Morice’s Stories in Attic Greek

translated by Timothy Peter Johnson

This translation is based on Morice's original Greek text, which can be found on the Internet Archive website. The translation, undertaken for the benefit of my students and others, is not intended to be polished but simply to aid them in understanding the Greek. Hence the frequently interspersed notes.

Anne Mahoney's lightly revised edition of this same work, Morice's Stories in Attic Greek (Focus Publishing, 2006), is rather more accessible than the online version, as she has repositioned the endnotes as footnotes to each story. Her advice to read sentences in a linear manner rather than mentally translate them in a rearranged manner (as Morice himself advised) is eminently sound but probably a little unrealistic for most students at this stage. That said, it is immensely beneficial to go over sentences once their grammar is mastered and watch how their meaning progressively unfolds.

1. Anacharsis Visits Solon

Solon was the most intelligent [superlative] of all the Athenians, for not only did the citizens admire [imperfect tense] his wisdom, but (so did) also all the other Greeks and many even of the barbarians. Having heard about this [lit. about these things], a certain Scythian [i.e. from the barbarian lands north of the Black Sea] called Anacharsis [lit. by name Anacharsis] was resolved [middle voice] to converse with Solon, as he himself also had [lit. having also himself] a reputation in his country for being wise [lit. as being wise]. Having sailed therefore to Athens, he immediately goes [historic present] to that man’s house saying that “He has come from afar desiring to make [middle voice indicating self-participation] friends [lit. friendship] with him [lit. towards that man].” Solon accordingly retorts that “It is better to make friendships at home”. But Anacharsis immediately answers, “In that case it is necessary that you, since you are at home [lit. being at home], make friends [lit. friendship] with me.” So Solon laughed, and he receives [historic present] the man in a friendly manner.

2. Solon’s Laws

Solon was busy at that time with [lit. about] law-making. Having heard this [lit. these things] therefore, Anacharsis criticises him on account of this occupation, saying that “Laws in no way differ from spiders’ webs. For whereas [a good way of signposting the μεν... δε contrast early] those things [i.e. the spiders’ webs] hold on to the small and slender creatures caught [lit. the small and slender of the things caught]*, they are torn apart by the strong and stout. The laws likewise always oppress poor citizens [lit. the poor of the citizens] on the one hand [a clumsier way of translating μεν], but on the other hand [δε] the rich very easily escape them.” To this [lit. to these things] Solon answers, “Yes; but men keep agreements if it is profitable [lit. there is profit] not to transgress them. For my part [ἐγὼ is emphatic] I both [τε] understand these things and I adapt the laws for the citizens in such a way that it is profitable for all to abide by them rather than to contravene (them).”

*In the Focus edition (2006), there should be a gap between λεπτὰ and τῶν.

3. King John and The Rich Man

King John was in want of money. Hearing that a certain man was [Greek retains present tense of direct speech] very rich, he wanted to get something from him [lit. this man]. Having summoned the man therefore, he demands thirty talents from him; and when that man did not obey [imperfect indicates continued non-compliance], the king both locks him up in a prison and orders the prison guard [lit. guard of the prison] each day to yank out one of the man's teeth [lit. one tooth of the man], until he wishes to pay the silver. For the power of the kings of old was so great that it could be restrained by no law. But nowadays the laws are stronger whereas [rendering the μεν... δε contrast] kings are weaker. Consequently no one is ever committed to [lit. falls into] prison any longer except whenever the laws punish certain evildoers in this way.

4. Swans

Aristotle says that the swan is hot-tempered and quick to anger. At all events, when they turn [lit. turning themselves] to anger and fighting, swans often kill each other. The same (writer) says that they have a custom [lit. that there is a custom to them] of fighting [lit. to fight] eagles. They do this in self-defence, for at any rate they do not initiate the conflict. (The notion) that they even sing has [lit. this (notion) has] long since been believed [present tense here combines past and present meanings, i.e. has been and still is believed] about them. But I have never heard a singing swan, and neither perhaps has anyone else; but all the same [a closer translation than "nevertheless"] there are many who believe [lit. many are those who believe] that it sings. They are said to do this especially whenever they are about to die [future infinitive normally follows μέλλω]. They travel a long way in flight [lit. flying], and often they even cross the sea, and their wings never give out on them [lit. the wing never tires for them].

5. Niobe

Niobe the daughter of Tantalus, having many beautiful children [lit. children both many and beautiful], used to give herself airs [imperfect] over them. For once when [participle is temporal] a certain woman of her acquaintance [lit. of (her) acquaintances] was conversing with her, she [i.e. the woman] happened to say [lit. said by chance] that Leto had beautiful children [lit. was "beautifully-childed"], for her children were gods, both Apollo and Artemis; hearing this, Niobe said boastfully [lit. boasting - middle voice stresses self-satisfaction] that her own children were much more graceful than hers [lit. those of that (goddess)]. Displeased on account of these (remarks) therefore, Leto sends Apollo and Artemis. And they [note the pronominal use of the article at the beginning of a sentence], having reached Niobe's children, shot them all down. And Niobe, weeping continually, melted away and became a rock pouring forth rivulets both in winter and summer.

6. Not Guilty!

A certain Milesian was on trial for murder [lit. fleeing prosecution for (lit. of) murder]. Convicted of [lit. concerning] the deed by the judges, he said that he had not just [lit. only] one defence to make on his behalf [mid.] but three of the finest [lit. (the) three finest of all]. "For I [ἐγὼ is emphatic]", he said, "O judges... in the first place I did not kill the man at all; and secondly, whilst [translating the μεν... δε contrast] I killed him [blatantly contradicting his first argument!], the deed was inadvertent [lit. unwilling], for I happened to be drunk [τυγχανω is often joined with a participle like this] at the time when [τοτε ... ὁτε] I did the thing [lit. that thing]; thirdly, I do not deserve to be punished for this [lit. on account of these things], since he [lit. that man] insulted me first, so that I killed him in self-defence [undermining his second argument!], and the laws do not punish those who do such things, but the deed is (considered) blameless." Defending himself thus [lit. alleging these things in his self-defence], he did not persuade the judges, but having been condemned he was put to death [lit. died].

7. Prometheus Bound

Having moulded the first men from [lit. out of] water and earth, Prometheus was determined to teach them skills and arts [or sciences] of all kinds. But at first he was at a loss from where he should give them fire [aorist optative due to indirect question in historic sequence]. For at that time this thing [i.e. fire] did not exist [lit. was not] upon the earth, and the gods were keeping it among [lit. besides] themselves. Therefore, having secretly ascended to their heaven [lit. the heaven of those (gods)], he stole certain seeds [we might say "sparks"] of fire, and having hidden (them) in a fennel-stalk, he gave them to men. Perceiving these things, Zeus the king of the gods became angry. Having nailed Prometheus, therefore, to a certain rock on Mount Caucasus [lit. the mountain Caucasus], he sent an eagle which, coming each day, tore his liver, and the torn (part) used to grow [imperfect] back again by night.

8. The Chimaera

The so-called Chimaera was a [τι as indefinite article] progidious beast, and the form of his body was such that [lit. he had (imperfect) the form of body of such a kind that] it is not easy to describe it. For indeed it was a lion in front [lit. as to the (parts) in front - accusative of respect], but behind [lit. as to the (parts) behind] (it was) a dragon. In the midst of these (parts) there was [lit. was upon (its central section)] a third head, horned like that of a goat [lit. as if of a goat] and emitting fire through its mouth. So this Chimaera was destroying [probably imperfect rather than aorist here] the whole country and ravaging [imperfect] the cattle everywhere. For, although being a single creature [lit. being one - participle has concessive force here], he had [imperfect] the power of three beasts. Finally Bellerophon did away with him as follows. He had a certain winged horse called Pegasus. So, mounting the latter [lit. upon this (horse)] and giving a loud cry, he was lifted into the air, and shooting at the Chimaera from above he killed (it).

9. Rough Wooing

Romulus, having collected many settlers and having founded the city (of) Rome, then found himself in a state [lit. was put into a state] of some perplexity. For of the men with him only a few [lit. some few] had wives, but the majority [lit. the many] wishing to marry were unable (to do so). For there were no [lit. not] maidens among them, nor were their neighbours keen to give their daughters away to such men. In consequence of this [lit. with reference to these things], therefore, they devised the following [lit. such things as follows]. A rumour was first put about [lit. given out] by him that he was intending to make a great sacrifice and a festival to some god. Hearing this, many of his neighbours gathered along with their daughters for a spectacle. At a certain sign [lit. a certain sign happening - genitive absolute], the Romans, rushing forward with a shout, grabbed the women and, scattering the men, drove them [i.e. the men] away.

10. Tarpeia the Traitress

Once (upon a time), having marched on Rome, the Sabines seized [+ genitive] the citadel by [lit. out of] treason. For there lived [lit. was] in it a certain Tarpeia, (the) daughter of Tarpeius the commander-of-the-guard. Now [lit. therefore] she [lit. this (female)], seeing that [indirect speech with participle following a verb of perception] the Sabines were wearing golden armlets, hankered after them [lit. these - referring to armlets]. And she promised to betray [future infinitive after ὑπισχνεομαι] the place if each of those entering [participles based on εἶμι, I shall go, are usually present in meaning] should give [remote future conditionals, sometimes called "future less vivid conditionals", use optative in protasis] her those things which he was wearing on his left arm. To these conditions [lit. on these conditions] the Sabines therefore agreed, and Tarpeia for her part [μεν... δε contrast] opened the gates at night, and they [lit. those men] for their part entered (into) the citadel. The woman was therefore asking for her reward; but the Sabines, hurling their shields on her [dative of indirect object] − for they were also wearing these on their left arms − (both) buried her [χοω and its later variant χωννυμι lit. = "form a mound over"] and killed her.

11. The Two Presents - I

A certain poor man had [aorist] in his garden a wonderfully fine (and) large radish, (such) that all his neighbours seeing it were amazed, thinking the plant was something supernatural. So it seemed good to the poor man to give this radish to the king. And coming into the city, he addressed the guards, saying that he was bearing a gift to (the house of) the king [παρα + acc]; and they led the man into the palace. Seeing him, the king asked what the gift was [optative in indirect question in historic sequence]; so the man [lit. that (man)] said in reply that whilst (μεν... δε contrast) the gift was small, (it was) the fairest of (the) possessions which [genitive by attraction to case of antecedent, a common Greek idiom] he himself had. The king, being pleased with [aor. ptc., ἥδομαι + dat.] the man's good-will, bestowed much gold on him.

12. The Two Presents - II

Learning what had happened, a certain herdsman wanted also himself to get something from the king. So having picked out from his herds a certain exceedingly fine calf, he made a gift of it [lit. gifted (it)] to the king, [text should have a comma here, not a semi-colon] thinking that he [lit. that man] would give him a boundless reward in return for this, seeing that [ἐπει γε] instead of a radish he gave such a great gift [lit. such great things]. But the king, not being ignorant of what he wants in doing this [lit. what wanting he does these things], spoke as follows [lit. such things]: "O best of men, I accept the calf which you bring. But I am ashamed to send you away empty-handed, for you seem to me to be well-intentioned. Therefore I give you a gift in regard to which I recently expended much gold." Having said this, he gave the man the radish which the other [lit. that] poor man had brought [Greek commonly uses aor. for plpf.] him.