A Commentary on Livy: books 1-5 by R.M. Ogilvie

By R.M. Ogilvie

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Very little, however, is left of his work. Sparta There flowers the battle-spear of young men, there the Muse is eloquent, there Justice in the wide ways lends force to actions of honor. ALCMAN OF SPARTA Alcman is sometimes thought to have been a Lydian from Sardis. The idea comes from the fifth poem, although nothing proves that he is talking about himself. He was probably a Spartan, possibly a Messénian. Definitely younger than Terpánder, he was active in the later seventh century. The only large fragment is the Maiden Song (1), which is here represented only by the second half; the first, which deals with an exploit of Kastor and Polydeúkes, is too badly preserved to translate, and the part given here, though charming, is full of insoluble puzzles.

Each man will pick the faults in someone else’s wife and boast of his own each time he speaks of her. And yet the same thing happens to us all. But we don’t see. For women are the biggest single bad thing Zeus has made for us; a ball-and-chain; we can’t get loose since that time when the fight about a wife began the Great War, and they volunteered, and went to hell. 2 • The Vanity of Human Wishes My child, Zeus the deep-thundering holds the ends of all actions in his own hands, disposes as he will of everything.

28 • The Fox Appeals for Justice O Zeus, our father Zeus, for you control the sky, you oversee the works of men, the right acts and the wrong they do; so yours to judge the crimes and punishment of beasts. • 29 • Father Lykámbes, whatever were you thinking of? And who seduced the common sense in which you once were so secure? How things are changed! Your neighbors giggle in your face. • 30 • To the gods all things are easy. Many times from circumstance of disaster they set upright those who have been sprawled at length on the ground, but often again when men stand planted on firm feet, these same gods will knock them on their backs, and then the evils come, so that a man wanders homeless, destitute, at his wit’s end.

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