Beginning of a will

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Beginning of a will

Postby Marcus Pomponius Lupus on Wed Jan 19, 2005 1:07 am

In Ancient Greece, a will would very often start with the same formula, let's take the will of Aristoteles as an example, here's the first line:

"estai men eu, ean de ti sumbainèi, tade dietheto Aristotelès"

"All will go well, but if something should happen, this is what Aristoteles has decided"

After that comes everything you would expect, who he has appointed to make sure that everything will be carried out, what he has decided,...

No specific reason to post this really, I just came across it and thought it was a nice way to begin a will, estai men eu :wink:

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(also, is there a way to type in Greek on the forum ? Transcriptions always seem a bit weird)
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Postby Marcus Pomponius Lupus on Wed Jan 19, 2005 1:31 am

Also, for some reason, I don't know why, it was a habit of not calling a daughter by name in a will. It was okay to make arrangements for your wife and write her name in doing so, but not when talking about your daughter. For sons, this appears to have been no problem at all. Again, in the will of Aristoteles:

"...toon te paidoon kai Erpullidos kai toon kataleleimmenoon."

"... < to look after > the children and Herpullis and everything else left behind"

Naming his wife, Herpullis is no problem, but then:

"Kai otan oora èi tèi paidi, ekdosthai autèn Nikanori"

"When the girl is old enough, she will be given (for marriage) to Nikanoor"

è pais, the girl, is his own daughter, Puthias, whose name he can't write. This becomes even more obvious in the following part, where he writes about both his son and daughter:

"Epimeleisthoo de Nikanoor kai tès paidos kai tou paidos Nikomachou"

"That Nikanoor looks after the girl and the boy Nikomachos"

So, sadly the girl's name is left behind, but it's okay to name the boy.

Does anyone know why this is done ? Sure, a time when men were dominant, but why is it okay to call a wife by name then ?

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Postby Q Valerius on Wed Jan 19, 2005 6:00 am

Probably because he makes love to the wife and (hopefully) not his daughter!
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Postby Marcus Pomponius Lupus on Wed Jan 19, 2005 3:08 pm

But he also mentions his mother by name.... :wink:
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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Wed Jan 19, 2005 4:34 pm

Well, I once read Greeks were credited with the invention of the word "motherf*cker".

But as to the original question, mi Lupe, I haven't got a clue. My pea brain would simply trace it back to Greek society being extremely patriarchal, and that mentioning a girl's name would be like lifting a woman's veil in an extremely strict islamic country.

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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Wed Jan 19, 2005 5:21 pm

Gnæus Dionysius Draco wrote:Well, I once read Greeks were credited with the invention of the word "motherf*cker".


Indeed, according to I.J. Pfeijffer, the satiric poet Hipponax was the first to use that rather scandalous word :wink:

Gnæus Dionysius Draco wrote:But as to the original question, mi Lupe, I haven't got a clue. My pea brain would simply trace it back to Greek society being extremely patriarchal, and that mentioning a girl's name would be like lifting a woman's veil in an extremely strict islamic country.


Reading ancient texts, I'm getting more and more convinced of the similarities between Greco-Roman and Islamic culture in what we, modern-day westerners, consider their negative aspects. For example, consider this fragment :

He (Gaius Sulpicius Callus, cos. 166 B.C.) repudiated his wife, because he had detected her out of doors with her head uncovered, with an abrupt yet somewhat justified decision : "The law", he said "prescribes my eyes only as the ones to which you may prove your beauty; it is for these that you should adorn yourself with embellishments of beauty, for these be good-looking, to the surer knowledge of these entrust yourself. If any one else looks upon you, because you have attracted him by a needless provocation, there needs must [sic] be suspicion and wrongful intent connected with it. - Valerius Maximus, Memorable Deeds and Sayings VI iii. 9-12.

We discussed this text (and other similar ones) in a seminar at university and concluded that many things we regard as excesses of Islamist rigour in fact predate Islam, so that we should rather regard them as characteristics of an older and broader mediterranean cultural pattern.

Controversial as this hypothesis is, it may well lend itself well to a discussion in a separate topic. Therefore, I encourage people who would wish to react on it to start a new topic.

Valete,

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Postby Marcus Pomponius Lupus on Wed Jan 19, 2005 6:24 pm

Salve Attice,

166 BC though... a lot had changed in a hundred, in two hundred years, I remember Tacitus writing about a legate (so that's about the first century AD), who thought they should bring back the Lex Oppia and he was mostly ridiculed for it. Both the tempora and mores had changed enough by that time to make it ridiculous for such stern laws regarding women to be brought back.

Characteristics of an older cultural mediterranean pattern, I don't know, perhaps it's more of an almost unavoidable evolution in society, and not just restricted to mediterranean cultures. The Romans got over it eventually, sort of. It seems to me that Islamic culture is more wary of changes and even more attached to its traditions than the Romans were.

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Postby Marcus Pomponius Lupus on Wed Jan 19, 2005 6:26 pm

Indeed, according to I.J. Pfeijffer, the satiric poet Hipponax was the first to use that rather scandalous word


Any idea what it was in Greek ?
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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Wed Jan 19, 2005 7:06 pm

Marcus Pomponius Lupus wrote:
Indeed, according to I.J. Pfeijffer, the satiric poet Hipponax was the first to use that rather scandalous word


Any idea what it was in Greek ?


I'm afraid not. Pfeijffer gave no exact refence and since I don't have any edition of Hipponax' poetry, I can't look it up either.

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Postby Marcus Pomponius Lupus on Tue Jan 25, 2005 8:22 pm

Salvete,

To give this thread some direction again: does anyone know of other habits like this ? I'm referring to writing, so don't say that the Romans had this rather strange habit of walking around in toga :wink:

Specific ways of beginning or ending a letter, a wil, a contract, an imperial order,...

One that I always liked is that the Greeks and Romans didn't read the letters they received themselves (unless highly personal) but had a slave to do the reading for them. Cicero for example, laments the death of a young slave who used to read for him in one of his letters to Atticus.

Anything else ?

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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Tue Jan 25, 2005 8:41 pm

Salvete,

I find the Roman way of beginning a friendly letter typical of their language and character :

Si vales, bene est; ego valeo. (often abbreviated S.V.B.E.E.V.)

'If you are well, that's fine; I'm well'. Typical sober, Roman brevitas, and yet friendly in a way.

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Variation on a theme

Postby Aldus Marius on Wed Jan 26, 2005 9:27 am

Salvete!

Even friendlier...the shorter version I've been known to use sometimes: "Si tu vales, ego valeo", which, in my scratch translation, goes "If you're doing well, than so am I!"

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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Wed Jan 26, 2005 1:33 pm

Salvete,

Perhaps I might share a Homeric oddity. I'm currently reading the Iliad again (doing research for a book I'm writing and another I'm planning to write 8)), and it occurred to me that never you read the phrase: "he was dead". It's always something like "and the black veil of death came over his eyes". I wonder if Homer was the only one to poetically describe dying like this, or were there any other examples in Greek literature?

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