Thersites in Greek Literature

Homer, Iliad (9th-8th c. BCE), trans. George Chapman (London: John Windet, 1598):

All sate, and audience gaue;
Thersites onely would speake all. A most disorderd store
Of words, he foolishly powrd out; of which his mind held more
Then it could manage; any thing, with which he could procure
Laughter, he neuer could containe. He should haue yet bene sure
To touch no kings. T'oppose their states, becomes not iesters parts. 
But he, the filthiest fellow was, of all that had deserts
In Troyes braue siege: he was squint-eyd, and lame of either foote 
[χωλὸς δ᾽ ἕτερον πόδα]:
So crooke-backt, that he had no breast: sharpe headed, where did shoote
(Here and there sperst) thin mossie haire. He most of all enuide 
Vlysses and Aeacides, whom still his splene would chide;
Nor could the sacred king himselfe, auoid his saucie vaine,
Against whom, since he knew the Greekes, did vehement hates sustaine
(Being angrie for Achilles wrong) he cride out; railing thus:
  Atrides? why complainst thou now? what wouldst thou more of vs? 
Thy tents are full of brasse, and dames; the choice of all are thine:
With whom, we must present thee first, when any townes resigne
To our inuasion. Wantst thou then (besides all this) more gold
From Troyes knights, to redeeme their sonnes? whom, to be dearely sold,
I, or some other Greeke, must take? or wouldst thou yet againe,
Force from some other Lord, his prise; to sooth the lusts that raigne
In thy encroching appetite? it fits no Prince to be
A Prince of ill, and gouerne vs; or leade our progenie
By rape to ruine. O base Greekes, deseruing infamie,
And ils eternall: Greekish girls, not Greekes ye are: Come, flie
Home with our ships; leaue this man here, to perish with his preys,
And trie if we helpt him, or not: he wrong'd a man that weys
Farre more then he himselfe in worth: he forc't from Thetis sonne,
And keepes his prise still: nor think I, that mightie man hath wonne
The stile of wrathfull worthily; he's soft, he's too remisse,
Or else Atrides, his had bene, thy last of iniuries.
  Thus he the peoples Pastor chid; but straight stood vp to him 
Diuine Vlysses; who with lookes, exceeding graue, and grim,
This bitter checke gaue: Ceasse, vaine foole, to vent thy railing vaine
On kings thus, though it serue thee well: nor thinke thou canst restraine,
With that thy railing facultie, their wils in least degree,
For not a worse, of all this hoast, came with our king then thee,
To Troys great siege: then do not take, into that mouth of thine,
The names of kings; much lesse reuile, the dignities that shine
In their supreme states; wresting thus, this motion for our home
To sooth thy cowardise; since our selues, yet know not what will come
Of these designments: if it be, our good, to stay, or go:
Nor is it that thou standst on; thou, reuil'st our Generall so,
Onely, because he hath so much, not giuen by such as thou,
But our Heroes. Therefore this, thy rude veine, makes me vow,
(Which shall be curiously obseru'd) if euer I shall heare
This madnesse from thy mouth againe, let not Vlysses beare
This head, nor be the father cald, of yong Telemachus;
If to thy nakednesse, I take, and strip thee not, and thus
Whip thee to fleete from Councell; send, with sharpe stripes, weeping hence,
This glory thou affectst to raile. This said, his insolence
He setl'd with his scepter; strooke, his backe and shoulders so,
That bloody wales rose; he shrunke round; and from his eyes did flow
Moist teares, and looking filthily, he sate, feard, smarted; dried
His blubberd cheekes; and all the preasse, (though grieu'd to be denied,
Their wisht retrait for home) yet laught, delightsomely, and spake
Either to other: O ye Gods, how infinitely take
Vlysses vertues in our good? author of Counsels, great
In ordering armies: how most well, this act became his heate
To beate from Councell this rude foole? I thinke his sawcie spirit
Hereafter will not let his tongue, abuse the soueraigne merit,
Exempt from such base tongues as his.  (2.211-77) 

Aethiopis (7th c. BCE), trans. Martin Litchfield West, in Greek Epic Fragments From the Seventh to the Fifth Centuries BC (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003):

Achilles kills Thersites after being abused by him and insulted over his alleged love for Penthesilea. This results in a dispute among the Achaeans about the killing of Thersites. Achilles then sails to Lesbos, and after sacrificing to Apollo, Artemis, and Leto, he is purified from the killing by Odysseus. (Argument 1)

Plato, Gorgias (ca. 375 BCE), trans. Benjamin Jowett, in vol. 3 of The Dialogues of Plato (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1871):

Now the proper office of punishment is twofold: he who is rightly punished ought either to become better and profit by it, or he ought to be made an example to his fellows, that they may see what he suffers, and fear and become better….Of these fearful examples, most, as I believe, are taken from the class of tyrants and kings and potentates and public men, for they are the authors of the greatest and most impious crimes, because they have the power. And Homer witnesses to the truth of this; for they are always kings and potentates whom he has described as suffering everlasting punishment in the world below: such were Tantalus and Sisyphus and Tityus. But no one ever described Thersites, or any private person who was a villain, as suffering everlasting punishment, or as incurable. For to commit the worst crimes, as I am inclined to think, was not in his power, and he was happier than those who had the power. No, Callicles, the very bad men come from the class of those who have power. (252e)

Plato, Republic (ca. 375 BCE), trans. Harry Spens (Glasgow: R. and A. Foulis, 1763):

This spectacle, he said, was worthy to behold, in what manner the several souls made choice of their life; for it was both pitiful and ridiculous and wonderful to behold, as each for the most part chose according to the habit of their former life….Among the last, he saw the soul of the buffoon Thersites, assuming the ape…. In like manner the souls of wild beasts went into men, and men again into beasts. The unjust changing into wild beasts, and the just into tame. (620a-d)

Sophocles, Philoctetes (409 BCE), trans. Thomas Sheridan (Dublin: J. Hyde and E. Dobson, 1725):

  [Neop.]  Mars ever singles out the brave to die;
Cowards are safe; he scorns their panting Breast.
  Phil.  I grant it's true; and for this Cause I shall
Enquiry make for one unworthy Wretch,
Whose Tongue had Words and Cunning at command,
In what Condition's he?—
  Neop.  —Ulysses sure
You mean; this Character suits none but him.
  Phil.  No. One Thersites clamorous and loud,
In spight of Opposition; does he live?
  Neop.  I saw him not, but heard he was alive.
  Phil.  'Tis like, because no Evil yet is dead.
The Gods to me seem Guardians to the base,
And take a Pleasure to preserve from Death
The false and fraudulent: the just and good
They snatch away from hence. What shall we think
Of this? or how give Praise to them? who shew
So much Regard to wicked Men their Fav'rites. (435-52) 

Aeschines, Against Ctesiphon (330 BCE), trans. Thomas Dawson, in The Orations of Æschines and Demosthenes, Concerning the Crown (Dublin: E. Dobson, 1732):

Shall Demosthenes himself be honoured with a Crown and a Proclamation? Should any of the Tragic Poets, who, immediately after conferring such Hounors upon him, were to appear upon the Stage, introduce Thersites in his Tragedy, as crowned by the Greeks; not one amongst you, I am certain, would ever bear it; because Homer represents him, both as a vile Coward and a notorious Sycophant: And when you yourselves honur a Man of the very same Character with a Crown, can you expect not to be scorned and derided by all the People of Greece? (144)

Polybius, Histories (mid. 2nd c. BCE), trans. Evelyn S. Shuckburgh (New York: Macmillan, 1889):

Timaeus spends such a wealth of rhetoric and earnestness on these points, in his desire to exalt the importance of Sicily above all the rest of Greece, to represent its history as the most splendid and glorious of all the world, its men as the wisest of all who have been great in philosophy, and the Syracusans as the most consummate and divine of statesmen, that he could scarcely be surpassed by the cleverest schoolboy declaimers when undertaking to prove such paradoxes as that " Thersites was an excellent man," or " Penelope a bad wife," or other thesis of that description. (12.26)

Diodorus Siculus, "The Life Of Philip of Macedon" (mid 1st c. BCE), in Lives, trans. Thomas North (London: Richard Field, 1602):

He dranke too much at the feast of his sacrifice, and that after supper he daunced and made a mommery with his minions: passed by the prisoners, and gaue them sharpe taunts in mockerie, touching the misfortune of their ouerthrow: and that Demades then being one of the number, was so bold franckly to speake a word to him which was of such efficacie, as it made him refraine from his insolencie. O king, sayd he, being now thy fortune to play Agamemnons part, thou art not ashamed to shew the deeds of Thersites. Philip finding himselfe touched to the quicke with this word so well set, he presently chaunged his apparell and countenance, cast downe to the ground his garland of flowers he wore on his head, caused all the other signes of mockerie which were caried after him to be broken, and from thencefoorth began greatly to esteeme of Demades, and would haue him about him. (27)

Epictetus, Discourses (ca. 108), in All the Works of Epictetus, trans. Elizabeth Carter (London: S. Richardson, 1758):

To take away the faculty of elocution, and to say that it is in reality nothing, is not only ungrateful to those who gave it, but cowardly too. For such a person seems to me to be afraid that, if there be any such faculty, we may not on occasion be able to treat it with contempt. Such are they, too, who deny any difference between beauty and deformity. Was it possible, then, to be affected in the same manner by seeing Thersites as Achilles, or Helen as any 10 other woman? ("Of the Faculty of Speaking," 2.23.3)

Characters so different are not to be confounded. You cannot act both Thersites and Agamemnon. If you would be Thersites, you must be hump-backed and bald: if Agamemnon, tall and handsome, and a lover of those who are under your care. ("Of Complaisance," 4.2.1)

Lucian, Charon, or the Svrveiovrs (2nd c.), trans. Francis Hickes (Oxford: William Turner, 1634):

No difference is, but all is one
Whether they have Tombes or none,
Poor Irus of as great a birth
As Agamemnon under earth:
Thersites hath as good a feature
As Thetis sonne that comely creature.
All emptie skulls naked and drie
In Asphodelus medows lie. (105)