Archilochus – Patience as medicine

In this post we present and discuss an excerpt from Archilochus, the ancient poet, cited by Stobaeus.

Stob. 4. 56. 30

Ancient Greek: “ἀλλὰ θεοὶ γὰρ ἀνηκέστοισι κακοῖσιν ὦ φίλ᾽ ἐπὶ κρατερὴν τλημοσύνην ἔθεσαν φάρμακον. ἄλλοτε ἄλλος ἔχει τόδε· νῦν μὲν ἐς ἡμέας ἐτράπεθ᾽, αἱματόεν δ᾽ ἕλκος ἀναστένομεν, ἐξαῦτις δ᾽ ἑτέρους ἐπαμείψεται. ἀλλὰ τάχιστα τλῆτε, γυναικεῖον πένθος ἀπωσάμενοι.”

English: “But the gods, my friend, gave us the unrelenting patience for medicine against the incurable evils. Each time, another calamity strikes every human being. Now, it has fallen to us. And for our bloody wound we groan. Again, to others it will fall. But quickly take courage, repelling feminine/womanly mourning.”


NovoScriptorium: Let’s see what we learn from this excerpt.

-Pain and the various calamities are the most expected things in Man’s life. There can be no life without them. Dreams of a life without difficulties and pain are totally groundless. An ‘easy life’ can never be the goal of a prudent and sane Man.

-The Divine (here “the gods”) has given Man the gift of  unrelenting/inexhaustible patience. Patience can be easily categorized among the greatest Virtues. Theologically speaking, impatience is a clear sign of disrespect towards the Divine Will – simply because nothing happens if the Divine does not allow it to. The impatient Man is full of egoism; and of Pride, even to the highest level, that of Conceit. But Pride and Conceit constitute Hubris (using the ancient Greek terminology) against the Divine. We have discussed in many previous posts where this leads. On the contrary, if Man systematically cultivates the Virtue of Patience, not only life becomes more tolerable – Patience becomes a “medicine”- but, he also becomes calmer and wiser with Time. And, of course, he also receives rewards from the Divine both in the earthly and eternal lives.  

-Of course, when we are in pain we will groan – we wouldn’t be Humans otherwise. But this groaning must be limited. Personal effort is required to limit it, by using both our Faith/Trust (to the Divine) and our Logic, to bring ourselves round. Archilochus, like the rest of the ancient Greek authors,  believes that groaning/mourning too much is a “feminine” thing. The word “ἀνδρεῖα” means “prowess, bravery, valor” and “ἀνδρεῖος” means “gallant, valiant, brave, valorous”. The word assigned to describe the male (“man”) in Greek is “ἀνήρ“/”ἀνδρός” (man/of man). Since men were the ones involved in almost all dangerous social activities, the Virtue named “ἀνδρεῖα” was named after them. The ancients have categorized any kind of severe weakness and over-sensitivity as “γυναικεῖον” ( = “feminine”) – the word derives from “γυνή“, meaning “woman”. 

Research-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos

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