Wednesday, January 22, 2020


Juvenal's Tenth Satire

Byron, letter to Francis Hodgson (September 9, 1811), in 'Famous in my time': Byron's Letters and Journals, ed. Leslie A. Marchand, Vol. 2: 1810-1812 (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1973), p. 105, with the editor's note:
I have been a good deal in your company lately, for I have been reading Juvenal & Lady Jane &ca.1 for the first time since my return.—The 10th Sat[ir]e has always been my favourite as I suppose indeed of every body's, it is the finest recipe for making one miserable with this life, & content to walk out of it, in any language.—I should think it might be redde with great effect to a man dying without much pain, in preference to all the stuff that ever was said or sung in churches.

1 Hodgson had published a translation of Juvenal in 1807, and Lady Jane Grey, a Tale; and Other Poems in 1809.


It's Time

Pliny, Letters 1.3.3 (to Caninius Rufus; tr. Betty Radice):
But isn't it really time you handed over those tiresome petty duties to someone else and shut yourself up with your books in the peace and comfort of your retreat? This is what should be both business and pleasure, work and recreation, and should occupy your thoughts awake and asleep!

quin tu (tempus enim) humiles et sordidas curas aliis mandas, et ipse te in alto isto pinguique secessu studiis adseris? hoc sit negotium tuum, hoc otium, hic labor, haec quies; in his vigilia, in his etiam somnus reponatur!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


Bloodless Offerings

Calpurnius Siculus 2.64-67 (tr. J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff):
I too have been wont to offer first-fruits to the gods who protect my apple-orchard and to mould for Priapus cakes of sacrifice. Dripping combs of trickling honey I present — nor think they shall be less acceptable to heaven than a goat's blood staining the altar.

non quoque pomiferi laribus consuevimus horti
mittere primitias et fingere liba Priapo,
rorantesque favos damus et liquentia mella;
nec fore grata minus, quam si caper imbuat aras.
Cyril Bailey, Phases in the Religion of Ancient Rome (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1932 = Sather Classical Lectures, 10), pp. 77-78 (note omitted):
The offerings in the household cult and in the majority of the sacrificia in the fields were in the early days bloodless. They consisted mostly in cereals, and particularly in spelt (far) — the staple crop before wheat was introduced. Often this was made into meal (puls) or cakes (strues, fertum, liba) or, when salt was added, it became the mola salsa, the salt meal, so famous in Roman ritual. These simple offerings were felt to be all that the god needed, and Horace is speaking in the spirit of the old religion, when he says that "if a pure hand has touched the altar, it will not be more persuasive with a rich victim than with the gift of spelt and the little cake leaping in the flame."


Joy, and Plenty, and Contentment

Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, No. 36 (Saturday, July 21, 1750):
There is scarcely any species of poetry that has allured more readers, or excited more writers, than the pastoral. It is generally pleasing, because it entertains the mind with representations of scenes familiar to almost every imagination, and of which all can equally judge whether they are well described. It exhibits a life, to which we have been accustomed to associate peace, and leisure, and innocence: and therefore we readily set open the heart for the admission of its images, which contribute to drive away cares and perturbations, and suffer ourselves, without resistance, to be transported to Elysian regions, where we are to meet with nothing but joy, and plenty, and contentment; where every gale whispers pleasure, and every shade promises repose.
Our inclination to stillness and tranquillity is seldom much lessened by long knowledge of the busy and tumultuary part of the world. In childhood we turn our thoughts to the country, as to the region of pleasure; we recur to it in old age as a port of rest, and perhaps with that secondary and adventitious gladness, which every man feels on reviewing those places, or recollecting those occurrences, that contributed to his youthful enjoyments, and bring him back to the prime of life, when the world was gay with the bloom of novelty, when mirth wantoned at his side, and hope sparkled before him.


Motive for Martyrdom?

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XVI:
The assurance of a lasting reputation on earth, a motive so congenial to the vanity of human nature, often served to animate the courage of the martyrs.


Was the World Created for Man?

The Book of Lieh-tzu. A Classic of the Tao translated by A.C. Graham (1960; rpt. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), pp. 178-179:
T'ien of Ch'i was going on a journey; he sacrificed in his courtyard to the god of the roads, and banqueted a thousand guests. Someone was serving fish and geese at the seat of honour. T'ien looked at them; then he sighed and said:

How generous heaven is to mankind! It grows the five grains and breeds the fish and birds for the use of man.

All the guests answered like his echo. But a twelve-year-old boy of the Pao family, who had a seat among the guests, came forward and said:

It is not as your lordship says. The myriad things between heaven and earth, born in the same way that we are, do not differ from us in kind. One kind is no nobler than another; it is simply that the stronger and cleverer rule the weaker and sillier. Things take it in turns to eat each other, but they are not bred for each other's sake. Men take the things which are edible and eat them, but how can it be claimed that heaven bred them originally for the sake of man? Besides, mosquitoes and gnats bite our skin, tigers and wolves eat our flesh; did heaven originally breed man for the sake of mosquitoes and gnats, and his flesh for the sake of tigers and wolves?

Monday, January 20, 2020


Our Preoccupied Minds

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals, Vol. IX: 1856-1863 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1913), p. 156 (May 20, 1858):
Nature has two ways of hiding her things, by light, and by darkness. We never see mosses, lichens, grasses, birds, or insects, which are near us every day, on account of our preoccupied mind. When our attention is at last called to them, they seem the only things worth minding.
Related post: Seeing Things.



E. Badian, "A Selected List of Greek Authors' Names: A Comment and Some Corrections," Classical Journal 71.1 (October-November, 1975) 58-60 (at 60):
Finally, there are superpedants everywhere. Just as in English we have people showing off by writing "Thoukydides," so in all languages the equivalent occasionally turns up.
Eduard Fraenkel, Horace (1957; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), p. 369, n. 1:
Scholars who, whether in Germany or in Britain, propagate such artificialities as 'Horatius', 'Akhilleus', 'Arkhilokhos' are guilty of widening the gulf between their countrymen and the classics.



Lucilius 1196-1208 Warmington = 1326-1338 Marx = 1342-1354 Krenkel (tr. E.H. Warmington):
Manliness or virtue, my dear Albinus, is being able to pay in full a fair price in our business dealings and in the affairs which life brings us; virtue is knowing what each affair has within it for a man; virtue is knowing what is right and useful and honourable for a man and what things are good and again what are bad, what is shameful, useless, dishonourable; virtue is knowing the means and the end of seeking a thing, virtue is being able to pay in full the price from our store; virtue is giving that which in all truth is due to honour, being an enemy and no friend of bad men and manners, and on the other hand being a defender of good men and manners; prizing greatly the latter, wishing them well and being a life-long friend to them; and besides all this, thinking our country's interests to be foremost of all, our parents' next, and then thirdly and lastly our own.

Virtus, Albine, est pretium persolvere verum,
quis in versamur, quis vivimus rebus potesse;
virtus est homini scire id quod quaeque habeat res;
virtus scire homini rectum utile quid sit honestum,
quae bona quae mala item, quid inutile turpe inhonestum        1200
virtus quaerendae finem re scire modumque;
virtus divitiis pretium persolvere posse;
virtus id dare quod re ipsa debetur honori,
hostem esse atque inimicum hominum morumque malorum
contra defensorem hominum morumque bonorum:        1205
hos magni facere, his bene velle, his vivere amicum;
commoda praeterea patriai prima putare,
deinde parentum, tertia iam postremaque nostra.


A Scots Proverb

Allan Ramsay, A Collection of Scots Proverbs (Edinburgh: J. Wood, 1776), p. 33 (Chap. XIV, Number 130):
He snites his nose in his neighbour's dish to get the brose to himsell.
Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. snite, v., sense 2.a:
transitive. To clean or clear (the nose) from mucus, esp. by means of the thumb and finger only; to blow.
Id., s.v. brose, n:
A dish made by pouring boiling water (or milk) on oatmeal (or oat-cake) seasoned with salt and butter.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who adds:
How can southron English have retained snout and snot and yet let their cousin 'snite' fall by the wayside? As so often, Scots is the last bastion, a vernacular that Hume and Boswell were brought up speaking but were forced to renege, and now Scots itself has more or less fallen by the wayside. The curmudgeon's chosen path must always be backwards, to rescue everything senselessly tossed aside.

Sunday, January 19, 2020


A Great Cultural Achievement

Roger Scruton (1944-2020), I Drink Therefore I Am: A Philosopher's Guide to Wine (2009; rpt. London: Continuum, 2010), pp. 143-144:
In fact the practice of buying rounds in the pub is one of the great cultural achievements of the English. It enables people with little money of their own to make generous gestures, without the risk of being ruined by them. It enables each person to distinguish himself from his neighbours and to portray his individuality in his choice of drink, and it causes affection progressively to mount in the circle of drinkers, by giving each in turn the character of a warm and hospitable friend. In a way it is a moral improvement on the Greek symposium, where the host alone appeared in the character of the giver, and also on the common room and the country house. The round of drinks enables even the speechless and the downtrodden briefly to receive the thanks, the appreciation and the honour of their neighbours. It is a paradigm case of 'social inclusion', to use the jargon of our rulers, and it is hardly surprising that everything is now being done to ensure that the practice dies out.


He Is An Enemy

Boccaccio (1313-1375), De casibus virorum illustrium 2.5 (tr. Louis B. Hall):
I see him rely on the worst of counsels and admire the worst deeds, but regarding the public welfare he is sluggish, torpid, and dull. Shall I call him king? Shall I venerate him as a prince? Shall I keep faith as if he were the Lord? Hardly. He is an enemy. To conspire against this kind of ruler, to take up arms, to deceive, to oppose this man is an act of greatness and, even more, of necessity. Scarcely any offering is more acceptable to God than the blood of a tyrant.

cum videam eum ... in consilium niti pessimum, et pessimis operibus delectari, ac circa salutem publicam segnem torpentem desidemque videro, regem dicam? principem colam? tanquam domino fidem servabo? absit: hostis est. in hunc coniurare, arma capessere, insidias tendere, vires opponere magnanimi est, sanctissimum est et omnino necessarium, cum nulla fere sit Deo acceptior hostia tyranni sanguine.



E. Badian, review of Matthias Gelzer, Kleine Schriften, 3 vols. (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1962-1964), in Journal of Roman Studies 57.1/2 (1967) 216-222 (at 217):
In Ancient History, as in other disciplines, we are being urged, nowadays, to plunge headlong into large and exciting problems, and to leave the dead minutiae of scholarship. Against this (if the demagogue will stay for an answer) it must be firmly pointed out that great advances from within historical studies (as opposed to those brought about by the discovery of major new evidence) have usually come about through patient and methodical attention to the minutiae by a mind capable of seeing their bearing on a major problem.

Saturday, January 18, 2020


Where Angels Fear to Tread

The Enlarged Rule of Chrodegang XII, lines 12-21, in Arthur S. Napier, The Old English Version of the Enlarged Rule of Chrodegang Together with the Latin Original. An Old English Version of the Capitula of Theodulf Together with the Latin Original. An Interlinear Old English Rendering of the Epitome of Benedict of Aniane (London: Published for the Early English Text Society by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1916), pp. 22-23:
Et tunc omnes sint preparati stantes in loco suo in choro per ordinem, ut cum nouissimum signum cessauerit, cum summa humilitate et honestate referant laudes Deo, in conspectu angelorum eius. Et si alicui frequens tussis aut flegma ex pectore aut naribus excrescit, post dorsum proiciat, aut iuxta latus, caute tamen et curiose, ut infirmis mentibus non uertatur in nausiam; et semper quod proicitur pede conculcetur, ut cum ad orationem curuantur, uestimenta eorum non sordidentur; et infra ecclesiam, et in omni conuentu, seu et in porticu, hoc obseruandum est, ut quod spuitur semper pedibus conculcetur.

⁊ syn ealle gearwe ⁊ standon on chore be endebyrdnysse, þæt swa se(o) æftemyste stund geendige, þæt hi sona mid miclere eadmodnysse ⁊ wynsumnysse herigeon heora Drihten on his engla gesihþe. ⁊ gif heora ænegum for unhæle hraca of breoste oððe snyflung of nosa derige, hræce ⁊ snyte bæftan him oððe adun be his sidan, ⁊ þæt fortrede, þe læs hit seocmodum broþrum ⁊ cisum wyrðe to wlættan; ⁊ wærlice tredon þæt, þe læs heora reaf wurðon þærof fule, þonne hi on gebedum licgeað. ⁊ on cyrcan ⁊ on portice ⁊ on ælcre stowe, swa hwæt swa ma him fram hræce oððe snyte, fortrede hit mid his fotum.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who translates the Old English thus:
Then let them all prepare themselves and stand in the choir in order so that at the last signal they might with humility and delight praise God in the sight of his angels. If any of them is infirm and has phlegm in his chest or is snivelling, let him hawk up or blow his nose behind himself or down by his side, and tread upon it, lest the sight of such things nauseate weak-minded or squeamish brethren. And they should tread upon it carefully so that their clothing is not befouled when they go to prayer. Inside the church, in the porch, and in all places, whatever anyone coughs up or sneezes must be trodden under foot.


A Sea of Red

T. Corey Brennan, "Ernst Badian's Methodological Maxims," in The Legacy of Ernst Badian, ed. Carol G. Thomas (Association of Ancient Historians, 2013), pp. 9-26 (at 12):
One of his teaching techniques was to take the first written work of a student who had newly signed on to his supervision, and then spend many hours checking every single reference, ancient or modern, in addition to offering copious annotations on the thought and style of the paper. I remember sitting at a desk in Harvard’s Smyth Classics Library and quaking in fear as Ernst shuffled around the room's bookcases with my own paper in hand for what seemed to be two full days. You can guess the final result: a sea of red. But Ernst only checked quite so thoroughly on the first occasion. The pedagogical—or one might say psychological—effect was such that he didn't ever need to repeat the process for his students, at least at that excruciating level.
Id. (at 16):
As for the perpetrators of scholarly outrages, Ernst's harshest face-to-face critique was the simple phrase, very rarely employed, and only then when confronted with what seemed to be invincible ignorance, "I pity your students."
Id. (at 20):
The story is perhaps apocryphal, but legend has it that at a Cambridge cocktail party sometime in the 1980s a woman turned to Ernst's Harvard colleague, the great Latinist Dr. Shackleton Bailey, and asked him "so what do you do?" His answer: "I look things up." Whatever the veracity of the anecdote, Ernst certainly put a premium on "looking things up," starting of course with the ancient sources, then Pauly-Wissowa, and proceeding from there. Badian had little time for books written from books, that show (in his words) a "perverse refusal to look at what it is all ultimately derived from."


Useful Knowledge

Thucydides, Book II. Edited by E.C. Marchant (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1931), pp. x-xi:
To sharpen the intellect, to purify the taste, and to humanise the character — these are the true ends of education. At least, such was the opinion of Milton, beyond doubt the greatest scholar, and probably the greatest man, of his age. For what else did he intend, though he clothed his thought in the language most congenial to him? 'The end of learning,' he says, 'is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him.'

To-day quite other views of the end of learning are making way; according to which views, if I understand them, education ought to teach one kind of thing, and one only, that is to say, that kind of thing which will help the learner to make money. The supporters of these views hold that literature may be advantageously neglected, and something called 'useful knowledge' substituted for it. It is unlikely that any one who shares the new views on education will read these pages, because Greek is not placed by the apostles of this New Learning in the category of 'useful knowledge,' the omission seeming to involve the conclusion that the Renaissance, the former revival of learning, and especially of Greek learning, was a great mistake, a delusion of foolish men who did not understand what was 'useful knowledge.' But if any who use this book are drifting about in uncertainty, and asking themselves, 'To what end?' they will do well to ponder those words of Milton.

Friday, January 17, 2020


Etymology of Diversity

Oxford English Dictionary on the etymology of diversity, n.:
< Old French diverseté, diversité (12th cent. in Hatzfeld & Darmesteter) difference, oddness, wickedness, perversity < Latin dīversitāt-em contrariety, disagreement, difference, < dīversus DIVERSE adj.
I'm a firm believer in the etymological fallacy.

But cf. the Mayor of London:
Diversity makes us stronger.
Diversity makes us smarter.
Diversity makes us who we are.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Proboscis Probing

John Allen Paulos, Beyond Numeracy (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), p. 108 (discussing Eli Halberstam's novel Rucker: A Life Fractal):
Rucker idly picks his nose while thinking about his theorems, and if the reader chooses to follow up on this, he is directed to a page (on the disk version the alternatives are listed on a menu which appears at the bottom of the monitor) where Rucker's keen interest in proboscis probing is discussed at length. What percentage of people pick their noses? Why do so few people do it in public; yet, in the false privacy of their automobiles why do so many indulge? If you push even further in this direction, there is the memory from a few weeks previous when Rucker, stopped at a red light, saw the elegantly coiffed Mrs. Samaras seated in the BMW across from him, her index finger seemingly deep into her frontal cortex.
Related posts:


How to Be an Imbecile

José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955), Toward a Philosophy of History, tr. Helene Weyl (New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1941), p. 70:
The job of the so-called intellectual is in a certain sense opposed to that of the politician, the former aiming, often in vain, to clarify things a little whereas the politician usually adds to the confusion. Aligning oneself with the left, as with the right, is only one of the numberless ways open to man of being an imbecile: both are forms of moral hemiplegia.


The Divine Right To Be Where You Are

Roger Scruton (1944-2020), I Drink Therefore I Am: A Philosopher's Guide to Wine (2009; rpt. London: Continuum, 2010), pp. 85-86:
Wine has become one of the most important products of the Southern hemisphere. Countries like South Africa, New Zealand and Chile which a century ago were importing wine in small quantities from Europe, are now drinking large quantities of the home-grown product, and exporting the surplus around the globe. The reason for this change is less economic than cultural. During the twentieth century these countries have increasingly understood themselves, not as exiles from Europe, but as historic settlements, with a right to the soil and an identity that is shaped by it. The most important way of expressing this sentiment is by planting vines, symbol of the divine right to be where you are and to enjoy the god's protection. That is how the vine is seen in the Old Testament, in the legends of Dionysus, in the Homeric literature and in the literature of Rome. It is why, in the days of Augustus, Italy was called Oenotria — wine land — and why nobody has ever been able to persuade an Italian, however far from the homeland he may have wandered, that he belongs anywhere else than on the vine-clad hillside where his ancestors were born.

Italian culture celebrates family, city and region; village ceremonies and village saints; local virtues, local vices and the local dishes that produce them. The root assumption of this culture is that it is best to be where you are, and hurrying onwards is dangerous. Maybe it all began as a reaction to Roman imperialism. It was Horace who wrote that caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt, which is another way of saying that travel narrows the mind.



Eileen Power (1889-1940), Medieval People, 10th ed. (London: Methuen, 1963; rpt. 1966), pp. 155-156:
It is the greatest error to suppose that history must needs be something written down; for it may just as well be something built up, and churches, houses, bridges, or amphitheatres can tell their story as plainly as print for those who have eyes to read. The Roman villa, excavated after lying lost for centuries beneath the heel of the unwitting ploughboy—that villa with its spacious ground-plan, its floors rich with mosaic patterns, its elaborate heating apparatus, and its shattered vases—brings home more clearly than any textbook the real meaning of the Roman Empire, whose citizens lived like this in a foggy island at the uttermost edge of its world. The Norman castle, with moat and drawbridge, gatehouse and bailey and keep, arrow slits instead of windows, is more eloquent than a hundred chronicles of the perils of life in the twelfth century; not thus dwelt the private gentleman in the days of Rome. The country manor-house of the fourteenth century, with courtyard and chapel and hall and dovecote, speaks of an age of peace once more, when life on a thousand little manors revolved round the lord, and the great mass of Englishmen went unscathed by the Hundred Years' War which seamed the fair face of France. Then begin the merchants' elaborate Perpendicular houses in the towns and villages of the fifteenth century, standing on the road, with gardens behind them, and carved beams, great fire-places, and a general air of comfort; they mark the advent of a new class in English history—the middle class, thrust between lord and peasant and coming to its own. How the spacious days of great Elizabeth are mirrored in the beautiful Elizabethan houses, with their wide wings and large rooms, their chimneys, their glass windows, looking outwards on to open parks and spreading trees, instead of inwards on to the closed courtyard. Or go into a house built or redecorated in the eighteenth century, where you will see Chippendale chairs and lacquer tables and Chinese wall-papers covered with pagodas and mandarins; and surely there will come to your mind the age of the nabobs, the age which John Company had familiarized with the products of the Far East, the age in which tea ousted coffee as the drink for a gentleman of fashion, in which Horace Walpole collected porcelain, Oliver Goldsmith idealized China in 'The Citizen of the World', and Dr Johnson was called the Great Cham of Literature. Look here upon this picture and on this: look at that row of jerry-built houses, a hundred in a row and all exactly alike, of that new-art villa, all roof and hardly any window, with false bottle glass in its panes; here is the twentieth century for you.

Thursday, January 16, 2020



K.J. Dover (1920-2010), Thucydides (1973; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979 = Greece & Rome, New Surveys in the Classics, 7), p. 3:
In respect of any author we have to begin with the questions, 'What did he say?' and 'What did he mean?' The procedures designed to answer the first question are subsumed under 'textual criticism', those concerned with the second under 'translation' and 'interpretation'. The division of labour is necessarily inexact, since difficulties in translation often make us ask, 'Did he really write that?', and, conversely, suspicion of the text or choice between variants can seldom claim to be rational unless the meaning is treated as the vital consideration. 'Interpretation', taking 'What did he mean?' beyond the point to which the translator has taken it, investigates the associations which words and ideas had for the writer and his audience, and it merges into the question, 'Why did he write that, in that connection, at that time?' In the case of a historian we can ask—indeed, we cannot help asking, unless we are sadly lacking in curiosity—the further, and separate question, 'Is it true?'


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