Publishing, classics, mood swings

Archive for Virgil

Opis (Verg. Aen. 11.857)

In the 11th book of the Aeneid, the Volscian shield maiden Camilla, Diana’s favourite, is slain in battle by the Etruscan Arruns. Opis, a divine servant of Diana, is sent out by the goddess to exact divine retribution. When she sees Arruns, she utters:[1]

‘cur’ inquit ‘diversus abis? huc derige gressum,
huc periture veni, capias ut digna Camillae
praemia. tune etiam telis moriere Dianae?’

Why do you stray? Step this way, come here, you who are to perish, that you may receive the reward worthy of Camilla. Shall also you die by the shafts of Diana?

Servius was struck by a deep personal note, an “immense bitterness” (ingenti amaritudine), in the last sentence, and claims that Opis “grudges” (invidet) Arruns the honourable manner of his death. Servius supposes that the reference of etiam, “also”, is to the many children of Niobe, who famously perished by the hands of Apollo and Artemis. However, Opis may have had personal causes to reflect in this manner.

Who is Opis? As Herodotus recounts, in very ancient times, a group of young women arrived from the land of the Hyperboreans to the island of Delos.[2] According to esoteric mythological accounts, which Herodotus may have known but if so chooses not to express plainly, they came to assist at the birth of Apollo and Artemis, and to nurse the gods in their infancy.[3] Callimachus, however, probably considering such stories to be not only tasteless but sacrilegous (the gods being eternal), instead claims that they were the instigators of the Hyperborean tradition of bringing offerings to the temple of Apollo on Delos.[4] Herodotus claims that there were two of them, Opis and Arge, but Callimachus holds that they were three, giving their names as Opis, Hecaërge, and Loxo.[5]

Opis, Arge (Hecaërge), Apollo and Artemis?

Later, these women appear as part of the divine retinue of the goddess Artemis. It is not told in extant sources how this transformation from mortal maidens into immortal servants of the goddess came about, but Claudian touches briefly upon the matter:[6]

Iungunt se geminae metuenda feris Hecaërge
et soror, optatum numen venantibus, Opis
progenitae Scythia: divas nemorumque potentes
fecit Hyperboreis Delos praelata pruinis

There join them [i.e., the retinue of Diana] the twin sisters Hecaërge, terror of beasts, and Opis, deity beloved of hunters, Scythian maids; their preference for Delos over the Hyperborean frosts made them goddesses and queens of the woods. (Platnauer, Loeb, slightly revised.)

Fernand Le Quesne, Diana and Her Hunting Maidens

Opis is allowed moments of indivdual glory in this function. In Claudian, she is the charioteer of Artemis on a particular mission,[7] but only in the Aeneid is she allowed to speak. The line that made such an impression on Servius may not be a disinterested reflection on the unworthiness of the victim Arruns,  but owe to a personal reminiscence. Fragments of a tale of Opis’s individual fate before meeting Artemis are preserved in a damaged papyrus of Callimachus’ Aitia; in pseudo-Apollodorus; and in the Homeric scholia, which attribute the tale to the poet Euphorion.[8] Apollodorus writes:

ὁ δ’ Ὠρίων, ὡς μὲν ἔνιοι λέγουσιν, ἀνῃρέθη δισκεύειν Ἄρτεμιν προκαλούμενος, ὡς δέ τινες, βιαζόμενος Ὦπιν μίαν τῶν ἐξ Ὑπερβορέων παραγενομένων παρθένων ὑπ’ Ἀρτέμιδος ἐτοξεύθη.

But Orion was killed, as some say, for challenging Artemis to a match at quoits, but some say he was shot by Artemis for trying to force himself upon Opis, one of the maidens who had come from the Hyperboreans. (Frazer, Loeb, slightly revised.)

Alluding to the legend in the version of Callimachus and Euphorion, Opis’s address to Arruns would include an implicit comparison to Orion, the Great Hunter, in her experience the first victim of the arrow of Diana, and intimately connected with her own personal fate – which was not to be ravaged and bear the child of Orion, but to preserve maidenhood eternally in the service of the goddess.

“Famous Hyperboreans”. Nordlit, 33 (= P. P. Aspaas et al., eds., Rara avis in Ultima Thule: Libellus festivus Sunnivae des Bouvrie dedicatus), 2014, pp. 211–23.

[1] Verg. Aen. 11.855–57.
[2] Hdt. 4.35.
[3] Serv.Dan. Aen. 11.532, 11.858; cf. Phanodic. FGrH 397 fr. 5.
[4] Call. Del. 291–98.
[5] Call. Del. 292.
[6] Claud. Cons.Stil. 3.253–56.
[7] Claud. Cons.Stil. 3.277, 292.
[8] Call. Aet. fr. 186.26–30 Pfeiffer (POxy. 19.2214); [Apollod.] 1.27; Euph. fr. 103 Powell ap. Σ Od. 5.121.


Vilhelm Ekelund

Two books have been published in English containing writings by Swedish author Vilhelm Ekelund, both in excellent redaction and translation by Lennart Bruce:

Agenda (Berkeley, CA: Cloud Marauder, 1976), a selection that “starts with the diary entries in the ‘AGENDA’ [Ekelund’s posthumously published diary for the years 1913–14 (Agenda, Stockholm: Bonnier, 1966)], and continues with a selection of his work throughout the years, including some writings published posthumously” (editor’s preface, p. 6);

The Second Light (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1986), a selection of essays, aphorisms, and fragments from Ekelund’s entire production (republishing all of Agenda 1976, with corrections and many additions). Still in print.

I intend to publish additional annotated translations here; in all likelihood rarely, and little; with a preference for the author’s readings of ancient Greek and Latin literature. The above-mentioned books are warmly recommended for anyone who desires more, and does not read Swedish.

Ekelund’s highly personalised idiom turns his Swedish into a language that is even for Swedes not perhaps foreign, but new and difficult. If the English translations will sound odd, I hope it will not be entirely due to the incompetence of the translator.


From Elpidi (1939)

I 51 (p. 33)

The most  u n t r a n s l a t a b l e  line, perhaps the most delightful, in the entire Latin poetry, I thought to be this one, by Horace:

virtus repulsae nescia sordidae.

But see here — how the living meet!

“A noble man has no plans at all; not even a wish. He can, accordingly, never come to shame.”  (E. A. Hermelin)

— Friherre Axel Eric Hermelin (1860–1944) was a brilliant and highly original translator of and occasional commentator on classical Persian poetry and Christian esotericism. The line by Horace (Odes 3.2.17) has been translated into English.

VIII 6 (p. 133)

Those who have seen and felt with  V i r g i l  have all seen him with the eye of folk tradition. The heritage of ancient time’s Asclepian singer’s tradition, in a beautiful, sure hand —: that is Virgil. Such he has won the heart of Dante. And of Hamann, and Swedenborg. And such is the light — the transparency force of a deep-light-imprinted face — that may still set the innermost cords of a Viktor Rydberg in vibration, as if he stood before his most tender secret-laden childhood memory. The new sign of the times with him, which with peculiar energy and concord was taken hold of by tradition and also struck the early Christians, is light of the Orphic light. (But the “Homeric” is of little value; has nothing whatsoever to do with his innermost fate.) He was truly a searcher and a scout, a  v i e w – k e e p e r:  and you might say, that  P a l i n u r u s  represented his greatest skaldic measure. The sea was his world —: as such Horace knew him — and the sea took him.

Johann Georg Hamann
Viktor Rydberg


From Atticism–Humanism (2nd ed. 1946)

IV 33 (p. 157)

K á t h a r s i s —: the simple, unresplendent way. Motus in loco natali placidus. Such lay, after all, beneath the Aristotelian explanation of the tragic. It was perhaps with an instinct towards Germanicism and mysticism, that Goethe in his most advanced age turned with such peculiar anticipation towards Aristotle. Only from muse-led experience and a unified view, this word by him may perhaps be understood —: that were he given his life to live again from the beginning, then for the bearing of his inquiry in artistic matters Aristotle would be the guiding star!

A philosopher, somebody said — when I was young — should not only be able to read Greek, he should be able to speak Greek! His intention was correct; that is — to  t h i n k  Greek.

Motus in loco natali placidus: “Movement is tranquil in the place of origin”. The phrase is found in a commentary by Catholic philospher Franz von Baader on Jacob Böhme (Baader, Sämtliche Werke II 397); I am not sure if it is a quotation or Baader’s own formulation. Ekelund may perhaps have seen it in a book by Eric Hermelin, translator of Böhme (see above). This word: Ekelund may be thinking of a letter to Carl Friedrich Zelter, 29 March 1828: “Stünden mir jetzt, in ruhiger Zeit, jugendlichere Kräfte zu Gebot, so würde ich mich dem Griechischen völlig ergeben, trotz allen Schwierigkeiten die ich kenne; die Natur und Aristoteles würden mein Augenmerk seyn. Es ist über alle Begriffe was dieser Mann erblickte, sah, schaute, bemerkte, beobachtete, dabey aber freylich im Erklären sich übereilte.”