Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Congregatio de Propaganda Fide

Celsus, quoted by Origen, Against Celsus 3.55 (tr. Henry Chadwick):
In private houses also we see weavers, cobblers, laundry-workers, and the most illiterate and bucolic yokels, who would not dare to say anything at all in front of their elders and more intelligent masters. But whenever they get hold of children in private and some stupid women with them, they let out some astounding statements as, for example, that they must not pay any attention to their father and school-teachers, but must obey them. They say that these talk nonsense and have no understanding, and that in reality they neither know nor are able to do anything good, but are taken up with mere empty chatter. But they alone, they say, know the right way to live, and if the children would believe them, they would become happy and make their home happy as well. And if just as they are speaking, they see one of the school-teachers coming, or some intelligent person, or even the father himself, the more cautious of them flee in all directions, but the more reckless ones urge the children to rebel. They whisper to them that in the presence of their father or schoolmasters they do not feel able to explain anything to the children, since they do not want to have anything to do with the silly and obtuse teachers who are totally corrupted and far gone in wickedness, and who inflict punishment on the children. But, if they like they should leave father and their schoolmasters, and go along with the women and little children who are their playfellows to the weaver's shop, or to the cobbler's or the washerwoman's shop, that they may learn perfection. And by saying this they persuade them.



Robert Byron (1905-1941), The Byzantine Achievement (1929; rpt. New York: Russell & Russell Inc, 1964), pp. 17-18:
But how is it that the world, the barbarians, contemptuous as they are contemptible, are still concerned with the existence of the Greeks at all? Whence has the flood of their misrepresentation been unloosed? The source is found in that curious mixture of sincere and artificial enthusiasm, Philhellenism.

The most frequent manifestations of this peculiar mental state, both in print and life, are the outcome of that jejune philosophy of living, which is the last heritage of the classical scholar. Student, ultimately interpreter, of Greek texts; endowed with a kindred love of exact reasoning and exact representation, together with a kindred absence of historical perspective and emotional outlet; he has fabricated from literature and stones an ideal of humanity, which he and his following have pronounced applicable to eternity. It is the singular odium of this eternal comparison, for centuries the bane of European culture, which necessitates, once and for all, the relegation of classicism to its just place in the tale of human development.

In history alone, the paper Philhellenes may be held responsible for as great a volume of calculated misrepresentation as the priestly editors of the Old Testament. Fanatically jealous for their idols' prestige, they visit the virtues of the fathers upon the twentieth-century children with a malignity so familiar that further mention of it is unnecessary. Flouting the rudiments of anthropology, dating a quarter of a century back, they continue to propagate the thesis that the ancient Greek was a Nordic giant, and that the modern is a Slav dwarf. In face of common-sense euphony, they persist in maintaining a pronunciation invented by the ignorant English scholars of the sixteenth-century, which utters "bazilews" for βασιλεύς instead of "vassilefs," "kilioy" for χίλιοι instead of "hilii"—thus rendering moribund a language which, after two millenniums, differs from Euripides considerably less than modern English from Chaucer. Though aware, if pretending to culture (which they possibly do not) that a cursive Greek hand has existed for more than a thousand years, they still compel submissive pupils to perform their conjugations in a disjointed and hideous script, thus dissipating the short hours of youth, and the straitened incomes of its progenitors, in useless effort. Finally, they range themselves in support of a cynical world's opinion that the twentieth century Hellene is no more than a negligible assemblage of human vices.


Avid Curiosity

Robert Byron (1905-1941), The Byzantine Achievement (1929; rpt. New York: Russell & Russell Inc, 1964), pp. 12-13:
Fundamentally, the salient and most permanent impulse of the race, is an avid curiosity. The zeal for knowledge, which inspired the first philosophers and the first scientists, differed in no way from that to which St Paul, in an age of new necessity, cast the bait of the Unknown God. To-day the "men of Athens" still greet one another with the words "τί νέον—what news?" and await an answer. In the country a regular formula of personal interrogation is the preliminary to all hospitality. There results from this insatiable attitude of enquiry, a universal, and to the Briton, extraordinary, respect for learning, for books as books, and for any aspect of cultural ability. From the highest to the lowest, even to the illiterate, this national trait has endured through the ages.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


An Expressive Language

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), Lothair, Chapter XXVII:
'Well, now I shall begin my dinner,' he said to Pinto, when he was at length served. 'What surprises me most in you is your English. There is not a man who speaks such good English as you do.'

'English is an expressive language,' said Mr. Pinto, 'but not difficult to master. Its range is limited. It consists, as far as I can observe, of four words: "nice," "jolly," "charming," and "bore;" and some grammarians add "fond."'


Unequal Meals

Juvenal, Satires, Book I. Edited by Susanna Morton Braund (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996; rpt. 2002), p. 306 (from the editor's essay on Satire 5):
Virro, the patron, is criticised throughout the poem for serving up two menus, one consisting of fine food for himself and guests of like status, the other consisting of grotty, inferior food — or, at some stages of the meal, of no food at all (a witty stroke, as we come to expect correspondence) — for guests such as his lowly client Trebius. This is not a novel theme in Roman literature: there are similar criticisms of the unequal feast at Martial 3.60, 3.82, 4.68, 6.11 and 9.2 (also, on specific items 1.20 (mushrooms), 1.43 (boar), 3.49 (wine), 4.85 (wine and cups)); Pliny 4.2.6; and, later, Lucian, Saturnalia 22 where the quantity of food, the boar, the wine-cups and the wine are all contrasted, with incidental reference to the different attitudes of the slaves (see Adamietz (1972) 85-96, Morford (1977) 221-6, Gowers (1993) 211-12). But J. develops this idea, which lends itself to Martial's treatment thanks to the antithetical tendency of epigram, into a bravura piece which portrays the breakdown of society in terms of alienation.
Michael Scherer and Zeke J. Miller, "Donald Trump After Hours," Time Magazine:
The waiters know well Trump's personal preferences. As he settles down, they bring him a Diet Coke, while the rest of us are served water, with the Vice President sitting at one end of the table. With the salad course, Trump is served what appears to be Thousand Island dressing instead of the creamy vinaigrette for his guests. When the chicken arrives, he is the only one given an extra dish of sauce. At the dessert course, he gets two scoops of vanilla ice cream with his chocolate cream pie, instead of the single scoop for everyone else.
Note: This is not political commentary. I am interested here only in the parallel between ancient and modern practices.

Related post: Stingy Hosts.

Monday, May 15, 2017



W.D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, Matthew 1-7 (1988; rpt. London: T & T Clark Ltd, 2010), p. 525 (on Matthew 5:29 "It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell"):

Here are the extra-biblical parallels cited by Davies and Allison.

Diogenes Laertius 4.49 (= Bion of Borysthenes, fragment 57 Kindstrand; tr. R.D. Hicks):
He used repeatedly to say that to grant favours to another was preferable to enjoying the favours of others.

ἔλεγε δὲ συνεχὲς ὅτι αἱρετώτερόν ἐστι τὴν ὥραν ἄλλῳ χαρίζεσθαι ἢ ἀλλοτρίας ἀποδρέπεσθαι.
Seneca, On Anger 3.8.8 (tr. John W. Basore):
It is easier to refrain than to retreat from a struggle.

facilius est se a certamine abstinere quam abducere.
I don't have access to Graydon F. Snyder, "The Tobspruch in the New Testament," New Testament Studies 23.1 (October, 1976) 117-120, or Glendon E. Bryce, "'Better'-Proverbs: An Historical and Structural Study," Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Literature 108.2 (1972) 343-354, but G.S. Ogden, "The 'Better'-Proverb (Tôb-Spruch), Rhetorical Criticism, and Qoheleth," Journal of Biblical Literature 96.4 (December, 1977) 489-505, is useful. I came across the word Tobspruch in J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter (Waco: Word Books, 1988), pp. 191-192 (on 1 Peter 3:17).

Thanks very much to John Cline for sending me a copy of Snyder's article, in which I see another extra-biblical parallel on p. 120, n. 1, viz. Andocides, On the Mysteries 125 (tr. K.J. Maidment):
The daughter of Ischomachus thought death better than an existence where such things went on before her very eyes...

ἡ δὲ τοῦ Ἰσχομάχου θυγάτηρ τεθνάναι νομίσασα λυσιτελεῖν ἢ ζῆν ὁρῶσα τὰ γιγνόμενα...


The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates

John Milton (1608-1678), The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates:
[N]o unbridl'd Potentate or Tyrant, but to his sorrow for the future, may presume such high and irresponsible licence over mankinde to havock and turn upside-down whole Kingdoms of men as though they were no more in respect of his perverse will then a Nation of Pismires.
By the civil laws a foole or Idiot born, and so prov'd, shall loose the lands and inheritance whereto he is born, because he is not able to use them aright. And especially ought in no case be sufferd to have the government of a whole Nation.


High Tea

J.B. Priestley (1894-1984), The Good Companions, Book I, Chapter 6:
It may have been a splendid gathering but it was certainly a very odd meal. Inigo remembered other high teas but none higher than this. The forms were a solid mass of eaters and drinkers, and the tables were a solid mass of food. There were hams and tongues and rounds of cold beef and raised pies and egg salads; plates heaped high with white bread, brown bread, currant teacakes, scones; dishes of jelly and custard and blancmange and fruit salad; piles of jam tarts and maids of honour and cream puffs and almond tarts; then walnut cake, plum cake, chocolate cake, coconut cake; mounds of sugar, quarts of cream, and a steady flood of tea.

Sunday, May 14, 2017


They Are the Troublers

John Milton (1608-1678), Areopagitica:
There be who perpetually complain of schisms and sects, and make it such a calamity that any man dissents from their maxims. 'Tis their own pride and ignorance which causes the disturbing, who neither will hear with meeknes, nor can convince, yet all must be suppresst which is not found in their Syntagma. They are the troublers, they are the dividers of unity, who neglect and permit not others to unite those dissever'd peeces which are yet wanting to the body of Truth.


Quiet Reading in Early Mornings in a Library Carrel

Thomas C. Oden (1931-2016), A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014), pp. 136-138:
Suddenly my irascible, endearing Jewish friend [Will Herberg] leaned into my face and told me that I was densely ignorant of Christianity, and he simply couldn't permit me to throw my life away. Holding one finger up, looking straight at me with fury in his eyes, he said, "You will remain theologically uneducated until you study carefully Athanasius, Augustine, and Aquinas." In his usual gruff voice and brusque speech, he told me I had not yet met the great minds of my own religious tradition.

He explained that he had gone through a long season of restitution after his erratic days and found it necessary to carefully read the Talmud and the Midrashim to discover who he was. Likewise he felt that I would have to go to a quiet place and sit at the feet of the great minds of ancient Christianity to discover who I was.


I asked myself, Could it be that I had been trampling on a vast tradition of historical wisdom in the attempt to be original?


I had read some Augustine, Aquinas and Luther, but I had never crawled through patristic texts with a listening heart. I had never truly inhabited that timeless, sacred world.


I plunged into reading the earliest Christian writers: Polycarp, Ignatius, and Justin Martyr. I wanted them to feed my soul.

The maturing of my change of heart took place only gradually through quiet reading in early mornings in a library carrel, allowing myself to be met by those great minds through their own words.

While reading Augustine's City of God on the ironic providences of history, I finally grasped how right Solzhenitsyn was about the spiritual promise of Russia. And while reading Cyril of Jerusalem's Catechetical Lecture on evidences for the resurrection, I became persuaded that Pannenberg had provided a more accurate account than Bultmann of the event of resurrection.

While reading the dialogues of fourth-century Sister Macrina and the women surrounding Jerome, I now could trace the profound influences of women on the earliest and richest traditions of spiritual formation, especially in monastic and ascetic disciplines.

While reading John of Damascus on the providence of God in The Orthodox Faith, I realized that the reordering of theological ideas I thought I was just then discovering had been well understood as a stable and received tradition in the eighth century.

While reading John Chrysostom on voluntary poverty, I discovered that the existential freedom Viktor Frankl had experienced in the Nazi concentration camp had been anticipated by fourth-century Christian teachers, martyrs, and confessors.

And so it went. All of that happened while I was reading, just reading.


Oreobezagra and Mokhtar?

Peter Brown, Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD (Princeton: Princeton University Press, [2012]), p. 12 (ellipsis in original), with note on p. 536:
Examples of magical spells have survived. In the Oued Siliane in Tunisia, a stone was placed in the hills looking down over the fields:
Oreobezagra, Abraxas, Mokhtar ... Adonaï, lords and gods, keep away, turn away from this estate and from the fruits which grow in it—from the vines, from the olive-trees, from the sown fields—the hail, the mildew, the anger of hurricanes, the swarms of locusts, so that none of these plagues may attack this estate and the fruits that are all found there. Rather, protect them, always intact and healthy, as long as these stones, on which these sacred names are inscribed, remain in place in the earth and all around.28
28 P.A. Février, Approches du Maghreb romain: Pouvoirs, différences et conflits, vol. 2 (La Calade: Édisud, 1990), 17; A. Mastrocinque, "Magia agraria nell'impero cristiano," Mediterraneo antico 7 (2004): 795–836.
The works cited in the note are unavailable to me. The 2nd-3rd century A.D. inscription was first published by Naïdé Ferchiou (1945-2013) and Aimé Gabillon (1922-2010), "Une inscription grecque magique de la région de Bou Arada (Tunisie), ou les quatre plaies de l'agriculture antique en Proconsulaire," in Actes du IIe Colloque international sur l'histoire et l'archéologie de l'Afrique du Nord (Grenoble, 5-9 avril 1983) (1985) 109-125, also unavailable to me.

Brown's translation raised my suspicion because the first word (Oreobezagra) was a hapax legomenon in Google. Also, Mokhtar in Brown's translation is a common Arabic name, but not an accurate transcription of the name in the inscription. For a full translation with all of the magical names accurately transcribed, see Roy Kotansky, Greek Magical Amulets. The Inscribed Gold, Silver, Copper, and Bronze Lamellae. Part I: Published Texts of Known Provenance. Text and Commentary (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1994 = Papyrologica Coloniensia 22/1), p. 53 (I changed Kotansky's locust to locusts):
(Magic signs) Oreobazagra Oreob[azagra] Abrasax Machar Semeseilam Stenachta Lorsachthê Koriauchê Adônaie, sovereign (4) gods, hinder, turn aside from this property and from what is growing on it — in the vineyards, the olive-groves, in the seeding places — hail over the produce, grain-rust, fury (8) of Typhonian winds, a swarm of harmful locusts, so that none of these pernicious things touch this field nor any of the produce in it; (12) but guard them altogether unharmed and uncorrupt, as long as these stones engraved with your sacred names (16) are here lying about the land.
The Greek, from Kotansky, p. 52:
(Magic signs) Ορεοβαζαγρα, Ορεοβ[αζαγρα],
Αβρασαξ μαχαρ Σεμεσειλαμ στεναχτ[α],
λορσαχθη κοριαυχη Ἀδωναῖε, κύρ[ιοι]
θεοί, κωλύσατε, ἀποστρέψατε ἀπὸ τοῦ[δε]        4
χωρίου καὶ τῶν ἐν αὐτῷ γεννωμένω[ν]
— ἐν ἀμπέλοις, ἐλαιῶσιν, σπορητοῖς τόπ[οις] —
καρπῶν χάλαζαν, ἐρυσείβην, ὀργὴ[ν]
τυφώνων ἀνέμων, κακοποιῶν        8
ἀκρίδων ἑσμόν, ἵνα μηδὲν τῶν λ[υ]-
μαιωτικῶν τῶνδε ἅψηται τοῦ-
δε τοῦ χωρίου καὶ τῶν ἐν αὐτῷ [κ]α[ρ]-
πῶν πάντων· ἀσινεῖς δὲ αὐτοὺ[ς] καὶ ἀ-        12
φθόρους πάντοτε συντηρήσατε,
ἕως ἂν οἵδε λίθοι γεγραμ-
μένοι τοῖς ἱροῖς ὑμῶν ὀνόμα-
σιν ὑπὸ γῇ πέριξ κείμενοι        16
Thanks to my daughter, who gave me Brown's book as a Christmas present.


Saturday, May 13, 2017


Distracted from Learning Geometry

Aubrey's Brief Lives. Edited from the Original Manuscripts and with an Introduction by Oliver Lawson Dick, 2nd ed. (London: Secker and Warburg, 1950), pp. xcv-xcvi (Dick quoting Aubrey):
Mr. Hobbes told me, that G. Duke of Buckingham had at Paris when he was about twenty yeares old, desired Him to reade Geometrie to him: his Grace had great naturall parts, and quicknesse of witt; Mr. Hobbes read, and his Grace did not apprehend, which Mr. Hobbes wondered at: at last, Mr. Hobbes observed that his Grace was at mastrupation (his hand in his Codpiece).
"Mr. Hobbes" is of course Thomas Hobbes; "G. Duke of Buckingham" is George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham.


All Bookshops Should Be Like This One

A friend just sent me this photograph of shelves in a bookshop in Italy:

The shelves are all labelled CLASSICI GRECI e LATINI.


The Thin Blue Line

Colotes, quoted by Plutarch, Against Colotes 30 (Moralia 1124 D; tr. Benedict Einarson and Phillip H. De Lacy):
The men who appointed laws and usages and established the government of cities by kings and magistrates brought human life into a state of great security and peace and delivered it from turmoil. But if anyone takes all this away, we shall live a life of brutes, and anyone who chances upon another will all but devour him.

τὸν βίον οἱ νόμους διατάξαντες καὶ νόμιμα καὶ τὸ βασιλεύεσθαι τὰς πόλεις καὶ ἄρχεσθαι καταστήσαντες εἰς πολλὴν ἀσφάλειαν καὶ ἡσυχίαν ἔθεντο καὶ θορύβων ἀπήλλαξαν· εἰ δέ τις ταῦτα ἀναιρήσει, θηρίων βίον βιωσόμεθα καὶ ὁ προστυχὼν τὸν ἐντυχόντα μονονοὺ κατέδεται.
Cf. Pirke Aboth 3.2 (tr. R. Travers Herford):
R. Hanina the deputy of the priests, said,—Pray for the peace of the government; for, except for the fear of that, we should have swallowed each other alive.

Friday, May 12, 2017


The Pinnacle of Pleasure

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus 131 (tr. Cyril Bailey):
Bread and water produce the highest pleasure, when one who needs them puts them to his lips.

καὶ μᾶζα καὶ ὕδωρ τὴν ἀκροτάτην ἀποδίδωσιν ἡδονήν, ἐπειδὰν ἐνδέων τις αὐτὰ προσενέγκηται.
A friend writes:
The papyri yet to be read or unearthed I'm sure will vindicate me in my reading of Letter to Menoeceus 131: καὶ μᾶζα καὶ οἶνος τὴν ἀκροτάτην ἀποδίδωσιν ἡδονήν, ἐπειδὰν ἐνδέων τις αὐτὰ προσενέγκηται.


Stemmata Quid Faciunt?

Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.140-141 (tr. Frank Justus Miller, rev. G.P. Goold):
For as to race and ancestry and the deeds that others than ourselves have done, I call those in no true sense our own.

nam genus et proavos et quae non fecimus ipsi,
vix ea nostra voco.


Hortator Scelerum Etc.

In his Loeb Classical Library translation of Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.45, Frank Justus Miller translated "hortator scelerum" as "criminal." In his revision of Miller's translation, G.P. Goold made no change to that rendering. Ajax is speaking, trying to convince the Greeks that he (and not Ulysses, the hortator scelerum) should be awarded the arms of Achilles. The phrase is borrowed from Vergil, Aeneid 6.529, where it also refers to Ulysses: see Neil Hopkinson's commentary on Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book XIII (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 88. Horace Gregory seems to translate the phrase as "bland liar," and Rolfe Humphries' translation is so loose that no trace of the phrase can be found. Translate "counsellor of crimes" or "encourager of crimes."

Id., lines 341-345:
Why does Ulysses dare to go out beyond the sentinels, commit himself to the darkness and, through the midst of cruel swords, enter not alone the walls of Troy but even the citadel's top, steal the goddess from her shrine and bear her captured image through the enemy?

                                   cur audet Ulixes
ire per excubias et se committere nocti
perque feros enses non tantum moenia Troum,
verum etiam summas arces intrare suaque
eripere aede deam raptamque adferre per hostes?
"Not alone" for "non tantum" in line 343? It's possible (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. alone, sense B.1), but I'd translate "not only" or "not just."

Wednesday, May 10, 2017



Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto 1.6.29-40 (tr. A.L. Wheeler, rev. G.P. Goold):
That goddess, when all other deities abandoned the wicked earth,
remained alone on the god-detested place.        30
She causes even the ditcher to live in spite of his shackles
and to think that his limbs will be freed from the iron.
She makes the shipwrecked man, seeing no land on any side,
move his arms in the midst of the waves.
Oft has a man been abandoned by the skill and care of physicians,        35
but hope leaves him not though his pulses fail.
Those who are shut in prison hope for release, they say,
and many a one hanging on the cross still prays.
How many this goddess has prevented in the act of fastening the noose about their throats
from perishing by the death they had purposed!        40

haec dea, cum fugerent sceleratas numina terras,
    in dis invisa sola remansit humo.        30
haec facit ut vivat fossor quoque compede vinctus,
    liberaque a ferro crura futura putet.
haec facit ut, videat cum terras undique nullas,
    naufragus in mediis bracchia iactet aquis.
saepe aliquem sollers medicorum cura reliquit,        35
    nec spes huic vena deficiente cadit.
carcere dicuntur clausi sperare salutem,
    atque aliquis pendens in cruce vota facit.
haec dea quam multos laqueo sua colla ligantis
    non est proposita passa perire nece!        40
The same, tr. Peter Green:
That deity, Hope, when all other gods abandoned
    the wicked earth, remained: it's she who fills        30
even the shackled ditcher with zest for the future,
    faith that his legs will lose their chains;
it's she who keeps shipwrecked sailors swimming in mid-ocean
    with no land anywhere in sight.
Often the skill and care of doctors fail a patient,        35
    yet though his heartbeat wavers, his hopes stay high.
Those in prison are said to hope for deliverance,
    a crucified man still prays.
Many men, as they knotted the rope round their throat, this goddess
    headed off from the death they sought.        40
Commentary in Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto, Book 1. Edited with Introduction, Translation and Commentary by Jan Felix Gaertner (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 371-376.


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