Philodemus' Poetry

  • I found this site with Philodemus’ epigrammatic poetry in translation:

    “Philodemus was an Epicurean philosopher as well as a poet, but his poems seem to have had a greater reputation than his philosophical works in ancient times.”

    I was surprised at the tone of erotic gaiety in many of them – they reminded me of, say, Sir John Suckling or Robert Herrick (both 17th century) in English poetry; or of the more modern e.e. cummings.

    Apparently the original Greek was in stanza form of no more than eight lines, and I attempt to re-render them that way (albeit my lines may not match up with the Greek – which you can read by clicking the “G” that accompanies the epigram). The following, for example, reminds of Herrick's “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” (here: –

    Your summer's flower hath not yet burst from the bud,

    the grape that puts forth its first virgin charm is yet green,

    but already the young Loves sharpen their swift arrows,

    Lysidicē, and a hidden fire is smouldering. Let us fly,

    we unlucky lovers, before the arrow is on the string:

    I foretell right soon a vast conflagration.

    (Maybe Don can provide a better line-by-line translation from the Greek.)

  • I'm trying to render this poem into a modern English version (with my own interpretive edits, additions and wordplay). I'm working with the translation in Attalus since Greek is "Greek" to me. But here is the result from the Google translator:

    even for those who live naked in the summer, it does not darken

    botrys the virgin of firstborn grace:

    but already those young bows are becoming Loves,

    Lysidiki, and fire is buried in burial.

    we flee, unloved ones, until an arrow is on the nerve:

    I am a diviner of great fire.

    This seems a bit less lusty than the translation on Attalus. But I'm still searching.


    Here is another translation from DeepL:

    As the naked summer covers thee, no bruising of the virgin's maidenly firstfruits: but already there are new bows and arrows, Lysidice, and fire is being kindled. Let us flee, unhappy, until the arrow is not on the nerves: I am a seer of a great ear of fire.

  • This is a loose rendering in my attempt to draft from a couple translations(and my raw grappling with the Greek) a more modern poetic form – with my own interpretive edits, additions and wordplay. Thus, it’s a free rendering, not a translation.



    – A free rendering from a Greek poem by Philodemus.

    Your summer’s bloom not yet burst

    from naked buds, nor yet dark

    the tender virginal grapes

    soon to ripen full-fruit charms –

    but already in their vigor

    plucky impassioned archer-lads

    swift-flighting flame-arrows hone

    from embers smoldering within.

    Let us then fly, dear Lysidikē,

    we unlucky lovers, before

    the nock is notched on their bowstring:

    I fear a lusty wildfire looms.


    Lysidikē (Λυσιδίκη) is the name of several women in Greek myth, one of whom “lay” with Heracles and bore him a son, Teles.

    “nock”: the notch on the shaft of an arrow to fit it to the bowstring; also the act of fitting.


    Here is the Greek:

    οὔπω σοι καλύκων γυμνὸν θέρος οὐδὲ μελαίνει

    βότρυς ὁ παρθενίους πρωτοβολῶν χάριτας,

    ἀλλ’ ἤδη θοὰ τόξα νέοι θήγουσιν Ἔρωτες,

    Λυσιδίκη, καὶ πῦρ τύφεται ἐγκρύφιον.

    φεύγωμεν, δυσέρωτες, ἕως βέλος οὐκ ἐπὶ νευρῇ·

    μάντις ἐγὼ μεγάλης αὐτίκα πυρκαϊῆς.

  • my raw grappling with the Greek

    :thumbup: :thumbup: I applaud your grappling with the Greek!!

    I'm not sure of your process, but my go-to first stop is often Wiktionary:


    Which then gives you direct access to LSJ (not in the case of this word, but)..

    μάντις - Wiktionary


    Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, μάντι^ς

  • Don

    Thanks! Yeah, I go to Wiktionary first (mostly I work with the Latin), and sometimes just start Googling. I forgot about LSJ -- thanks for that!

    Sounds good! And Wiktionary gives direct access to Lewis and Short for the Latin entries: ex.,

    Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, semper

    All the Wikimedia Projects are great examples of the work that can be done by committed volunteers. We don't always agree with some WP articles (looking at you, Epicureanism article) but the non-profit, volunteer editors provide great benefits for us all. And editing can be fun and rewarding! :)

  • The Silent Lamp

    – A free rendering from a Greek poem by Philodemus

    The loyal nightstand lamp keeps silent:

    confidante of intimate affairs

    we dare not speak of, even in the dark.

    But intoxicate her wick with perfumed oil,

    Philaenis, inflame the room with light –

    and leave us alone behind locked door.

    For Eros desires no living witness

    other than herself, Xantho – as in our bed

    we explore Aphrodite’s ecstatic lore.


    From Epigram 5.4 of The Greek Anthology cited above. In addition to that translation, I also consulted Nisbet’s translation from “Epigrams from the Greek Anthology: a new translation by Gideon Nesbit” (Oxford World Classics, 2020); here is his translation:

    The silent lamp, complicit partner in

    The things we mustn’t speak of carelessly:

    Philaenis, make it drunk with drops of oil.

    Then take your leave: for Love alone desires

    No living witness; close the jointed door.

    And you, dear Xantho—but the lover’s bed

    Well knows what Aphrodite has in store.