Ptōsin

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Dis Manibus (1874)

Θεόδωρον ἴσως ἀκούεις τὸν ἀπὸ Σικελίας· καὶ γὰρ τῶν σφόδρα ἐπισήμων ἐτύγχανεν ὤν· οὗτος καὶ κάλλει καὶ μεγέθει σώματος καὶ παρρησίᾳ τῇ πρὸς τὸν βασιλέα πάντων κρατῶν, καὶ δυνάμενος ὅσα τῶν ἔνδον στρεφομένων οὐδείς, οὐκ ἤνεγκε τὴν εὐπραγίαν πράως ἐκείνην, ἀλλ’ ἐπιβουλεύσας βασιλεῖ καὶ ἁλοὺς αὐτὸς μὲν ἀπετμήθη σφόδρα ἐλεεινῶς, ἡ δὲ τούτου γυνή, καὶ ἀνατροφῆς καὶ γένους καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἁπάντων οὐδὲν ἔλαττον ἔχουσα τῆς εὐγενείας τῆς σῆς, πάντων ἄφνω γυμνωθεῖσα τῶν αὑτῆς καὶ τῆς ἐλευθερίας ἐκπεσοῦσα ταῖς ταμιακαῖς ἐρίθοις ἐγκατελέγετο, καὶ πάσης θεραπαινίδος οἰκτρότερον ζῆν ἠναγκάζετο βίον, τοσοῦτον ἔχουσα τῶν ἄλλων πλέον, ὅσον διὰ τὴν ὑπερβολὴν τῆς συμφορᾶς ἐδακρύετο παρὰ τῶν ὁρώντων ἁπάντων αὐτήν. λέγεται δὲ καὶ Ἀρτεμισία ἀνδρὸς σφόδρα εὐδοκίμου γενομένη γυνή, ἐπειδὴ κἀκεῖνος τυραννίδος ἐπεθύμησεν, οὕτως εἰς ταύτην τὴν πενίαν ἐλθεῖν καὶ τὴν πήρωσιν. τό τε γὰρ μέγεθος τῆς ἀθυμίας, τό τε πλῆθος τῶν δακρύων ἔσβεσεν αὐτῇ τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς· καὶ νῦν τῶν χειραγωγησόντων δεῖται καὶ πρὸς τὰς ἑτέρων ἀξόντων θύρας, ἵνα τῆς ἀναγκαίας οὕτως εὐπορεῖν ἔχῃ τροφῆς. καὶ πολλὰς ἂν ἑτέρας εἶχον οἰκίας εἰπεῖν οὕτω κατενεχθείσας, εἰ μὴ τήν τε εὐλάβειαν καὶ τὴν σύνεσιν τῆς σῆς ἠπιστάμην ψυχῆς, οὐκ ἐκ τῶν ἀλλοτρίων κακῶν τῆς οἰκείας συμφορᾶς παραμυθίαν βουλομένην εὑρεῖν. καὶ τούτων δὲ ὧν ἐμνήσθην δι’ οὐδὲν ἕτερον ἐμνήσθην νῦν, ἀλλ’ ἵνα μάθῃς ὅτι τὰ ἀνθρώπινα οὐδέν ἐστι πράγματα, ἀλλ’ ἀληθῶς, ὡς ὁ προφήτης φησί· “πᾶσα δόξα ἀνθρώπου ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου.” ὅσῳ γὰρ ἂν ἐπαρθῇ καὶ λάμψῃ, τοσούτῳ μείζονα τὴν πτῶσιν ἐργάζεται, οὐ τὰ τῶν ἀρχομένων μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ τῶν βασιλευόντων αὐτῶν. οὐδὲ γὰρ ἂν εὕροι τις οἰκίαν ἰδιωτικὴν τοσούτων ἐμπεπλησμένην συμφορῶν ὅσων τὰ βασίλεια γέμει τῶν κακῶν. καὶ γὰρ ὀρφανίαι ἄωροι καὶ χηρεῖαι καὶ θάνατοι βίαιοι καὶ τῶν ἐν ταῖς τραγῳδίαις παρανομώτεροι πολλῷ καὶ πικρότεροι μάλιστα εἰς ταύτην κατασκήπτουσι τὴν ἀρχήν.
(John Chrysostom, Ad Viduam Iuniorem 4)

You probably know Theodore of Sicily by reputation: for he was one of the most distinguished men; he surpassed all in bodily stature and beauty as well as in the confidence which he enjoyed with the Emperor, and he had more power than any member of the royal household, but he did not bear this prosperity meekly, and having entered into a plot against the Emperor he was taken prisoner and miserably beheaded; and his wife who was not a whit inferior to your noble self in education and birth and all other respects was suddenly stripped of all her possessions, deprived even of her freedom also, and enrolled among the household slaves, and compelled to lead a life more pitiable than any bondmaid, having this advantage only over the rest that owing to the extreme severity of her calamity she moved to tears all who beheld her. And it is said also that Artemisia who was the wife of a man of high reputation, since he also aimed at usurping the throne, was reduced to this same condition of poverty, and also to blindness; for the depth of her despondency, and the abundance of her tears destroyed her sight; and now she has need of persons to lead her by the hand, and to conduct her to the doors of others that she may obtain the necessary supply of food. And I might mention many other families which have been brought down in this way did I not know you to be too pious and prudent in disposition to wish to find consolation for your own calamity out of the misfortunes of others. And the only reason why I mentioned those instances to which I referred just now was that you might learn that human things are nothingness but that truly as the prophet says “all the glory of man is as the flower of grass” [Isaiah 40:5]. For in proportion to men’s elevation and splendour is the ruin wrought for them, not only in the case of those who are under rule, but also of the rulers themselves. For it would be impossible to find any private family which has been immersed in such great calamities as the ills in which the imperial house has been steeped. For untimely loss of parents, and of husbands, and violent forms of death, more outrageous and painful than those which occur in tragedies, especially beset this kind of government. (tr. William Richard Wood Stephens, revised by Kevin Knight)

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