Biography of Palladas
Palladas (Greek: Παλλαδᾶς; fl. 4th century AD) was a Greek poet, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt. All that is known about this poet has been deduced from his 151 epigrams preserved in the Greek Anthology. (Another twenty-three appear in that collection under his name, but his authorship is suspect.) His poems describe the persona of a pagan schoolteacher resigned to life in a Christian city, and bitter about his wife to the point of misogyny.
One of the epigrams attributed to him on the authority of Maximus Planudes is a eulogy on the celebrated Hypatia, daughter of Theon of Alexandria, whose death took place in 415. Another was, according to a scholium in the Palatine Manuscript (the most important source for our knowledge of Greek epigram), written in the reign of the joint emperors Valentinian and Valens (364-375). A third epigram on the destruction of Beirut (9.27), offers no certain date.
A recent article by K. W. Wilkinson suggests an alternative chronology dating Palladas' activity to the age of Constantine the Great. It is based on his edition of a papyrus codex arrived from a private collection to the Beinecke Library at Yale University in 1996.
An anonymous epigram (Gk. Anth. 9.380) speaks of Palladas as having a high poetical reputation. However, Isaac Casaubon dismisses him in two contemptuous words as versificator insulsissimus ("a most coarse poet"). John William Mackail concurs with Casaubon, writing that "this is true of a great part of his work, and would perhaps be true of it all but for the savage indignation which kindles his verse, not into the flame of poetry, but to a dull red heat."
There is little direct allusion in his epigrams to the struggle against the onslaught of Christianity. One epigram speaks obscurely of the destruction of the "idols" of Alexandria popular in the archiepiscopate of Theophilus in 389; another in even more enigmatic language (Gk. Anth. 10.90) seems to be a bitter attack on the doctrine of the Resurrection; and a scornful couplet against the swarms of Egyptian monks might have been written by a Reformer of the 16th century. For the most part his sympathy with the losing side is only betrayed in his despondency over all things. But it is in his criticism of life that the power of Palladas lies; with a remorselessness like that of Jonathan Swift he tears the coverings from human frailty and holds it up in its meanness and misery. The lines on the Descent of Man (Gk. Anth. 10.45), fall as heavily on the Neo-Platonic martyr as on the Christian persecutor, and remain even now among the most mordant and crushing sarcasms ever passed upon mankind.
Mackail groups Palladas to the same period with Aesopus and Glycon, each the author of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. All three belong to the age of the Byzantine translators, when infinite pains were taken to rewrite well-known poems or passages in different metres, by turning Homer into elegiacs or iambics, and recasting pieces of Euripides or Menander as epigrams.
Contentment in Old Age
The women mock me for being old, Bidding me look at the wreck of my years in the mirror. But I, as I approach the end of my life,
Waking we burst, at each return of morn, From death's dull fetters and again are born. No longer ours the moments that have passed;
A Sad Life
I was born weeping, having wept I die, And all my life in many tears is passed. O tearful race of weak humanity! Dragged under earth to moulder at the last.
On an Inanimate Actress
Thou hast a score of parts no good, But two divinely shown: Thy Daphne a true piece of wood, Thy Niobe a stone.
No More Epigrams
I swore ten thousand times To make no more epigrams, For I had brought on my head The enmity of many fools,
Naked to earth was I brought- Naked to earth I descend. Why should I labor for naught, Seeing how naked the end?
Measuring the Universe
Tell me whence comes it That thou measurest the Universe And the limits of the Earth, Thou who bearest a little body
Upon life's tempest-troubled seas afloat, We strike worse rocks than shipwrecked sailors know; Wich Chance the pilot of our storm-tossed boat,
Life is a Theatre
This life a theatre we well may call, Where every actor must perform with art, Or laught it through, and make a farce of all, Or learn to bear with grace his tragic part.
Life Is a Perilous Voyage
Life is a perilous voyage; For often we are tempest-tossed in it And are in a worse case than shipwrecked men.
Every woman is a source of annoyance, But she has two good seasons, The one in her bridal chamber And the other when she is dead
Enjoy the Present
Drink and be merry. What the morrow brings No mortal knoweth: wherefore toil or run? Spend while thou mayst, eat, fix on present things
Someone gave me A long-suffering donkey That moves backwards As much as forward
Death by Surgeon
Better to be judged by Hegemon, The slayer of robbers, Than to fall into the hands
Death by Surgeon
Better to be judged by Hegemon,
The slayer of robbers,
Than to fall into the hands
Of the surgeon Gennadius.
For he executes murderers in just hatred,
But Gennadius takes a fee
For sending you down to Hades.
translated by William Roger Paton