No. 12.—Book of Origins, by Tlepolemus the Grammarian.


Until very recently the works of Tlepolemus the Grammarian were believed to be completely lost; but one partial leaf of his Book of Origins, in which he recounted the beginnings of various phenomena familiar in the Hellenistic Greek world, was discovered last year in a palimpsest shopping list from the eighth century. It has never before been translated into English.

…bans [Thebans?] began the custom of placing pithy sayings on the rear surfaces of their carts, for the entertainment of travelers stuck behind them on the highways.

Cheese was first discovered in Bithynia, but it was fed to hogs.

The men of Hydissus are said to be the originators of dancing, and it was on account of the heat of the sand there that men first began to dance. And the men of Hydissus are also said to be the originators of sandals, which happened at a later time, and this is why there are presently no dancers in Hydissus.

The Psophidioi were the inventors of snapping the fingers, for which their city was destroyed by Hera.

The ancient king of Aegium having fallen on his hindward parts, the men of Aegium discovered laughter, which until that time was unknown.

The priests of Delphi first discovered that three chords were sufficient for any sacred hymn to the gods.

It is said that the Lacedemonians were the first to limit their literary effusions to sevenscore letters, and this was a law of Lycurgus to prevent the men of Sparta from becoming bookish and effeminate. But in time the number of letters was doubled, and this was said to be the cause of the city’s falling to Philip when…