Tuesday, September 21, 2021


Discipline and Persistence

Seneca, On Anger 2.12.3-5 (tr. John W. Basore):
[3] Yet nothing is so hard and difficult that it cannot be conquered by the human intellect and be brought through persistent study into intimate acquaintance, and there are no passions so fierce and self-willed that they cannot be subjugated by discipline. [4] Whatever command the mind gives to itself holds its ground. Some have reached the point of never smiling, some have cut themselves off from wine, others from sexual pleasure, others from every kind of drink; another, satisfied by short sleep, prolongs his waking hours unwearied; some have learned to run on very small and slanting ropes, to carry huge burdens that are scarcely within the compass of human strength, to dive to unmeasured depths and to endure the sea without any drawing of breath. [5] There are a thousand other instances to show that persistence surmounts every obstacle and that nothing is really difficult which the mind enjoins itself to endure.

[3] atqui nihil est tam difficile et arduum quod non humana mens vincat et in familiaritatem perducat adsidua meditatio, nullique sunt tam feri et sui iuris adfectus, ut non disciplina perdomentur. [4] quodcumque sibi imperavit animus, obtinuit. quidam ne umquam riderent consecuti sunt; vino quidam, alii venere, quidam omni umore interdixere corporibus; alius contentus brevi somno vigiliam indefatigabilem extendit; didicerunt tenuissimis et adversis funibus currere et ingentia vixque humanis toleranda viribus onera portare et in immensam altitudinem mergi ac sine ulla respirandi vice perpeti maria. [5] mille sunt alia, in quibus pertinacia impedimentum omne transcendit ostenditque nihil esse difficile cuius sibi ipsa mens patientiam indiceret.


Portrait of a Man

Pietro Paolini (1603-1681), Portrait d'homme (Toulouse, Fondation Bemberg, Salle de la Coursière):
The man is pointing to a tablet on the wall that reads:
(One) life is given (to you) to live if you live by the art of Apollo; here I am alive forever with the help of Apelles.

Monday, September 20, 2021



Nicholas Horsfall, "Virgil's Roman chronography: A reconsideration," Fifty Years at the Sibyl's Heels: Selected Papers on Virgil and Rome (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), pp. 34-39 (at 34):
Jupiter, in his prophetic speech to Venus (Aen. 1.257ff.) foretells that Aeneas will rule for three years in Italy, that Ascanius will complete the thirty years of rule at Lavinium, and that he will then found Alba, under whose kings' rule 300 years will elapse until the birth of Romulus. The sequence 3–30–300 is unmistakable: tertia (265) and ternaque (266) . . . triginta (269) . . . ter centum (272); no effort is required to see that the total of these numbers is 333 and the total is clearly more significant than the antiquarian associations of the individual numbers (cf. R.E.A. Palmer, Archaic Community of the Romans (Cambridge 1970) 54). In the context of ancient attitudes to number, 333 is remarkable in two ways: 3 is 'the magic number par excellence' (Gow on Theocr. 2.17–63) and both powers (3²: cf. Buc. 8.77; H. Diels, Sibyllinische Blätter (Berlin 1890) 41; 3³: cf. Soph. OC 483; Diels, 42ff.) and repetitions of 3 (Liv. 22.10.7: 333,333 1/3; Theocr. 17.82ff.: 33,333) retained the same character; 333 is of course a threefold repetition! Secondly, 333, as half of 666, may well have enjoyed a little of that number's glory;2 to the Pythagoreans 666 will have been remarkable as a doubly 'triangular' number: the sum of the numbers from 1 to 36, 36 being in turn the sum of the numbers from 1 to 8, the sacred ogdoad3 Such lore was not the exclusive preserve of mathematicians and philosophers: it is enough to refer to Donatus' Vita of Virgil (15) maxime mathematicae operam dedit, and to the fact that Euphorion actually composed a Mopsopia in which 'perfect numbers' (e.g. 6 as being the sum of its parts: 1 + 2 + 3) were discussed (L. G. Westerink, Mnemosyne 13.4 (1960) 329f.).

2 Apoc. 13.18 has no place in this discussion: it is explicable within the tradition of gematria, the assigning of numerical values to the letters of the alphabet, cf. F. Dornseiff, Das Alphabet in Mystik u. Magie (Leipzig 1925) 106ff. P. Maury claims (Lettres d'Humanité 3 (1944) 144) that in our passage 333 conceals ΚΑΙΣΑΡΑ: in terms of gematria this is quite correct; F. Boll, Aus der Offenbarung Johannis (repr. Amsterdam 1967) 26ff., and Dornseiff have demonstrated the wide diffusion of this lore in antiquity, but its application here is clearly inappropriate.

3 Cf. Plut. Mor. 382 A; Theon of Smyrna 19; G. A. van den Bergh, Zeitschrift für neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 13 (1912) 295ff.



Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, tr. Frances Frenaye (New York: Time Incorporated, 1964), pp. 88-89:
The sight of me with my sister tapped one of their deepest feelings: that of blood relationship, which was all the more intense since they had so little attachment to either religion or the State. It was not that they venerated family relationship as a social, legal, or sentimental tie, but rather that they cherished an occult and sacred sense of communality. A unifying web, not only of family ties (a first cousin was often as close as a brother), but of the acquired and symbolic kinship called comparaggio, ran throughout the village. Those who pledged friendship to each other on the midsummer night of June 23 and thus became compari di San Giovanni were even closer than brothers; their choosing and the ritual initiation they went through made them members of the same blood group and within the group there was a sacred tie which forbade intermarriage. This fraternal tie, then, was the strongest there was among them.


Paltry Humans

Plautus, Captivi 51 (tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
Of what little importance humans are when I think about it!

homunculi quanti sunt, quom recogito!
Plautus, Rudens 154 (tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
Poor devils, how little worth you are!

homunculi quanti estis!
quanti = genitive of price


Limericks on the Aeneid

John N. Hough, "Facetiae," Classical Outlook 58.3 (March-April 1981) 96:

Our hero, in need of new tricks,
Went to Hell by crossing the Styx;
But Dido was mad,
So he talked to his dad,
And that is the plot of Book Six.


Books Seven to Twelve don't excite
Us as much as they rightfully might.
We just don't enjoy them
And tend to employ them
For exams and for reading at sight.
John N. Hough, "Facetiae," Classical Outlook 58.4 (May-June 1981) 127:

In Carthage our love-struck Aeneas,
Infatuate dullard as he was,
Still wouldn't play Fido
To subdolous Dido
Who didn't consider him pius.


Why bother with funeral games
Or the burning of ships by the dames,
When surely one function,
Without any compunction,
Is to drag in some old Roman names?

Sunday, September 19, 2021


Ich Bin (ein) Braunschweiger

I used to love the story that President John Kennedy, when he said "Ich bin ein Berliner," uttered the equivalent of "I am a jelly donut." Unfortunately, it turns out that his German was a proper rendering of "I am a Berliner," according to Jurgen Eichhoff, "'Ich bin ein Berliner': A History and Linguistic Clarification," Monatshefte für den deutschen Unterricht, deutsche Sprache und Kultur 85 (1993) 71–80.

Braunschweiger means both a native of Braunschweig and a type of sausage. Because the English equivalent of Braunschweig is Brunswick and because I was born in Brunswick, I could describe myself as a Braunschweiger.


Philology Applied to Contemporary Texts

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Escolios a un Texto Implicito, II (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, 1977), p. 111 (my translation):
The texts of our contemporaries confuse and demoralize the philologist, because he assumes that they are written with the same meticulous care with which he reads them.

Los textos de nuestros contemporáneos embrollan y desmoralizan al filólogo, porque los supone escritos con el mismo meticuloso cuidado con que los lee.


Poetry as Concentration?

Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading (1934; rpt. London: Faber and Faber, 1991), p. 36:
'Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.'
Dichten = condensare.
I begin with poetry because it is the most concentrated form of verbal expression. Basil Bunting, fumbling about with a German-Italian dictionary, found that this idea of poetry as concentration is as old almost as the German language. 'Dichten' is the German verb corresponding to the noun 'Dichtung' meaning poetry, and the lexicographer has rendered it by the Italian verb meaning 'to condense'.
There are two different verbs spelled dichten in German. One means "dicht machen" (dicht = thick, dense, compact), and the other means "ein sprachliches Kunstwerk (besonders in Versform) verfassen" (definitions from Duden). The two homonyms are etymologically unrelated and should not be used to support the idea of poetry as concentration.

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An Odd Dactyl

Five separate words make up a single dactyl at the beginning of Homer, Iliad 13.53 (tr. Peter Green):
here, where that madman, flame-like, is leading them on...

ᾗ ῥ᾽ ὅ γ᾽ ὁ λυσσώδης φλογὶ εἴκελος ἡγεμονεύει...
Richard Janko in his commentary doesn't discuss the meter, but does have this to say about λυσσώδης:
Maureen Alden repeats this derivation, in Jonathan J. Price and Rachel Zelnick-Abramovitz, edd., Text and Intertext in Greek Epic and Drama: Essays in Honor of Margalit Finkelberg (London: Routledge, 2021), p. 44 ("smelling of wolf"), with note 65 on p. 51 (citing Janko).

But cf. Jesse Lundquist, "On the Accentuation of Compound s-Stem Adjectives in Greek and Vedic," Proceedings of the 27th Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference (Bremen: Hempen, 2016), pp. 97-114 (at 103?):
'wolf-like' (not 'wolf-stinking'!)
See also Ameis and Hentze on Iliad 13.53:
Die Adjektive auf -ώδης behandelt J. Wackernagel d. Dehnungsgesetz d. griech. Komposita, Basel 1889, p. 44 ff. Er trennt diese, welche jede Art von Ähnlichkeit ausdrücken und gerade gern eine solche des eigentlichsten Wesens, von den Adjektiven auf -οειδής und ist geneigt in -ώδης einen Ableger von -ώδης 'so und so riechend', 'wonach riechend', zu sehen. Danach würde das älteste Beispiel, λυσσώδης N 53, eigentlich heissen 'den Eindruck von Raserei hervorrufend'.

Saturday, September 18, 2021


An Unknown Book?

Greek Anthology 15.23 (tr. W.R. Paton, with his note):
On the Book of Marcus1

If thou wouldst overcome sorrow, unroll and peruse with care this blessed book from which thou shalt with ease look on wealth of doctrine concerning things to be, things that are, and things that were, and shalt see that joy and pain are no better than smoke.

1 Nothing is known regarding it.

Εἰς τὴν βίβλον Μάρκου

Εἰ λύπης κρατέειν ἐθέλεις,
τήνδε μάκαιραν ἀναπτύσσων
βίβλον ἐπέρχεο ἐνδυκέως,
ἧς ὕπο γνώμην ὀλβίστην
ῥεῖά κεν ὄψεαι ἐσσομένων,        5
ὄντων ἠδὲ παροιχομένων,
τερπωλήν τ᾿ ἀνίην τε
καπνοῦ μηδὲν ἀρειοτέρην.

7 λέγων post τε add. Maas
Jan Kwapisz, The Paradigm of Simias: Essays on Poetic Eccentricity (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2019), p. 126, n. 48:
[I]n fact, we know a little bit about 'the book of Marcus', as this epigram is also found in the colophon of a MS of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, see Ceporina 2012, 49. The metre and the paroxytonic accentuation points to a late origin; see Maas 1913, 298.
The references are to Matteo Ceporina, "The Meditations," in Marcel van Ackeren, ed., A Companion to Marcus Aurelius (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), pp. 45–61, and Paul Maas, "Das Epigramm auf Marcus ΕΙΣ ΕΑΥΤΟΝ," Hermes 48 (1913) 295–299.

See also Gabriele Palermo, Metri lirici nella poesia greca d’età imperiale: tra riuso e innovazione (Trieste: Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2020), pp. 42-46.


Ours Is the Soil

Friedrich Schiller, William Tell, lines 1270-1273 (from Act II, Scene 2; tr. Sidney E. Kaplan):
Ours is the soil, through possession of a thousand years, and shall the foreign vassal be permitted to come and forge chains for us and insult (us) on our own soil?

Unser ist durch tausendjährigen Besitz
Der Boden — und der fremde Herrenknecht
Soll kommen dürfen und uns Ketten schmieden,
Und Schmach antun auf unsrer eignen Erde?
Id., lines 1286-1288:
We have a right to defend the greatest of (the) treasures against violence. We stand for our country; we stand for our wives (and) our children.

Der Güter höchstes dürfen wir verteid'gen
Gegen Gewalt — Wir stehn vor unser Land,
Wir stehn vor unsre Weiber, unsre Kinder!

Friday, September 17, 2021


What Can a Man Do? Nothing

Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, tr. Frances Frenaye (New York: Time Incorporated, 1964), pp. 76-78:
The gentry were all Party members, even the few like Dr. Milillo who were dissenters. The Party stood for Power, as vested in the Government and the State, and they felt entitled to a share of it. For exactly the opposite reason none of the peasants were members; indeed, it was unlikely that they should belong to any political party whatever, should, by chance, another exist. They were not Fascists, just as they would never have been Conservatives or Socialists, or any thing else. Such matters had nothing to do with them; they belonged to another world and they saw no sense in them. What had the peasants to do with Power, Government, and the State? The State, whatever form it might take, meant "the fellows in Rome." "Everyone knows," they said, "that the fellows in Rome don't want us to live like human beings. There are hailstorms, landslides, droughts, malaria and ... the State. These are inescapable evils; such there always have been and there always will be. They make us kill off our goats, they carry away our furniture, and now they're going to send us to the wars. Such is life!"

To the peasants the State is more distant than heaven and far more of a scourge, because it is always against them. Its political tags and platforms and, indeed, the whole structure of it do not matter. The peasants do not understand them because they are couched in a different language from their own, and there is no reason why they should ever care to understand them. Their only defense against the State and the propaganda of the State is resignation, the same gloomy resignation that bows their shoulders under the scourges of nature.

For this reason, quite naturally, they have no conception of a political struggle; they think of it as a personal quarrel among the "fellows in Rome." They were not concerned with the views of the political prisoners who were in compulsory residence among them, or with the motives for their coming. They looked at them kindly and treated them like brothers because they too, for some inexplicable reason, were victims of fate. During the first days of my stay whenever I happened to meet along one of the paths outside the village an old peasant who did not know me, he would stop his donkey to greet me and ask in dialect: "Who are you? Where are you going?" "Just for a walk; I'm a political prisoner," I would answer. "An exile? (They always said exile instead of prisoner.) Too bad! Someone in Rome must have had it in for you." And he would say no more, but smile at me in a brotherly fashion as he prodded his mount into motion.

This passive brotherliness, this sympathy in the original sense of the word, this fatalistic, comradely, age-old patience, is the deepest feeling the peasants have in common, a bond made by nature rather than by religion. They do not and can not have what is called political awareness, because they are literally pagani, "pagans," or countrymen, as distinguished from city-dwellers. The deities of the State and the city can find no worshipers here on the land, where the wolf and the ancient black boar reign supreme, where there is no wall between the world of men and the world of animals and spirits, between the leaves of the trees above and the roots below. They can not have even an awareness of themselves as individuals, here where all things are held together by acting upon one another and each one is a power unto itself, working imperceptibly, where there is no barrier that can not be broken down by magic. They live submerged in a world that rolls on independent of their will, where man is in no way separate from his sun, his beast, his malaria, where there can be neither happiness, as literary devotees of the land conceive it, nor hope, because these two are adjuncts of personality and here there is only the grim passivity of a sorrowful Nature. But they have a lively human feeling for the common fate of mankind and its common acceptance. This is strictly a feeling rather than an act of will; they do not express it in words but they carry it with them at every moment and in every motion of their lives, through all the unbroken days that pass over these wastes.

"Too bad! Someone had it in for you." You, too, are subject to fate. You, too, are here because of the power of ill will, because of an evil star; you are tossed hither and yon by the hostile workings of magic. And you, too, are a man; you are one of us. Never mind what motives impelled you, politics, legalities, or the illusion of reason. Such things as reason or cause and effect, do not exist; there is only an adverse fate, a will for evil, which is the magic power of things. The State is one shape of this fate, like the wind that devours the harvest and the fever that feeds on our blood. There can be no attitude toward fate except patience and silence. Of what use are words? And what can a man do? Nothing.


A Habit Common to All

Josephus, Against Apion 2.36.258-261 (tr. H. St. J. Thackeray):
[258] Of these facts Apollonius Molon took no account when he condemned us for refusing admission to persons with other preconceived ideas about God, and for declining to associate with those who have chosen to adopt a different mode of life. [259] Yet even this habit is not peculiar to us; it is common to all, and shared not only by Greeks, but by Greeks of the highest reputation. The Lacedaemonians made a practice of expelling foreigners and would not allow their own citizens to travel abroad, in both cases apprehensive of the of their laws being corrupted. [260] They might perhaps be justly reproached for discourtesy, because they accorded to no one the rights either of citizenship or of residence among them. [261] We, on the contrary, while we have no desire to emulate the customs of others, yet gladly welcome any who wish to share our own. That, I think, may be taken as a proof both of humanity and magnanimity.

[258] ὧν οὐδὲν λογισάμενος ὁ Μόλων Ἀπολλώνιος ἡμῶν κατηγόρησεν, ὅτι μὴ παραδεχόμεθα τοὺς ἄλλαις προκατειλημμένους δόξαις περὶ θεοῦ, μηδὲ κοινωνεῖν ἐθέλομεν τοῖς καθ᾿ ἑτέραν συνήθειαν βίου ζῆν προαιρουμένοις. [259] ἀλλ᾿ οὐδὲ τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν ἴδιον ἡμῶν, κοινὸν δὲ πάντων, οὐχ Ἑλλήνων δὲ μόνων, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν ἐν τοῖς Ἕλλησιν εὐδοκιμωτάτων. Λακεδαιμόνιοι δὲ καὶ ξενηλασίας ποιούμενοι διετέλουν καὶ τοῖς αὑτῶν ἀποδημεῖν πολίταις οὐκ ἐπέτρεπον, διαφθορὰν ἐξ ἀμφοῖν ὑφορώμενοι γενήσεσθαι περὶ τοὺς νόμους. [260] ἐκείνοις μὲν οὖν τάχ᾿ ἂν δυσκολίαν τις ὀνειδίσειεν εἰκότως· οὐδενὶ γὰρ οὔτε τῆς πολιτείας οὔτε τῆς παρ᾿ αὐτοῖς μετεδίδοσαν διατριβῆς. [261] ἡμεῖς δὲ τὰ μὲν τῶν ἄλλων ζηλοῦν οὐκ ἀξιοῦμεν, τοὺς μέντοι μετέχειν τῶν ἡμετέρων βουλομένους ἡδέως δεχόμεθα. καὶ τοῦτο ἂν εἴη τεκμήριον, οἶμαι, φιλανθρωπίας ἅμα καὶ μεγαλοψυχίας.
Related posts:


One Heart, One Blood

Friedrich Schiller, William Tell, lines 1199-1205 (from Act II, Scene 2; tr. Sidney E. Kaplan):
Yet they remained ever mindful of their origin.
Out of all the strange races which since then        1200
have settled in the midst of their land,
the (true) Swiss men recognize one another.
It is the heart and the blood that make themselves known (to one another).
[Extends his hand right and left]
Yes, we are of one heart, one blood!
ALL [extending their hands].
We are one people and we shall we shall act as one.        1205

Doch blieben sie des Ursprungs stets gedenk,
Aus all den fremden Stämmen, die seitdem        1200
In Mitte ihres Lands sich angesiedelt,
Finden die Schwytzer Männer sich heraus,
Es giebt das Herz, das Blut sich zu erkennen.
[reicht rechts und links die Hand hin]
Ja, wir sind eines Herzens, eines Bluts!
ALLE [sich die Hände reichend].
Wir sind ein Volk, und einig wollen wir handeln.        1205

Thursday, September 16, 2021


Oral Examination

Jenny Teichman, "Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe 1919–2001," Proceedings of the British Academy 115 (2003) 31-50 (at 38):
Finally there is the true story about Elizabeth’s final viva voce examination. Because of her intense interest in philosophy she tended to neglect the rest of the syllabus and consequently flunked the Roman History paper. The philosophy examiners wanted to give her First Class Honours but the Roman History man objected, and objected even more, no doubt, when his questions in the viva met with a blank face. He eventually asked: ‘Miss Anscombe, can you name a governor or procurator of a Roman province? Any Roman province?’ to which she replied ‘No’, having forgotten all about Pontius Pilate. The historian, in despair, asked: ‘Miss Anscombe, is there any fact at all about the history of Rome which you would like to comment on?’ But again the answer was ‘No’ and a mournful shake of the head. However the other examiners insisted that Elizabeth deserved a First and a First was duly awarded.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Silent Shades?

Vergil, Aeneid 6.264-267 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Ye gods, who hold the domain of spirits! ye voiceless shades!
Thou, Chaos, and thou, Phlegethon, ye broad, silent tracts of night!
Suffer me to tell what I have heard; suffer me of your grace
to unfold secrets buried in the depths and darkness of the earth!

di, quibus imperium est animarum, umbraeque silentes,
et Chaos, et Phlegethon, loca nocte tacentia late,        265
sit mihi fas audita loqui; sit numine vestro
pandere res alta terra et caligine mersas!
Nicholas Horsfall on umbraeque silentes:
Cf. 432f. silentum / consilium, Matius fr. 8 at maneat specii simulacrum in morte silentum with Courtney's n. (probably gen. plur.; he renders 'an image of the appearance of those silent in death'). Cf. Licinia Ricottilli, EV 5*, 12, Norden, p. 209, Bömer on Ov. F. 2.609 (with further bibl.), Setaioli, EV 2, 956, Cumont, LP, 70 and notably J.N. Bremmer, Early Greek concept..., 84f.. Unsurprisingly, No[rden] turns to 'silence' in magical texts (and indeed comms., apart from Page, not helpful on this point), but some understanding of the spirits' 'silence' emerges from more familiar authors:

(i) It has of course been noted that in many texts the souls are not silent at all, in that they make a good deal of noise (but Serv. on 264 nam hominum umbrae loquuntur seems anomalous) but that noise is far from human speech and clearly reflects theriomorphic views of the soul. Notably as bee; see n. on 707-9 and, more fully, Vergilius 56 (2010), 39-45 at 40f.; whence the souls buzzing at Soph. fr. 879 Radt. But also birds, Rohde, Psyche, 2, 371, n.2, Cumont, LP, 293-302, Dodds, Greeks and the irrational, 162, n. 38, comms. on Od. 11.605f., Plin. Nat. 7.174 (Aristeas), n. on 309-12. So the cheeping and twittering indicated by Hom. τετριγυῖα, Il. 23.101 (with Diog. Laert. 8.21). Not to mention bats, Od. 24.5, 9, Tert. An. 32.3, ad fin., M. Wellmann, PW 6.2741.38ff., Bettini (707-9), 225f. and n. on 283 for Lucian, VH 2.33. Cf. too the extraordinary cry of Od. 11.43. In one sense, therefore, 'silence' suggests inability to communicate in human speech; cf. the phantasm of Aen. at 10.639f. (Juno) dat inania uerba, / dat sine mente sonum.

(ii) Here, comms. naturally compare 432 silentum (that is, roughly, 'the dead'; OLD s.v., §2) and 492f. pars tollere uocem / exiguam (strongly suggestive of Hom., just cited); cf. too Hes. Scut. 131 (death that steals the voice), Theogn. 568f. (when dead, as a voiceless stone). Cic. TD 1.37, CLE 1552.38. On the other hand. complete silence would be inimical to the plot, whether in Od. 11 (cf. Page, Hom. Odyssey, 24) or here; so in Hom., blood endows the dead with speech (cf. A. Heubeck on Od. 10.516-40), while in V. the dead speak as required, and Elysium seems particularly vocal. The absence of laughter (Bremmer, Early Greek concept..., 85f.) not directly relevant, but it does seem to fit in easily with the ancient apophatic vein (cf. (426-547) and vd. Page here; see too Johnson, 88-90) in characterisation of the Underworld: absence of strength (Od. 10.521, etc.), of colour (e.g. 272, 480 (where vd. n.), G. 1.277), of substance (269, 292, 413), of light, (265, 267, 270, G. 4.472), of touch (700-2), and naturally of sound (see too infra, tacentia). No essential inconsistency, but a variety of ways of conceiving the Underworld.
Related post: Hellish Noise.


Socrates the Veteran

Dear Mike,

Emily Thomas, The Meaning of Travel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), p. 2:
There's a myth that philosophers don't travel. It is fuelled by Socrates, who never set foot outside the city walls of Athens...
If the first statement is a myth, so too is the second. Socrates participated as an Athenian hoplite in three military campaigns: the extended siege of Potidaea in northern Greece (432-429 BC), the Athenian attack on Delium in Boeotia a few years later (424 BC), and the expedition to defend the Athenian colony Amphipolis in Thrace (422 BC).

See S. Sara Monoson, "Socrates' Military Service," in Victor Caston and Silke-Maria Weineck, edd., Our Ancient Wars: Rethinking War through the Classics (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016), pp. 96-117.

The most famous literary representation of Socrates outside the city walls of Athens is Plato's Phaedrus.

Best wishes,

Eric [Thomson]


Wednesday, September 15, 2021


The Last Word

Gian Biagio Conte, The Poetry of Pathos: Studies in Virgilian Epic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 193-194:
In the epic duel, when two heroes meet and one addresses the other, the rule holds good that whoever emerges victorious in the encounter is either the only one to speak, or the last speaker. To put it in another way, the loser (or the one destined to lose) does not speak last in this kind of scene. In surviving Graeco-Roman epic, this rule is followed in some thirty cases (they mostly belong to the two Homeric poems and the Aeneid) and breached in only one case known to me, in the representation of the death of Mezentius. After the exchange of challenges and provocations (Mezentius shouts, summoning Aeneas to the encounter; Aeneas hastens and utters a few words, which Mezentius proudly rejects), Mezentius is laid low and Aeneas taunts him, according to the code for the victor, before administering the fatal blow. But, against the rule, the text allows Mezentius to speak again: he himself claims not to fear death, and even confirms that killing in battle is just and proper.



Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Escolios a un Texto Implicito, II (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, 1977), p. 88 (my translation):
The men of today have replaced the myth of a past age of gold with that of a future age of plastic.

La humanidad actual sustituyó el mito de una pretérita edad de oro con el de una futura edad de plástico.


The Old Books

Friedrich Schiller, William Tell, lines 1121-1122 (from Act II, Scene 2; tr. Sidney E. Kaplan):
Even if the old books are not at hand,
they are engraved in our hearts.

Sind auch die alten Bücher nicht zur Hand,
Sie sind in unsre Herzen eingeschrieben.



Dear Mike,

Emily Thomas, The Meaning of Travel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020) p. xi:
No young person under forty is ever to be allowed to travel abroad under any circumstances; nor is anyone to be allowed to go for private reasons, but only on some public business, as a herald or ambassador or as an observer of one sort or another.

Plato, Republic (c.380BCE)
This eminently sensible prohibition occurs not in Plato's Republic but in his Laws (12.950d):
πρῶτον μὲν νεωτέρῳ ἐτῶν τετταράκοντα μὴ ἐξέστω ἀποδημῆσαι μηδαμῇ μηδαμῶς, ἔτι τε ἰδίᾳ μηδενί, δημοσίᾳ δ᾽ἔστω κήρυξιν ἢ πρεσβείαις ἢ καί τισι θεωροῖς.
Best wishes,

Eric [Thomson]



The Hero of the Aeneid

Raymond Keene, "Hoc opus, hic liber est: Nigel Short's 'Winning' and other chess books," The Article (September 11, 2021):
In Virgil's Aeneid one finds the phrase, "hoc opus, hic labor est", "this is the task, this is the masterpiece", referring to the hero Theseus and his descent to the Underworld. Descending to the netherworld's depths is easy — the trick is to get back safely again to the "upper airs." Less onerous is the annual task of The English Chess Federation in selecting its title ("liber" in Latin means "book") for their Book of the Year prize.
Screen capture:
Wrong hero — for Theseus read Aeneas. Also, I wouldn't translate labor as masterpiece. The Sibyl says these words to Aeneas in Book VI, line 129.

Hat tip: Jim K.

Another friend writes:
And what about Aeneas and the Minotaur? Theseus and Aeneas both end in -s. Don't be a pedant. It's 2021.



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