Monday, April 23, 2012


Crassus Agelastus

M. Licinius Crassus, praetor in 126 or 127 BC, was nicknamed Agelastus (Ἀγέλαστος = not laughing). Here are some testimonia.

Cicero, About the Ends of Goods and Evils 5.30.92 (tr. H. Rackham):
We say that a man is a cheerful fellow; but if he is once in rather low spirits, has he therefore lost his title to cheerfulness for ever? Well, the rule was not applied to Marcus Crassus, who according to Lucilius [fragment 1299 Marx] laughed but once in his life; that one exception did not prevent his being called agelastos as Lucilius has it.
dicimus aliquem hilare vivere; ergo, si semel tristior effectus est, hilara vita amissa est? at hoc in eo M. Crasso, quem semel ait in vita risisse Lucilius, non contigit, ut ea re minus ἀγέλαστος, ut ait idem, vocaretur.
Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 3.15.31 (discussing Socrates, tr. J.E. King):
And his was in no way the severe brow of our old M. Crassus, who, according to Lucilius, laughed but once in the whole course of his life, but a calm and sunny look.
nec vero ea frons erat, quae M. Crassi illius veteris, quem semel ait in omni vita risisse Lucilius, sed tranquilla et serena.
Pliny, Natural History 7.19.79 (tr. H. Rackham):
It is stated that Crassus the grandfather of Crassus who fell in Parthia never laughed, and was consequently called Agelastus.
ferunt Crassum, avum Crassi in Parthis interempti, numquam risisse, ob id Agelastum vocatum.
Fronto, On Eloquence 3.6 (tr. C.R. Haines):
As in old days a morose Crassus hated laughter, as in our time a Crassus hid from the daylight...
ut olim Crassus tristis risum oderat, ut nostra hic memoria Crassus lucem fugitabat...
Tertullian, On the Soul 52.3 (tr. Peter Holmes):
For although a man may breathe his last for joy, like the Spartan Chilon, while embracing his son who had just conquered in the Olympic games; or for glory, like the Athenian Clidemus, while receiving a crown of gold for the excellence of his historical writings; or in a dream, like Plato; or in a fit of laughter, like Publius [sic] Crassus,—yet death is much too violent, coming as it does upon us by strange and alien means, expelling the soul by a method all its own, calling on us to die at a moment when one might live a jocund life in joy and honour, in peace and pleasure.
nam etsi prae gaudio quis spiritum exhalet, ut Chilon Spartanus, dum victorem Olympiae filium amplectitur, etsi prae gloria, ut Clidemus Atheniensis, dum ob historici stili praestantiam auro coronatur, etsi per somnium, ut Plato, etsi per risum, ut P. Crassus, multo violentior mors quae per aliena grassatur, quae animam per commoda expellit, quae tunc mori affert, cum iucundius vivere est in exultatione in honore in requie in voluptate.
Ammianus Marcellinus (330-391) 26.9.11 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Procopius departed this life at the age of forty years and ten months. Personally he was a tall man and not bad looking; he was somewhat dark complexioned, and walked with his gaze always fixed on the ground. In his secretive and gloomy nature he was like that Crassus who, as Lucilius and Cicero declare, laughed only once in his life; but the surprising thing is, that throughout all his life he was not stained with bloodshed.
excessit autem vita Procopius anno quadragesimo, amplius mensibus decem: corpore non indecoro nec mediocris staturae, subcurvus humumque intuendo semper incedens, perque morum tristium latebras illius similis Crassi, quem in vita semel risisse Lucilius adfirmat et Tullius, sed, quod est mirandum, quoad vixerat, incruentus.
St. Jerome, Against Rufinus 1.30 (tr. W.H. Fremantle):
I shall make you laugh though you are a man of such extreme gravity; and you will have at last to do as Crassus did, who, Lucilius tells us, laughed but once in his life, if I recount the memories of my childhood: how I ran about among the offices where the slaves worked; how I spent the holidays in play; or how I had to be dragged like a captive from my grandmother's lap to the lessons of my enraged Orbilius.
ego certe, ut homini severissimo risum moveam, ut imiteris aliquando Crassum , quem semel in vita risisse scribit Lucilius, memini me puerum cursitasse per cellulas servulorum, diem feriatum duxisse lusibus, et ad Orbilium saevientem de aviae sinu tractum esse captivum.
St. Jerome, Letters 7.5 (to Chromatius, tr. W.H. Fremantle):
Moreover, to use a well-worn proverb, the dish has a cover worthy of it; for Lupicinus is their priest. Like lips like lettuce, as the saying goes—the only one, as Lucilius tells us, at which Crassus ever laughed—the reference being to a donkey eating thistles.
accessit huic patellae iuxta tritum populi sermone proverbium dignum operculum, Lupicinus sacerdos—secundum illud quoque, de quo semel in vita Crassum ait risisse Lucilius: "similem habent labra lactucam asino carduos comedente."
[St. Jerome], Letters 130.13.2 (to Demetrias, tr. W.H. Fremantle):
Leave to worldlings the privileges of laughing and being laughed at. One who is in your position ought to be serious. Cato the Censor, in old time a leading man in your city, (the same who in his last days turned his attention to Greek literature without either blushing for himself as censor or despairing of success on account of his age) is said by Lucilius to have laughed only once in his life, and the same remark is made about Marcus Crassus.
ridere, et rideri, saecularibus derelinque. gravitas tuam personam decet. Catonem quoque (illum dico Censorium) et vestrae quondam urbis principem, qui extrema aetate graecas litteras, nec erubuit censor, nec desperavit senex discere: et M. Crassum semel in vita scribit risisse Lucilius.
Sidonius Apollinaris, Poems 24.12-13 (tr. W.B. Anderson; Crassus is not named here but is probably meant):
For even the man who, they say, laughed only once in his life was not as critical as he.
tam censorius haud fuit vel ille
quem risisse semel ferunt in aevo.
Macrobius, Saturnalia 2.1.6 (tr. Robert A. Kaster):
I'm perfectly aware that you all do not count as goods either gloom or a cloudy visage, and do not much admire the famous Crassus, who according to Cicero (following Lucilius) laughed just once in his life.
neque ego sum nescius vos nec tristitiam nec nubilum vultum in bonis ducere, nec Crassum illum quem Cicero auctore Lucilio semel in vita risisse scribit magnopere mirari.
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