Thursday, February 01, 2018

 

Rumor

Tertullian, Apology 7.8-12 (tr. T.R. Glover):
[8] Everybody knows the nature of Rumour. It is in your literature:
Rumour, a curse, and swiftest of all curses.a
Why is Rumour a curse? Because she is swift? Because she is an informer? Or because she is generally a liar? Why, Rumour, even when she does bring a bit of truth, does not quite escape from her vice of lying; she subtracts from the Truth, adds to it, alters it.

[9] What? Surely the terms of her existence are that she only survives while she lies, and only lives so long as she fails to prove her tale. When she has proved it, she ceases to be Rumour; and, as if she had completed her task of telling, she gives us fact; and, after that, it is fact that is held, and fact it is called;

[10] nor does anybody say, for example, "They say this occurred at Rome," or "Rumour is that so and so is assigned the province," but "He has been assigned the province" and "This did occur in Rome."

[11] Rumour, a synonym for the uncertain, has no place where there is certainty. Would anybody believe Rumour, except the unthinking? The wise man does not believe uncertainty. It lies with everybody to reflect that, however widely Rumour has been put about, with whatever assurance it has been contrived, it must necessarily have originated at some moment with some single person who started it.

[12] After that it creeps through ramifications of tongues and ears; and something wrong in the little seed, whence it sprang, so obscures all else in the rumour, that no one reflects whether that first mouth sowed the lie, as often happens, from an envious nature, from wanton suspicion, or from that mere pleasure in lying which with some people is no new thing but inborn in them.

a Virgil, Aen. iv.174.



[8] Natura famae omnibus nota est. Vestrum est:
Fama malum qua non aliud velocius ullum.
Cur malum fama? quia velox? quia index? an quia plurimum mendax? quae ne tunc quidem, cum aliquid veri adfert, sine mendacii vitio est, detrahens, adiciens, demutans de veritate.

[9] Quid? quod ea illi condicio est, ut non nisi cum mentitur perseveret et tamdiu vivit quamdiu non probat, siquidem, ubi probavit, cessat esse et quasi officio nuntiandi functa rem tradit, et exinde res tenetur, res nominatur.

[10] Nec quisquam dicit verbi gratia, Hoc Romae aiunt factum, aut, Fama est illum provinciam sortitum, sed, Sortitus est ille provinciam, et, Hoc factum est Romae.

[11] Fama, nomen incerti, locum non habet ubi certum est. An vero famae credat nisi inconsideratus? Quia sapiens non credit incerto. Omnium est aestimare, quantacunque illa ambitione diffusa sit, quantacunque asseveratione constructa, quod ab uno aliquando principe exorta sit necesse est.

[12] Exinde in traduces linguarum et aurium serpit, et ita modici seminis vitium cetera rumoris obscurat, ut nemo recogitet, ne primum illud os mendacium seminaverit, quod saepe fit aut ingenio aemulationis aut arbitrio suspicionis aut non nova sed ingenita quibusdam mentiendi voluptate.
The Digital Loeb Classical Library has a mistake in the Latin (§ 8, tune for tunc):

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