April 12, 2004

Hipponax lived in Ephesus and Clazomenae, on the east coast of the Aegean in what is now Turkey, in the late 6th century B.C. His verses are even cruder than those of the other iambic poets: in various fragments the narrator drinks beer out of a bucket, is whipped in an outhouse to restore his virility and attacked by a cloud of dung-beetles, and uses the Greek equivalent of ‘mother-f***er’ without any Greek equivalent of asterisks. Most surviving quotations are tiny scraps. Here are some of the more coherent ones, all, as it happens, in the form of prayers to, or complaints about, various gods — Wealth (Ploutos) is a Greek god.

Fragments 32 and 34:

Hermes, dear Hermes, Maia’s son, Cyllenian,
hear thou my prayer, for I am bloody frozen,
my teeth are chattering . . .
Grant Hipponax a cloak and a nice tunic
and some nice sandals and nice fur boots,
and sixty gold sovereigns to balance me up . . .
For thou hast never granted me a cloak
thick in the winter to cure me of the shivers,
nor hast thou wrapped my feet in thick fur boots
to stop my chilblains bursting.

Fragment 36:

And Wealth — he’s all too blind — he’s never come
to my house, never said, ‘Hipponax, here’s
three thousand silver drachmas, and a heap
of other stuff besides.’ No, he’s a dimwit.

Fragment 38:

Zeus, father Zeus, Olympian gods’ sultan,
wherefore hast thou not given me gold, silver?

As you can see, he tends to repeat his themes. Quotations are from M. L. West, and should be inextensive enough to count as fair use.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at April 12, 2004 12:28 AM

He's obviously the spiritual godfather of Scottish poetry great Ewan McTeagle.

"Can I Have Fifty Pounds To Mend the Shed" is generally regarded as his greatest work, but honestly, "To Ma Own Beloved Lassie: A Poem On Her 17th Birthday" is the one that always puts a tear in my eye.

Posted by: Dean Esmay on April 12, 2004 08:59 AM

Dammit, Dean, you beat me to it.

Posted by: Michelle Dulak on April 12, 2004 04:34 PM

Now this is the ancient stuff I live for! I'm tired of reading all the ponderous crap from dead ancient dudes talking out of their toga'd asses.

Posted by: Stryker on April 13, 2004 11:17 PM

Sound like we've found history's first welfare queen!

Posted by: Cybrludite on April 17, 2004 01:23 PM