What's New?

Greek text in html with links to Perseus!

Ancient authors' comments about Menander

What's Coming?

A primer on Menander's iambic trimeter

English translations of the Monostichoi

FAQ (Questions)

 

 

Bibliography

Greek Texts
Commentaries
Miscellaneous Articles
Early Editions
Translations
Scholars' Bibliographies
Other Collections of Greek Wisdom Literature
Greek Meter
Greek Verse Composition

Resources

▪Famous Quotes
-ThinkExist.com
-WordPress
-PhilosophyParadise
-InspirationalQuotes

Suda Byzantine Encyclopedia Entry

▪GreekStudy Group

▪Menander Websites
▪Navicula Bacchi (Egon Gottwein)

 


 

Welcome!

Welcome to the Menander LetsReadGreek website. This website is associated with a planned GreekStudy Group and will be the base web page for the Menander GreekStudy Group. Menander (342 B.C. - 291 B.C.) was a late comedic poet who loved one-liners. We will be reading selections from the collection of one-line wisdom sayings attributed to Menander and titled the 'Gnomai Monostichoi' (a stichos is a single line of a Greek poem); the Latin title is Sententiae Menandri. The monostichoi have been a part of Greek education and rhetoric in both ancient and recent modern times. If you are new to Greek, this is a good place to start.

     
menander bust  

 

"The property of friends is common,"

"Whom the gods love die young,"

κακοῖς ὁμιλῶν καὐτὸς ἐκβήσῃ κακός. (274)
"Evil associates make an evil man" (Edmonds)

 φθείρουσιν ἤθη χρηστὰ ὁμιλίαι κακαί
"Evil companions corrupt good manners"/tr>

Bust of Menander from the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia
   
‘tis easier to have a regular Feast without Wine than without Menander. (Plutarch Dinner-Table Problems)  

These silly quibbles about some ambiguities .... nevertheless the Greek make them into subjects for controversiae. Quintillian on ambiguities in meaning.

 

Who is Menander?

Menander (342 B.C. - 291 B.C.) was an ancient Greek poet and comdedic author who lived in Athens, Greece, from 342 B.C. to 291 B.C.  He authored more than a hundred comedies, and took the prize at the famous Athenian Lenaia festival eight times. For over 800 years - Menander was considered to be the greatest of comic playwrights - on par with Homer and Virgil. He (not Aristophanes) is considered the father of western comedy. (In light of his fame, he works were not preserves; we did not possess a copy of any complete play until 1957!)

Menander loved one-liners and other short sayings which he incorporated into his plays. Even the Suda's article is very brief - Menander would most likely approve:

Μένανδρος, Ἀθηναῖος, κωμικὸς ἀρχαῖος.... κωμικὸς τῆς νέας κωμῳδίας, στραβὸς τὰς ὄψεις, ὀξὺς δὲ τὸν νοῦν καὶ περὶ γυναῖκας ἐκμανέστατος. γέγραφε κωμῳδίας ρη# καὶ ἐπιστολὰς πρὸς Πτολεμαῖον τὸν βασιλέα, καὶ λόγους ἑτέρους πλείστους καταλογάδην.

 Menander was an admirer and imitator of Euripides. Menander's plays, like Euripides, show a keen observation of practical life, an analysis of the emotions, and a fondness for moral maxims.  Many of Menander's maxims have become proverbial: "The property of friends is common," "Whom the gods love die young," "Evil communications corrupt good manners" (from the Thaïs, quoted in 1 Corinthians 15:33 μὴ πλανᾶσθε φθείρουσιν ἤθη χρηστὰ ὁμιλίαι κακαί). You can read more about Menander on Wikipedia.

Menander's fame was both loved and despised; one can find excerpts from authors in the ancient world both praising and belittling Menander. Since there are only fragments of most of plays (his most famous plays are still incomplete or missing), it leaves many modern-day scholars wondering why he was the favorite comedian of ancient antiquity, as his extant works don't seem to live up to his reputation.

Here are some comments by a few ancient authors (taken from Edmonds, pp. 533ff):

 Plutarch Dinner-table Problems[What sort of after-dinner entertainment is best] : Old Comedy is not fit for Men that are making merry . . . Concerning New Comedy there is no need of any long discourse ; ‘tis so fitted, so interwoven with Entertainments that ‘tis easier to have a regular Feast without Wine than without Menander. Its Phrase is sweet and familiar, the humour innocent and easie, so that there is nothing for Men whilst sober to despise or when merry to be troubled at. The Sentiments are so natural and unstudied that midst Wine, as it were in Fire, they soften and bend the ridgidest Temper to be pliable and easie. And the mixture of Gravity and Jests seems to be contrived for nothing so aptly as for the pleasure and profit of those that are frolicking and making merry. The Love Scenes in Menander are convenient for those who are taking their Cups round, lie at ease, and in a short time must retire home to their Wives ; for in all his Plays there is no Love of Boys mentioned, all rapes committed on Virgins end decently in Marriages at last. As for Misses, if they are Impudent and Jilting they are bobb’d, the Young Gallants turning sober and repenting of their lewd Courses ; but if they are kind and constant either there their true Parents are discover’d or a time is determined for the Intrigue which brings them at last to obliging Modesty and civil Kindness.

 Phrynichus  Epitome : I really cannot understand what ails the writers who exalt Menander as they do all over the Greek world. My reason is that the leading Greeks are simply beside themselves in their zeal for this writer of comedy. First and foremost take . . Balbus of Tralles ; his love and admiration of Menander lead him to attempt to prove greater than Demosthenes a man who uses the words [list of non-Attic words] and numberless other wrong and ignorant expressions .

Pausanias Description of Greece : On the way up from the Peiraeus . . . there are some famous (wayside) tombs, that of Menander son of Diopeithes and a cenotaph of Euripides. In the theatre at Athens there are statues of poets both of tragedy and comedy, mostly men not well known. Except Menander, no Comic poet who achieved fame is represented.

Alciphron Letters [Glycera to Menander] Egypt and the Nile and Proteus’ Ness and the Rocks of Pharos are all agog to see Menander and hear misers, lovers, superstitious men, distrustful persons, fathers, sons, servants, and all sorts and conditions as they walk his stage.

Quintilian Principles of Oratory: Euripides was very greatly admired, as his comedies often testify, and indeed imitated, though in a different medium, by Menander, who, given careful reading, would in my opinion be sufficient example for the practising of all our precepts ; so perfect is his reflexion of life, so fertile is his invention and so masterly his style, so deftly does he adapt himself to every theme, character, and emotion....Yet for my part I believe the student of rhetoric will get even more from him than this, because reciters of set speeches are obliged by the conditions of their debates to assume more characters than one, representing, as the case may be, father or son, soldier or peasant, rich man or poor, the irate or the deprecating, the gentle or the harsh, in all which parts this poet has preserved verisimilitude to a miracle. Indeed he has stolen the reputations of all other workers in his field, and made their day night by the dazzle of his fame.

What are the Monostichoi?

At some point, his collection of sayings were combined (and supplemented) by a later author(s) into a collection of one line sayings written in iambic trimeter. We know the sayings as Μενάνδρου γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι "Menandrou Gnomai Monostichoi" (English: Menander's One-Verse Maxims) or by the Latin title "Menandri Sententiae." Not all the sayings are from Menander -- but his name is attached to the collection for a reason.

The Monostichoi are single line (rarely longer) wisdom sayings. Many of the monostichoi can find parallels in colon(s) found in the Greek poets, comics and philosophical writings. There are about 877 lines total (but only 866 sayings) in Jaekel's critical edition. The collection comes from several different manuscripts, and there are variations and versions that have been published. Some lines are still fragments.

Like all sayings, people tended to change and adapt them for use. The collection has a number of similar lines. The monostichoi were used in both ancient and recent modern schools for rhetoric and moral teaching. In fact, they are still digging up papyri with lists of various lines.

 

Why the Monostichoi?

Why the Monostichoi? Just good Greek fun. A stichos a day keeps the doctor away. Wisdom (σοφία) is one of the Greek's most important contributions to literature. They built on the wisdom of the ancient Near East literature - you may be familiar with the book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible, or Aesop. Menander's Monostichoi continue the tradition.

Menander wrote the Monostichoi in iambic trimeter. A form of poetry comprised of three metron of iambic meter. So when you read the Monostichoi, you get a little of poetry and a little of wisdom. In ancient schooling, students were required to learn these one-liners; advanced students were allowed to manipulate and change the lines. This was part of rhetorical training.

The plan for this GreekStudy group is to do one line a day. The one-line-a-day format is designed to get as many people as possible to 'put up their translation/interpretation'. Some people may only do one line a week; some may only do the lines that they are interested in. Some members, hopefully most, will do one each day, Monday - Friday.

There is only one published English translation of the Monostichoi available (as far as I can tell), it is the 1961 translation by JM Edmonds in the book The Fragments of Attic Comedy, vol IIIB. But don't look at it. My plan is to send the 'official translation' of the given line out the next day with the collation. If you consult any English translation before you send your translation in - I insist you mark your translation with an asterisk (*).

How to Read a Monostichos:

You may at first think these one-line sayings will be a walk-in-the-park. Think again. Some lines are easy; others are hard - οἱ μὲν ἁπλοῖ, οἱ δὲ χαλεποί. (Normally I try not to translate Greek into English - it ruins the experience. But in this case, without an adequate English translation, some nuances of the Greek will be missed.) Some lines have been taken out of their original context. Some are ambiguous.

Dr. Liapis has written a very interesting and accessible article on the sources and formation of the Monostichoi called 'How to Make a Monostichos'. I've taken the reverse approach and list what types of things to look for when reading the Monostichoi.

  1. It is simple (no complex grammar here), but terse.
  2. It is generalized (and may be taken out of context).
  3. Look for later Christian adaptations (Edmonds labels Christian lines).
  4. Look for abridgements, excerpts and ambiguities.
  5. Look for themes and variations (changes to a single word, plays upon the same word, similarities with other stichoi, changes from positive to negative, etc.).

 

The Menander Reading Group

Where is the Reading Schedule?

The reading schedule will be posted on a separate page, yet to be created. In addition, all five lines for the upcoming week will be sent out in the weekly GreekStudy email. Each day's GreekStudy email will also have the collation for the previous day's saying, along with the Greek text for the next day's saying.

How do I get Started?

Make sure to sign up for the GreekStudy email group. Also, send in an email to menander<THEATSIGN>letsreadgreek<DOT>com and ask to be on the interest list. The group is going to start around mid-August 2008. Until then, look at the 'How to Prepare' section.

How to prepare:

You need to take a look at the articles on iambic trimeter. They are listed in the bibliography under Greek Meter. Read a little about Menander. Download the Fobes file and look at it. If you have time, go to a library and read 'How to Make a Monostichos' by Liapis. Download Sedgwick's book and look at West's Introduction to Greek Meter (1987).

What to send in:

There are six elements that you can contribute; only the first two are required:

  1. Your initials (3 initials always; use X if you have no middle name) followed by your name and an optional Greek level you rate yourself as (B=Beginning, 2=second year; i=intermediate; x=experienced)
  2. An English translation (begin with an asterisk (*) if you used an English translation.
  3. An analysis of the Greek meter: you must note the caesura by a double pipe '||' (the most important element in verse), and if possible, break the line down into separate metron (using a single pipe '|' character, and then give the meter for each metron using x _ u _. characters <REVISE>. )
  4. Your comments on the line: e.g. the gist of the line, alternate translations, words you don't understand, etc.
  5. Any sayings (in English, your native language or any other language) that parallel this saying
  6. The line number(s) or reference of any other sayings of Menander that parallel this saying.

How to send in translations:

There is a web page to enter your translation. It can be found at http://www.letsreadgreek.com/menander/enter.htm (yet to be published). Select the correct line number and the correct stichos will automatically populate. Fill in your translation, initials and name, and any of the other four elements and click on the submit button. BE WARNED: your initials and name will be included in the GreekStudy email. You can send in your translations early or do them all on one day. But only one will be posted each day.

Not all lines are as easy as 1,2,3; a, b, c. When I look at some lines, I find that there are more than one way to translate it - some lines are just downright confusing. The point is for you as a student of ancient Greek to go forward not backwards; every success has at least three failures. So give it your best and don't be intimidated or embarrassed. We have all been there; those of us who have worked on Greek for any number of years can tell you how we have 'put our idea/translation out there' and later find ourselves to be totally wrong -- we thought the word was from a different lemma, we did not understand an idiom, we got a case/form wrong. Such is the way of learning. You will never find a member of the GreekStudy group demeaning or berating you. So send in your translation with confidence.

Talk to other members about your translation:

If you sign up for the email address 'askmenander<theAtSign>letsreadgreek<dot>com', you will receive live-time email responses from others in the group. Don't know a word-ask a question - someone will send you an answer.

 

Further Studies

Compose your own Monostichos (Extra Credit)

Were you that over-achiever in school? Why not try a little Greek verse composition. Many students of Greek swear that without an element of composition in your learning (i.e. writing in Greek), you will never go far. See William Annis' page on Greek verse composition. There is also a Greek composition element on the Textkit forums. I highly recommend you download the Unicorn Greek Notepad utility from the Latin and Greek Study Groups website (www.quallisum.com). There is no other tool as easy to use for typing in both Greek and English.

Using Liapis' guidelines (How to create a monostichos) on subject matter and transformation, why not take a saying in English (or your own native language) and turn it into an iambic trimeter monostichos. The following resources are available freely: Sedgwick's An Introduction to Greek Verse Composition , Iambic Composition Notes (answers to Sedgwick) and How to Write Greek Iambics, by Chad Bochan.

 

 

 

Select Bibliography

Greek Text

Francis H. Fobes, Philosophical Greek: An Introduction. University of Chicago Press 19571, 19633, pp. 190-192.  Look at this first, there is a small selection of Monostichoi with a breakdown of Greek meter and the vowel lengths are marked. Print it, fold it, put it in your pocket and take it with you and look at it frequently. WorldCat  pdf

A. Meineke, Fragmentum Comicorum Graecorum, Pars II, Berlin 1857. GoogleBooks (pdf extract).

J. M. Edmonds, The Fragments of Attic Comedy, vol. IIIb (Leiden 1961). 'The Maxims of Menander' pp. 901-989. WorldCat (WorldCat lists many different titles for the same book, you want volume IIIb published in 1961)

S. Jaekel (ed., (also written Jäkel), Menandri Sententiae. Comparatio Menandri et Philistionis, Leipzig 1964. (Bibliotheca Scriptorum Graecorum Et Romanorum Tevbneriana) This has been the standard text for the Monostichoi for 40 years. WorldCat

Vayos Liapis, Menandrou Gnomai monostichoi. Eisagôgê, metaphrasê, scholia.   Athens:  Stigme, 2002.  Pp. 529.  ISBN 960-269-189-7.   This is the only commentary on the Monostichoi. It is written in modern Greek. WorldCat

G. Pompella (ed.), Menandro Sentenze. Introduzione, traduzione e note di G. P. con testo Greco, Milan 1997, 2001. ISBN: 8817171697 9788817171694 WorldCat

R. M. Mariño Sánchez-Elvira & F. García Romero (eds.), Proverbios griegos. Menandro Sentencias, Madrid 1999. ISBN: 8424922506 9788424922504 WorldCat

C. Pernigotti, Menandri Sententiae (Florence : Olschki 2008), is the newest and most authoritative critical Greek text. ISBN: 9788822258090 WorldCat  HOEPLI.it (publisher)

 

Commentaries

Vayos Liapis, Menandrou Gnomai monostichoi. Eisagôgê, metaphrasê, scholia.  (Greek:   Mενάνδρου Γνώμαι μονόστιχοι - Βάιος Λιαπής) Athens:  Stigme, 2002.  Pp. 529.  ISBN 960-269-189-7.   Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2003.04.11 (Athènes: Stigmê 2002). ) It is written in modern Greek. It can be purchased at the protoporia.gr website and at other Greek booksellers. Because of difficulty with the English transliteration of the author's name (Liapis/Liapes) and title, you can try searching Goolge for the author's name GoogleName and GoogleTitle using the Greek characters. If those links don't work in your browser, copy and paste the following into your search engine: Μενανδρου Γνωμαι Μονοστιχοι and βαιος Λιαπης. Also try "Liapes Menander Book" which I find brings up more results.  Worldcat

This book is mainly a commentary, intended to, e.g., identify (wherever possible) the literary sources of each monostichos, adduce parallels from Greek and Roman authors, find similar proverbial material elsewhere (the Middle East, modern Greece, Europe), and so on. It is not a critical edition (although it does contain Liapis' emendations and textual discussion). (A revision is in the planning.)

« Notes on Menandri Sententiae ». Classica et Mediaevalia 53 (2002) 197-214.

Miscellaneous Topics

Vayos Liapis. « How to Make a Monostichos: Strategies of Variation in the Sententiae Menandri », Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 103 (2006) 261-298.

Vayos Liapis « Further Thoughts on Menandri Sententiae ». Hellenica 55 (2005) 125-38.

W. Görler, Menandrou Gnômai, PhD Berlin 1963.

R. Führer, Gnomon. 77, no. 8, (2005): 657. WorldCat

Nikolaos Lazaridis, Brill: 2007. Wisdom in Loose Form: The Language of Egyptian and Greek Proverbs in Collections of the Hellenistic and Roman Periods. ISBN 9004160582, 9789004160583.

Greek Proverbs at wikiquote: Modern Greek proverbs, with English translations and categories/parallels.

Karagiorgos, Panos, 1999.  Greek and English Proverbs. translatum.gr Worldcat
This remarkable collection contains over a thousand Greek proverbs and a thousand English ones, all accompanied by their translations. The interesting bilingual introduction relates the history, the origin and the importance of proverbs… Professor Karagiorgos' translations from Greek to English are fluent, even where no English proverb exists, and succeed in conveying the meaning of the original; in his translation from English to Greek, he has in many cases achieved a poetic original which deserves to join the Greek proverbial repertoire (Dr. Holton, Senior Lecturer in Modern Greek, Selwyn College, Cambridge University).

Early Editions

Lukian / Hemsterhusius Lucianus. (Colloquia selecta et Timon. Cebetis Thebani Tabula. Menandri sententiae morales. Graece et Latine. Colloqia Luciani et Timonem notis illustravit Tiberius Hemsterhusius. Amsterdam (Wetstein) 1708, et al. WorldCat

Menander / Estienne, H. Comicorum Graecorum Sententiae, id est gnoomai, Latinis versibus ab Henr. Stephano [editore et translatore] redditae, & annotationibus illustratae. Graece & Latine. Geneva [Henricus Stephanus (Estienne)] 1569 WorldCat

Translations

The only English translation of the Monostichoi I am aware of is J. M. Edmonds, The Fragments of Attic Comedy, vol. IIIb (Leiden 1961). There are, however, German (by Jaekel), Italian (by Pompella), Latin (Lukian / Hemsterhusius 1708) and Spanish (by Romero / Sanchez-Elvira) translations available. The Spanish version, by F. Garcia Romero and M. Sanchez Elvira, is highly recommended by Liapis.

Bibliographies by Scholars

Katsouris, A. G., Menander Bibliography. Thessalonikē, Greece: University Studio Press, 1995. ISBN: 9601205047, 9789601205045. WorldCat

Other Works of Menander

Maurice Balme, Peter Brown, Menander, The Plays and Fragments (Oxford World's Classics) Oxford University Press, USA, 2002.  ISBN: 0192839837, 978-0192839831 WorldCat Amazon 


Peter Brown provides a sharp and wide-ranging, yet coherent introduction ... Balme's translation is the most meticulous yet to appear in English. Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"Balme's translation is particularly suitable for the general and undergraduate reader.... [It] is fluent and rhythmical.... Highly recommended for all libraries."--Choice

 

Other Collections of Greek Wisdom:

Corpus Paroemiographorum Graecorum By Ernst von Leutsch, Friedrich Wilhelm Schneidewin. Gottingae: apud Vandenhoek et Ruprecht, 1839.Tome I. Subtitle: Zenobius, Diogenianus, Plutarchus, Gregorius Cyprius. Appendix Proverbiorum. GoogleBooks

Ronald F. Hock, Edward N. O'Neil, The Chreia and Ancient Rhetoric: Classroom Exercises. Writings from the Greco-Roman World v. 2.   Atlanta:  Society of Biblical Literature, 2002. Bryn Mawr Review

Greek Meter

Greek Verse Composition

 

Showing Meter Correctly:

Some of the Greek web pages may show an analysis of Greek meter. To view those pages correctly, you must have a font present on your system which can support metrical characters. The Cardo font has characters for showing meter lengths. Cardo can be found at ScholarsFonts.net. The following characters are included in the miscellaneous technical section (ranges U+F700 - U+F71C) are available if you install the Cardo font on your PC. Brill has a paper on representing Greek meter in unicode, but you need the correct font to use those codes also. Look at the Menander meter page to find out more. <STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION>

The GreekStudy Group

The Menander Reading group is a new part of the GreekStudy group; the GreekStudy group has been in existence since 1995. Each day, the GreekStudy Group sends an email containing translation collations and other relevant emails from various groups. Translation collations, assignments and grammar question collations are in the Greekstudy emails. In addition, this web site will have content, questions, answers which the email correspondence cannot provide.

Goals of this Project

The goal of this project is simple. It is to provide an easy access web resource (for beginning and intermediate students of Greek) to the wisdom sayings attributed to Menander or included in the collection called 'the Monostichoi'. The Greek texts will be linked to the Perseus vocabulary tool. As almost no English translation is currently available; some of the best translations sent in by members will be collected and posted. A beginner's bibliography and introduction to the iambic trimeter meter of Menander will also be provided. Hopefully, an RSS feed giving a daily Menander quote is also in the future.

Who is in charge of the group?

All participants make the group happen. Louis Sorenson is the coordinator the the Menander GreekStudy group and is responsible for the content on this web site. Feel free to correct any errors, misstatements, copyright issues or other questions regarding the web site to menander<TheAtSign>letsreadgreek<dot>com.

Who am I? I have been studying Greek from 1976-1989 and again with renewed interest from 2005-2008. My personal focus is on Hellenistic Greek, but I enjoy Attic and Homeric works equally. I love Homer and Aristophanes. I have undergrad majors in Linguistics, Classics, Greek, Near Eastern Studies and Bible; a minor in Biblical Greek and Education -- all quite dated. I have also had several years of Latin, German, and Hebrew under my belt.

I have recently helped coordinate the GreekStudy Aesop (2007) and Epictetus Enchiridion (2008) groups. I also have the privilege of teaching several New Testament Greek classes at several churches in the area.

Why do I put so much work into this endeavor? I have a hard time doing anything half-way. I want to encourage others to go further in Greek studies. Historically, there has been a lack of available and easy to use intermediate reading tools and texts. Many Beginning Greek textbooks drop a line from Menander here or there. Greek wisdom literature is one of the most potent and applicable genre's of literature. Menander's single lines are those pithy meaningful sayings you heard your mother say over and over again. I challenge you to select ten lines and memorize them - you may well hear her saying them to you in Greek.

What's my philosophy about learning to read ancient Greek? Leaning language is a gestalt approach -- learning a language takes time and work. No single element will make you a master. There are at least eight basic underpinnings of a successful Greek student; without all or most, you will fail or significantly hinder your progess:

A word of warning. Many software-based Greek-language tools have emerged in the last 10 years. These tools are often used improperly. New students who use these tools as a crutch will never be able to pick up a Greek text and start reading without them. "What is a crutch?" you ask? Utilizing a vocabulary link rather than memorizing basic vocabulary words; Clicking on a parsing link without trying to figure out what lemma the form is from and why it appears as it is. Yes, times have changed, but the goal is to read without a grammar and lexicon or online tools. Try reading a passage with just using Smyth's Grammar and the small LSJ lexicon like your parents and grandparents did. There is a reason they decided to increase their vocabulary and learn the forms. Looking up a word numerous times was extremely tedious and took much longer than clicking on a link.

I think that reading Greek is only half the effort; understanding what a person is saying is the other half. I like to focus on the way words are used, the range of a word's use, sentence structure and style. Hopefully, this web site, will encourage you and provide you the resources you need to become successful and fluent in ancient Greek. Best of luck and best wishes!