For people always applaud the most
for the song that is newest to circulate among the listeners.
Homer, Odyssey I.351-352.
The latest news is always a standard subject of the oral poet,
whether the bard of antiquity or the improvisational artist of today.
In the Odyssey, Phemius (described in the quotation above)
sings a song about the Trojan War to the assembled Suitors, because
that was the news of the day.
Illustration: Apollo, patron god of music, plays the lyre,
the instrument with which the bard accompanied himself.
Archived quotations of the month —— index to all years
Beginning with September, 2004, my home page
will feature a different quotation from Classical or other literature
each month, appropriate to the season or to current events.
The pages you are now looking at contain "Quotations of
the Month" from previous months. Translations are my own, except
where otherwise noted.
Each year now has its own separate page. The list below contains an
index to all years from the first year (2004)
to the present year.
Do you have a suggestion for a future Quotation of the Month? If so, send me
All archived quotations, from the earliest in 2004 to the present, are
listed here with links for easy access to the selections.
Quotations of the Month, Year by Year
Click on a link to read each quotation
- October, 2013: For Halloween, the
Pumpkinification of Claudius, by Seneca.
- September, 2013: For the grape harvest of early fall,
a selection from Book II of
- August, 2013: For the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington:
Cicero on the meaning of freedom
(in Paradoxa Stoicorum).
- July, 2013: Inspired by the NSA spying case:
A surveillance scandal:
how Hadrian spied on the private lives of his soldiers.
- June, 2013: Woman Power! Cynisca
from Sparta wins the Olympic four-horse chariot race
(396 and 392 B.C.).
- May, 2013: For Memorial Day,
the funeral of Achilles, as described in Odyssey Book 24.
- April, 2013: For the opening of a Presidential Library,
Horace declares his poetry more lasting
than the pyramids.
- March, 2013: Springtime is growing
season, as described in Hesiod's Works and Days 448-492.
- February, 2013: for Valentine's Day, Eros
plays tag with the Spartan poet Alcman.
- January, 2013: Does the presence of
weapons itself inspire violence? (Odyssey 19.1-13
- December, 2012: For the beginning of winter,
Ovid writes of his frozen exile
in Tomis (Tristia 3.10).
- November, 2012: For Thanksgiving:
Demeter joyfully greets Persephone as she returns from the
Underworld in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter.
- October, 2012: For Halloween: Gibbering like bats,
the ghosts of the Suitors are herded
down to Hades in Book 24 of the Odyssey.
- September 2012. For the beginning of the
school year, Socrates as headmaster
of the Phrontisterion in Aristophanes' Clouds.
- August 2012: For the Republican and Democratic presidential
nominating conventions: Diogenes
looking for an honest man (Diogenes Laertius and Plutarch,
- July 2012: For summer vacation. Propertius's love interest,
Cynthia, is away from him at Baiae
- June 2012: For the beginning of the summer driving
season, an ancient example of
"road rage" (Oedipus kills his father Laius in Sophocles'
Oedipus Rex 798-813).
- May 2012: For Mother's Day:
Cybele, Mother of the Gods, arrives in Rome, as described in
Ovid's Fasti 4.247-272.
- April 2012: For Earth Day, Gaia
invoked in a solemn oath in Iliad III.275-296.
- March 2012: For Women's History Month, a fragment on
dueling mountains Cithaeron and Helicon
by the Boeotian poetess Corinna.
- February 2012: For Valentine's Day,
Ovid catches his girlfriend kissing another man
(Ovid Amores II.5).
- January 2012: For the Chinese New Year,
Cadmus sows the dragon's teeth
- December 2011: For the party and gift-giving season,
Telemachus learns to make a graceful exit
— while declining a gift he can't use (Odyssey Book 4).
- November 2011: For the Republican Presidential debates,
some advice for the candidates
from Cicero's De Oratore.
- October 2011: For Oktoberfest,
some ancient uses of beer, among the Sumerians, Egyptians,
and in Pliny's Natural History.
- September 2011: For the beginning of the school year,
Athena disguised as Mentor (the eponymous
"mentor") teaches Telemachus how to be a man
(Odyssey, Bk. 2 vv. 267-300).
- August 2011: The evil of poetic recitations
in August (Juvenal Satire III).
- July 2011: Thinking of summer vacation —
Catullus' greetings to his beloved villa at Sirmio.
- June 2011: For Father's Day, Aeneas rescues
his father Anchises from the burning ruins of Troy in Vergil's
- May 2011: The killing of Osama bin Laden and tornados
in the U.S. both suggest the killing by Zeus of the
monster Typhoeus in Hesiod's Theogony 820-880.
- April 2011: For Easter, Passover, and Earth Day:
Persephone is reunited with her mother
in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter.
- March 2011: Spring flowers: Persephone
is lured by a magical narcissus in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter.
- February 2011: For Valentine's Day:
a little winged Cupid described by Asclepiades of Samos.
- January 2011: Global warming and weather chaos:
Phaethon's wild ride
(Ovid, Metamorphoses II.161-256).
- December 2010: The bears, celestial and sylvan, hibernate:
Callisto's story (Ovid, Metamorphoses
- November 2010: At Thanksgiving, we have Prometheus to thank for the
succulent meals we enjoy on feast days (Hesiod
- October 2010: for Halloween, a journey to the Underworld by a very
small insect (Vergil's Culex).
- September 2010: The evils of religious fanaticism (from
Lucretius' De Rerum Natura).
- August 2010: On a summer day, the bees collect honey
and stock their hives (Vergil's
- July 2010: We have the IPad and Kindle, but what "tablets"
did Homer's heroes use? (Bellerophon's cryptic
message in the Iliad).
- June 2010: on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: If you go too deep
or too high, the gods will get even (
Otus and Ephialtes storm Olympus, as told in Odyssey Book 11).
- May 2010: Gerrymandering for a good cause: The
reforms of Cleisthenes vs. entrenched special interests (Aristotle's
Constitution of Athens).
- April 2010: For Arbor Day and Earth Day, Aphrodite
entrusts the baby Aeneas to the tree nymphs (Homeric Hymn V to Aphrodite).
- March 2010: Happy Exelauno Day!
(March Fo(u)rth). The March of the Ten Thousand Greeks
- February 2010: For Valentine's Day,
Greek goddesses as ancient "cougars," ageless beauties who seduce
attractive young men. Circe and Calypso and Odysseus, Eos and Tithonus
(and others!), Aphrodite and Anchises.
- January 2010: For Martin Luther King,
a prophetic dream in Vergil's Aeneid.
- December 2009: In the winter season of the Northern Hemisphere,
a shout-out to the Antipodes,
where it's summer. The Antipodes as a real place in Plato, as a state of
mind in Seneca's satire of modern overindulgence.
- November 2009: Inspired by the debate over health care,
"A cock for Asclepius"
(from Plato's Phaedo).
- October 2009: For Halloween, Odysseus
summons the ghosts of the dead (Odyssey Book 11).
- September 2009: For the beginning of the school year, quotations
from Plato and Cicero on the need for
a broad education.
- August 2009: Inspired by the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival,
quotations from Plato on the elevating or corrupting
influence of music in education.
- July 2009: In honor of the astronauts' moon landing, we have
quotations from the Homeric Hymns and Apollonius Rhodius'
Argonautica, on the moon as goddess and
as object of witchcraft.
- June 2009: Inspired by the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor
to the Supreme Court, we cite Athena's judgment
in favor of Orestes in Aeschylus' Eumenides
- May 2009: Inspired by the current hysteria about "swine flu,"
we quote Pindar's impassioned defense
against the slur "Boeotian pig."
- April 2009: Ovid, in the Fasti, wonders about the
name of the month of April; why is it not named
for Venus? (Perhaps it is named for Aphrodite, the Greek counterpart of Venus?)
- March 2009: As we are reminded by the task of cleaning up the world's crises,
Heracles had to clean up the
Augeian stables, whose vastness is described by
- February 2009: For the financial meltdown and other follies,
wisdom from a Cretan knife ("Don't take a trip
with your mind unless you see a road...").
- January 2009: For the inauguration of President Barack Obama, Vergil's
prediction of a new Golden Age in his
- December 2008: The poet Horace tells us that when it is snowing outside
we should stay in and party.
- November 2008: For Thanksgiving: The poet Catullus
dedicates a dependable old boat that is to be retired, in thanks for a safe
- October 2008: For non-participants in the fall sports events,
The philosopher Seneca salutes the unathletic
- August-September 2008: A review of the movie WALL-E,
a robot love story, and a quotation from Homer's Iliad.
- July '08 To honor the birth of a daughter to a man
in Oregon, we celebrate the seer Teiresias, who turned into a woman, then back into a
man, as told in Ovid's Metamorphoses
- June '08 for the summer solstice, a tipsy celebrant
looks at the heavens in Ovid's Fasti.
- May '08: Inflation, Roman style: Janus complains
of the devaluation of the old currency in Ovid's Fasti.
- April '08: Suggested by the accursed Red Sox T-shirt
buried under Yankee Stadium, a poem by Horace calling down shipwreck on a rival.
- March '08 For the"March Madness" basketball
championships, Nausicaa and her maidens play ball in the Odyssey
- February '08 For Valentines' Day, a love poem by
Sappho: the poetess "falls to pieces" (à la Patsy Cline) when
she sees the object of her desire.
- January '08 Women warriors in Herodotus,
suggested by the candidates in the U.S. presidential election, featuring Artemisia's
valor at Salamis.
- December '07 Catullus presents his friend Cornelius
(Nepos) with a gift of his poems, for the end-of-year gift-giving season.
- November '07 Hesiod tells the farmer how to get
ready for winter, with emphasis on equipment-making and "personnel decisions"
(employ only older women, men, and oxen; they aren't easily distracted).
- October '07 Theophrastus on "The Superstitious
Man," for Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos.
- September '07 Tacitus on good generals vs. bad
emperors, suggested by the war in Iraq.
- August '07 Horace's Journey to Brundisium
on the Appian Way, the "ancient Roman Interstate Highway System," suggested
by America's collapsing infrastructure.
- July '07 a sorceress performs magic
in a poem by Theocritus, in honor of the Harry Potter film and book.
- June '07 Pindar's Sixth Olympian,
in honor of the filly Rags to Riches' winning the Belmont Stakes.
- May '07 Hermes, son of Maia, steals Apollo's
cattle and plays other tricks (from the Homeric Hymn to Hermes)
- April '07 Daphne turns into a laurel
tree in Ovid's Metamorphoses, for Arbor Day.
- March '07 some friendly snakes
from Ovid's Metamorphoses, for St. Patrick's Day and the
beginning of Spring.
- February '07 Song of the Bacchantes
from Euripides' Bacchae, for Mardi Gras.
- January '07 Janus opens the year in a
quotation from Ovid's Fasti.
- December '06 for the Saturnalia,
quotations from Catullus and Vergil's Aeneid (on the
Golden Age of Saturn).
- November '06 For Veterans' Day, a
quotation from Horace's Odes on courage and patriotism.
- October '06 the rainy stars of the Hyades in
autumn, from Hesiod's Works and Days.
- September '06 The god Pluto, his planet, and
his dog. Quotations from Aeschylus (Pluto's gold-flowing river);
Plato (the name "Pluto" ("the Wealthy One") as a euphemism for the God of
the Underworld); Euripides (Cerberus, Pluto's three-headed guard dog).
- August '06 the god Pan and the Persians at
Marathon, from Herodotos' Histories: (Pheidippides, who ran to
Sparta for aid to Athens, and the runner who carried the news of the victory
at Marathon were two different messengers, but are often confused -- and
neither of them fell down dead; these guys were professionals, after all!)
- July '06 a warning about the dangers of
disturbing Pan at mid-day, from Theocritus' Idyll I.
- June '06 Ovid's story (from the
Fasti, or "Roman Calendar") about how June was named for the
goddess Juno -- if it wasn't named for one or another rival goddess!
- May '06 Quotation for Memorial Day:
Excerpts from Pericles' Funeral Oration (for the Athenian war dead), in
Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War.
- April '06 Quotations for Earth Day:
Gaia in Hesiod's Theogony and Homeric Hymn III to Earth,
Mother of All.
- March '06 The story of Romulus and
Remus, twin sons of Mars, for whom the month of March is named,
from Ovid's Fasti.
- January-February '06 Quotations about
Blacks in antiquity for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and
Black History Month (from Homer, Vergil, Terence).
- December '05 A quotation on sacred trees
for the Winter Solstice, Christmas, and other winter holidays from
Horace (on the dedication of a pine tree to Diana).
- November '05 A quotation (and pictures) for
Halloween, El Dia de los Muertos, and Thanksgiving; Ovid on the
Lemuria -- a kind of Roman Halloween -- and some artesian wells in
- October '05 A quotation for Columbus Day
from Horace on the perils of a sea voyage.
- September '05 A quotation from the Roman
satirist Juvenal suggested by Hurricane Katrina. (After a disaster,
the rich get richer and the poor are left homeless.)
- August '05 A quotation for the dog days of
summer (from Hesiod's Works and Days, on sex-crazed women
and weak men),
- July '05: a patriotic quotation for the
Fourth of July (Livy on Cincinnatus, role model for the Founding
Fathers of the U.S.),
- June '05: summer
vacation (Horace on enjoying life and being silly),
- May '05: the Kentucky
Derby (Pindar's victory ode for King Hieron's horse Pherenikos),
- April '05:
Income Tax deadline (April 15) (Hesiod on honest work vs. corruption),
- March '05: the first day
of spring (Vergil and Tibullus),
- February '05:
Valentine's Day (Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite),
- December '04, January '05: Saturnalia and
the start of winter
(a festive quotation from Catullus and a chilly one from Hesiod).
Go to Quotations for the current year ---->
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