“Does Not Care”

Lawrence, Herodotus, and Nietzsche on History
  • Charles M. Stang


In 1924, T. E. Lawrence had a stone lintel placed over the door to Clouds Hill, the remote cottage in Dorsetshire where, until his death in 1935, he occasionally lived and often entertained friends and family. Into this stone lintel Lawrence carved two Greek words: ου ϕροτις, “does not care.” He explained to friends that these words were taken from a comic episode in the Histories of Herodotus, one concerning a young suitor Hippoclides and a rich king Clisthenes, the father of the young woman whose hand Hippoclides was seeking in marriage. Hippoclides was one of many young noblemen vying for the hand of the king’s daughter. Wishing to give his daughter to the very best man in Greece, Clisthenes devised contests for the suitors. In all of these contests young Hippoclides excelled. When the day came for Clisthenes to announce his choice, however, there was a final feast with abundant song and drink. Hippoclides, quite drunk, bade the musicians strike up a dance. And just as in the other contests, Hippoclides excelled, dancing beautifully. But the drink in him spurred him on, and he was soon dancing on the tables. When at last Hippoclides stood on his head upon the table, tossing his legs about in the air and exposing himself to the whole feasting party, Clisthenes, furious at this shameful behavior, cried out, “Son of Tisander, you have danced your marriage away!” “Hippoclides does not care,” the young reveler replied.1


Modern History Monumental History Introductory Chapter Critical History Greek Historian 
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  1. 1.
    See George Rawlinson, trans., The History of Herodotus (New York: Tudor, 1928), VI.129, 349–50. I use Rawlinson’s translation not because it is the most accurate or elegant, but because it was the translation Lawrence knew, although he undoubtedly knew the original Greek as well. See Lawrence’s letter to David Garnett in David Garnett, ed., The Letters of T. E. Lawrence (London: Cape, 1938) 680–82. Rawlinson has rendered ου ϕροτις as “What does Hippoclides care?” I prefer the translation Lawrence uses most often, “Hippoclides does not care.”Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    T. E. Lawrence to A. E. “Jock” Chambers, dated August 8, 1924, quoted in John E. Mack, A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence (Boston: Little & Brown, 1976), 29. Lawrence placed the lintel over the door in 1924. Hippoclides was already on his mind, as evidenced by this letter to Jock. Only in the summer of 1925, however, did Lawrence finally carve ου ϕροτις into the stone.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    On August 30, 1922, Lawrence enlisted in the ranks of the RAF as “J. H. Ross.” In January 1923, he was discharged from the RAF following press exposure. In March he enlisted in the Tank Corps as “T. E. Shaw.” In August 1925, following threats of suicide, he was transferred back to the RAF, retaining the name “Shaw.” See the Chronology in Jeremy Wilson, Lawrence of Arabia (Phoenix Mill: Sutton, 1998), viii.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Paul Marriott and Yvonne Argent, The Last Days of T. E. Lawrence (Portland: Alpha, 1996), 165.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Robert Graves and B. H. Liddell Hart, T. E. Lawrence to His Biographers (Garden City: Doubleday, 1963), Vol. I, 81.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Henry G. Liddell and P. G. Glare, eds., A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 1956–57.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    For a judicious discussion of Lawrence’s various statements about the identity of “S. A.,” see Jeremy Wilson, Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorized Biography of T. E. Lawrence (New York: Atheneum, 1990), 672–74.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom (London: Penguin, 1962), 23.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Plutarch, Lionel Pearson and F. H. Sandbach, trans., On the Malice of Herodotus (Cambridge: Harvard, 1965), 87.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
  11. 14.
    T. J. Luce, The Greek Historians (New York: Routledge, 1997), 17; see Herodotus, Histories IV.30.Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    T. E. Lawrence, Revolt in the Desert (New York: Doran, 1927).Google Scholar
  13. 22.
    See Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life (Cambridge: Cambridge, 1983), 69: “fame is something more than the tastiest morsel of our egoism, as Schopenhauer called it: it is the belief in the solidarity and continuity of all ages and a protest against the passing away of generations and the transitoriness of things.”Google Scholar
  14. 35.
    T. E. Lawrence, trans., The Odyssey of Homer (New York: Oxford, 1991), 162.Google Scholar
  15. 36.
    Richard Aldington, Lawrence of Arabia: A Biographical Inquiry (London: Collins, 1955), 12.Google Scholar
  16. 38.
    Suleiman Mousa, T. E. Lawrence: An Arab View (London: Oxford, 1966), vii.Google Scholar
  17. 41.
    See Lawrence’s letter to Vyvyan Richards, dated sometime in early 1923, in Malcolm Brown, ed., T. E. Lawrence: The Selected Letters (New York: Paragon, 1992), 225.Google Scholar
  18. 43.
    Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979).Google Scholar
  19. 45.
    Dated June 10, 1927 (British Library). Quoted in Stephen Ely Tabachnick, T. E. Lawrence Revised (New York: Twayne, 1997), 74.Google Scholar
  20. 48.
    T. E. Lawrence, “Evolution of a Revolt,” in A. W. Lawrence, ed., Oriental Assembly (London, 1939), 131.Google Scholar
  21. 51.
    A.W. Lawrence, ed., T. E. Lawrence by His Friends (London: Cape, 1954), 176.Google Scholar
  22. 63.
    Reneé and André Guillaume, Hilary Mandleberg, trans., An Introduction and Notes: T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom (Oxshott: Tabard, 1998).Google Scholar

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© Charles M. Stang 2002

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  • Charles M. Stang

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