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Julian the Apostate, Epigrams (1923) Works, vol. 3, pp.303-309


[Translated by W. C. Wright]

1. On wine made from barley 1

Who art thou and whence, O Dionysus? By the true Bacchus I recognise thee not; I know only the son of Zeus. He smells of nectar, but you smell of goat. Truly it was in their lack of grapes that the Celts brewed thee from corn-ears. So we should call thee Demetrius,2 not Dionysus, wheat-born 3 not fire-born, barley god not boisterous god.4

From the Palatine Anthology 9. 365, and in several MSS.

1 i. e. beer, which Julian met with in Gaul and Germany.
2 i. e. son of Demeter goddess of corn.
3 A play on words. See The Greek Anthology, Vol. 3. 368, Paton.
4 βρόμος means "oats"; Bromius "boisterous" was an epithet of Dionysus; it is impossible to represent the play on the words.

2. On the Organ

A strange growth of reeds do I behold. Surely they sprang on a sudden from another brazen field, so wild are they. The winds that wave them are none of ours, but a blast leaps forth from a cavern of bull's hide and beneath the well-bored pipes travels to their roots. And a dignified person, with swift moving fingers of the hand, stands there and handles the keys that pass the -word to the pipes; then the keys leap lightly, and press forth the melody.1

From The Greek Anthology vol. 3, 365, Paton; it is found in Parisinus 690. 

1 A note in the MS. (Parisinus 690) explains that Julian composed this poem during a procession, when he was leaving the church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. He was then a mere boy, pursuing his education in Constantinople, before he was interned in Cappadocia.

3. -- Riddle on a performer with a pole 

There is a tree between the lords, whose root has life and talks, and the fruits likewise. And in a single hour it grows in strange fashion, and ripens its fruit, and gets its harvest at the roots.2

From the Palatine Anthology vol. 2. p. 769.

2 The performer balances on his forehead, between his temples, a pole at the end of which is a cage or bar, supporting a child or children.

4. -- On the Homeric hexameter which contains six feet of which three are dactyls

" The daughter of Icarius, prudent Penelope," appears with three fingers 3 and walks on six feet.

From the Anthology 2. 659.

3 There is a play of words on δάκτυλος "finger" and "dactyl," a metrical foot. In the title,'' foot" and "dactyl" are metrical terms, in the riddle they are used in the original, physical sense. The hexameter quoted has three dactyls.

5. -- To a Hippocentaur

A horse has been poured from a man's mould, a man springs up from a horse. The man has no feet, the swift moving horse has no head. The horse belches forth as a man, the man breaks wind as a horse.

Assigned to Julian by Tzetzes Chiliades 959; Anthology, vol. 2, p. 659.

6. -- By Julian the Apostate

Even as Fate the Sweeper wills to sweep thee on, be thou swept. But if thou rebel, thou wilt but harm thyself, and Fate still sweeps thee on.1

First ascribed to Julian, from Baroccianus 133, by Cumont, Revue de Philologie, 1892. Also ascribed to St. Basil; cf. a similar epigram in Palatine Anthology 10. 73, ascribed to Palladas.

1 Perhaps there is a similar meaning in the phrase [Greek] in the puzzling frag. 13, p. 303.


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This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2010. This file and all material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.

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