Last Friday after I missed my afternoon train from South Station, I wandered over to Calamus Bookstore. They’ve got a couple of shelves of second-hand books, and in the past I’ve come across some great finds.
This time around, I picked up a parallel Greek-English text of ancient Greek erotic epigrams, which almost made me jizz my jeans. I was so excited because I’ve always been interested in these very homoerotic bits of verse, but rarely encounter them in their original Greek forms.
I didn’t know much about their origins or authorship (many are anonymous) or how they got preserved. As it turns out, they formed part of The Greek Anthology compiled in the 2nd century CE by Straton, a poet in the court of Hadrian, who ruled Rome from 117 to 138. A single manuscript of that anthology (also known as The Palatine Anthology) has survived.
The parallel text of the epigrams that I picked up is Puerilities: Erotic Epigrams of The Greek Anthology, translated by Daryl Hine. Hine, who is himself a poet, took some liberties with his translations so as to render the epigrams in verse form, so what they lack in accuracy for not being literal translations, they make up for in feeling, as the original epigrams were also in verse form. So far, I’ve really been enjoying them, though so far they’re not as dirty as I’d expected. Most are about love and longing, rather than sex. Many deal with unrequited love and the suffering endured by men who love youths. Not all of them are homoerotic, though the vast majority are.
It’s amazing how similar the Greek is to modern Greek. It’s similar enough that I can understand far more of the Greek than I thought. For example, I didn’t need the parallel text to understand:
Οι παίδες λαβύρινθος ανέξοδος·That’s courtesy of Rhianus (275 – 195 BCE) of Crete. He was a wise man.
Boys are an endless maze.