Sunday, December 02, 2018


The Young People of Today

Pliny, Letters 8.23.3 (to Marcellinus; tr. Betty Radice):
This is rare in the young people of today, few of whom will yield to age or authority as being their superior. They are born with knowledge and understanding of everything; they show neither respect nor desire to imitate, and set their own standards.

rarum hoc in adulescentibus nostris. nam quotus quisque vel aetati alterius vel auctoritati ut minor cedit? statim sapiunt, statim sciunt omnia, neminem verentur, neminem imitantur, atque ipsi sibi exempla sunt.
A.N. Sherwin-White ad loc.:
Pliny's attitude to youth is usually friendly, IX.12.1 n., but cf. II.14, IV.15.8.
G.P. Goold, review of R.A.B. Mynors, ed., C. Plini Caecili Secundi Epistularum Libri Decem (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), in Phoenix 18.4 (Winter, 1964) 320-328 (at 323-324):
Mynors himself proposes at 8.23.3 the emendation statim sapiunt, statim sciunt omnia, neminem uerentur, neminem imitantur, atque ... (neminem imitantur X: neminem uerentur, imitantur neminem Z = Aldus). At first sight the emendation seems palmary, providing both an elegant balance and a likely cause of the omission in X. But let us examine the behaviour it implies on the part of Z: he (whether Aldus Manutius or Claudius de Grandrue is immaterial), faced with the even structure A-W, A-X, B-Y, B-Z, altered the last member to Z-B. Now whilst this is an astonishing and inexplicable action on the part of an interpolator, the inconcinnity produced requires no explanation if imputed to Pliny himself, a marked peculiarity of whose style is the termination of a symmetrical sequence with a chiasmus, e.g., 2.17.12 latissimum mare, longissimum litus, uillas amoenissimas (where Z has the symmetrical interpolation amoenissimas uillas). I therefore accept Z's reading as true, assuming that X's, which is undoubtedly corrupt, is disarranged as well as defective: possibly a marginal suggestion neminem imitantur (an anticipation of Mynors, in fact) was mistaken as a correction for all four words.
Ronald Syme, review of Marcel Durry, ed., Pline le Jeune, Panégyrique de Trajan (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1938), in Journal of Roman Studies 28.2 (1938) 217-224 (at 224):
The Panegyricus may perhaps be regarded not merely as the heir of a long tradition but as a herald and symbol of the intellectual and spiritual poverty of the period that was to follow, a condition not solely due to despotic government or to any repression of free speech: there was nothing worth writing about. Pliny was alarmed at the state of contemporary youth, observing rebelliousness and dangerous originality—'statim sapiunt, statim sciunt omnia, neminem verentur, imitantur neminem atque ipsi sibi exempla sunt' (Epp. 8, 23, 3). He need not have worried. These dynamic young men (if they really existed) were soon to become dreary and representative figures, leaders of state and society in a dead season, the blessed Age of the Antonines.

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