Friday, June 23, 2017

 

Four Ages of Man

Pseudo-Hippocrates, Epistles 17.9, tr. C.D.N. Costa, Greek Fictional Letters. A Selection with Introduction, Translation, and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 102 (Greek) and 103 (English):
Do you not see that even the cosmos is full of hatred for humanity? It has collected innumerable afflictions for them. Man is one complete illness from birth: while being nurtured he is useless and a suppliant for help; as he grows up he is presumptuous and a fool in his tutor's hands; in his prime he is reckless; when past it he is pitiable, with a crop of troubles brought on himself by his own witlessness. Such he is from when he sprang from the blood of his mother's womb.

οὐχ' ὁρῇς, ὅτι καὶ ὁ κόσμος μισανθρωπίης πεπλήρωται; ἄπειρα κατ' αὐτῶν πάθεα ξυνήθροικε. ὅλος ἄνθρωπος ἐκ γενετής νοῦσός ἐστι· τρεφόμενος ἄχρηστος, ἱκέτης βοηθείης· αὐξανόμενος ἀτάσθαλος, ἄφρων διὰ χειρὸς παιδαγωγίης· θρασὺς ἀκμάζων, παρακμάζων οἰκτρός, τοὺς ἰδίους πόνους ἀλογιστίῃ γεωργήσας· ἐκ μητρῴων γὰρ λύθρων ἐξέθορε τοιοῦτος.

 

A Good Death

Suetonius, Life of Augustus 99.2 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
For almost always on hearing that anyone had died swiftly and painlessly, he prayed that he and his might have a like euthanasia, for that was the term he was wont to use.

nam fere quotiens audisset cito ac nullo cruciatu defunctum quempiam, sibi et suis εὐθανασίαν similem—hoc enim et verbo uti solebat—precabatur.

 

Our Barbarians

Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option (New York: Sentinel, 2017), p. 17:
Our barbarians have exchanged the animal pelts and spears of the past for designer suits and smartphones.
Although I'm not a professor, I usually do try to follow "Common Rules of the Professors of Higher Faculties," § 8, Ratio Studiorum (tr. Allan P. Farrell):
It scarcely becomes the dignity of a professor to cite an authority whose works he himself has not read.
I confess that I haven't read Dreher's book, except for excerpts in reviews.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

 

A Herm in the House of Caecilius Jucundus

Mary Beard, Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (London: Profile Books, 2008), pp. 181-182:
In the atrium of the house, two squared pillars (or herms) were found, of a type commonly used in the Roman world to support marble or bronze portrait heads. In the case of male portraits, genitals would be attached half way down the herm, making what is, to be honest, a rather odd ensemble. On one of these pillars genitals and bronze head survived — a highly individualised portrait of a man, with thinning hair and a prominent wart on his left cheek (Ill. 68). Both pillars carry exactly the same inscription: 'Felix, ex-slave, set this up to the our Lucius'.
There is obviously something amiss with "the our Lucius". The inscription (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum X 860) reads
Genio L(uci) nostri / Felix l(ibertus)
and should be translated
Felix, ex-slave, set this up to the genius of our Lucius.
Oxford Latin Dictionary, s.v. genius, sense 1.a:
The male spirit of a gens existing during his lifetime in the head of the family, and subsequently in the divine or spiritual part of each individual.
Herm in the House of Caecilius Jucundus (V.i.26), Pompeii (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, inv. 110663):




Another misprint in Beard's book, p. 109:
At one point, in the middle of a marital row, Trimalchio takes a barbed potshot at his wife's lowly origins: 'If you're borne on a mezzanine, you don't sleep in a house.'
For borne read born. The reference is to Petronius, Satyricon 74.14 (sed hic qui in pergula natus est aedes non somniatur).

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Restrictions on Citizenship

Suetonius, Life of Augustus 40.3 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Considering it also of great importance to keep the people pure and unsullied by any taint of foreign or servile blood, he was most chary of conferring Roman citizenship and set a limit to manumission. When Tiberius requested citizenship for a Grecian dependent of his, Augustus wrote in reply that he would not grant it unless the man appeared in person and convinced him that he had reasonable grounds for the request; and when Livia asked it for a Gaul from a tributary province, he refused, offering instead freedom from tribute, and declaring that he would more willingly suffer a loss to his privy purse than the prostitution of the honour of Roman citizenship.

magni praeterea existimans sincerum atque ab omni colluvione peregrini ac servilis sanguinis incorruptum servare populum, et civitates Romanas parcissime dedit et manumittendi modum terminavit. Tiberio pro cliente Graeco petenti rescripsit, non aliter se daturum, quam si praesens sibi persuasisset, quam iustas petendi causas haberet; et Liviae pro quodam tributario Gallo roganti civitatem negavit, immunitatem optulit affirmans facilius se passurum fisco detrahi aliquid, quam civitatis Romanae vulgari honorem.

 

How Could Anyone Ever Live Before This or That Invention?

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), Zibaldone, tr. Kathleen Baldwin et al. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), p. 1839 (Z 4198-4199):
If in time the invention, e.g., of lightning conductors (which now we must agree are hardly of much use), becomes more solidly based and extensive, more reliable, more worthy of attention, and more generally used; if aerostatic balloons, and aeronautics acquire a certain degree of science, and become more common, and utility becomes part of them (which now it is not), etc.; if so many other modern discoveries, like those of steam navigation, telegraphs, etc., find applications and improvements so as to change the face of civilized life, which does not seem unlikely; and if eventually other new discoveries compete to do that; then certainly men in a thousand years' time, will call the present age scarcely civilized, they will say that we were living in continual and extreme fear and hardship, they will find it hard to understand how people could lead and bear their lives being continually exposed to the danger of storms, lightning, etc., navigate at sea with such risk of sinking, trade [4199] and communicate with distant lands when air navigation was unknown or imperfect, the use of telegraphs, etc., they will look in wonder at how slow our present means of communication are, how unreliable, etc. And yet we have no sense of, we are not aware of how impossible or difficult the life that will be attributed to us is; we think we have a fairly comfortable life, that we communicate with one another fairly easily and quickly, that we have plenty of comforts and pleasures, in fact that we live in a century of refinement and luxury. Now believe me that exactly the same thoughts were in the minds of those men who lived before the use of fire, navigation, etc. etc., those men that we, especially in this century, with our grandiose rhetorical arguments declare were exposed to continual danger, continual and immense discomfort, ferocious animals, bad weather, hunger, thirst; continually trembling and shaking with fear, and surrounded perpetually by suffering, etc. And believe me that what I reflect on above is the perfect solution to the ridiculous problem we make for ourselves—how could men ever live in that state; how could anyone ever live before this or that invention. (Bologna, 10 September, Sunday, 1826.)

Se una volta in processo di tempo l'invenzione per esempio dei parafulmini (che ora bisogna convenire esser di molto poca utilità), piglierà piú consistenza ed estensione, diverrà di uso piú sicuro, piú considerabile e piú generale; se i palloni aereostatici, e l'aeronautica acquisterà un grado di scienza, e l'uso ne diverrà comune, e la utilità (che ora è nessuna) vi si aggiungerà ec.; se tanti altri trovati moderni, come quei della navigazione a vapore, dei telegrafi ec. riceveranno applicazioni e perfezionamenti tali da cangiare in gran parte la faccia della vita civile, come non è inverisimile; e se in ultimo altri nuovi trovati concorreranno a questo effetto; certamente gli uomini che verranno di qua a mille anni, appena chiameranno civile la età presente, diranno che noi vivevamo in continui ed estremi timori e difficoltà, stenteranno a comprendere come si potesse menare e sopportar la vita essendo di continuo esposti ai pericoli delle tempeste, dei fulmini ec., navigare con tanto rischio di sommergersi, commerciare [4199] e comunicar coi lontani essendo sconosciuta o imperfetta la navigazione aerea, l'uso dei telegrafi ec., considereranno con meraviglia la lentezza dei nostri presenti mezzi di comunicazione, la loro incertezza ec. Eppur noi non sentiamo, non ci accorgiamo di questa tanta impossibilità o difficoltà di vivere che ci verrà attribuita; ci par di fare una vita assai comoda, di comunicare insieme assai facilmente e speditamente, di abbondar di piaceri e di comodità, in fine di essere in un secolo raffinatissimo e lussurioso. Or credete pure a me che altrettanto pensavano quegli uomini che vivevano avanti l'uso del fuoco, della navigazione ec. ec. quegli uomini che noi, specialmente in questo secolo, con magnifiche dicerie rettoriche predichiamo come esposti a continui pericoli, continui ed immensi disagi, bestie feroci, intemperie, fame, sete; come continuamente palpitanti e tremanti dalla paura, e tra perpetui patimenti ec. E credete a me che la considerazione detta di sopra è una perfetta soluzione del ridicolo problema che noi ci facciamo: come potevano mai vivere gli uomini in quello stato; come si poteva mai vivere avanti la tale o la tal altra invenzione (Bologna. 10 settembre Domenica. 1826).

 

Pert Little Fellows

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Untimely Meditations (Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen), II: "On the Use and Abuse of History for Life" ("Vom Nutzen und Nachtheil der Historie für das Leben"), § 4 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
[W]e behold pert little fellows associating with the Romans as though they were their equals: and they root and burrow in the remains of the Greek poets as though these too were corpora for their dissection and were as vilia as their own literary corpora may be.

[K]leine vorlaute Burschen sehen wir mit den Römern umgehen, als wären diese ihres gleichen: und in den Überresten griechischer Dichter wühlen und graben sie, als ob auch diese corpora für ihre Sektion bereitlägen und vilia wären, was ihre eignen literarischen corpora sein mögen.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

 

The Thucydides Trap

Michael Crowley, "Why the White House Is Reading Greek History," Politico Magazine (June 21, 2017):
Most Americans probably don't know Thucydides from Mephistopheles.

 

Addressing the Troops

Suetonius, Life of Julius 67.2 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
In the assembly he addressed them not as "soldiers," but by the more flattering term "comrades"...

nec milites eos pro contione, sed blandiore nomine commilitones appellabat...
Id. 70:
Again at Rome, when the men of the Tenth clamoured for their discharge and rewards with terrible threats and no little peril to the city, though the war in Africa was then raging, he did not hesitate to appear before them, against the advice of his friends, and to disband them. But with a single word, calling them "citizens," instead of "soldiers," he easily brought them round and bent them to his will; for they at once replied that they were his "soldiers" and insisted on following him to Africa, although he refused their service.

Decimanos autem Romae cum ingentibus minis summoque etiam urbis periculo missionem et praemia flagitantes, ardente tunc in Africa bello, neque adire cunctatus est, quanquam deterrentibus amicis, neque dimittere; sed una voce, qua "Quirites" eos pro militibus appellarat, tam facile circumegit et flexit, ut ei milites esse confestim responderint et quamvis recusantem ultro in Africam sint secuti.
Suetonius, Life of Augustus 25.1 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
After the civil wars he never called any of the troops "comrades," either in the assembly or in an edict, but always "soldiers"; and he would not allow them to be addressed otherwise, even by those of his sons or stepsons who held military commands, thinking the former term too flattering for the requirements of discipline, the peaceful state of the times, and his own dignity and that of his household.

neque post bella civilia aut in contione aut per edictum ullos militum commilitones appellabat, sed milites, ac ne a filiis quidem aut privignis suis imperio praeditis aliter appellari passus est, ambitiosius id existimans, quam aut ratio militaris aut temporum quies aut sua domusque suae maiestas postularet.
See Suetonius, Divus Julius. Edited with Commentary by H.E. Butler & M. Cary with New Introduction, Bibliography and Additional Notes by G.B. Townend (Bristol: Bristol Classical Press, 1982), p. 128, and Eleanor Dickey, Latin Forms of Address (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002; rpt. 2007), pp. 288-291.

 

Holy Anorexia

Lyndal Roper, Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet (New York: Random House, 2017), p. 52:
On the way back, the two Augustinians stopped at Augsburg, where, Luther recalled, he was taken to meet the holy Anna 'Laminit', or 'leave me not'. The daughter of simple craftspeople, she was believed to live miraculously without eating. This kind of religiosity — or what modern writers have termed 'holy anorexia' — was a powerful streak in late medieval devotion, encouraged by an extreme asceticism that regarded bodily appetites as inimical to religious perfection. Female saints in particular might fast to extremes and undergo mystical experiences. In a church which was deeply distrustful of women, asceticism offered them an avenue of expression and authority. Laminit reported visions of St Anna, her name saint and the saint to whom we know Luther himself was attached. Not only did she go without food, she was famed as passing neither water nor stools.
Id., p. 53:
She was unmasked soon after by the duchess of Bavaria, who discovered her secret stash of luxury food, such as pepper-cakes and pears; it turned out that she emptied her stools out of the window.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

 

Pleasure as a Central Value in Life

House of the Figured Capitals (VII.iv.57), Pompeii (married couple):


House of the Figured Capitals (VII.iv.57), Pompeii (maenad and satyr):


Paul Zanker, Pompeii: Public and Private Life, tr. Deborah Lucas Schneider (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), pp. 38-39:
On the capital to the right of the entrance the master of the house, naked to the waist, is shown at a banquet, together with his wife. Across from them are a drunken satyr and maenad. With this type of self-depiction the owner identified himself with the cult of Dionysus and the notion of pleasure as a central value in life.

 

Right and Wrong

Dissoi Logoi 2.18 (tr. Daniel W. Graham):
I think if one were to bid all men to gather together what is wrong, according to their opinions, into one pile, and from this collection to take what is right, according to the views of each, not one thing <would> be left, but all would take all. For all do not have the same beliefs.

οἶμαι δ', αἴ τις τὰ αἰσχρὰ ἐς ἓν κελεύοι συνενεῖκαι πάντας ἀνθρώπως, ἃ ἕκαστοι νομίζοντι, καὶ πάλιν ἐξ ἀθρόων τούτων τὰ καλὰ λαβέν, ἃ ἕκαστοι ἅγηνται, οὐδὲ ἕν <κα> καλλειφθῆμεν, ἀλλὰ πάντας πάντα διαλαβέν. οὐ γὰρ πάντες ταὐτὰ νομίζοντι.

<κα>
suppl. Weber

 

Recipe for a Happy Life

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), Sudelbücher G 75 (tr. Sten G. Flygt):
How happily would many a person live if he concerned himself as little about other people's affairs as about his own.

Wie glücklich würde mancher leben, wenn er sich um anderer Leute Sachen so wenig bekümmerte, als um seine eigenen.
Related posts:

Monday, June 19, 2017

 

The Anti-Fanatic

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), Erasmus of Rotterdam, tr. Eden and Cedar Paul (1934; rpt. New York: Viking, 1956), pp. 5-6:
On this ground Erasmus set his face against every form of fanaticism, whether religious, national, or philosophical, considering it as the prime enemy to mutual understanding. He detested bigotry in all its manifestations; he loathed the stiffnecked and the biased, whether these wore a priestly cassock or a professorial gown; he hated those who put on blinkers, and the zealots of every class and race who demanded immediate acquiescence in their own opinions while looking upon the ideas that failed to correspond with theirs as rank heresy or rascality. Just as he himself never wished to impose his outlooks upon his neighbour, so in turn did he refuse to be burdened with the religious or political theories of others if these happened to be alien and unacceptable. He took it as a matter of course that a man had a right to his own opinions; absolute independence of mind was essential. Himself a free spirit, he looked upon it as a fettering of the delightful manifoldedness of the universe when, from pulpit or university chair, a man declared his truth to be the only truth, to be a special message which God had whispered into his ear and his ear alone.
Id., p. 17:
To right of him was exaggeration and to left was exaggeration, to right he saw fanaticism and to left; and he, the intractable antifanatic, desired to serve neither one form of excess nor the other.
Id., pp. 68-69:
But his favourite method of resistance was simply to withdraw into his shell like a snail whenever the tumult raged around him. The safest shelter, then, was his study, behind a barricade of books. Here he deemed himself really secure.
Id., p. 233:
[N]one was willing to understand what his neighbour said, but instead each tried to impose his own pet belief, his particular doctrine, upon all the rest. Woe unto him who stood aside and took no part in the game! Twofold hatred was hurled against those who remained aloof. Those who live for the spirit are lonely indeed at times when passion rages. Who is there left to write for when ears are deafened with political yappings and yelpings?

 

Death

Dissoi Logoi 1.3 (tr. Daniel W. Graham):
Further, death is bad for those who die, but good for undertakers and makers of tombs.

ὁ τοίνυν θάνατος τοῖς μὲν ἀποθανοῦσι κακόν, τοῖς δ' ἐνταφιοπώλαις καὶ τυμβοποιοῖς ἀγαθόν.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

 

Humanum Est Peccare

Ovid, Tristia 2.33-34 (tr. Arthur Leslie Wheeler, rev. G.P. Goold):
If at every human error Jupiter should hurl his thunderbolts, he would in a brief space be weaponless.

si, quotiens peccant homines, sua fulmina mittat
    Iuppiter, exiguo tempore inermis erit.

 

A Gulf

George Eliot (1819-1880), "German Wit: Heinrich Heine:"
The last thing in which the cultivated man can have community with the vulgar is their jocularity; and we can hardly exhibit more strikingly the wide gulf which separates him from them, than by comparing the object which shakes the diaphragm of a coal-heaver with the highly complex pleasure derived from a real witticism.
I'm on the coal-heaver's side of the gulf.

 

Family

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), Zibaldone, tr. Kathleen Baldwin et al. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), p. 1863 (Z 4226-4227):
Hierocles makes a most beautiful observation in De amore fraterno, in Stobaeus's discourse ὅτι κάλλιστον ἡ φιλαδελφία, etc. 84 Grotius, 82 Gessner: that as human life is like a continual war, in which we are attacked by external things (by nature and by fortune), our brothers, parents, relations are given to us as allies and supporters, etc. Finding myself far away from my family, although I was surrounded by kind people, and had no enemies, yet I recall how I lived in a kind of fear [4227] or continual timidity, in the face of troubles not of human making, and as they came over me, they frightened me and wore me down, and afflicted my soul rather more than usual, for no other reason than because I felt myself alone amid enemies, that is, in the hands of hostile nature, without allies, because my family was far away; (Recanati, 16 Nov. 1826) and on the other hand how, when I went back to them, I felt a powerful and clear sense of security, courage, and peace of mind at the thought, anticipation, arrival of adversities, illnesses, etc.

Bellissima è l'osservazione di Hierocles, nel libro de Amore fraterno, ap. Stobeo serm. 82, ὅτι κάλλιστον ἡ φιλαδελφία etc. 84. Grot. 82. Gesner. che essendo la vita umana come una continua guerra, nella quale siamo combattuti dalle cose di fuori (dalla natura e dalla fortuna), i fratelli, i genitori, i parenti ci son dati come alleati e ausiliari ec. E io, trovandomi lontano dalla mia famiglia, benché circondato da persone benevole, e benché senza inimici, pur mi ricordo di esser vissuto in una specie di timore [4227] o timidezza continua, rispetto ai mali indipendenti dagli uomini, e questi, sopravvenendomi, avermi spaventato, ed abbattuto e afflitto l'animo assai piú del solito, non per altro se non perché io mi sentiva essere come solo in mezzo a nemici, cioè in mano alla nemica natura, senza alleati, per la lontananza de' miei; (Recanati. 16 novembre 1826), e per lo contrario, ritornando fra loro, aver provato un vivo e manifesto senso di sicurezza, di coraggio, e di quiete d'animo, al pensiero, all'aspettativa, al sopravvenirmi di avversità, malattie ec.
See Hierocles the Stoic: Elements of Ethics, Fragments, and Excerpts. By Ilaria Ramelli. Translated by David Konstan (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009), pp. 88 (Greek) and 89 (English):
In general, one must consider that life for us runs the risk of being a long and perennial battle, and this, on the one hand, because of the very nature of things, which have something contrary about them, and, on the other hand, because of the sudden and unexpected assaults of fortune, but most of all because of vice itself, which does not refrain from any kind of violence or treachery or evil schemes. Hence, nature has, as though it were not ignorant of why it creates us, nicely brought each of us into the world with, in a way, an ally. Thus, no one is alone, or born from an oak or a rock, but rather from parents and with brothers and relatives and other members of the household.

ὅλως δὲ ἐνθυμητέον ὡς ὁ βίος ἡμῖν κινδυνεύει μακρός τις εἶναι καὶ πολυετὴς πόλεμος, τοῦτο μὲν διὰ τὴν αὐτῶν τῶν πραγμάτων φύσιν ἐχόντων τι ἀντίτακτον, τοῦτο δὲ διὰ τὰς ἐξαιφνιδίους καὶ ἀπροσδοκήτους ἐπιδρομὰς τῆς τύχης, πολὺ δὲ μάλιστα δι' αὐτὴν τὴν κακίαν οὔτε βίας τινὸς ἀπεχομένην οὔτε δόλου καὶ κακῶν στρατηγημάτων. ὅθεν καλῶς ἡ φύσις, ὡς ἂν ἐφ' ἃ γεννᾷ μὴ ἀγνοοῦσα, παρήγαγεν ἡμῶν ἕκαστον τρόπον τινὰ μετὰ συμμαχίας. οὐδεὶς οὖν ἐστι μόνος οὐδ' ἀπὸ δρυὸς οὐδ' ἀπὸ πέτρης, ἀλλ' ἐκ γονέων καὶ μετ' ἀδελφῶν καὶ συγγενῶν καὶ ἄλλων οἰκείων.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

 

Carmen et Error

Ovid, Tristia. Ex Ponto, tr. Arthur Leslie Wheeler (1924; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1939 = Loeb Classical Library, 151), pp. 70-71 (Tristia 2.207-208; footnote omitted):
perdiderint cum me duo crimina, carmen et error,
    alterius facti culpa silenda mihi...

Though two crimes, a poem and a blunder have brought me ruin, of my fault in the one I must keep silent...
Ovid, Tristia. Ex Ponto, tr. Arthur Leslie Wheeler, 2nd ed. rev. G.P. Goold (1988; "Reprinted with corrections" Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996 = Loeb Classical Library, 151), pp. 70-71 (Tristia 2.207-208; footnote omitted):
perdiderint cum me duo crimina, carmen et error,
    alterius facti culpa silena mihi...

Though two crimes, a poem and a blunder have brought me ruin, of my fault in the one I must keep silent...
Sometime between 1939 and 1996 an error crept in—silena instead of the correct silenda. The Digital Loeb Classical Library has silenda.

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Who Were the Mugs?

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), "The Lotus Eater" (Wilson speaking):
"Leisure," he said. "If people only knew! It's the most priceless thing a man can have and they're such fools they don't even know it's something to aim at. Work? They work for work's sake. They haven't got the brains to realize that the only object of work is to obtain leisure."
Id.:
"Then I read a sort of history book, by a man called Marion Crawford it was, and there was a story about Sybaris and Crotona. There were two cities; and in Sybaris they just enjoyed life and had a good time, and in Crotona they were hardy and industrious and all that. And one day the men of Crotona came over and wiped Sybaris out, and then after a while a lot of other fellows came over from somewhere else and wiped Crotona out. Nothing remains of Sybaris, not a stone, and all that's left of Crotona is just one column. That settled the matter for me."

"Oh?"

"It came to the same in the end, didn't it? And when you look back now, who were the mugs?"
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

 

Take Nothing Seriously

Georges Fourest (1864-1945), quoted in Histoires littéraires, vol. XVIII, n69 (Janvier-Février-Mars 2017) 173-174 (tr. Ian Jackson):
Take nothing seriously: not yourself, nor others, nor anything in this world or in the next; — consider art (no capital A) to be neither a business (which is vile) nor a "priesthood" (which is naïve) but simply a pastime less absorbing than bridge, less demeaning than lotto: — aim to achieve perfection in things that are difficult and useless, remember that a writer will never be the equal of a clown, a juggler or a tightrope walker, and do not allow a day to pass without meditating on this declaration of our distant ancestor Malherbe: "A great poet is of no more use to the state than a good player at skittles" — spend as little time as possible with your contemporaries and try to live as comfortably as possible while working as little as possible. Take pains always to seem happy: this will annoy your friends.

Ne prends au sérieux ni toi ni les autres ni rien en ce monde ou dans l'autre; — ne vois dans l'art (sans A majuscule) ni un commerce ce qui est vil, ni un «sacerdoce» ce qui est niais mais simplement un jeu moins absorbant que le bridge moins abrutissant que le loto; — efforce-toi de faire dans la perfection des choses difficiles et inutiles, souviens-toi qu'un écrivain ne sera jamais l'égal d'un clown, d'un jongleur ou d'un équilibriste et ne laisse jamais passer un jour sans méditer cette sentence de notre vieil ancêtre Malherbe: «Un grand poète n'est pas plus utile à l'État qu'un très bon joueur de quilles»; — fréquente le moins possible tes contemporains et tâche de vivre le plus confortablement possible en travaillant le moins possible. Aie soin de paraître toujours heureux: cela vexera tes amis.
The quotation from Malherbe can be found in "Vie de Mr de Malherbe par Mr de Racan," in Oeuvres de Malherbe, ed. L. Lalanne, Tome I (Paris: Hachette, 1862), pp. lxiii-lxxxviii (at lxxvii).

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Friday, June 16, 2017

 

Letting It Out, versus Keeping It In

K.J. Dover, Greek Popular Morality (1974; rpt. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1994), p. 101:
While it is the part of a man to endure misfortune bravely (Antiphanes fr. 278), women grieve, complain and weep readily: Alexis fr. 146. 10f., 'When there's nothing the matter with them at all, they always say they're sick'; Eur. Andr. 93-5, the natural inclination of a woman to express her grief and not contain it within herself; Eur. Hel. 991f; Eur. Med. 909, unrestrained anger; ibid. 928, tearfulness; Eur. Or. 1022, reproof of Elektra for her 'womanish lamentations'; Soph. Trach. 1071-5, Herakles, forced by terrible pain to 'weep like a girl', thus becomes 'female'. In Eur. Erechtheus fr. 53 (Austin) 33f. Erechtheus is ashamed to take too fond a farewell of his son, (literally) 'for a woman-hearted spirit is not of a sophos man'.
The tug of war between putting one's emotions on display and keeping them hidden seems to be reflected in Plautus, Cistellaria 59-64 (Selenium and Gymnasium speaking; tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
SEL. I'm wretched and I'm being tortured, my dear Gymnasium: I'm feeling bad and I'm being tormented in a bad way.
I feel pain in my heart, I feel pain in my eyes, I feel pain in my sorrow.        60
What should I say, except that I'm driven to sadness by my own silliness?
GYM. Mind that you make your silliness ready for burial in the place from which it originates.
SEL. What should I do? GYM. Hide it in the darkness in your inmost heart.
Make sure that you alone know your silliness without other witnesses.

SEL. misera excrucior, mea Gymnasium: male mihi est, male maceror;
doleo ab animo, doleo ab oculis, doleo ab aegritudine.        60
quid <ego> dicam nisi stultitia mea me in maerorem rapi?
GYM. indidem unde oritur facito ut facias stultitiam sepelibilem.
SEL. quid faciam? GYM. in latebras abscondas pectore penitissumo.
tuam stultitiam sola facito ut scias sine aliis arbitris.

61 <ego> suppl. Wachter; rapi Gulielmius: rapit P
Walter Stockert doesn't discuss this in his commentary ad loc.—T. Maccius Plautus, Cistellaria: Einleitung, Text und Kommentar (Munich: C.H. Beck, 2012), pp. 102-105.

Related posts:

 

Back to School

Thomas Babington Macaulay, letter to his mother (August 23, 1815), quoted in George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, 2nd ed. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1877), Vol. I, p. 58:
I have again begun my life of sterile monotony, unvarying labor, the dull return of dull exercises in dull uniformity of tediousness.

 

Women Eating Lunch Together

Kathryn Gutzwiller and Ömer Çelik, "New Menander Mosaics from Antioch," American Journal of Archaeology 116.4 (October, 2012) 573-623 (at 597-606); Niall W. Slater, "The Evidence of the Zeugma Synaristosai Mosaic for Imperial Performance of Menander," Ancient Comedy and Reception: Essays in Honor of Jeffrey Henderson, ed. S. Douglas Olson (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014), pp. 366-374; and Mario Telò, "Basket Case: Material Girl and Animate Object in Plautus's Cistellaria," in Roman Drama and its Contexts, edd. Stavros Frangoulidis et al. (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016), pp. 299-316 (at 302-305), discuss mosaics depicting Menander, Synaristosai (the original of Plautus, Cistellaria).

Mosaic, copy of original by Dioscourides of Samos, from Villa of Cicero, Pompeii (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, inv. 9987):


Mosaic from House of Zosimus, Zeugma (Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology, inv. no. 8177):


Mosaic from House of Menander, Mytilene (New Archaeological Museum of Mytilene):


Detail of mosaic from Daphne near Antioch (Hatay Archaeology Museum?):


See also Ioannis M. Konstantakos, "The Drinking Theatre: Staged Symposia in Greek Comedy," Mnemosyne 58.2 (2005) 183-217 (Menander, Synaristosai at 194-198), and Sebastiana Nervegna, "Menander at Dinner Parties," Menander in Antiquity: The Contexts of Reception (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 120-200.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

 

An Early Reader

George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, 2nd ed. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1877), Vol. I, p. 27:
From the time that he was three years old he read incessantly, for the most part lying on the rug before the fire, with his book on the ground, and a piece of bread and butter in his hand. A very clever woman who then lived in the house as a parlour-maid told how he used to sit in his nankeen frock, perched on the table by her as she was cleaning the plate, and expounding to her out of a volume as big as himself. He did not care for toys, but was very fond of taking his walk, when he would hold forth to his companion, whether nurse or mother, telling interminable stories out of his own head, or repeating what he had been reading in language far above his years. His memory retained without effort the phraseology of the book which he had been last engaged on, and he talked, as the maid said, "quite printed words," which produced an effect that appeared formal, and often, no doubt, exceedingly droll.

 

Reading Plautus

Petrarch (1304-1374), Rerum Familiarum Libri 5.14.1 (tr. Aldo S. Bernardo):
Recently I was reading some charming stories by Plautus for the sake of fleeing boredom and relaxing my mind, and thereby for a short moment with the help of the ancient poet avoided the heavy cares of life. It is certainly astonishing how many pleasant stories and elegant pieces I have found therein, and what trickery of servants, what old wives' tales, what flattery of harlots, what greed of panders, what voraciousness of parasites, what anxieties of old men, and what youthful loves.

Nuper, dum fugiendi fastidii et relaxandi animi gratia lepidissimas fabellas apud Plautum legerem, curisque mordacibus tantillum temporis vetustissimi vatis auxilio cor furarer, mirum dictu quot ibi iocundas narrationes, quot elegantes nugas invenerim, quas serviles fallacias, quas aniles ineptias, quas meretricum blanditias, quam lenonis avaritiam, quam parasiti voraginem, quam senum solicitudinem, quos adolescentium amores.
Venustissimi for vetustissimi crossed my mind, but there is no need to emend.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

 

Endearments

Plautus, Poenulus 365-367 (tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
My darling, my pleasure, my life, my charm,
apple of my eye, my lip, my salvation, my kiss,
my honey, my heart, my beestings, my soft little cheese.

mea voluptas, mea delicia, mea vita, mea amoenitas,
meus ocellus, meum labellum, mea salus, meum savium,
meum mel, meum cor, mea colustra, meus molliculus caseus.
On beestings see Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. beest:
The first milk drawn from a mammal, especially a cow, after parturition.
Id., s.v. colostrum:
The milk secreted by a female mammal around the time of giving birth, which is a watery fluid with a high protein content, including maternal antibodies which provide passive immunity to the newborn. In early use also: the cream or coagulated protein of ordinary milk (obs.).
Paul Nixon translates mea colustra as "my peaches and cream."

Eleanor Dickey, Latin Forms of Address (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002; rpt. 2007), pp. 156-157:
[A] string of endearments begins with perfectly plausible addresses such as mea voluptas 'my pleasure' and then progresses into absurdities such as mea colustra, meu' molliculus caseus 'my colostrum, my soft little cheese' for humorous effect (cf. Maurach 1988: 99). Like gallina 'chicken' in the Asinaria, these absurd terms are open to interpretation as less than fully complimentary, and it would be a mistake to assume on the basis of the Plautine evidence that they were ever used as endearments elsewhere in Latin.
But cf. mea colustra as a term of endearment in Laberius, fragment 67: see Decimus Laberius, The Fragments. Edited with an Introduction, Translation, and Commentary by Costas Panayotakis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 392-393, 397-398. And as for bird names used as endearments, ducky (νηττάριον) is as old as Aristophanes (Wealth 1011) and Menander (fragment 652).

I don't have access to Gregor Maurach's commentary on the Poenulus.

 

Fish

Fish mosaic, from the House of the Faun (VI.xii.2), Pompeii (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, inv. 9997):


Identification of fish on the mosaic, from Alison E. Cooley and M.G.L. Cooley, Pompeii and Herculaneum: A Sourcebook, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2014), p. 246 (Figure 8.1):


See also Lello Capaldo and Ugo Moncharmont, "Animali di ambiente marino in due mosaici Pompeiani," Rivista di studi pompeiani 3 (1989) 53-68; David S. Reese, "Fish: Evidence from Specimens, Mosaics, Wall Paintings, and Roman Authors," in Wilhelmina Feemster Jashemski and Frederick G. Meyer, edd., The Natural History of Pompeii (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 274-291; and Reese, "Marine Invertebrates, Freshwater Shells, and Land Snails: Evidence from Specimens, Mosaics, Wall Paintings, Sculpture, Jewelry, and Roman Authors," id., pp. 292-314.

Fish for sale in Naples:


C. David Badham, Prose Halieutics: Or, Ancient and Modern Fish Tattle (London: John W. Parker and Son, 1854), p. 85:
[M]any an elaborate mosaic and brilliant little fresco of painted fish adorn the walls and flooring of the houses of Pompeii and Herculaneum, looking, after an eighteen hundred years' potting in a lava pie-crust, almost as fresh and ruddy as their readily recognized descendants in the Neapolitan pescherias.
Thanks to my daughter for the photograph of the Naples fish market.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

 

Defence Against an Attempted Home Invasion

Epistula Caesaris Augusti ad Astypalaeos = Inscriptiones Graecae XII,3 174, tr. Allan Chester Johnson et al., Ancient Roman Statutes (1961; rpt. Clark: The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd., 2003), p. 124, § 147:
When I ordered my friend Asinius Gallus of my retinue to examine by torture their slaves, who were accused in the charge, I learned that Philinus, son of Chrysippus, had gone for three successive nights to the dwelling of Eubulus, son of Anaxandrides, and Tryphera, crying out insults and threatening to break in by force. On the third night Philinus was joined in the attack by his brother Eubulus, son of Chrysippus. Eubulus, son of Anaxandrides, and Tryphera, the owners of the house, seeing that they neither had a quarrel with Philinus nor were able to find safety in their own home, though they barricaded themselves against their attacks, gave orders to one of their slaves not to commit murder, as perhaps one might be inclined with justifiable anger, but to repel them by pouring the contents of the chamber pots over their heads. But the slave—whether accidentally or intentionally, for he persisted in his denial—let go the pot with its contents, and Eubulus fell, though it would have been more in accordance with justice, if his brother had been killed instead.
Gardy-loo!

Greek here (thanks to Joel Eidsath for the link).

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Things Worth Fighting For

Cicero, Against Catiline 4.24 (tr. C. Macdonald):
With the care, therefore, and the courage that you have displayed from the beginning, take your decision upon the salvation of yourselves and of the Roman people, upon your wives and children, your altars and hearths, your shrines and temples, the buildings and homes of the entire city, your dominion and your freedom, the safety of Italy and upon the whole Republic.

quapropter de summa salute vestra populique Romani, de vestris coniugibus ac liberis, de aris ac focis, de fanis atque templis, de totius urbis tectis ac sedibus, de imperio ac libertate, de salute Italiae, de universa re publica decernite diligenter, ut instituistis, ac fortiter.

 

Destruction of Seamus Heaney's Chestnut Tree

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), The Government of the Tongue: Selected Prose, 1978-1987 (1988; rpt. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990), pp. 3-4:
In 1939, the year that Patrick Kavanagh arrived in Dublin, an aunt of mine planted a chestnut in a jam jar. When it began to sprout she broke the jar, made a hole and transplanted the thing under a hedge in front of the house. Over the years, the seedling shot up into a young tree that rose taller and taller above the boxwood hedge. And over the years I came to identify my own life with the life of the chestnut tree.

This was because everybody remembered and constantly repeated the fact that it had been planted the year I was born; also because I was something of a favourite with that particular aunt, so her affection came to be symbolized in the tree; and also perhaps because the chestnut was the one significant thing that grew as I grew. The rest of the trees and hedges round the house were all mature and appeared therefore like given features of the world: the chestnut tree, on the other hand, was young and was watched in much the same way as the other children and myself were watched and commented upon, fondly, frankly and unrelentingly.

When I was in my early teens, the family moved away from that house and the new owners of the place eventually cut down every tree around the yard and the lane and the garden, including the chestnut tree. We deplored all that, of course, but life went on satisfactorily enough where we resettled, and for years I gave no particular thought to the place we had left or to my tree which had been felled. Then, all of a sudden, a couple of years ago, I began to think of the space where the tree had been or would have been. In my mind’s eye I saw it as a kind of luminous emptiness, a warp and waver of light, and once again, in a way that I find hard to define, I began to identify with that space just as years before I had identified with the young tree.

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Destruction of Boileau's Arbor

Louis Racine (1692-1763), "Mémoires sur la vie de Jean Racine," in Oeuvres de Jean Racine (Paris: Laplace, Sanchez et Cie, Éditeurs, 1873), pp. 1-64 (at 63):
Quoique Boileau aimât toujours sa maison d'Auteuil, et n'eût aucun besoin d'argent, M. Le Verrier lui persuada de la lui vendre, en l'assurant qu'il y serait toujours également le maître, et lui faisant promettre qu'il s'y conserverait une chambre qu'il viendrait souvent occuper. Quinze jours après la vente, il y retourne, entre dans le jardin, et n'y trouvant plus un berceau sous lequel il avait coutume d'aller rêver, appelle Antoine, et lui demande ce qu'est devenu son berceau. Antoine lui répond qu'il a été détruit par ordre de M. Le Verrier. Boileau, après avoir rêvé un moment, remonte dans son carrosse en disant: «Puisque je ne suis plus le maître ici, qu'est-ce que j'y viens faire?» Il n'y revint plus.
My translation:
Although Boileau always loved his house at Auteuil and had no need of money, M. Le Verrier persuaded him to sell it to him, assuring him that he would always be jointly in charge of it, and promising him that a room would be kept for him where he could often come to stay. Two weeks after the sale he returned and went into the garden. No longer finding an arbor beneath which he used to go to day-dream, he summoned [the gardener] Antoine, and asked him what had become of his arbor. Antoine replied that it had been destroyed on M. Le Verrier's instructions. Boileau, lost in thought for a moment, climbed back into his carriage with the words, "Since I'm no longer master, what am I doing here?" He never went back.
Berceau must be understood in its horticultural meaning of arbor or bower (Trésor de la langue française informatisé, s.v., sense II.A.1):
Voûte de feuillage couvrant une allée, une tonnelle...
Similarly Harrap's New Standard French and English Dictionary (London: Harrap, 1980), s.v., sense 2.c.

Cf. Les Satires de Boileau: commentées par lui-même et publiées avec des notes par Frédéric Lachèvre (Paris: Impr. de Vaugirard, 1906), p. x (footnotes omitted):
Le Verrier acheta à Boileau, en 1709, pour la somme de 8.000 livres payable le 26 janvier 1712, avec intérêts au denier vingt, et une pension viagère de 300 livres, sa maison d'Auteuil, y compris les meubles et tableaux, lui donnant l'assurance que, dans cette maison, il continuerait d'être chez lui. Peu de temps après la vente, Boileau retournant à Auteuil constata avec chagrin que son berceau préféré avait été abattu par son ex-jardinier Antoine sur l'ordre de Le Verrier. Dépité, il serait remonté dans sa voiture pour ne plus revenir. Si cette anecdote n'a pas été inventée à plaisir, il est certain que Boileau n'en garda nulle rancune à Le Verrier, car il entretint avec lui les meilleures relations jusqu'à sa mort arrivée le 13 avril 1711.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

 

The Most Beautiful Spot on Earth

Florus, Epitome 1.16.3-6 (tr. E.S. Forster):
[3] The district of Campania is the fairest of all regions not only in Italy but in the whole world. Nothing can be softer than its climate: indeed it has spring and its flowers twice a year. Nowhere is the soil more fertile; for which reason it is said to have been an object of contention between Liber and Ceres. [4] Nowhere is the coast more hospitable, which contains the famous harbours of Caieta, Misenus, Baiae with its hot springs, and the Lucrine and Avernian Lakes where the sea seems to enjoy perpetual repose. [5] Here are the vine-clad mountains of Gaurus, Falernus and Massicus, and Vesuvius, the fairest of them all, which rivals the fires of Etna. [6] Towards the sea-coast lie the cities of Formiae, Cumae, Puteoli, Naples, Herculaneum and Pompeii, and Capua, queen among cities, formerly accounted among the three greatest in the world.

[3] omnium non modo Italiae, sed toto orbe terrarum pulcherrima Campaniae plaga est. nihil mollius caelo: denique bis floribus vernat. nihil uberius solo: ideo Liberi Cererisque certamen dicitur. [4] nihil hospitalius mari: hic illi nobiles portus Caieta, Misenus, tepentes fontibus Baiae, Lucrinus et Avernus, quaedam maris otia. [5] hic amicti vitibus montes Gaurus, Falernus, Massicus et pulcherrimus omnium Vesuvius, Aetnaei ignis imitator. [6] urbes ad mare Formiae, Cumae, Puteoli, Neapolis, Herculaneum, Pompei, et ipsa caput urbium Capua, quondam inter tres maximas [Romam Carthaginemque] numerata.

6 Romam Carthaginemque del. Haupt

 

A Prayer

Plautus, Poenulus 1187-1189 (Hanno speaking; tr. Paul Nixon):
Oh, Jupiter, who dost cherish and nurture the human race,
through whom we live and draw the breath of being,
in whom rest the hopes and lives of all mankind,
I beg thee grant that this day may prosper
that which I have in hand...

Iuppiter, qui genus colis alisque hominum,
per quem vivimus vitalem aevom,
quem penes spes vitae sunt hominum
omnium, da diem hunc sospitem, quaeso,
rebus meis agundis...

1189 rebus meis agundis del. Geppert, meis rebus agundis Mueller
A general purpose prayer up to this point. The rest of the prayer relates to Hanno's specific circumstances.

 

Slash-Cut-and-Carve Critics

W.M. Lindsay, "Plautus, Poenulus 1168," Classical Quarterly 12.3/4 (July-October, 1918) 140:
How any editor of Plautus can become one of the slash-cut-and-carve critics I cannot understand. The fair garden-beds of Plautus are scored all over with the hoof-prints of the reckless emender.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

 

He Led an Unassuming Life

Epitaph of C.E. Graves (1839-1920), written by himself, quoted in Terrot Reaveley Glover, Cambridge Retrospect (1943; rpt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 54:
Near where the Cam its margin laves
Is laid the Reverend Mr Graves,
Whom students reckoned at St John's
Among the decent sort of Dons.
His pupils always found him kind
And to their faults a little blind.
To learning he made small pretence
But lectured plainly and with sense.
As preacher he his help would lend
Or read the prayers to serve a friend.
Contented, and not apt to blame,
He took things mostly as they came.
He led an unassuming life
And loved his children and his wife.
He liked a pipe and modest glass,
He liked to see a pretty lass.
He did no harm, and, when he could,
Maybe he did a little good.
Of life he had a lengthy lease:
Pray heaven his soul may rest in peace.

 

Advice I'm Unlikely to Follow

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 2.2.2 (tr. C.R. Haines):
Away with thy books! Be no longer drawn aside by them: it is not allowed.

ἄφες τὰ βιβλία· μηκέτι σπῶ· οὐ δέδοται.
Id., 2.3.3:
But away with thy thirst for books, that thou mayest die not murmuring but with a good grace, truly and from thy heart grateful to the Gods.

τὴν δὲ τῶν βιβλίων δίψαν ῥῖψον, ἵνα μὴ γογγύζων ἀποθάνῃς, ἀλλὰ ἵλεως, ἀληθῶς, καὶ ἀπὸ καρδίας εὐχάριστος τοῖς θεοῖς.

Albert Anker (1831-1910), Sitzender Bauer beim Lesen

 

Against Drunkenness

Heinrich Lausberg, Handbook of Literary Rhetoric, Eng. tr. (Leiden: Brill, 1998), §§ 882-886 (pp. 393-394), discusses the rhetorical device known as praeteritio, defined as "the announcement of the intention to leave certain things out." The intention is ironic, because by alluding to and enumerating the things to be passed over, the speaker actually draws attention to them. I just noticed a good example of praeteritio in Petrarch (1304-1374), Rerum Familiarum Libri 3.9.1-3 (tr. Aldo S. Bernardo):
[1] I shall not mention what can be said at great length against drunkenness; how detestable, how dangerous, how sad an illness it is, and how much madness there is in skillfully drowning and killing off in a foaming glass one's reasoning powers with which nature has endowed man uniquely and specially. Through drink, one has no control over his feet, tongue, and mind; his head trembles as do his hands, his eyes tear, his body smells and the lingering traces of the previous day are offensive on the following day. [2] I will not mention the way in which the passions rule, the loss of control, the stories and laughter of the people, the hatred and contempt of good friends. I also pass over the sudden alteration in mood and the ignorance of even learned men and the childishness of the man of any age, a childishness exposed to the joking and deceit and mockery of everyone. [3] Nor shall I mention cracks in the mind crushed and weak because of a heavy burden, letting out secrets often harmful to one’s self or to others and the cause of actual death to many and of utmost misery. Furthermore there are the lamentations and the inane joy and struggles and quarrels and rifts and the heedless encounter of armed men with unarmed ones. All these things I pass over since they are known and common.

[1] Taceo que adversus ebrietatem copiosissime dici possunt; quam feda, quam periculosa, quam tristis egritudo est, quantusque furor scienter obruere atque enecare spumanti dolio rationem, quod singulare ac precipuum habet hominis natura; neque pedes, neque linguam, neque animum in potestate habere; tremulum caput, instabiles manus, stillantes oculos, gravem corporis odorem et pridiani meri reliquias crastino insultantes. [2] Taceo libidinis regnum, virtutis exilium, vulgi fabulam ac risum, bonorum odium atque contemptum; mutationem repentinam sileo et quamlibet doctorum inscitiam ac cuiuslibet etatis infantiam, omnium iocis ac fraudibus omniumque ludibrio expositam. [3] Rimulas quoque mentis oppresse ac futilis et gravi pondere fatiscentis, unde secreta effluunt sepe cum propria, sepe cum aliena pernicie, que multis mortis et extreme miserie causa fuit; luctum preterea et inane gaudium et contentiones et iurgia et precipitium et incautos congressus inermium cum armatis: hec ut nota, inquam, et vulgata pretereo.
Note the connection between the name of the rhetorical device (praeteritio = passing over) and the last word in the passage just quoted (pretereo = I pass over). I no longer have access to Lausberg's book, and I don't know if he cited this passage from Petrarch as an example. [Update: Ian Jackson sent me the relevant pages, in which Petrarch isn't cited.]

Saturday, June 10, 2017

 

I'd Vote for Him

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum IV 429 (Pompeii; tr. Alison E. Cooley and M.G.L. Cooley):
I beg you to elect Gaius Julius Polybius aedile. He brings good bread.

C(aium) Iulium Polybium / aed(ilem) o(ro) v(os) f(aciatis) panem bonum fert

Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744-1818), Still Life with Bread

On bread-making in Pompeii see Mary Beard, Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (London: Profile Books, 2008), pp. 170-177.

 

A Joy and a Delight

Cicero, Against Catiline 4.16 (tr. C. Macdonald):
There is not a single one of us for whom these temples, the sight of the city, the possession of liberty, the very light of day and the soil of the fatherland we all share are not only precious but a joy and a delight.

quis est enim cui non haec templa, aspectus urbis, possessio libertatis, lux denique haec ipsa et commune patriae solum cum sit carum tum vero dulce atque iucundum?

 

What News at Cambridge?

Gabriel Harvey, letter to Edmund Spenser, in The Works of Spenser, Vol. VI (London: Printed for J. and R. Tonson and S. Draper, 1750), pp. 308-309:
I beseech you all this while, what News at Cambridge? Tully and Demosthenes nothing so much study'd as they were wont: Livy and Salust perhaps more, rather than less: Lucian never so much: Aristotle much named but little read: Xenophon and Plato reckoned amongst Discoursers, and conceited superficial Fellows; much verbal and sophistical Jangling; little subtle and effectual Disputing. Matchiavel a great Man: Castilio, of no small Repute: Petrarch and Boccace in every Man's Mouth: Galateo and Guazzo never so happy: but some acquainted with Unico Aretino: the French and Italian highly regarded: the Latin and Greek but lightly: The Queen Mother at the beginning or end of every Conference: All inquisitive after News; new Books, new Fashions, new Laws, new Officers, and some after new Elements, some after new Heavens and Hells too. Turkish Affairs familiarly known: Castles built in the air: Much ado, and little help: In no age so little so much made of; every one highly in his own Favour. Something made of nothing, in spight of Nature: Numbers made of Cyphers, in spight of Art. Oxen and Asses, notwithstanding the Absurdity it seem'd to Plautus, drawing in the same Yoak: the Gospel taught, not learnt; Charity cold; nothing good, but by Imputation; the Ceremonial Law in Word abrogated, the Judicial in effect disannull'd, the Moral abandon'd; the Light, the Light in every Man's Lips, but mark their Eyes, and you will say they are rather like Owls than Eagles. As of old Books, so of antient Vertue, Honesty, Fidelity, Equity, new Abridgments; every day spawns new Opinions: Heresy in Divinity, in Philosophy, in Humanity, in Manners, grounded upon hearsay; Doctors contemn'd; the Devil not so hated as the Pope; many Invectives, but no Amendment. No more ado about Caps and Surplices; Mr. Cartwright quite forgotten; the Man you wot of comfortable with a square Cap on his round Head. A number of our Preachers Sybbe to French Soldiers, at the first more than Men, in the end less than Women. Some of our pregnantest Wits of Hermogenes Metal. Old Men and Counsellors amongst Children; Children amongst Counsellors and Old Men. Every Younker speaks as politick as Bishop Gardner, or Dr. Wutton; as if every Man now-a-days having the framing of his own Horoscope, were born in Decimo Coeli domicilio, and had all the Wit, Wisdom, and Worship at command. Sed heus tu in aurem, Meministin', quod ait Varro, omnes videmus [sic, read videmur] nobis esse belli, festivi, Saperdae, cum sumus Canopi. David, Ulysses, and Solon, feign'd themselves Fools and Madmen; our Fools and Madmen feign themselves Davids, Ulysses's, and Solons. It is pity fair Weather should do any hurt; but I know what Peace and Quietness hath done with some melancholy Pickstraws. And will you needs have my Testimonial of your old Controller's new Behaviour? A busy and dizzy Head, a brazen Forehead, a leaden Brain, a wooden Wit, a copper Face, a stony Breast, a factious and elvish Heart, a Founder of Novelties, a Confounder of his own, and his Friends good Gifts; a Morning Book-worm, an Afternoon Malt-worm, a right Jugler; as full of Sleights, Wiles, Fetches, Casts of Legerdemain, Toys to mock Apes with, odd Shifts and knavish Practises, as his Skin can hold.
Some of this sounds surprisingly modern, e.g.:

Friday, June 09, 2017

 

Insults

Hugh Latimer (1485-1555), sermon preached at Stamford, in The Sermons of the Right Reverend Father in God, and Constant Martyr of Jesus Christ, Hugh Latimer, Vol. I (London: James Duncan, 1824), pp. 272-284 (at 280):
But some will say, our curate is naught, an asshead, a dodipole, a lack-latin...

 

An Inner Literalist

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), "Translator's Note," Vergil, Aeneid Book VI: A New Verse Translation (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016), p. vii:
This translation of Aeneid VI is neither a "version" nor a crib: it is more like classics homework, the result of a lifelong desire to honour the memory of my Latin teacher at St. Columb's College, Father Michael McGlinchey....The set text for our A-level exam in 1957 was Aeneid IX but McGlinchey was forever sighing, "Och, boys, I wish it were Book VI."
Id., p. ix:
Michael McGlinchey created an inner literalist who still hunts for the main verb of a sentence and still, to the best of his ability, disentangles the subordinate clauses, although usually nowadays with the help of a crib from the Loeb Library or the old Penguin Classics.

 

An Eye for an Eye

Cicero, Against Catiline 4.12 (tr. C. Macdonald):
To my mind a man who does not soften his own grief and suffering by inflicting similar distress upon the man responsible is unfeeling and has a heart of stone.

mihi vero importunus ac ferreus qui non dolore et cruciatu nocentis suum dolorem cruciatumque lenierit.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

 

Joiners

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), Minority Report (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), p. 60, § 104:
There is an invariable tendency among inferior men to magnify their own importance and puissance by organizing a party....My belief is that such parties never accomplish anything valuable. They fall inevitably into the hands of crooked and self-seeking men, and in a little while they are full of obviously dubious doctrines. All of them attempt to discipline their members....The literature of the world is not written by such joiners. It is the exclusive product of independent men. One of their chief marks, indeed, is the fact that they do not believe what is generally believed, even by men of their trade.

 

A Certain Something

Petrarch (1304-1374), Rerum Familiarum Libri 2.4.4 (tr. Aldo S. Bernardo):
But there is a certain something in the minds of mortals that I discern only vaguely and cannot put into words: a sad and destructive perversity, which shuts ears blocked against the salutary voices of advisers, and causes them constantly to do things that make them more miserable and to avoid anything that might lessen their grief. There is nothing that can be imagined that I would call more foolish.

sed est quedam in animis mortalium, quam et tenuiter video et verbis consequi nequeo, miserabilis et funesta perversitas, aures obstruentium adversus salutares consolatorum voces atque omnibus modis id agentium ut miseriores fiant neve aliquid quod dolorem lenire possit, obrepat; quo nichil excogitari potest, ne dicam esse, dementius.

 

Beneficial

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875), Hereward, the Last of the English, chapter I (Hereward to his mother Lady Godiva):
[Y]ou have done so many good deeds in your life, that it might be beneficial to you to do a bad one once in a way, so as to keep your soul in a wholesome state of humility.

 

Easy

Eugene Vanderpool (1906-1989), quoted by Mabel Lang, Graffiti and Dipinti (Princeton: The American School of Classical Studies in Athens, 1976 = The Athenian Agora, Vol. XXI), p. v:
It is easy to read if you know what it says.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

 

Two Sides

Cicero, Against Catiline 2.25 (tr. C. Macdonald):
On our side fights decency, on theirs viciousness; on our side morality, on theirs debauchery; on ours good faith, on theirs deceit; on ours respect for right, on theirs crime; on ours firmness of purpose, on theirs wild irresponsibility; on ours honour, on theirs disgrace; on ours self-control, on theirs a surrender to passion; in short, justice, moderation, bravery, wisdom, all the virtues, contend with injustice, intemperateness, cowardice, folly, all the vices. In a word, plenty fights against poverty, incorrupt principles against corrupt, sanity against insanity, well-founded hope against general desperation.

ex hac enim parte pudor pugnat, illinc petulantia; hinc pudicitia, illinc stuprum; hinc fides, illinc fraudatio; hinc pietas, illinc scelus; hinc constantia, illinc furor; hinc honestas, illinc turpitudo; hinc continentia, illinc libido; hinc denique aequitas, temperantia, fortitudo, prudentia, virtutes omnes certant cum iniquitate, luxuria, ignavia, temeritate, cum vitiis omnibus; postremo copia cum egestate, bona ratio cum perdita, mens sana cum amentia, bona denique spes cum omnium rerum desperatione confligit.

 

Finding Relief in Herculaneum

Alison E. Cooley and M.G.L. Cooley, Pompeii and Herculaneum: A Sourcebook, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2014), p. 110 (abbreviation of Ins. Or. expanded by me):
D109 An imperial doctor visits the latrine

Apollinaris, doctor of emperor Titus, has had a good shit here.
                                                                        (CIL IV 10619)

This graffito appears on the wall of a latrine in the 'House of the Gem', Ins[ula] Or[ientalis] I.1, Herculaneum.
The Latin (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum IV 10619):
Apollinaris medicus Titi Imp(eratoris) / hic cacavit bene
Heikki Solin, review of Corpus inscriptionum Latinarum ... Voluminis quarti supplementi pars tertia in Gnomon 45 (1973) 258-277 (at 272):
10619. Apollinaris medicus Titi Imp. brauch nicht Arzt des Titus sein, man kann gleich gut A. medicus, Titi Imp. (servus) verstehen.
Garrett G. Fagan, "Bathing for Health with Celsus and Pliny the Elder," Classical Quarterly 56.1 (May, 2006) 190-207 (at 204, n. 63):
I see no reason to think that Titus' doctor actually scribbled this report on the toilet wall, as is often assumed; see M. Della Corte, 'Le iscrizioni di Ercolano', RendNap 33 (1958), 239-308 (274 on this graffito); A. Maiuri, Ercolano: I nuovi scavi 1927-1958 (Rome, 1958), I.475 n. 136; id., Herculaneum (Rome, 19643), 63; Neudecker (n. 59), 34. That this graffito juxtaposes an important person with bowel-related crudity, and so closely echoes the form of the vulgarity in the Baths of the Seven Sages, suggests to me it was designed, like the Sages' didascalia, to be a joke (see next note). If this is the case, the text constitutes another reflection of popular reception of 'high' medical precepts.
Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, The Archaeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy: Toilets, Sewers, and Water Systems (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), p. 112, with note on p. 244:
What did the residents of Pompeii and Herculaneum, whose modest public facilities we have surveyed above, write on the walls of their latrines? Perhaps the most cited and surely one of the more apparently honest remarks is that of Apollinaris, a doctor of the emperor Titus, who wrote the following upon a visit to Herculaneum: APOLLINARIS. MEDICUS. TITI IMP. HIC. CACAVIT. BENE: "Apollinaris, doctor of the emperor Titus, crapped well here."63 Rather than accepting the text at face value, I think it more likely that it was written as a joke.

63. CIL 4, suppl. 3, leg. 4, 10619. See A. and M. De Vos, Pompei, Ercolano, Stabia, 277. This graffito was found in the Casa della Gemma. An expression of professional pride combines with personal satisfaction, according to Neudecker, Die Pracht der Latrine, 34.
Antonio Varone, "Newly Discovered and Corrected Readings of iscrizioni 'privatissime' from the Vesuvian Region," in Rebecca Benefiel and Peter Keegan, edd., Inscriptions in the Private Sphere in the Greco-Roman World (Leiden: Brill, 2016), pp. 113-130 (at 119-120):
I note in this regard the rather formal message left in a refined style of handwriting, which one might call almost pompous, by none other than a famous doctor to his own contemporaries (and inadvertently to posterity) in the latrine of the luxurious Casa della Gemma in Herculaneum (Ins. Orientalis I, nr. 1), where he was likely a guest:18

Apollinaris medicus Titi imp(eratoris) | hic cacavit bene

Apollinaris, doctor of the emperor Titus, shat well here.

The attention to defecation that is registered by the graffiti certainly is surprising, characterizing with crisp immediacy an entire scenario, as if giving us the cadence of a daily sigh of the society at that time.

18 CIL IV.10619. Image reproduced in Varone 2012, 500. Cf. Gasperini 1973, 338, and Solin 1973, 272. As Keegan has suggested to me, one could also imagine that the inscription was created by a member of the familia as a memory of a visit to the house by so distinguished a personage, and one who was also the author, according to Maiuri (1958, 475, n. 136), of a medical work used as a reference by Marcellus Empiricus. If so, one could think of similar inscriptions, found in other houses that, rather than a direct record of a distinguished guest, might be an indirect memory of such a visit, as, for example: Cucuta ab ra[t]ioni[b]us Neronis Augusti (CIL IV.8067–8068), found in the so-called Casa di Paquio Proculo (I.7.1, 20). The list of Vesuvian inscriptions found in latrines is given by Jansen 2011, 192 n. 61–62.
In other words, like "Washington slept here," Apollinaris shat here.

There is also a Doctor Apollinaris (Titus Julius Rosianus Apollinaris) mentioned on a tombstone erected by his freedmen Arescon and Callistus (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum VI 9584, now lost):
D(is) M(anibus) / T(ito) Iulio / Rosiano / Apollinari / medico / Arescon et / Callistus lib(erti) / patrono b(ene) m(erenti) f(ecerunt)
Thanks to Eric Thomson for pictures of the graffito and the latrine from Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, Herculaneum: Past and Future (London: Francis Lincoln, 2011) p. 294:

Labels:


Tuesday, June 06, 2017

 

The Eternal City

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), The Memoirs of the Life of Edward Gibbon, with Various Observations and Excursions. By Himself. Edited by George Birbeck Hill (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1900), p. 163 (footnotes omitted)
My temper is not very susceptible of enthusiasm; and the enthusiasm which I do not feel, I have ever scorned to affect. But, at the distance of twenty-five years, I can neither forget nor express the strong emotions which agitated my mind as I first approached and entered the eternal city. After a sleepless night, I trod, with a lofty step, the ruins of the Forum; each memorable spot where Romulus stood, or Tully spoke, or Caesar fell, was at once present to my eye; and several days of intoxication were lost or enjoyed before I could descend to a cool and minute investigation.

 

Ulysses and Penelope

Marin Sorescu (1936-1996), "Ulysses," The Biggest Egg in the World, tr. Michael Hamburger (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1987) p. 28:
The mere thought of what awaits me at home —
Those suitors, the swine, blind
Drunk, their greasy armour hung up,
Nothing inside their heads but the board game,
The dice as limp as their members,
Nothing doing, even if
A woman much more alluring than Penelope
Were ready for them, (Can she
Really be old by now?)

True, on the other hand, that tearful
Demented female at the spinning-wheel
Who gets all the threads in a tangle, out of sheer greed!
I can imagine the welcome at the gate:
— What on earth have you been up to?
— Troy wasn't child's play. So please let up.
— All right, but Agamemnon! Clytemnestra's
Agamemnon. How come he could be back so soon
That his bones are rotting by now?
Wasn't it everyone's war? —
— I was at sea for ten years, because Neptune ...
— Leave Neptune out of it. Why don't you
Just tell me bluntly
With whom?
And for such a long time?
What kind of sea could that have been? —

Huh, if only I could build myself
A hovel here on the waves,
Put up a tiny tent
Here on this more sheltered patch
Between Scylla and Charybdis.



Când mă gândesc ce mă aşteaptă şi acasă,
Porcii aceia de peţitori,
Beţi chiori, slinoşi pe armurile din cuier
Jucând toată ziua table
Până li se înmoaie şi muşchii şi zarurile, de-a valma,
Că numai de însurătoare nu mai sunt buni
Chiar de-ar cere în căsătorie o babă
Mai ceva decât Penelopa
(O fi îmbătrânit, într-adevăr şi ea?)

Şi femeia aceea, plângăreaţă, pe de altă parte,
Care ţese-n neştire, de nervi,
De zgripţuroaică ce este, să încurce ea toate firele de pe lume!
Parcă văd că mă ia de la poartă-n primire:
— Unde-ai putut să fii până acum?
— Am făcut războiul Troii, nu fii scorpie ...
— Bine, bine, dar Agamemnon al Clitemnestrei
Cum de-a scăpat mai devreme, că a şi putrezit până acuma,
N-aţi avut toţi acelaşi război?
— Am rătăcit zece ani pe mare, întrucât Neptun ...
— Fără Neptun, te rog, spune clar
Cu cine?
Şi chiar până acum?
Chiar până acum?
Ce mare-a fost aia?

Of, să-mi fac o căsuţă
Aici pe valuri,
Să-mi ridic un cort în colţişorul ăsta
Mai ferit
Între Scyla şi Caribda.
Yannis Ritsos (1909-1990), "Penelope's Despair," Repetitions, Testimonies, Parentheses, tr. Edmund Keeley (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 91:
It wasn't that she didn't recognize him in the light from the hearth: it wasn't
the beggar’s rags, the disguise — no. The signs were clear:
the scar on his knee, the pluck, the cunning in his eye. Frightened,
her back against the wall, she searched for an excuse,
a little time, so she wouldn't have to answer,
give herself away. Was it for him, then, that she'd used up twenty years,
twenty years of waiting and dreaming, for this miserable
blood-soaked, white-bearded man? She collapsed voiceless into a chair,
slowly studied the slaughtered suitors on the floor as though seeing
her own desires dead there. And she said "Welcome,"
hearing her voice sound foreign, distant. In the corner, her loom
covered the ceiling with a trellis of shadows; and all the birds she'd woven
with bright red thread in green foliage, now,
on this night of the return, suddenly turned ashen and black,
flying low on the flat sky of her final enduring.



Δεν ήτανε πως δεν τον γνώρισε στο φως της παραστιάς· δεν ήταν
τα κουρέλια του επαίτη, η μεταμφίεση — όχι· καθαρά σημάδια:
η ουλή στο γόνατό του, η ρώμη, η πονηριά στο μάτι. Τρομαγμένη,
ακουμπώντας τη ράχη της στον τοίχο, μια δικαιολογία ζητούσε,
μια προθεσμία ακόμη λίγου χρόνου, να μην απαντήσει,
να μην προδοθεί. Γι' αυτόν, λοιπόν, είχε ξοδέψει είκοσι χρόνια,
είκοσι χρόνια αναμονής και ονείρων, για τούτον τον άθλιο,
τον αιματόβρεχτο ασπρογένη; Ρίχτηκε άφωνη σε μια καρέκλα,
κοίταξε αργά τους σκοτωμένους μνηστήρες, στο πάτωμα, σα να κοιτούσε
νεκρές τις ίδιες της επιθυμίες. Και: «καλωσόρισες», του είπε,
ακούγοντας ξένη, μακρινή, τη φωνή της. Στη γωνιά, ο αργαλειός της
γέμιζε το ταβάνι με καγκελωτές σκιές· κι όσα πουλιά είχε υφάνει
με κόκκινες λαμπρές κλωστές σε πράσινα φυλλώματα, αίφνης,
τούτη τη νύχτα της επιστροφής, γυρίσαν στο σταχτί και μαύρο
χαμοπετώντας στον επίπεδο ουρανό της τελευταίας της καρτερίας.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

 

Nothing Indecent

Christian Gauss (1878-1951), The Papers of Christian Gauss. Edited by Katherine Gauss Jackson and Hiram Haydn (New York: Random House, 1957), p. 80:
I remember a distinguished philologist in Vienna used to open his course with an introductory lecture in which he always announced, "Gentlemen, in the interest of science we must accept this fact: that in medicine or philology there is nothing indecent."
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Monday, June 05, 2017

 

Learn Hebrew in Eight Days

Piet van Boxel, "Robert Bellarmine, Christian Hebraist and Censor," History of Scholarship: A Selection of Papers from the Seminar on the History of Scholarship Held Annually at the Warburg Institute. Edited by C.R. Ligota and J.-L. Quantin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 251-275 (at 255):
Versed in Latin and with a good knowledge of Greek, Bellarmine had never been trained in Hebrew. At age 71, now a cardinal, he wrote about his time at the Jesuit school:
In those days N [Bellarmine] considered the Hebrew language very useful for the understanding of the Holy Scriptures and decided to study it. After having been taught the alphabet and some basic grammatical rules by somebody who knew the language, he himself wrote a Hebrew grammar according to a simpler method than that used by the rabbis and in a short time he learned the Hebrew language as far as seemed sufficient for a theologian. He then established an academy and studied Hebrew and Greek with some friends. In order to prove that his grammar was easier than others, he promised one of his students of the theological school, who knew no Hebrew at all, that if he were to teach him for eight days, he would be able to understand Hebrew books with the help of a dictionary, as he himself had managed to do.23
23 Döllinger and Reusch, Selbstbiographie (as in n. 2), 34. His claim to be able to teach a student Hebrew within eight days is clearly inspired by the legend that Jerome taught his spiritual daughter Blesilla the Hebrew language in a few days; see N. Frizon, La Vie du Cardinal Bellarmin, de la Compagnie de Jésus (Nancy, 1708), 78.

 

The Tyranny of Donatus

Domenico Comparetti (1835-1927), Vergil in the Middle Ages, tr. E.F.M. Benecke (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co. Lim., 1908), p. 88, n. 35:
Many writers, feeling that their grammar is not above reproach, revolt strangely against the "tyranny of Donatus." Instances abound; it must suffice to quote the following curious passage from the Indiculus luminosus (No. XX.) of ALVARUS CORDUBENSIS (9th cent.): "Agant eructuosas quaestiones philosophi et Donatistae genis impuri, latratu canum, grunnitu porcorum, fauce rasa et dentibus stridentes, saliva spumosi grammatici ructent. Nos vero evangelici servi Christi discipuli rusticanorum sequipedi," etc. These words agree remarkably with a horrible biography of Donatus, inspired perhaps by this same repugnance for his grammar, which is found in a Paris MS. and has been several times published (most recently by Hagen, Anecdota Helvetica, p. 259). Yet Alvarus shows himself by his works to have been a diligent student of Vergil. Cp. AMADOR DE LOS RIOS, Hist. crit. de la lit. Españ., ii. p. 102 seqq.
For a translation of the Latin (Patrologia Latina 121: 534 C) see John Addington Symonds (1840-1893), Renaissance in Italy: The Revival of Learning, new ed. (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1898), p. 44:
'Let philosophers and impure scholars of Donatus,' writes a fanatic of Cordova, 'ply their windy problems with the barking of dogs, the grunting of swine, snarling with skinned throat and teeth; let the foaming and bespittled grammarians belch, while we remain evangelical servants of Christ, true followers of rustic teachers.'
There is a translation of the Life of Donatus published by Hagen in Maya Petrova, "Taking a New Look at the Ancient Tradition of Suetonius-Donatus' Biographies (A 9-th century biography of Aelius Donatus)," ΣΧΟΛΗ 10.1 (2016) 50-58 (at 57-58).

 

A Man's Prayer for His Son

Homer, Iliad 6.476-481 (Hector speaking; tr. Richmond Lattimore):
Zeus, and you other immortals, grant that this boy, who is my son,
may be as I am, pre-eminent among the Trojans,
great in strength, as am I, and rule strongly over Ilion;
and some day let them say of him: "He is better by far than his father",
as he comes in from the fighting; and let him kill his enemy
and bring home the blooded spoils, and delight the heart of his mother.

Ζεῦ ἄλλοι τε θεοὶ δότε δὴ καὶ τόνδε γενέσθαι
παῖδ᾽ ἐμὸν ὡς καὶ ἐγώ περ ἀριπρεπέα Τρώεσσιν,
ὧδε βίην τ᾽ ἀγαθόν, καὶ Ἰλίου ἶφι ἀνάσσειν·
καί ποτέ τις εἴποι πατρός γ᾽ ὅδε πολλὸν ἀμείνων
ἐκ πολέμου ἀνιόντα· φέροι δ᾽ ἔναρα βροτόεντα        480
κτείνας δήϊον ἄνδρα, χαρείη δὲ φρένα μήτηρ.
Usually sons are inferior to their fathers—see e.g. Homer, Odyssey 2.276-277 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
For few are the children who turn out to be equals of their fathers,
and the greater number are worse; few are better than their father is.

παῦροι γάρ τοι παῖδες ὁμοῖοι πατρὶ πέλονται,
οἱ πλέονες κακίους, παῦροι δέ τε πατρὸς ἀρείους.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

 

Reading Gibbon Aloud

Robert Byron (1905-1941), The Road to Oxiana (London: Picador, 1994), pp. 61-62:
Teherani: 'What's this book?'

Christopher: 'A book of history.'

Teherani: 'What history?'

Christopher: 'The history of Rum and the countries near it, such as Persia, Egypt, Turkey, and Frankistan.'

Assistant (opening the book): 'Ya Ali! What characters!'

Teherani: 'Can you read it?'

Christopher: 'Of course. It's my language.'

Teherani: 'Read it to us.'

Christopher: 'But you cannot understand the language.'

Isfahani: 'No matter. Read a little.'

Muleteers: 'Go on! Go on!'

Christopher: '"It may occasion some surprise that the Roman pontiff should erect, in the heart of France, the tribunal from whence he hurled his anathemas against the king; but our surprise will vanish so soon as we form a just estimate of a king of France in the eleventh century."'

Teherani: 'What's that about?'

Christopher: 'About the Pope.'

Teherani: 'The Foof? Who's that?'

Christopher: 'The Caliph of Rum.'

Muleteer: 'It's history of the Caliph of Rum.'

Teherani: 'Shut up! Is it a new book?'

Assistant: 'Is it full of clean thoughts?'

Christopher: 'It is without religion. The man who wrote it did not believe in the prophets.'

Teherani: 'Did he believe in God?'

Christopher: 'Perhaps. But he despised the prophets. He said that Jesus was an ordinary man (general agreement) and that Mohammad was an ordinary man (general depression) and that Zoroaster was an ordinary man.'

Muleteer (who speaks Turkish and doesn't understand well): 'Was he called Zoroaster?'

Christopher: 'No, Gibbon.'

Chorus: 'Ghiboon! Ghiboon!'

Saturday, June 03, 2017

 

A Breed Apart

Pierre Hadot (1922-2010), Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault, tr. Michael Chase (1995; rpt. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), p. 57:
This very rupture between the philosopher and the conduct of everyday life is strongly felt by non-philosophers. In the works of comic and satiric authors, philosophers were portrayed as bizarre, if not dangerous characters. It is true, moreover, that throughout all of antiquity the number of charlatans who passed themselves off as philosophers must have been considerable, and Lucian, for example, freely exercised his wit at their expense. Jurists too considered philosophers a race apart. According to Ulpian, in the litigation between professors and their debtors the authorities did not need to concern themselves with philosophers, for these people professed to despise money. A regulation made by the emperor Antoninus Pious on salaries and compensations notes that if a philosopher haggles over his possessions, he shows he is no philosopher. Thus philosophers are strange, a race apart. Strange indeed are those Epicureans, who lead a frugal life, practicing a total equality between the men and women inside their philosophical circle — and even between married women and courtesans; strange, too, those Roman Stoics who disinterestedly administer the provinces of the empire entrusted to them and are the only ones to take seriously the laws promulgated against excess; strange as well this Roman Platonist, the Senator Rogatianus, a disciple of Plotinus, who on the very day he is to assume his functions as praetor gives up his responsibilities, abandons all his possessions, frees his slaves, and eats only every other day. Strange indeed all those philosophers whose behavior, without being inspired by religion, nonetheless completely breaks with the customs and habits of most mortals.

 

I Am Not Too Sure

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), Minority Report (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), p. 282, § 418:
Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on "I am not too sure."

Friday, June 02, 2017

 

Nothing Sweeter

Menander, Epitrepontes, fragment 2b (tr. W.G. Arnott):
There's nothing I
Love more than knowing all the facts!

οὐδέν ἐστι γὰρ
γλυκύτερον ἢ πάντ᾿ εἰδέναι.

 

Elements of Civilization

Robert Byron (1905-1941), The Byzantine Achievement (1929; rpt. New York: Russell & Russell Inc, 1964), pp. 24-26:
From sifting the numerous implications of meaning attaching to the word "civilisation," there emerges a definition, which presumes it to consist in the vitality of three elements in man's corporate mode of living. These are: the Stable; the Transcendental; and the Cultural. Vitality in each simultaneously is seldom found, save in large cities whence they radiate their combined influence throughout their city's dominion. And the rarity of even this coincidence constitutes the rarity of civilisations. Failure in the vitality of any one of them denotes a lapse from true civilisation to conditions of life comparable with those of fifteenth century Italy or the present Middle West of the United States.

First essential to the definition of civilisation is the stable element, the universal confidence in the social organism to maintain itself and its government, and to modify itself to external and internal necessity. This confidence, when it exists, pervades people unconsciously. Security of property, the standards of living, the countless services of local government—all go for granted without thought or investigation, like the sun and the stars, symbolised in those outward features, dinner-jackets, bathrooms and asphalt roads, which evoke the awe and envy of less advanced peoples.

Second is that composite element in human activity, the quest of transcendental values and their collateral ethics. To every race, in infancy and succeeding childhoods, is vouchsafed the concept of a God. This, ultimately, may lose identity in that of a gentleman. But underneath social demeanour, there remains to man his soul proper, his own greatness, his unquiet spirit seeking cosmic direction, ever striving to soar above the mental gravities of earth. It is contended that civilisations such as that upon which we are entering, retard the divine quest in humanity by the very security with which they encushion it against the fundamental workings between man and earth, man and man, man and God. But it remains to be seen whether those relationships do not, as the scientific revolution approaches its climax, attain a depth and precision of definition hitherto undreamed. And the soul, mathematically propelled, may redouble the exploration of its Affinity in space, dictating, with historical experience as its partner, successive codes and morals for the earth.

Third and final element in civilisation is the cultural, product of the scientific and artistic impulse generated by a corporate intellectual activity. It is in this province that the inspired individual souls of an age become accessible to the majority, whose diversity of intelligence and occupation will not permit their investigation of the mysteries with which they are communicant, but not, beyond the one-sided peep-hole of religion, conversant.

The stable, the transcendental, the cultural: genii of civilisation. Each has existed without the others. Hellas had Culture, Judah a Soul, Renascence Europe both. The United States of America now enjoy the blessings of stability. But it is the fusion of the three that constitutes a civilisation, the vitality of which will vary inversely with the deficiency in any one of them.

 

Antiquarian Twaddle

E.J. Trelawny (1792-1881), Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron (London: Edward Moxon, 1858), p. 204:
Our party made an excursion to the neighbouring island of Ithaca; contrasted with the arid wastes and barren red hills of Cephalonia, the verdant valleys, sparkling streams, and high land, clothed in evergreen shrubs, were strikingly beautiful. After landing, it was proposed to Byron to visit some of the localities that antiquaries have dubbed with the titles of Homer's school,—Ulysses' stronghold, &c.: he turned peevishly away, saying to me, "Do I look like one of those emasculated fogies? Let's have a swim. I detest antiquarian twaddle...."

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