Sunday, September 25, 2016


Preparation for Study

A.D. Nuttall, Dead from the Waist Down: Scholars and Scholarship in Literature and the Popular Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), p. 142 (on Isaac Casaubon), with notes on p. 218:
He is berating himself for rising as late as five o'clock — "A quinta (heu quam sero) surreximus." "Got up at five (gosh, how late!)." I have translated this into colloquial modern idiom in order to reflect the extraordinarily easy, free immediacy of Casaubon's Latin. He writes of books as though they were friends or acquaintances. This may momentarily confuse the unprepared reader. Casaubon keeps referring to time given to "Basilius." At last one realises that Basilius is a long-dead author (he is reading Hieronymus Froben's 1598 edition — 698 close-packed folio pages). One sentence sticks in the memory: "Dein pro more pexo capillo museum ingressi," "Then I combed my hair in the usual way and went into my study." Why does Casaubon, the least narcissistic of men, record in his diary that he combed his hair? One wonders for a moment if there is a strain of ritual in this careful preparation of his person before engaging in the wholly private activity of study. Machiavelli famously tells posterity that he put on his court robes before passing into the world of the ancients and reading for four hours, alone.28 Keats told his brother George on 17 September 1819 in a letter how he would brush his hair, put on a clean shirt, and "in fact adonize as I were going out" before sitting down to write poetry.29

28. Letter to Francesco Vettori, 10 December 1513, in The Literary Works of Machiavelli, trans. J.R. Hale (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), 139.

29. The Letters of John Keats, 1814-1821, ed. H.E. Rollins, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958), 2:186.
For the endnotes (not visible in Google Books) I'm indebted to Ian Jackson, who adds, "And let us not forget that Haydn put on his best wig and formal garb before sitting down to compose." I'm also reminded of the Spartans' habit of combing their hair before battle (Herodotus 7.209.3: νόμος γάρ σφι ἔχων οὕτω ἐστί· ἐπεὰν μέλλωσι κινδυνεύειν τῇ ψυχῇ, τότε τὰς κεφαλὰς κοσμέονται).


An Italian Custom

Byron, letter to Douglas Kinnaird (October 26, 1819):
I have been faithful in my honest liaison with Countess Guiccioli — and can assure you that She has never cost me directly or indirectly a sixpence — indeed the circumstances of herself and family render this no merit. — I never offered her but one present — a broach of brilliants — and she sent it back to me with her own hair in it (I shall not say of what part but that is an Italian custom) and a note to say she was not in the habit of receiving presents of that value — but hoped I would not consider her sending it back as an affront — nor the value diminished by the enclosure.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Munching to the Glory of God

Rebecca West (1892-1983), Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia (1941; rpt. New York: Penguin Books, 2007), pp. 764-765:
He drove us through the town to the ruins of Heracleia, the Roman city which lay a mile or so beyond it on the Via Egnatia, the Roman road that ran from the Adriatic through Albania to Salonika and Constantinople. Its excavations are at a stage that can interest only dogs and archaeologists, and my husband and I went and sat for a few minutes in the Orthodox cemetery, which straggles over the hillside near by. I have a deep attachment to this cemetery, for it was here that I realized Macedonia to be the bridge between our age and the past. I saw a peasant woman sitting on a grave under the trees with a dish of wheat and milk on her lap, the sunlight dappling the white kerchief on her head. Another peasant woman came by, who must have been from another village, for her dress was different. I think they were total strangers. They greeted each other, and the woman with the dish held it out to the new-comer and gave her a spoon, and she took some sups of it. To me it was an enchantment; for when St Monica came to Milan over fifteen hundred years ago, to be with her gifted and difficult son, St Augustine, she went to eat her food on the Christian graves and was hurt because the sexton reproved her for offering sups to other people on the same errand, as she had been wont to do in Africa. That protocol-loving saint, Ambrose, had forbidden the practice because it was too like picnicking for his type of mind. To see these women gently munching to the glory of God was like finding that I could walk into the past as into another room.
I owe the reference to James J. O'Donnell, Augustine: A New Biography (New York: Ecco, 2005), p. 355, n. 265.


Textual Criticism as Dentistry

Bernard M.W. Knox (1914-2010), The Heroic Temper: Studies in Sophoclean Tragedy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964), pp. 104-105 (on Antigone 905-912; endnote omitted):
If we are to believe that these lines were in fact inserted after Sophocles' death by some later actor, producer, or editor, we must face the consequences. And they are grave. Aristotle, the greatest scientific and scholarly intellect of the century after Sophocles, the most influential literary critic there has ever been, the head of a research school which busied itself among many other things with the history of tragedy, saw clearly the difficulties posed by the speech, and called the sentiment 'improbable' (ἄπιστον) and so demanding an explanation by the poet, but it never for a moment occurred to him that the lines might be an interpolation. If they are, then we are forced to conclude that already, in Aristotle's time, the text of the Antigone was so fundamentally corrupt in a crucial passage that there was no criterion, no record, no tradition by which it could be corrected. Such a supposition deals a mortal blow to our confidence in the general soundness of the tragic texts. If that is possible, anything is, and we cannot object to those who would delete and transpose right and left. We must even give our late and reluctant blessing to the shade of August Nauck, who, acting on a principle somewhat like that of the English provincial dentist—"If you won't miss it, why not have it out?" —gave the ungrateful world a text of Euripides some four hundred lines shorter than any it had seen before.

Friday, September 23, 2016


Call to Revolution

Sallust, The War with Catiline 20.11-14 (Catiline speaking; tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Pray, what man with the spirit of a man can endure that our tyrants should abound in riches, to squander in building upon the sea and in levelling mountains, while we lack the means to buy the bare necessities of life? That they should join their palaces by twos or even more, while we have nowhere a hearthstone? They amass paintings, statuary and chased vases, tear down new structures and erect others, in short misuse and torment their wealth in every way; yet, with the utmost extravagance, they cannot get the upper hand of their riches. But we have destitution at home, debt without, present misery and a still more hopeless future; in short, what have we left, save only the wretched breath of life? Awake then! Lo, here, here before your eyes, is the freedom for which you have often longed, and with it riches, honour, and glory; Fortune offers all these things as prizes to the victors.

etenim quis mortalium, cui virile ingenium est, tolerare potest, illis divitias superare, quas profundant in extruendo mari et montibus coaequandis, nobis rem familiarem etiam ad necessaria deesse? illos binas aut amplius domos continuare, nobis larem familiarem nusquam ullum esse? cum tabulas, signa, toreumata emunt, nova diruunt, alia aedificant, postremo omnibus modis pecuniam trahunt, vexant, tamen summa lubidine divitias suas vincere nequeunt. at nobis est domi inopia, foris aes alienum, mala res, spes multo asperior; denique quid reliqui habemus praeter miseram animam? quin igitur expergiscimini? en illa illa quam saepe optastis libertas, praeterea divitiae, decus, gloria in oculis sita sunt. Fortuna omnia ea victoribus praemia posuit.


The Sabines

Ronald Syme (1903-1989), Sallust (1964; rpt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), p. 8:
The Sabines earned universal commendation as a people of hardy mountaineers, plain and parsimonious, austere and god-fearing, tenaciously attached to the ancient ways. Some will have it that Sabines were prone to mysticism.6 That notion can do little harm if it be added that they also had a tendency to emigration, liked money, and were good with donkeys.

6 E. Bolaffi, Sallustio e la sua fortuna nei secoli (1949), 23: "quella terra di montanari ... proclivi al misticismo." Also ib. 75.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


An Extravagant Horror of Feminine Society

Owen Chadwick (1916-2015), John Cassian: A Study in Primitive Monasticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1950), p. 54:
The ascetic movement as a whole suffered from an extravagant horror of feminine society, illustrated by the ascetic cry 'Approach a fiery furnace rather than a young woman!'4 Cassian did not escape this monomania.5 But a sojourn of several years in the cities of Constantinople and Rome had perhaps restored to him a certain balance, for we owe to him a diverting tale of justice. Walking in the desert, Abbot Paul met a woman and turned to run for home as though she were a dragon. This retreat being judged over-prudent by the Almighty, Paul was punished by an attack of paralysis which could not be treated by male hands, and forced his transfer to a convent where thoroughly feminine virgins nursed him until he died.6

4 Nilus, De Octo Spir. 5.
5 Coll. XIX.16.5. Cf. the story of Paphnutius in Coll. XV.10.
6 Coll. VII.26.
John Cassian, The Conferences. Translated and Annotated by Boniface Ramsey (New York: Newman Press, 1997), pp. 265-266 (7.26.3-5):
3. Here, then, Abba Paul had made such progress in purity of heart in the stillness and silence of the desert that he did not even permit himself to look at a woman's clothing, much less on a woman's face. For when a woman from nearby chanced to meet him on his way to the cell of a certain elder, along with Abba Archebius who was from the same desert, he, distressed at encountering her, ran back to his own monastery in greater haste than a person would use to flee from a lion or an immense dragon, forgoing the duty of the pious visit that he had set out upon. The situation was such that he was not even prevailed upon by the shouts and pleas of the aforesaid Abba Archebius, who was calling him back so that they might stay on the road that they had started out on in order to ask the elder what they had planned.

4. Although this was done with zeal for chastity and ardor for purity, nonetheless because it was not done according to knowledge and because the observance of discipline and the measure of appropriate strictness were excessive (for he believed that not merely familiarity with women, which really is harmful, but even the very form of that sex was to be abominated) he immediately suffered such a seizure that his whole body was paralyzed and none of its members could perform any of their functions. For not only his feet and hands but even the mechanism of his tongue, by which speech is formed, were affected, and his very ears lost their sense of hearing. The result was that nothing remained of his humanity apart from an immobile and senseless shape.

5. To such a state was he reduced that men's care was in no way sufficient to minister to his sickness, and only womanly attention was of use to him. For when he was brought to a cenobium of holy virgins, food and drink, which he was unable even to beckon for, was produced for him with feminine graciousness, all his needs of nature were satisfied, and this same care was at his disposal for nearly four years—that is, until the end of his life.
Id., pp. 280-281 (note on 7.26.3):
Flight from women is spoken of in Inst. 11.18, where the famous advice is offered: "A monk must always flee from women and bishops." Such a sentiment is a commonplace in ascetical literature. Cf. Ps.-Clement, 4.2 de virg., passim; Evagrius, Prac. 96; Apophthegmata patrum, de abbate Marco 3; ibid., de abbate Poemene 76; ibid., de abbate Sisoe 3; Hist monach. in Aegypto 1.4ff., 1.36; Regnault 71, N459; John Moschus, Pratum spirituale 88 (the story of a monk's grave that rejects a female corpse), 217. 7.26.4ff. represents a criticism of the exaggerations that often accompanied this flight, as does Verba seniorum 4.62: "A monk met some handmaidens of God on a certain road. Upon seeing them he left the path. But their superior said: 'If you were a perfect monk, you would not have looked at us in such a way as to know that we were women.'" For a study that seeks to show a more accepting attitude toward women in ancient monasticism cf. Louis Leloir, "La femme et les Pères du désert," Collectanea Cisterciensia 39 (1977): 149-159. On the possibility of heterosexual friendships within the context of monasticism cf. Rosemary Rader, Breaking Boundaries: Male/Female Friendship in Early Christian Communities (New York, 1983), 72-85.



Tibullus 1.10.45-52 (tr. Guy Lee):
Meanwhile let Peace attend the fields. White Peace in the beginning
led ploughing oxen under the curved yoke.
Peace fed the vines and stored the juices of the grape
for sons to draw wine from their fathers' casks.
In peacetime hoe & ploughshare shine while rust in the dark attacks
the soldier's cruel weapons.
Home from the sacred grove the farmer far from sober
drives wife and children in the wagon.

interea pax arva colat. pax candida primum        45
    duxit araturos sub iuga curva boves;
pax aluit vites et sucos condidit uvae,
    funderet ut nato testa paterna merum;
pace bidens vomerque nitent, at tristia duri
    militis in tenebris occupat arma situs,        50
rusticus e lucoque vehit, male sobrius ipse,
    uxorem plaustro progeniemque domum.

51 ante hunc versum lacunam statuit Moritz Haupt (Opuscula, vol. III, pp. 40-41)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Facts Not Necessary

Owen Chadwick (1916-2015), John Cassian: A Study in Primitive Monasticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1950), p. 7:
One wonders why some later Massilian monk did not compose a life of Cassian. In such enterprises a knowledge of the facts was not considered an invariable prerequisite.


Language as No Barrier

Here are some excerpts from Michael Lapidge, ed., H.M. Chadwick and the Study of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic in Cambridge (Aberystwyth: Department of Welsh, Aberystwyth University, 2015 = Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 69/70), pp. 242-253 = "Appendix III. Reminiscences of H.M. Chadwick's teaching by former pupils."

Dorothy Whitelock (p. 244):
[W]hen I once gave as a reason for unfamiliarity with a book the fact that it was in Danish, his only reply was 'I don't think you will find Danish very difficult.'
Q.D. Leavis (p. 248):
He was himself a linguistic genius, and as his students used to complain, he apparently thought that everyone is born with a knowledge of runes, Celtic languages and Old High German; but when his attention was drawn to this misunderstanding, he was always very patient and considerate.
Glyn Daniel (p. 252):
His main teaching was based extensively on non-archaeological sources: we read Tacitus and Bede, Procopius and St Germanus, the Mabinogion and the Flateyjarbök. He showed us that we were not just archaeologists but general students of antiquity and ancient history. He himself was primarily a linguist, and an historical and linguistic scholar; he mildly expected us to read everything from Greek and German and Gothic, from Beowulf to Cyndellan. Like another great scholar but in the strict field of archaeology, Vere Gordon Childe, he regarded language as no barrier. Both these great men thought their students ought to have no difficulty in all the main Indo-European languages.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


John Thomas

Thomas Browne, letter to his son Edward (June 14, 1676):
Some have queried why since nature hath been so sollicitous about the provisions for generation, this penis is only single and not double in masles, for which Sinibaldus thincks sufficiently answerd when hee sayth, Absit certe, nimis est unus. O no, God forbid, one is to much. However, the question is not altogether groundlesse, for in some animals this part is double, as in the viper, Sinibaldus, lib. 3, tractat. 1, cap. 3...
Robert Burns, letter to Robert Ainslie (March 3, 1788):
I took the opportunity of some dry horse-litter, & gave her such a thundering scalade that electrified the very marrow of her bones. Oh, what a peace-maker is a guid weel-willy pintle! It is the mediator, the guarantee, the umpire, the bond of union, the solemn league and covenant, the plenipotentiary, the Aaron's Rod, the Jacob's Staff, the prophet Elisha's pot of oil, the Ahasuerus Sceptre, the sword of mercy, the philosopher's stone, the Horn of Plenty, and Tree of Life between Man and Woman.

Monday, September 19, 2016



Libanius, Orations 7.4 (tr. Craig A. Gibson):
And so, there are thousands of human pursuits, but the best one is farming; for it gives the greatest profit to those who farm—namely, that they are good. For a man who is devoted to his fields and serious about his land stays far from the marketplace and quarreling in the marketplace, far from the courts and false accusations in the courts, far from the assembly and uproars in the assembly, neither indicting, nor lying, nor acting as a defendant, nor giving false testimony, nor demanding fair restitution, nor working for money with which to overwhelm another man with disasters. Rather, after sowing and doing everything else for his plants, he awaits the harvest and the resulting profit, planting his seeds with prayers, offering the first-fruits to the gods who have granted them, and refraining as much as possible from being a busybody, inasmuch as he spends his time among oxen and sheep and goats. As a result, farmers also seem to me to obtain what they ask from the gods easily, whenever they call upon them, because they ask for something good for themselves and certainly not for anything evil for others.

Μυρία μὲν οὖν ἐπιτηδεύματα κατὰ ἀνθρώπους, ἄριστον δὲ ἡ γεωργία. τὸ γὰρ μέγιστον κέρδος δίδωσι τοῖς γεωργοῦσι. τοῦτο δέ ἐστιν αὐτοὺς ἀγαθοὺς εἶναι. ἀνὴρ γὰρ ἀρούρᾳ προσκείμενος καὶ περὶ τὴν γῆν ἐσπουδακὼς πόρρω μὲν ἀγορᾶς καὶ τῆς ἐν ἀγορᾷ φιλονεικίας, πόρρω δὲ δικαστηρίων καὶ τῶν ἐν δικαστηρίοις συκοφαντιῶν, πόρρω δὲ ἐκκλησίας καὶ τῶν ἐπ’ ἐκκλησίας θορύβων, οὐ γραφόμενος, οὐ ψευδόμενος, οὐ φεύγων, οὐ τὰ ψευδῆ μαρτυρῶν, οὐ τὴν ἴσην ἀνταπόδοσιν ἀπαιτῶν, οὐκ ἐργαζόμενος χρήματα ἐξ ὧν ἕτερον συμφοραῖς περιέβαλλεν, ἀλλὰ σπείρας καὶ τὰ ἄλλα ποιήσας ὁπόσα περὶ τὰ φυτὰ περιμένει τὰς ὥρας καὶ τὸν ἐκεῖθεν πόρον, μετὰ μὲν εὐχῶν καταβάλλων τὰ σπέρματα, τῶν δὲ καρπῶν ἀπαρχόμενος τοῖς δεδωκόσι θεοῖς, φιλοπραγμοσύνης ὅτι πλεῖστον ἀπέχων ἅτε ἐν βουσὶ καὶ προβάτοις καὶ αἰξὶ διατρίβων, ὥστε μοι δοκοῦσι καὶ ῥᾷον τυγχάνειν τῶν θεῶν, ἡνίκα ἂν αὐτοὺς καλῶσιν αἰτοῦντες ἑαυτοῖς ἀγαθά, οὐ γὰρ δὴ ἑτέροις κακά.
Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, Query XIX:
Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth. Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phaenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example. It is the mark set on those, who not looking up to heaven, to their own soil and industry, as does the husbandman, for their subsistance, depend for it on the casualties and caprice of customers. Dependance begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition. This, the natural progress and consequence of the arts, has sometimes perhaps been retarded by accidental circumstances: but, generally speaking, the proportion which the aggregate of the other classes of citizens bears in any state to that of its husbandmen, is the proportion of its unsound to its healthy parts, and is a good-enough barometer whereby to measure its degree of corruption. While we have land to labour then, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a work-bench, or twirling a distaff.


Against the Refugees

Libanius, Orations 23.1-2 (tr. A.F. Norman):
1. We all hear the news that everywhere is full of the bodies of the dead—fields, roads, hills, ridges, caves, hilltops, groves and gullies,—some a feast for birds and beasts, others borne by the river down to the sea.

2. At such tidings, I am at times shocked, at other times am full of reproof for the sufferers and feel that they have just got what they deserve in these consequences of their flight. You could say that they drew upon themselves the swords of the assassins. If they had stayed at home, they would not have suffered such a fate...

1. Τὰ μὲν ἀγγελλόμενα πάντες ἀκούομεν, ἅπαντα εἶναι μεστὰ νεκρῶν, τάς τε ἀρούρας τάς τε ὁδοὺς τά τε ὄρη τούς τε λόφους τά τε σπήλαια καὶ τὰς κορυφὰς τῶν ὀρῶν καὶ τὰ ἄλση καὶ τὰς φάραγγας, τῶν τε νεκρῶν τοὺς μὲν ἑστιᾶν ὄρνιθας καὶ θηρία, τοὺς δὲ ὑπὸ τοῦ ποταμοῦ πρὸς θάλατταν φέρεσθαι.

2. πρὸς τοίνυν τὰς ἀγγελίας ποτὲ μὲν πλήττομαι, ποτὲ δὲ τοῖς παθοῦσιν ἐγκαλῶ καί φημι δίκαια πεπονθέναι τοὺς τῆς φυγῆς ταῦτα ἀπολαύσαντας. οὓς φαίη τις ἂν αὐτοὺς ἐπισπάσασθαι τὰ τῶν κακούργων ξίφη. ἃ γὰρ οὐκ ἂν ἐπεπόνθεσαν οἴκοι μένοντες...


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