I deeply admire Homer’s coupling of the truth with his story. Together with what we hear, he mingled the truth, like a drink more soothing than nectar, as though he were diluting a very strong wine with water. For in this way we are not deceived by the fictions nor are we made dizzy by an incomprehensible investigation. Hence Homer symbolized the absence of sense experience by the wax, but philosophy by the chains. Accordingly, only Ulysses enjoyed hearing the very sweet singing, and the chains checked his longing. For, the understanding of vices is the virtue of philosophy, and the curbing of pleasures is philosophy’s combat trophy.

Life at present, O Antimachus, is the mirror image of Ulysses’ wanderings, and man in his misery is tossed about in a sea of troubles. The sounds of the Sirens’ pleasures swirl around us, and temptations impinge on us like winds, now from this side and now from the other. We shall imitate Penelope’s marriage, therefore, by following philosophy as an unbreakable and divine chain of virtues.

83. Rustic. From ANTHINUS to AMPELINUS

The vintage is now approaching, and the sweet grapes are full. Therefore, watch the public highway very carefully, and use your Cretan dog to help you. For, the wayfarer’s hands are itchy, and quite ready to deprive the farmer of [what he has produced by] his sweat.


Haven’t you, O Sosipater, been caught in loves snares through your passion for Anthusa? It is the sign of a keen eye to fall in love; with a beautiful girl. Don’t groan because you have been overcome by pulchritude. For on account of your pains your enjoyment will be greater. Love’s tears are delightful. For, sorrow is mingled with pleasure, and Cupid delights as he saddens. For the girdle of Venus is interwoven with a variety of feelings.

85. Ethical. From PLATO to DIONYSIUS

If you wish to overcome your sadness, stroll through the tombstones and you will have the cure for your feelings. You will behold man’s greatest joys as in the end they take on the lightness of dust.

Printed in Cracow in the house of Johannes Haller in the year 1509 of our salvation.

Translation by Edward Rosen
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Mikołaj Kopernik
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