Anacreon: PMG 358
William S. Annis Aoidoi.org∗ October 2010
This poem comes to us via Athenaeus (13 599C), who claims that the poem is about Sappho. Women from Lesbos had their own reputations independent of Sappho, so a little suspicion about this seems prudent. Unfortunately, the inter- pretation of line eight depends somewhat on where you stand on this question.
Meter: glyconic quatrain, 1, 2, 3 ̄ ̆ ̄ ̆ ̆ ̄ ̆ ̄; 4 ̄ ̆ ̄ ̆ ̆ ̄ ̄. ̄ ̄
σφαίρῃ δηὖτέ με πορφυρέῃ
βάλλων χρυσοκόμης Ἔρως, νήνι ποικιλοσαμβάλῳ
5 ἣ δ’ — ἐστὶν γὰρ ἀπ’ εὐκτίτου
Λέσβου — τὴν μὲν ἐμὴν κόμην — λευκὴ γάρ — καταμέμφεται,
πρὸς δ’ ἄλλην τινὰ χάσκει.
∗This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. To view a
copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/.
1 σφαῖρα ̆ ας ἡ ball. δηὖτε = δὴ αὖτε again. πορφύρεος η ον shining; purple, dark-red. 2βάλλω here more pelt, strike (by throwing). χρυ ̄σοκόμης ου ὁ golden-haired.
3 νήν ̄ι = contracted sg.dat. of ἡ νεᾶνις girl. ποικιλοσάμβαλος ον with embroidered sandals.
4 συμ-παίζω play with + dat., often with erotic sense. προ-καλέομαι call forth, invite, summon. 5The syntax of this entire quatrain is rather parenthetical. ἐστίν i.e., ἡ. εὔκτιτος ον well-made; good to dwell in.
6 Λέσβος ἡ Lesbos. κόμη ἡ hair. This phrase is the direct object of l.7 καταμέμφεται.
7 λευκός ή όν white; bright; i.e., l.6 κόμην. κατα-μέμφομαι find fault with, blame.
8 προσ-χάσκω in tmesis, gape, stare open-mouthed at; be greedy for. ἄλλην τινά The feminine gender of ἄλλην could refer to l.6 κόμην hair, i.e., a younger man whose hair isn’t white. Or it could refer to the girl, in which case ἄλλην is another girl.
Simon Goldhill TLS Feb 12 2021 offers his own translation in a review of Anacreon of Teos: Testimonia and fragments ed Bernsdorff (OUP) $295.00
Once again, golden-haired Eros is throwing
A purple ball at me and challenges me
To go and play with
The girl with the fancy sandals.
But she—for she is from well-founded
It’s white— she disses,
And gapes at another.
“But what is most striking is the gap between the two stanzas. Whatever is imagined to happen between the poet and the girl, it takes place, unnarrated, in the silence between the stanzas, as we move from the fantasy of anticipation to the bitterness of the aftermath. Every reader is to fill in the gap in the erotic story. We turn suggestion into narrative, just as the poem starts with a fantasy and ends with a different story. Roland Barthes, the modern muse of desire, said that what is truly erotic is not nudity but gaps in clothing through which the body can be glimpsed. Anacreon’s poetry loves to play with such gaps, and hints, and glimpses. It is an erotic poetics of the suggestive. “