οὐκ ἄρα μοῦνον ἔην Ἐρίδων γένος, ἀλλ᾽ ἐπὶ γαῖαν

εἰσὶ δύω: τὴν μέν κεν ἐπαινέσσειε νοήσας,

ἣ δ᾽ ἐπιμωμητή: διὰ δ᾽ ἄνδιχα θυμὸν ἔχουσιν.

ἣ μὲν γὰρ πόλεμόν τε κακὸν καὶ δῆριν ὀφέλλει,

σχετλίη: οὔτις τήν γε φιλεῖ βροτός, ἀλλ᾽ ὑπ᾽ ἀνάγκης                     15

ἀθανάτων βουλῇσιν Ἔριν τιμῶσι βαρεῖαν.

τὴν δ᾽ ἑτέρην προτέρην μὲν ἐγείνατο Νὺξ ἐρεβεννή,

θῆκε δέ μιν Κρονίδης ὑψίζυγος, αἰθέρι ναίων,

γαίης ἐν ῥίζῃσι, καὶ ἀνδράσι πολλὸν ἀμείνω:

ἥτε καὶ ἀπάλαμόν περ ὁμῶς ἐπὶ ἔργον ἔγειρεν.                               20

For there is not only one type of strife upon the earth,

but two: one of these a man, having known it, might praise

and the other is blameworthy: they differ in spirit.

One proffers evil war and conflict, wicked one

No mortal loves her but, out of necessity, and the

will of the immortals they honour this exigent strife.

The other one, dark night, bore first,

she did the high throned son of Cronus, dwelling in heaven,

place in the roots of the earth: a boon for mankind.

She urges even the helpless man to work.

Hesiod Works and Days 11-20

I have little time for #ClassicsTwitter drama as of late. I am too busy doing hot girl shit (gentlemen, you must squat in short shorts) and most of the space has me blocked by now or at least on the “politely ignore” setting. Besides, precious little of the disagreements appear to be about the Classics as the academy that gatekeeps safeguards them. I am not a society crocodile, and these names and disagreements are opaque and uninteresting to me. Professor Steve McDichael of Dugnutt College said what about whom? Who cares?[1] Fuck Steve.

If I cast my eyes around the space lately it seems indolent, enervated. Witch hunts and arguments have forced consensus, but it is an incoherent consensus, false and cloying, strained and timid. We have taken all the energy the internet could receive and magnify and reduced it to what amounts to the office water cooler. Also, where are the youngsters? The angry young men and women who normally provide that billowing updraft when their elders’ sails fail? Well probably on TikTok or whatever new Vine successor is making the rounds.[2] More likely the current environment is a little unsafe for them: if an inopportune tweet or opinion can crater a thesis grade or the chance of a graduate scholarship, they are liable to keep silent. It is probably better for them in some sense. But we need that energy. And let’s be honest, the younger generation need some of that visceral confrontation we (kind of) benefitted from. Let’s not get all boomer/gen x about this “your generation got participation trophies, rah rah rah” – yes old man, but who raised us? That is not the point. We can rage on boomers later.

The bad kind of strife, the one who is ἐπιμωμητή and σχετλίη, we have not eliminated her, rather we have tried to ignore her like some evil fairy godmother and in doing so only made her more powerful. There is a quiet watchfulness that is only ever excited when someone falls foul of some new tenet and is dragged kicking and screaming into the mire, never to be heard of again.

What about the other kind of strife, the one that is a boon to men?

ἥτε καὶ ἀπάλαμόν περ ὁμῶς ἐπὶ ἔργον ἔγειρεν.

εἰς ἕτερον γάρ τίς τε ἰδὼν ἔργοιο χατίζει

πλούσιον, ὃς σπεύδει μὲν ἀρώμεναι ἠδὲ φυτεύειν

οἶκόν τ᾽ εὖ θέσθαι: ζηλοῖ δέ τε γείτονα γείτων

εἰς ἄφενος σπεύδοντ᾽: ἀγαθὴ δ᾽ Ἔρις ἥδε βροτοῖσιν.

What about her twin, the good kind of strife?

She urges even the helpless man to work.

For one man is eager for toil, seeing another

who is wealthy, he rushes to plant and till

and to set his home in order: and so neighbour envies neighbour

rushing after abundance: this strife is a boon to mankind.

Hesiod Works and Days 20-24

That verb in 23, ζηλόω, is a bit awkward. Jealousy is a negative emotion for us. Incidentally, modern pedants would try to tell you that jealousy (from ζηλόω, above) and envy (from invideo) have different shades of meaning and that somewhere amongst those stretched out connotations you can express different concepts. I am not so sure. If a language inherits both English drink (Anglo-Saxon drinke) and French boire (ultimately from Latin bibere) does it necessitate that those are necessarily distinct?[3] I suspect that this is one of those asinine post factum middle class shibboleth like “don’t split an infinitive” “less vs fewer” and so on. What were we on about? Oh yeah. I’m not sure how to get across that idea of good strife. If you look at the Septuagint god in Exodus refers to himself as jealous ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι κύριος ὁ θεός σου, θεὸς ζηλωτὴς (for I am the lord your god, a jealous god). The OT god might do some straight up villainy, but I do not think it meant to come across as such. I guess the Hellenophone Jews translating this probably saw this as a positive thing.[4] I don’t know, I don’t have any Hebrew. If you do, please let me know what’s going on in the original.

Anyway, the central idea is that there is a type of envy/jealousy that encourages people to work hard and improve themselves and, hopefully, by extension the community. Semantically this is probably somewhat distinct from sheer avarice on one hand and modern right wing neo-liberal blood thirsty market economics on the other. I am less interested in this type of envy than when I started typing this paragraph, what I am interested in is how we cultivate a useful and pleasant strife/dissent. Yes, we need second year undergraduates writing about how Virgil had major cat-boy energy, we need people willing to get down in the muck over the correct translation of particles in Plato, we need…well in short, we need an environment where people can speak their minds without risk of pile ons or straw manning. I find the last to be particularly annoying and sadly all to common on twitter. Oh? You think students should learn Latin? Well then, you’re obviously a holocaust denier. And so on and so forth ad peiora. We need more dissent, more argument, but more importantly we need more of it in a charitable manner. What we need is that good Eris, placed deep in Earth’s roots. Perhaps that is what Hesiod is getting at amongst all his yeoman farmer analogies. Deep roots are hard to get at, yes, but they are better at weathering the frost, surviving there for when we need them.


[1] https://slate.com/technology/2020/04/mlbpa-baseball-nintendo-japan-player-names.html what a classic

[2] On its deathbed Vine claimed it chose as its heir ταχίστῳ…

[3] I know, I know. Gaius Julius Caesar may have absolutely genocided all three parts of Gaul, but with the help of some Frankis foederatii it does seem like their descendants got some modicum of revenge against the author of de analogia.

[4] Later when warning against covetousness, the verb ἐπιθυμέω is used, which has a more direct sense of desire or even avarice. So there is a distinction.

2 thoughts on “There are two types of strife, twitter.

  1. We use it in modern Greek too – ζήλος. I’ve been trying to think of a translation the entire day, without success. 🙂 Longtime lurker here, love your blog.

    Like

    1. ευχαριστώ! δεν είναι εύκολο να μεταφράσει κανείς Ελληνικά επειδή τα Αγγλικά χρησιμοποιούν τόσες Ελληνικές λέξεις λολ.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s