Hugh Edward Pigott Platt.

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LINES .183







A BOOK about books can rarely claim to be any-
thing better than a necessary evil. The commentator
sometimes elucidates, occasionally obscures, but gener-
ally depresses. And he intrudes everywhere. When
Othello cries in his agony, ' My heart is turned to
stone,' the commentator is ready with his note : ' stout ;
A.S. Stan, compare bone> A.S. bdn? None have
suffered from annotation more than the writers of
Greece and Rome. There is not one of them who
is not

scribbled, crost, and cramm'd

With comment, densest condensation, hard

To mind and eye.

If you look at a German bookseller's list, you
perceive that by the end of the twentieth century
the mere names of editions and dissertations will in
the case of some authors cover as many pages as the
original work. With so appalling a prospect before
us, how can I justify the production of this book?
I can only think of two excuses, both bad ones.
The first is the girl's excuse for her baby * It is
only a little one.' And the second is that this shall
be my last offence. I will not be guilty of a succession
of rambles among these byways.

A rambler has a right to be discursive ; but possibly
a censorious reader may pronounce me worthy of the
same fate as Aelius Lamia, who, according to Suetonius,
was put to death by Domitian for repeating old jests,
ob veteres tocos. But what is stale to one may be fresh
to another. An elderly person must often think to
himself, ' Nothing is new except what has been for-
gotten.' But if we let this reflection affect us too
much, we shall be reduced to silence, as was the
young man who began to tell a story when the late
G. A. Sala was present. ' It is no good your telling
us that story/ said Sala. ' If it is a proper one, we
don't want to hear it ; and if it is an improper one,
we know it.'

Here and there in this volume an observation made
in Byways in the Classics has been developed, but the
matter actually repeated does not amount to more
than a page. As this is not a textbook, I have
doubted whether to add references, which in some
degree spoil the appearance of the type. But it is
only too common for writers on law, on history and
archaeology, and on grammar, to make statements
that go far beyond the evidence on which they are
based; and indicating the sources helps to keep the
writer straight, and enables the reader to correct him
when he goes wrong. Where references have been
supplied by modern books, I have followed Dr. Routh's
famous advice and verified them ; all, I think, except
two, and di me perduint if I can recollect which those

two are. Verifying references is commonly regarded
as irksome work, but to me it has been an occasion
of enjoyment ; for many a time after finding and
examining the passage sought I have passed a pleasant
half-hour dipping into the book, now renewing ac-
quaintance with once familiar scenes in Homer or
Herodotus, and now making a short incursion into
the terra incognita of St. Jerome.


WHEN Byways in the Classics came out, a news-
paper devoted to racing offered to review it.
The publisher connected this proposal with the
circumstance that Cicero had just won the Derby,
while I thought that Byways in the Classics had
been taken to mean tales of shady practices con-
cerning the ' classic ' races, as the Derby and St. Leger.
The incident has suggested to me that a few notes on
sport in the poets may interest some readers.

First as to horse-racing, which with the ancients
meant chariot-racing. For this the Greeks appear to
have valued mares as highly as horses. In //. xxiii
Eumelus drove mares (376), Diomede drove stallions
(377), and Menelaus a mare and a horse (295).
Antilochus however twitted his horses with being
beaten by a mare (409).

But reach Atrides ! shall his mare outgo
Your swiftness, vanquished by a female foe ?


In the Electra of Sophocles the Aetolian drove
fillies, while Orestes' beasts changed their gender
three times in the course of the race : compare 703,
722, 734; 744-

With us horses have proved their superiority. Thus

in the St. Leger, though it is run in ' the mare's month,'
and though fillies receive an allowance of 3 lb., yet in
the last ten years Sceptre and Pretty Polly are the only
fillies that have been winners.

For colour white horses were thought the best, at
any rate by the poets. Homer, //. x. 437, describes
the horses of Rhesus as


I saw his coursers in proud triumph go,
Swift as the wind, and white as winter-snow.


and Virgil, Aen. xii. 84, describes the horses of
Turnus as

Qui candore nivcs anteirent, cursibus auras ;

lines to which Claudian, xxviii. 475, refers with the
remark, si qua fides augentibus omnia Musis. Horace
has equis praecurreret albis. Sat. i. 7. 8 ; and comp.
Plaut. Asin. 279. In the face of these passages it is
odd to find Virgil, Georg. iii. 82, pronouncing white
horses the worst: color deterrimus albis. In the
Electra it was the white team that ran away and
caused the disaster. Late in the sixth century B.C.
the white coursers of Cilicia were famous. One for
every day in the year was supplied to the Persian king.
Herod, iii. 90. Sir F. Doyle, in his Reminiscences \ 125,
records how in Viva voce for * Greats ' Mr. Gladstone
was trapped by the question (a futile one), Which
horses were the best in the army of Xerxes?

Mr. Gladstone replied, no doubt making a shot, ' the
Arabians.' Now the Arabs were mounted on camels.
Herod, vii. 86.

A white horse has never won a race in England.
This, I suppose, may be explained by the fact that all
our racehorses trace their pedigree to the Byerley
Turk, the Godolphin Arabian, and the Darley Arabian,
who were bays. My own knowledge of the horse is
chiefly gained from contemplating the hind-quarters
of that flatulent animal from the interior of a hansom
cab; but my friends tell me that, while there are
traditional fancies about colours, such as that a black
horse is bad-tempered, most sportsmen are now agreed
in the apophthegm, ' a good horse cannot be of a bad
colour.' Xenophon appears to have held this opinion ;
for, when enumerating the points of a horse, he says
nothing about the colour, though in his essay on
Hunting he thinks it necessary to describe the colour
of a good hound. In a team most people like the
colours of the horses to match, but the chariot in
Eur. Iph. A. 216 had the pair in the yoke piebald
and the outriggers chestnut. Piebald horses seem to
have been admired. Such was Podarces in the chariot
race in the Thebaid, variumque Thoas rogat ire Podar-
cem (vi. 466); while the sexless animals driven by
Admetus ' resembled day and night, being white with
black spots ' (vi. 335). They would have looked grand
in a circus.

Of late years the chariot races of old have been

represented only by the contests of rival omnibuses.
Not long ago, on the favourite course between Sloane
Street and Kensington Church, I saw a general omnibus
defeat a road-car much as Antilochus passed Menelaus,
by the manoeuvre of boring the car right on to the foot
path. This, I presume, was a result of reading Homer
in the Board Schools.

Next for boxing and wrestling. A Greek athlete in
training ate largely, Ar. Pax, 34, chiefly pork, care-
fully avoiding intellectual conversation during his
meals, Plut. de San. Tu. 133. He was prone to
become fleshy, TroAiWpKos, Lucian, Dial. Mart. x. 5.
In boxing he stood on tiptoe, Aen. v. 426 ; Val. Fl.
iv. 267 ; Quintil. viii. 3. 63, and swung round his arms
to batter his adversary's ears ;

Erratque aures et tempora circum
Crebra manus. Aen. v. 435.

Sanguineaeque latent aures. VAL. FL. iv. 309.

Indeed a pugilist might be recognized by his battered

At iuvenes alios fracta colit aure magister.

MART. vii. 32. 5 ; cf. PLAT. Prot. 342 B.

The pugilist of Euripides, Autol. frag. yvdOov Wo-as
KaAu>9, apparently boxed more in modern style ; and
in spite of their round-arm hitting Epeus and Entellus
must have succeeded in 'landing' heavily on the
mouth. See //. xxiii. 697, Aen. v. 470, and the realistic
translations by Pope and by Dryden.


Ancient boxing was in great measure a feat of
endurance, Trvy/x^xfy* aXcyciv^s, //. xxiii. 653 ; as was
prize-fighting in the palmy days of the Ring. Now
the object is to ' knock out ' the adversary by striking
him on ' the mark.' The caestus worn by the boxers
was originally a strip of raw ox-hide, intended, like
our boxing-gloves, to protect the hands and deaden
the force of the blows. Subsequently it was loaded
with bosses of metal, to render a hit more effective.
Our boxing-gloves have had a like evolution ; for
many think that a blow with one of the small gloves
worn in modern prize-fights is as severe as a blow
with the naked fist.

I may add that a criticism by Mr. E. B. Michell
on the boxing-match in Aen. v will be found in the
Badminton volume on * Boxing.'

The wrestling-match between Ajax and Odysseus is
the most unsatisfactory of the contests in the Iliad.
Apparently the winner of two falls out of three was to
take the prize. In the first bout Odysseus was
clearly successful. The second must have been won
by Ajax, as Achilles, stopping the opponents, gave
equal prizes to each. But why Homer does not
make this clear, and why Achilles did not permit
the deciding fall to be contested, it is hard to say.
Odysseus was the typical Greek, and possibly the
poet shrank from allowing him ever to be worsted.
Or possibly the explanation simply is that the well-
greaved Achaeans were getting bored with the per-
formance, //. xxiii. 721.

Here I must not omit to refer to the prizes in the
Iliad j the relative value of which so provoked
Madame Dacier. Pope translates thus :
A massy tripod for the victor lies,
Of twice six oxen its reputed price ;
And next, the loser's spirits to restore,
A female captive, valued but at four.
The passage is wittily parodied by Pope himself in
the Dunciad, bk. ii :

See in the circle next Eliza plac'd, &c.,
and compare Aen. v. 285.

In leaping the Greeks claim to have beaten all the
world. Their leap was a long jump, apparently
taken standing. It was practised with dumb-bells
(halteres) in the leaper's hands. Some fine perform-
ances had already been given by Greek athletes,
when Phayllus of Crotona broke the record and
leaped a distance of fifty-five feet. A statue was
raised to him, and beneath it was inscribed :

IleVr' CTTI TrevnrJKOvra TroSas Trrj$r]<T ^avAAos, K.r.X.

Anth. Gr. Jacobs T. iii. No. 205.

Possibly the reader will murmur to himself, quid-
quid Graecia mendax audet in historia ; and will be
inclined to translate the inscription somewhat after
this fashion :

Phayllus leapt full five and fifty feet ;

In leaps and lies the Greeks shall ne'er be beat.

The modern record for the long jump only reaches


the modest figures of n ft. 3 in. for the standing
jump, and 24ft. uf in. for the running jump, both
achieved by amateurs.

If the evidence of vases may be trusted, in a short
foot-race the Greeks swung their arms violently as
they bounded along. For the long distance race let
me cite a Greek epigram by Nicarchus, of the first
century A.D., Anthol. Pal. xi. 82 :

/ACT* aXXoov Xap/xos ev 'ApKaSia SoXtxevow,

, dXX' ovro>9 eySSo/xos e^eTrecrcv.
*E ovrtov, rax' *P&i T? /3So/u,os } eTs </>t'Xos avrov,

6apcri, Xap/xe, A.ey(DV, 5^.^ev ev t/xarta)'
*Ey38o/xos ow OVTOD TrapaytVerat' et 8' CTI irevre

*x ^>iXovs, ^X^' av, ZootXe, ScuSeKaros.
thus translated by Mr. Mackail, &/<?<:/ Epigrams^

P- 233 :

' Charmus ran for the three miles in Arcadia with
five others; surprising to say, he actually came in
seventh. When there were only six, perhaps you will
say, how seventh ? A friend of his went along in his
great-coat crying, " keep it up, Charmus ! " and so he
arrives seventh; and if only he had had five more
friends, he would have come in twelfth.'



IN Latin literature the unpleasant relatives are the
uncle and the step-mother. Ne sis patruus mihi^
'don't come the uncle over me,' says Staberius in
Horace, Sat. ii. 3. 88 ; and the step-mother is agree-
ably described as iniusta, saeva, or scelerata noverca.
See the lexicons s.w. patruus and noverca. Ap-
parently the uncle owed his ill name to the New
Comedy, and especially to Philemon, among whose
characters is mentioned the scolding uncle, patruus
obiurgator, Apuleius, Flor. iii. 16. 2. In the plays
which have come down to us from the New Comedy
this personage is hardly represented. Demipho in
the Phormio keeps his temper most creditably when
he meets his impudent nephew Phaedria ; and in the
Adelphi the uncle Micio carries his indulgence to
excess. The upright and affectionate Hanno in the
Poenulus must not be cited ; for though Agorastocles
calls him 'a pearl among uncles, an uncle and no
mistake', patrue mi patruissime, Hanno was really
a first cousin once removed, as he explicitly states :
Pater tuus, is erat frater patruelis meus.

Outside of fiction there is no reason to suppose
that Greek and Roman uncles conducted themselves
worse than other people. In Lysias, xxxii, Diogiton


is charged with defrauding the orphans to whom he
stood in the numerous relations of uncle, guardian,
and grandfather. Lucian, as he tells us, Somn. 3,
when he cracked the marble slab, was thrashed by his
uncle. But he says nothing about being scolded by
him. It was the uncle who got the scolding from
Lucian's mother, TroAAo. T<J> dScX^co AoiSopr/tra/uicvrys.
In Roman history Amulius is the typical bad uncle.
He dethrones his brother Numitor, and dooms
Numitor's grandsons to death.

In the middle ages the uncle was still an infamous
character ; and Amulius is reproduced by King John
and Richard III in English history. Among the
Paston Letters is a paper, No. 850, Gairdner, begin-
ning: 'Thes be th' enjuryes and wrongys done by
William Paston to John Paston his nevew ; ' and
several of the letters contain bitter complaints of the
same uncle William. It is, indeed, to the credit of
the mediaeval uncle in literature that he abandoned
the practice of scolding his nieces till they were half
dead with fright, exanimari metuentes Patruae verbera
linguae, Hor. C. iii. 12. But the polite language he
now used only too often concealed some nefarious
design, as was found by the unfortunate babes in the
wood. In modern literature the uncle, though
commonly grotesque in appearance and difficult to
manage, usually turns out a benevolent character in
the end. At first he resembles his classical prototype.
'Oh,' says his nephew Charles, after marrying some


penniless girl with the tacit assumption that the uncle
will keep the pair of them and all the babies that
subsequently present themselves, ' if you would only-
see her, Uncle John. If you would see how sweet,
how pure, how good she is.' The eager accents
ceased, and for a moment there was silence. Uncle
John rang the bell, ' Peter,' he said, when the harsh-
featured servitor made his appearance, ' if Mr. Charles
should call again, remember I am not at home} The
young man arose, he grew pale, then red, then pale
again. For a moment he seemed about to speak ;
but he checked himself; and with faltering steps he
left the room.

In my younger days my sympathies were all with
Charles. Now I exclaim, ' Well done, Uncle John ;
be firm, let them starve.' In vain, for Uncle John
always relents at last.

The more favourable estimation of modern uncles
may be illustrated by the well-known rendering of

nee severus

Uncus abest liquidumque plumbum,
which the schoolboy construed as, ' And the indulgent
uncle is absent and the juicy currant bun.'

The stepmother has also improved in modern
times ; which is surprising, as her conduct got worse
and worse in the Roman writers. In Virgil's Eclogue
Menalcas calls his stepmother harsh ; but the only
charge he brings against her is that she was likely to


object to his staking on the result of a musical compe-
tition a goat or a kid which did not belong to him.
On his own showing, she was a thrifty person, well
suited to be a farmer's wife.

De grege non ausim quicquam deponere tecum ;
Est mihi namque domi pater, est iniusta noverca ;
Bisque die numerant ambo pecus, alter et haedos.

Eel iii. 32.

His namesake in Theocritus (viii. 15) had found his
own mother equally unaccommodating.

Ou 6rj<r<j> TTOKO. ajjivov' CTTCI ^aXeTrds 6* 6 irar^p jj,fv t
Xd fia.T'rjp' TO, Se /xaXa TroOi<nrpa TTO.VT apiB } fj.cvvTL.
But some years later when writing the Georgics, Virgil
thought it necessary to recommend citron juice as an
antidote for the poisons of a stepmother (ii. 127) :

quo non praesentius ullum,
Pocula si quando saevae infecere novercae
Miscueruntque herbas et non innoxia verba,
Auxilium venit ac membris agit atra venena.
No medicine hath more sovereign control,
When fell stepmothers drug the murder bowl,
And mingle herbs of death and glamour strains
The citron scours their poison from the veins.


And by Juvenal's time, if we are to believe the poet,
the poisoning of stepsons had become a practice too
common to provoke censure :

lam iam privignum occidere fas est. vi. 628.

If stepdames seek their sons-in-law to kill,
Tis venial trespass ; let them have their will.


In the heroic ages of Greece it was the stepmother's
love rather than her hate that was to be feared. She
had an unfortunate habit of becoming enamoured of
her stepson, and then denouncing the innocent youth
to his father.

Here let me digress for a moment. After seeing
Dr. Gilbert Murray's graceful translation of the
Hippolytus performed at the Court Theatre, I read
again the original of Euripides, and then the Phaedra
of Seneca and the Phedre of Racine. In like manner
after seeing The Trojan Women I had read the
Troades of Euripides and of Seneca. In both cases
the difference between the playwrights may be
broadly stated thus. Euripides gives us poetry some-
times sinking into prose ; Seneca gives us rhetoric
rarely rising into poetry. In his version of the
Troades Seneca sustains the comparison with some
success. Macaulay thought this the finest play of
Euripides. To me it seems that the absence of
dramatic action and the abundance of reflection afford
Seneca an opportunity for concealing his deficiencies,
and for using his undoubted gifts. He is able to
introduce his sententiae with propriety and effect, and
to delight the reader with striking lines such as :
Optanda mors est sine metu mortis mori.
Est miser nemo nisi comparatus.


Quaeris quo iaceas post obitum loco ?
Quo non nata iacent.

In dealing with the Hippolytus Seneca is less fortunate.
The poetical feeling and the delicacy shown by Euri-
pides are exquisite. The solicitation of Hippolytus
is kept in the background, and Theseus and Phaedra
are not brought face to face. Seneca, it is true, cannot
be charged with the pruriency from which Ovid is not
altogether free in the Letter of Phaedra to Hippolytus,
but Seneca lacked the refinement of Euripides. Unlike
Racine, he even misses the beautiful touch by which
not Phaedra but the nurse first pronounces the name
of Hippolytus and brings to light the fatal secret. He
falls into sheer silliness when Phaedra suggests that
Theseus may prove a mari complaisant :

Veniam file amori forsitan nostro dabit ;

and still more in the ridiculous scene where the
servants produce the pieces of the mangled corpse :

Dum membra nato genitor adnumerat suo.

It is useless to compare the Phldre of Racine with
the Hippolytus of Euripides. Racine no doubt
belongs to the classical school ; but you cannot read
the Phldre after the Hippolytus without perceiving that
you are on the way to Romanticism. Instead of a
simple action brought about by the wrath of heaven,
we have a human romance of love and jealousy and
ambition. The Phtdre is a beautiful play, and the

Latin scholar will enjoy the occasional reminiscences
of Virgil, as of Usque adeone mori miserum est ? in

Mourons : de tant d'horreurs qu'un trepas me delivre.
Est-ce un malheur si grand que de cesser de vivre ?

and of refluitque exterritus amnis in

La terre s'en e'meut, 1'air en est infecte,
Le flot qui Tapporta recule epouvante.

I greatly regret that I have never seen the Phtdre
performed. However, ad propositum redeamus.

How far the ill name which stepmothers bore in
literature was really merited by the Roman ladies
I do not venture to determine. Then, as now, there
were good and bad stepmothers. Publilia and Tullia
failed to get on well together. On the other hand
Octavia, as Plutarch assures us, in spite of the mis-
conduct of Antony, took the greatest care of his
children by Fulvia. The frequency of divorce in
Rome must have made this relation a very common
one. In our country few stepdaughters have had
such a wide experience as Maria Edgeworth, who had
no less than three stepmothers, and lived happily with
them all. On her father's fourth marriage, she had
indeed protested; but when Mr. Edgeworth proved
incorrigible, Maria and the bride became the dearest
of friends. In modern fiction the stepmother is prone
to practise a petty tyranny upon her stepdaughter;
but she sometimes finds that young lady more than


a match for her, as was the case with the second
Mrs. Tanqueray.

The mother-in-law, who is now the common butt
of cheap humorists, in Rome attracted less ill will.
Jealousy was thought natural between a man's wife
and his mother, uno animo omnes socrus oderunt nurus^
says Terence, Hec. ii. i. 4. Just so among us, when
a man marries, it is usually thought prudent that his
mother, even if she has been sharing his house, should
not continue to live with him. But the wife's mother
was not, I think, commonly represented in an odious
light. When Crassus is observing that the diction
and pronunciation of women are generally superior
to those of men, he mentions with particular praise
his mother-in-law, Laelia, Cic. de Orat. iii. 45. And
we find one Marcilius pressing Cicero to use all his
influence with the propraetor of Asia in order that
Marcilius' mother-in-law might not be prosecuted. Of
what offence the old lady had been guilty is not
stated. Cic. Fam. xiii. 54.

Juvenal, it is true, while abusing all women, says,
vi. 231:

Desperanda tibi salva concordia socru ;

While your wife's mother lives, expect no peace ;


but on the other hand more inscriptions than one are
extant of a man ' to his incomparable mother-in-law '.
Forcellini, s. v. socrus.


The tie between father-in-law and son-in-law was
sacred in Roman eyes. Compare Catullus, Ixxii. 3 :

Dilexi turn te non tantum ut vulgus amicam,
Sed pater ut gnatos diligit et generos.

Tacitus, Hist. i. 3, mentions constants generi among
the bona exempla of the age ; and Lucan works for all
that it is worth the unhallowed contest of socer and
gener in the civil war. In our own Revolution, James II
and William III stood in this relation to each other.
For an epigram suggested by this fact see Byways in
the Classics, p. 51. In ordinary English experience
the father-in-law is a character who improves by age.
Before his daughter's marriage, while he is only a pro-

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Online LibraryHugh Edward Pigott PlattA last ramble in the classics → online text (page 1 of 11)