|Fragment number||Vinzent 23
|Ancient source used||Eusebius, Against Marcellus|
|Modern edition||M. Vinzent, Markell von Ankyra: Die Fragmente (Leiden, 1997).|
For I do not think it is out of place for you to recall for a little while now a few of the secular proverbs. EITHER HE IS DEAD OR HE IS TEACHING. Someone might suppose that this proverb literally speaks against those who are teaching, especially since another one of their proverbs says, “He were teaching but I was going to school.” But this is not what the ones who wrote the proverb were saying. Rather, they say that when the Sicilians conquered the Athenians in war they spared only those who looked after children, leading them off to be teachers for their children, and murdered everyone else. Now some of the Athenians fled and when they returned they were asked by their fellow Athenians about the ones who were carried off. They said to them: EITHER HE IS DEAD OR HE IS TEACHING.
But why would someone also think to say, “A GOAT FINDS THE SWORD,” without previously learning the things spoken about it? Certainly at times the proverb is spoken because the goat which is being sacrificed stares at the sword. But this is not what the ancients said, at any rate, for the expression would not even be a proverb if such were the case, for it would be logical understanding of what was observed. On the contrary, they say this to speak against those who cause evil for themselves. For they say that Medea killed her children in Corinth and hid her sword there. Then, when the Corinthians were about to offer a black goat as a sacrifice in accordance with an oracle given to them, they did not have a sword. But the goat pawed the ground with its hoof, uncovered the sword of Medea and was sacrificed with it.
And someone says, “What does ENOUGH OF THE OAK signify?” No one is able to know the proverb off-hand. But the ancients, as they say, used to eat acorns before they farmed grain. And when this harvest was later discovered, as is the thought, they focused their attention on it, rejoiced in the change, and said, “ENOUGH OF THE OAK.” And this is what they say that the proverb means.
And furthermore, since there is another proverb spoken by most of their wise ones in many and diverse books, those intending to interpret the proverb have written something about it which we must cite now.to refute Asterius. On the one hand he knew exactly the point of the proverb from his secular education. On the other hand, at present he was feigning ignorance, so that he might seem to be persuasively constructing what he wants by using the proverb: “THE SKILL OF GLAUKOS”. When secular wise men interpreted this proverb they explained it in different ways. One said that Glaukos had a proficiency in a certain skill more marvelous than anyone else, but which was lost with him at sea, never to be heard from again. Another ascribes to Glaukos the highest degree of the art of music and says that he fashioned four copper rings which performed in a tuneful harmony of sound when struck, and that this is why the proverb is said. Another says that the proverb refers to one of the votive offerings of Alyattes – the offering of a wonderful bowl and stand– the work of Glaukos the Chian. Another says that Glaukos himself dedicated a bronze tripod to Delphi. He fashioned it so that if it was struck with force, the feet on which it stood and the plating above and the crown which adorned the vessel and the rods which spanned the middle of it made the noise of a lyre. And still another says that the proverb was spoken about a certain Glaukos who is thought to have done even more than this.
You see how the difficulty of the proverb is shown by the fact that those attempting to explain it do not stand on the same interpretation. So it seems that the explanation of the proverb is a difficult thing to pin down even for secular teachers. For this reason one of their wise men gathered the proverbs which were spoken by many people in different ways and wrote six books on them, two of which in meter while the other four are not. But, as it seems to me, the secular teachers have called them proverbs for no other reason than that they read the Proverbs of the most wise Solomon and thereby knew that you cannot learn clearly the things spoken in them off-hand. So desiring to emulate the prophetic writer they wrote in the same manner as he did. Then, since they weren’t able to come up with any more authoritative name than that, they called them proverbs.
Translated by PSAM, revised AMJ
Last updated: 8-29-2012
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