Little Kottalos and the moon of Akeses: On Herodas’ Didaskalos (Mimiamb 3)

  Antonopoulos, Andreas P. 2023. “Little Kottalos and the moon of Akeses: On Herodas’ Didaskalos (Mimiamb 3).” In “Γέρα: Studies in honor of Professor Menelaos Christopoulos,” ed. Athina Papachrysostomou, Andreas P. Antonopoulos, Alexandros-Fotios Mitsis, Fay Papadimitriou, and Panagiota Taktikou, special issue, Classics@ 25.

Before 1891, Herodas’ [1] work was only known through isolated quotations. That year saw F.G. Kenyon’s publication of P.Lond.Lit. 96, [2] a papyrus roll from the Hermopolites nome dated between 50 and 150 AD, which contains nine mimiambs, [3] seven almost complete and another two in fragmentary state. [4] These are short, humorous poems, in dialogue form, which feature scenes from everyday life, (usually) of the lower classes of the Hellenistic asty. They constitute a hybrid genre, combining the traditional prose mime —a type of informal, street theatre, without the use of masks— with Hipponax’ iambs. [5] From the first species (whose most renowned representative in antiquity was Sophron of Syracuse) the mimiambs have adopted the performative aspect and folkish themes, from the latter the choliambic metre and the Ionic (literary) dialect. Overall, although very different in form and much shorter in length, their content presents similarities to Attic comedy. Whether mimiambs were intended for performance, recitation, or just private reading remains a matter of debate. [6] As far as I am concerned, these texts have a conspicuously performative character, [7] which favours the thesis that they were written with performance in mind, regardless of whether they were actually performed. [8]
Figure 1. Beginning of Mimiamb 3 in P.Lond.Lit. 96. British Library. In public domain.
One of the linguistic features that immediately stand out in Herodas’ mimiambs is the frequent use of proverbs and proverbial expressions, a characteristic he shares with Sophron’s mimes, [9] with comedy and even with Theocritus’ “city” Idylls (2, 14, 15). [10] A proverb is a fixed/almost fixed type of expression, rooted into the oral tradition and used repeatedly under similar circumstances. It is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a short, traditional, and pithy saying; a concise sentence, typically metaphorical or alliterative in form, stating a general truth or piece of advice; an adage or maxim.” [11] We could conventionally define a proverbial expression as any saying, which is invented and used ad hoc and resembles a proverb. The use of proverbial language in Herodas has been studied in a series of articles by Fernández Delgado, [12] who has summarised its function as follows:
a) “it contributes very efficiently to the expression of the popular component, which serves as a defining counterpoint to other features of learned influence in the constitution of the genre”;
b) “its presence is essential in the design of characters such as those of mime, whose psychological depth and ability to be socially classified is much greater than in those of comedy”
I add an (obvious) third function, which results from the other two:
c) as is the case with other folkish, colloquial language (e.g. vulgarisms), it helps to provoke laughter, often because of a feeling of familiarity.
The largest concentration of proverbs and proverbial expressions in Herodas is in Mimiamb 3, which in the papyrus is given the title Didaskalos (“The Teacher,” or more freely, “The School-Master”) and is 97 lines long. It features three speaking characters, Metrotime (the old-time-classic “Greek mother”), little Kottalos (her naughty son), and Lampriskos (his strict school-master [13] ), as well as —if I and others are right that the mimiamb was written by Herodas with performance in mind— three non-speaking extras, Euthias, Kokkalos and Phillos (the “good” pupils; see lines 59-60 and 87 [14] ). If there was any rudimentary stage background, it would depict a conventional venue for an ancient school such as a stoa, or an atrium. [15] Metrotime is a lower-class city-woman, who strives each month to provide for her son’s education (lines 9–10, 14–15). [16] But Kottalos has no interest whatsoever in learning, and instead constantly finds himself in all sorts of trouble. In spite of her best attempts, she fails to discipline her son and has had enough with his laziness and bad behaviour. So, she brings him to his authoritarian teacher Lampriskos with the request to beat him severely, in a final and desperate attempt to bring Kottalos to his senses.
Although in modern pedagogics corporal punishment is out of the question —and rightly so— it was a customary method of enforcing discipline from Herodas’ time until —at least— the 1950s. Surprising though it may seem to the modern reader of this mimiamb, teachers were expected to impose punishments not only for misconduct at school, but also for transgressions by the children at their homes. In this framework, Metrotime pours out in front of Lampriskos an impressive list of accusations against her son and bitterly complains of all the difficulties the boy is putting her through —often with a generous amount of (comic) exaggeration— which would have made Lampriskos blow smoke from his ears. Among other things, Kottalos spends a lot of money spinning coins (χαλκίνδα παίζων) with other kids (5–6), and has even become a frequent visitor of the adults’ gaming place (παῖστρα) finding himself among lowlifes (11–13). [17] In contrast to his dice (ἀστραγάλαι) of which he takes great care and keeps shiny, his school wax-tablet lies abandoned at the foot of his bed and he is practically unable to write any word properly (24–26); he also has a great difficulty even in reading (22–23) or reciting (30–34). If Metrotime or his father try to force him, he either goes off to his poor grandmother’s house (whom, too, he rips off to feed his gambling addiction) (36–39), or blackmails his mother by sitting at the edge of the roof and bending down like a monkey (40–41) and by breaking the tiles. No question about going to school; he prefers to spend most of his day in the woods and has his back full of scratches (from the thorns and tree-branches he is going through) (50–52). Finally, he disturbs the entire neighbourhood, whom Metrotime has to compensate for the damages he causes (47–49).
Impatient Lampriskos needs to hear no more. He suddenly interrupts Metrotime, as she starts to invoke the Muses to bring him success in life and blessings (if he should punish Kottalos): “Metrotime, stop praying; for he shall get no less!” (58–59). Immediately he commands the three “good pupils” to hold Kottalos still so that he can beat him. As he is waiting for someone to fetch his whip, he pours out reproaches and threats against Kottalos (59–70). He starts beating him and every now and then he is interrupted by Kottalos’ beseeches; at first he implores him not to use “the piercing one, but the other (whip)” (73) and later to stop the beating. Reluctantly Lampriskos commands the other pupils to let him loose (87), [18] in spite of Metrotime’s complaints.
As expected, most proverbial expressions are aptly found in the lips of Metrotime (I have counted twelve occurrences), contributing to the construction of her character as that of a folkish woman. [19] But Lampriskos, too, is using proverbial speech (eight occurrences), including some more refined and learned expressions appropriate for a man of letters like himself. [20] Using Fernández Delgado’s categorisation, we may distinguish two main groups in these expressions: (a) proverbial comparisons (ten in total, nine of them by Metrotime, one by Lampriskos), and (b) other proverbial expressions (another ten, seven of them by Lampriskos, three by Metrotime). We get a total of twenty occurrences in just 97 lines, that is one every five lines —an impressive glut of proverbial language. All relevant data is displayed in the following table:
Nr. Saying Line(s) Speaker
1. οἶον Ἀίδην βλέψας
when he looks at it as if it were Hades
17 Metrotime
2. λιπαρώτεραι … τῆς ληκύθου
much more shiny … than our oil-flask
19–21 Metrotime
3. ὄκως νιν ἐκ τετρημένης ἠθεῖ
he lets it trickle out as if from a holed jug
33 Metrotime
4. κάθητ᾽ ὄκως τις καλλίης
he sits … like a monkey
41 Metrotime
5. ὤσπερ ἴτ‹ρ›ια θλῆται
is broken like wafers
44 Metrotime
6. (κατ᾿ ὔλην) οἶα Δήλιος κυρτεὺς ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ (τὠμβλὺ τῆς ζοῆς τρίβων)
(dragging out his pointless life in the wood) like a Delian pot-fisherman at sea
51–52 Metrotime
7. τὰς ἐβδόμας δ᾽ ἄμεινον εἰκάδας τ᾽ οἶδε τῶν ἀστροδιφέων
he knows the seventh and twentieth of the month better than the starwatchers
53–54 Metrotime
8. ἐγώ σε θήσω κοσμιώτερον κούρης
I shall make you better behaved than a girl
66 Lampriskos
9. ἐστὶν ὔδρης ποικιλώτερος
he is much more subtle than a water-snake
89 Metrotime
10. ἄμεινον τῆς Κλεοῦς ἀναγνῶναι
he will read better than Cleo
92 Metrotime
11. δεῖρον, ἄχρις ἠ ψυχή αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ χειλέων μοῦνον ἠ κακὴ λειφθῇ
flay this boy on his shoulder, until his wretched soul is just left on his lips
3–4 Metrotime
12. κἢν τὰ Ναννάκου κλαύσω
even if I weep the tears of Nannacus
10 Metrotime
13. ὤστε μηδ᾽ ὀδόντα κινῆσαι
so that we cannot move even a tooth [21]
49 Metrotime
14. τῇ Ἀκέσεω σεληναίῃ δείξοντες
to show him to Akeses’ moon
61–62 Lampriskos
15. κινεῦντα μηδὲ κάρφος
not moving even a straw
67 Lampriskos
16. πρὶν χολῆ<ι> βῆξαι
before my bile makes me cough [22]
70 Lampriskos
17. καὶ περνάς οὐδείς σ᾽ ἐπαινέσειεν
no one, even if selling you, would praise you
75 Lampriskos
18. οὐδ᾽ ὄκου χώρης οἰ μῦς ὀμοίως τὸν σίδηρον τρώγουσιν
not even where mice eat iron equally
75–76 Lampriskos
19. ὄσσην δὲ καὶ τὴν γλάσσαν… ἔσχηκας
what a tongue you’ve acquired!
84 Lampriskos
20. τὴν γλάσσαν ἐς μέλι πλύνας
may you find your tongue washed in honey! [23]
93 Lampriskos

Table 1. Proverbial expressions in Mimiamb 3.

Sharing the same collective cultural experience with Herodas, his audience would have been familiar with these traditional sayings. But this is not the same with the modern reader, who would find several of them strange and even difficult to comprehend. Perhaps the most challenging of all is case 14, which, I believe, provides important information in favour of and about the staging of this mimiamb. The broader passage reads (59–62):

… Εὐθίης κοῦ μοι,
κοῦ Κόκκαλος, κοῦ Φίλλος; οὐ ταχέως τοῦτον
ἀρεῖτ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ὤμου τῇ Ἀκέσεω σεληναίῃ
… Euthias, where are you,
and Kokkalos, and Phillos? Quickly lift him
on your shoulders to show him to Akeses’ moon.

Lampriskos is referring here to a type of punishment common in antiquity; we have visual evidence for it with regard to school-discipline in particular. [24] Our first piece of visual evidence is a fresco from the “House of Julia Felix” in Pompeii, dated to the first century AD (Figure 2). The victim is lifted up on the shoulders of a standing schoolmate, while his legs are supported by another one who is kneeling. His back and buttocks are exposed and presented for punishment to the schoolmaster (most likely), who is holding a whip in his right arm and is ready to strike.

Figure 2. Line-drawing reconstruction of the Pompeii fresco from Nilsson 1955:61, with table VIII, image 10. [25]

The second visual parallel is from a gemstone of the Graeco-Roman period, Berlin, Staatliche Museen FG 6918 (formerly Stosch collection) (Figure 3). This time the victim is held up in the air in a horizontal position by two fellow students who are standing. The second one, who is holding the victim’s legs with his left arm, is also responsible for the whipping; he is equipped with a whip in his right arm.

Figure 3. Plaster cast of Berlin, Staatliche Museen FG 6918 (formerly Stosch collection) in the dactyliotheca Stosch–Reinhardt (1826), cl. 5, 28. Bonn, Akademisches Kunstmuseum. © Akademisches Kunstmuseum, Bonn (photo: Jutta Schubert). [26]

A similar punishment is mentioned in Apuleius Metamorphoses 9.28. In this case an angry old baker is having a teenage boy flogged for committing adultery with his wife:

Cum primum rota solis lucida diem peperit, vocatis duobus e familia validissimis, quam altissime sublato puero, ferula nates eius obverberans …
When first the Sun’s bright wheel gave birth today, he summoned the two strongest slaves in the house, ordered them to lift the boy up as high as they could, and then flogged his buttocks with a rod. [27]
The above parallels, especially the first one, make clear how Kottalos’ punishment would have been staged in our mimiamb: two boys would lift up Kottalos on their shoulders, the third one would hold him by the legs, and Lampriskos would administer the whipping himself.

Still, the reference “showing him to Akeses’ moon” is puzzling. First of all, δείξοντες with σεληναίῃ [28] (“showing him to the moon”) is metaphorical and must refer to the body position of Kottalos, with his back and buttocks looking towards the sky. The similarity with Figures 2 and 3 is immediately apparent. The expression itself is illustrated with the help of Macho fr. 10. 110–111: [29]

… τῷ θ’ ἡλίῳ τὴν κύλικα δείξας συντόμως
πιὼν …… having shown the kylix to the sun
he drunk (the wine) quickly…

It is obvious that τῷ θ’ ἡλίῳ … δείξας means that the drinker turned his kylix bottoms-up. The reference to the “moon” in our case rather than the “sun” was prompted by the mention of Akeses. [30] The “moon of Akeses” was a proverbial expression and our passage is in effect our only ancient example of it being used in context [31] —no wonder it has caused difficulty to modern interpreters. Elsewhere it is found in the form of a lemma in paroemiographers. There are two main versions:

a) Diogenianus 1.57, who was reproduced by Apostolius 1.90:

Ἀκεσσαίου σελήνη: ἐπὶ τῶν εἰς χρόνον ἀναβαλλομένων πρᾶξαί τι. ἦν δὲ κυβερνήτης, ὃς ᾴθυμος ὢν, ἔλεγε διὰ παντὸς ἀναμένειν σελήνην, ἵνα ἐν φωτὶ ὁ πλοῦς αὐτῷ γένηται. [32]
Akesaios’ moon: for those who postpone doing something for quite some time. He (Akesaios) was a skipper who, being lazy, was always saying that he is waiting for a (full) moon, so that he may sail with light. [33]

b) Pausanias Att. τ 26, who was reproduced by Photius τ 585, Suda τ 512, and Apostolius 16.44):

τὴν Ἀκεσαίου σελήνην: παροιμία, λέγεται δὲ ἐπὶ τῶν διαμενόντων καὶ βραδυνόντων. ἦν δὲ Νείλεω κυβερνήτης ὁ Ἀκεσαῖος.
the moon of Akesaios: a proverb; it is said for those who remain and delay. Akesaios was the skipper of Neleus. [34]
On the basis of these passages some older translators interpreted our passage as: “What are you waiting for to lift him on your shoulders (i.e. for punishment)? The full moon?” [35] But such a sense is not supported by the Greek and anyway it would be contradicted by ταχέως. Zanker 2009:89 points out that the negative future indicative (οὐ … ἀρεῖτ᾽) is equivalent to an order; expressions of this sort have “a forceful and threatening tone, at times with a certain ironical bitterness.” [36] Thus, Lampriskos is in effect ordering his pupils to show Kottalos to the moon of Akeses; he is not asking —ironic though such a question may be— whether they are waiting for such a moon to appear.
The prevailing interpretation of the passage is the one proposed by Headlam, [37] namely that the moon of Akeses is “the moment ripe for action.” [38] Headlam explained that “Lampriskos may suggest that he, like Akeses άθυμος ὦν, has been long-suffering and remained inactive long, but now the time has come to strike.” But this interpretation too is problematic:

a) It was based on Headlam’s misunderstanding of the paroemiographers. Confused by the juxtaposition of Akeses’ moon to indefinite pledges for the Laconian moon in Diogenianus 6.30 (see n. 32), he argued that:

“His (i.e. Akeses’) promises were punctually performed. He waited it is true, until the moon was full; but when the full moon came, he got to work at once, and could be relied upon to do so. He may have been an example of the precept σπεῦδε βραδέως … and his phlegmatic … method might then be contrasted in the story with the precipitate and disastrous haste of other navigators.”

But this is not what our sources say about Akeses. He became proverbial for his laziness and tardiness, not for the certain fulfilment of his promises and his sense of responsibility. The emphasis cannot be on him, but should rather be on the moon.

b) There is hardly anything in common between Akeses’ conduct and that of Lampriskos. In fact, if Lampriskos was ever comparing himself to Akeses, that would have been an unacceptable self-scorn on his behalf. He would prove himself as irresponsible in enforcing discipline on his pupils.

c) There is no plausible explanation as to why Lampriskos should ever have delayed punishing Kottalos. He is so brutal, methodic and impatient with regard to punishments that one feels he could hardly have resisted beating Kottalos at the first opportunity, as becomes apparent from lines 68–69:

κοῦ μοι τὸ δριμὺ σκῦτος, ἠ βοὸς κέρκος,
ᾦ τοὺς πεδήτας κἀποτάκτους λωβεῦμαι;
Where is my biting strap, the bull’s tail,
with which I mutilate those whom I’ve fettered and the ones I’ve set apart? [39]

It is amazing that Lampriskos even maintains different groups of pupils for punishment, apparently in accordance with the gravity of misconduct: πεδῆτες and ἀπότακτοι are not really what one would expect to find at a school, even an ancient one! Such a sadist character would show no mercy to someone like Kottalos.

And, most important, d) Kottalos has indeed experienced the variety and violence of Lampriskos’ punishing instruments; in lines 71–73 he is begging him to choose for him “not the piercing one, but the other (whip)”:

μή μ᾿ ἰκετεύω Λαμπρίσκε, πρός σε τῶν Μουσέων
καὶ τοῦ γενείου τῆς τε Κόττιδος ψυχῆς,
μὴ τῷ με δριμεῖ, τῷ ’τέρῳ δὲ λώβησαι.
He knows very well which of the two hurts more, apparently because he has already experienced them both.
It becomes clear that we have a dead-end with Headlam’s interpretation. The point of the joke must be different. I propose that the delay evoked by the “moon of Akeses” refers not to the implementation of the punishment, but to its completion. This way Lampriskos would appear as saying that Kottalos will be beaten until the moon of Akeses appears … namely forever. To get the feeling of this, compare, for instance, the English slang expression “till hell freezes over.” Such an interpretation has the following benefits:
a) We get a joke para prosdokian with regard to Kottalos’ body posture. One would expect τῷ ἡλίῳ δείξοντες (“towards the sun”) as in Macho fr. 10.110–111 (quoted above), as the present scene is supposed to take place in daytime —classes in ancient Greece were conducted during daylight. Instead, the three “good” pupils are instructed to lift up Kottalos immediately and show him … towards the moon of Akeses!
b) We also get a joke through hyperbole with regard to the duration, or rather the prolongation of Kottalos’ punishment. It is not sufficient for Lampriskos to say δείξοντες τῇ σελήνῃ, “towards the moon” (namely until night comes), or even τῇ πανσελήνῳ, “towards the full-moon” (that is until the end of the month), but he opts for τῇ Ἀκέσεω σεληναίῃ, “to the moon of Akeses,” of which it is unknown if and when it should ever appear. This way Lampriskos’ expression here seems to correspond to Metrotime’s hyperbolic incitement for a thorough beating at lines 4–5: τοῦτον κατ᾽ ὤμου δεῖρον, ἄχρις ἠ ψυχή αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ χειλέων μοῦνον ἠ κακὴ λειφθῇ (“flay this boy on his shoulder, until his wretched soul is just left on his lips”).

There are two interesting parallels from Old Comedy. The first contains a hyperbole with regard to the prolongation of punishment and comes from Aristophanes Equites 69–70:

                    … εἰ δὲ μή, πατούμενοι
ὑπὸ τοῦ γέροντος ὀκταπλάσιον χέζομεν.

… if we don’t (i.e. pay bribes to Paphlagon), the master
will pound on us till we shit out eight times as much. [40]

In the latter, Aristophanes Acharnenses 80–84, the full-moon features as a marker of an excessively long time period:

ἔτει τετάρτῳ δ᾿ εἰς τὰ βασίλει᾿ ἤλθομεν·
ἀλλ᾿ εἰς ἀπόπατον ᾤχετο στρατιὰν λαβών,
κἄχεζεν ὀκτὼ μῆνας ἐπὶ χρυσῶν ὀρῶν.

πόσου δὲ τὸν πρωκτὸν χρόνου ξυνήγαγεν;
τῇ πανσελήνῳ;

So, after three years we got to the royal palace,
but the King had gone off with an army to a latrine,
and he stayed shitting for eight months upon the Golden Hills.

And when was it he closed up his arsehole?
At the full-moon? [41]

The twofold joke in what Lampriskos says here becomes even more emphatic by the charming, unexpected twist at the end of this mimiamb: as the Didaskalos is busy conversing with Metrotime, little Kottalos —who in the meanwhile has been set loose by the ones holding him— finds the opportunity to run away and, while doing so, he triumphantly cries out ἰσσαῖ, “ha-ha!” [42] (93). Metrotime is now resolved to tell the boy’s old father about his misdeeds and bring Kottalos back in fetters (94–97) —what wishful thinking! Kottalos will come back to school … when the moon of Akeses appears! [43]


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[ back ] 1. I.e. Ἡρώδας (possibly Doric for Ἡρῴδης), while at Athenaeus 3.86 his name is spelled Ἡρώνδας. Very little is known of him and that only through his own poems. Most likely he flourished in the first half of the third century BC (during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus) and was familiar with Alexandria, Cos and the Ionian Asia Minor; see Furley 2006 with bibliography.
Unless otherwise stated, translations are from Rusten and Cunningham 2003.
[ back ] 2. It is now kept in the British Library and has been digitized as Papyrus 135 (= TM 60050); see Figure 1.
[ back ] 3. The term is not used by Herodas himself, but is found in later sources for his poems: e.g. Stobaeus 4.24d.51.
[ back ] 4. The standard edition of Herodas’ mimiambs is Cunningham’s 2004 Teubner; the most up-to-date commentary is Zanker’s 2009, although Cunningham’s 1971 is still valuable.
[ back ] 5. For an introduction to mimiamb and its relationship with mime and other genres of the “comic continuum,” see Petrides 2008:esp. 441–469.
[ back ] 6. See a synopsis of the debate by Mastromarco 1984:5–19, who favours performance.
[ back ] 7. For Mimiamb 3, in particular, see Mastromarco 1984:33–38. Especially the whipping scene, central to the present contribution, clearly presumes staged action.
[ back ] 8. Petrides 2008:467 uses the term “performability,” “an inherent quality [sc. of these texts] with consequences on their aesthetics and poetics,” which he distinguishes from “performance,” “an historical event,” which may or may have not taken place. In any case, it is clear that these mimiambs were intended for the learned elite of the Hellenistic society (as was the case, for instance, with Theocritus’ Idylls), if one judges by the high style of the language and the allusiveness in the poetic composition, elements which characterise Alexandrian poetry as a whole and contribute to the image of Herodas as a poeta doctus. For a detailed survey on the potential audience of Herodas, see the chapter “The Mimiambi: Learned Poetry and Elite Theatre” by Mastromarco 1984:65–97.
[ back ] 9. As per the testimony of Pseudo-Demetrius De Elocutione 156.
[ back ] 10. Aristotle (Rhetoric 1395a) believed that the agroikoi were particularly prone to proverbial language. If one extends Aristotle’s notion to include any character of low social status, one understands why the mime was drawn to this kind of discourse.
[ back ] 11. Consulted online at Cf. Aristotle’s definition of proverb in Rhetoric 1413a: καὶ αἱ παροιμίαι μεταφοραὶ ἀπ᾿ εἴδους ἐπ᾿ εἶδός εἰσιν· οἷον ἄν τις ὡς ἀγαθὸν πεισόμενος αὐτὸς ἐπαγάγηται, εἶτα βλαβῇ, ὡς ὁ Καρπάθιός φησι τὸν λαγώ· ἄμφω γὰρ τὸ εἰρημένον πεπόνθασιν (“Proverbs also are metaphors from species to species. If a man, for instance, introduces into his house something from which he expects to benefit, but afterwards finds himself injured instead, it is as the Carpathian says of the hare; for both have experienced the same misfortunes.” Translation by Freese).
[ back ] 12. Fernández Delgado 2010, 2011a, and 2011b which focuses on Mimiamb 3.
[ back ] 13. On the comic type of the “flogger / school-master,” see Zanker 2009:79. The irony in his name is evident: diminutive of λαμπρός (“illustrious”), an epithet which would have been suitable for a teacher.
[ back ] 14. Headlam (in Headlam and Knox 1922:146) concludes that “there appears … to be nothing against these being names of free boys [sc. rather than of slaves]; it is they surely who are meant by οἴδε in v. 64, and οἴδε, the virtuous models, must be schoolfellows of Kottalos.” I find that the ethic dative μοι used by Lampriskos for Euthias at line 59 (denoting affection) reinforces this assumption.
[ back ] 15. Its decoration should have included (painted) statues of the Muses (see lines 1, 57, 97, Zanker 2009:79 and Mastromarco 1984:34). For the practice of having statues of the Muses in Greek schools, see e.g. Athenaeus 8.41.
[ back ] 16. Her name too is ironic: she is not at all “honoured as a mother” (Zanker 2009:79 similarly translates “honoured in motherhood”), as her son constantly disobeys her and embarrasses her with his antisocial behaviour.
[ back ] 17. The little one’s name may humorously reflect the name of another lucky game (for adults), κότταβος, “a game played at symposia, in which dregs from a wine-cup were aimed at a target” (Diggle et al. 2021, s.v.).
[ back ] 18. His stance is comparable to that of the “Jealous Woman” of Mimiamb 5, who eventually becomes softened by the appeals of her favourite woman-slave, Kydilla, and postpones the punishment of Gastron (see lines 81–83).
[ back ] 19. According to Zanker 2009:79, “her loquacity puts her in the type of the garrulous women of New Comedy.”
[ back ] 20. See esp. cases 14 and 18 below.
[ back ] 21. Translation by author. That is, we are left without money to the point that we do not eat.
[ back ] 22. Translation by author (similarly Headlam in Headlam and Knox 1922:150–151). That is, I am so angry that my bile will rise and make me cough. Anger was proverbial of making one’s bile boil. See e.g. Aristophanes Thesmophoriazusae 466–468 τὸ μέν, ὦ γυναῖκες, ὀξυθυμεῖσθαι σφόδρα Εὐριπίδῃ, τοιαῦτ’ ἀκουούσας κακά, οὐ θαυμάσιόν ἐστ’, οὐδ’ ἐπιζεῖν τὴν χολήν.
[ back ] 23. There is a similar saying in Modern Greek, which roughly corresponds to “wash your mouth with honey before you talk about him/her” (i.e. you should talk with respect).
[ back ] 24. For more on the various methods of punishment applied in Graeco-Roman schools, see Beck 1975:44–46, with relevant illustrations.
[ back ] 25. The actual wall-painting is somewhat blurry and not as helpful as the line-drawing of it.
[ back ] 26. A photo of the original gemstone can be found in Furtwängler 1900:Vol. 1, plate 42, nr. 50.
[ back ] 27. Translation by Hanson.
[ back ] 28. A rare, Ionic form for σελήνῃ (LSJ s.v.).
[ back ] 29. Already adduced by Headlam (in Headlam and Knox 1922:146). Cf. Radermacher’s 1925:39 groundless assumption that the display of Kottalos’ (lower) body parts to the moon would have some apotropaic function (postponement of a moon eclipse). Such physical exposure would supposedly bring shame on Kottalos.
[ back ] 30. Ἀκέσεω (Ionic for Ἀκέσου) from a nominative Ἀκέσης (unattested). Elsewhere we have the form Ἀκεσ(σ)αῖος, -ου.
[ back ] 31. There is a much later occurrence, in Leo Magister (also known as Choerosphactes) Epistle 24 to Emperor Leo VI the Wise (dated to 907–912 AD): ναί, καταδίκασον καὶ δεῖξον αὐτοὺς ὡς λύκον περὶ φρέαρ, ὡς κύνα παρ’ ἐντέροις, ὡς αἶγα πρὸς μάχαιραν, ὡς κορώνην πρὸς σκορπίον, καὶ Καρπάθιον πρὸς λαγώ. δεῖξον Ἀκεσσαίου σελήνην αὐτοῖς, κατὰ τὴν παροιμίαν, ὅπως χαίρων ζήσομαι, καὶ θνήσκων χαιρήσομαι. The combination of δείκνυμι with σελήνη and the context (the author likewise refers to a punishment) possibly echo our passage, but the reversal of the syntax (“show the moon of Akeses to them”) does not elucidate further.
[ back ] 32. Cf. Diogenianus 6.30, where he seems to offer the opposite definition: Λακωνικὰς Σελήνας: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀμφιβόλως συνθήκας ποιουμένων. Οὗτοι γὰρ βοήθειαν αἰτούμενοι ἀνεβάλλοντο, τὴν σελήνην προφασιζόμενοι. Ἀκεσσαίου σελήνη, τὸ ἐναντίον. One explanation for this (if, of course, the text is sound) might be that Diogenianus was drawing from contradictory sources. Headlam’s attempt (in Headlam and Knox 1922:147) to reconcile this with the other occurrences of the proverb (namely that Diogenianus here means that the moon of Akeses refers to a delayed but certain fulfilment, whereas the Laconian moon to uncertain fulfilment) is not convincing.
[ back ] 33. Translation by author.
[ back ] 34. Translation by author.
[ back ] 35. Including Crusius and Herzog 1926, Nairn and Laloy 1928 and Romagnoli 1938.
[ back ] 36. I could not resist using Zanker’s superb translation of Kühner–Gerth–Blass 1955:Vol. I, 176–177.
[ back ] 37. In Headlam and Knox 1922:147.
[ back ] 38. He has been followed by Cunningham 1971:117–118 (likewise in his translation in Rusten and Cunningham 2003:221), Di Gregorio 1997:24 and 220–221, Zanker 2009:89, Fernández Delgado 2011b:59, et al.
[ back ] 39. I.e. from the other (well-behaving) pupils. I have slightly modified Cunningham’s translation here (“those whom I’ve fettered and set apart”) so that πεδῆτες and ἀπότακτοι stand out as two separate categories.
[ back ] 40. Translation by Henderson. Cf., from the fourth century BC, Aristophon fr. 9.10 Kassel-Austin ἐθέλω κρέμασθαι δεκάκις (with reference to potential self-punishment).
[ back ] 41. Translation by Henderson. Cf. also the relevant comment in Suda π 214: καί φησι, τῇ πανσελήνῳ. διότι οἱ Ἕλληνες πάντα πρὸς τὴν σελήνην ἔπραττον ἀποβλέποντες.
[ back ] 42. “An exclamation of malicious triumph” (LSJ s.v.).
[ back ] 43. This paper is a present to my own Didaskalos, Menelaos Christopoulos, for his unfailing support, kindness and patience with me, ever since we met in his class back in 2001. I shall always be grateful for everything he has taught me. Many thanks are also due to Athina Papachrysostomou, who kindly invited me to co-organise the wonderful conference on the occasion of Menelaos’ (official) retirement and to co-edit the present honorary volume for him, as well as to the group of our graduate students who supported us in both these challenging endeavours. As for the paper itself, I would like to thank James Diggle, Athina Papachrysostomou, Antonis Petrides, Ioannis Konstantakos, Flora Manakidou, Christos Zafeiropoulos, George W.M. Harrison and Panagiota Taktikou for their useful remarks and suggestions on my earlier versions of it, as well as Ralf Krumeich and Jutta Schubert for their help with the photo of the plaster cast from Bonn.