Monday, September 24, 2018


A Misanthrope

Libanius, Declamations 12.11-14 (Timon speaking; tr. D.A. Russell):
[11] I lived a happy and enviable life, seeing no one, hearing no one, having no company, talking occasionally to my dog, and not so much as letting a neighbour share my fire, should one come to ask, but shutting my eyes and clapping my hands over my ears if any sound of approaching humanity was audible.

[12] If I saw a picture of a human being on a wall, I would gouge it out; I regularly ran away from my own shadow, because, when I was standing at the water's edge, I often saw from the image that I myself was a human being. I detested even those dreams that brought me into human company, and would jump up in the middle of my sleep because I could not bear the vision. Indeed I often detested myself, because I was by nature human. It distressed me, I swear, whenever I reflected that some among you have recollections of me, for I did not want to be remembered by you so much as in word or even in mere thought.

[13] I had such an abundance of affection for mankind that my hatred extended to the gods and their images, because the wretched humans fashioned them in their own form. I hated the Egyptians, of course — they are human, after all — but I approved of their making the images of their gods in animal rather than in human form, because they thought dogs a much more appropriate likeness for the gods than men.

[14] I used to pray that Phaethon's chariot would one day fall upon us, and the vast cataclysm of which the poets tell. There could have been no happier event than the annihilation of the whole human race by fire and sword and water, and the purification of the earth by fire as it were from a pestilence.

[11] ζηλωτόν τινα καὶ μακάριον διῆγον βίον οὐ θεώμενος ἄνθρωπον, οὐκ ἀκούων οὐδενός, οὐ προσομιλῶν, ὀλίγα τῷ κυνὶ διαλεγόμενος, καὶ τοῦ πυρὸς εἴ τις προσίοι μετασχεῖν ἐθέλων, κἀκείνῳ φθονῶν, συστέλλων τὰς ὄψεις, πάλιν ἐπιβάλλων τὰς χεῖρας ταῖς ἀκοαῖς, εἴ πού τις ἀνθρώπων κτύπος προσιόντων ἠκούετο.

[12] καὶ τὸν τοῖχον δ' ἐξώρυττον, εἴπου τινὰ γεγραμμένον ἴδοιμι ἄνθρωπον, καὶ τὴν ἐμαυτοῦ σκιὰν συνεχῶς ἀπεδίδρασκον, ὅτι δὴ πολλάκις ἐφιστάμενος τοῖς νάμασιν ἄνθρωπον ἐμαυτὸν ἑώρων διὰ τῆς εἰκόνος. ἐμίσουν δὲ καὶ τῶν ὀνείρων ἐκείνους οἳ πρὸς τὴν τῶν ἀνθρώπων ὁμιλίαν ἡμᾶς ἦγον, καὶ συνεχῶς ἐκ μέσων ἀνεπήδων τῶν ὕπνων οὐ φέρων τὴν θέαν. καὶ ἐμαυτὸν δ' ἐμίσουν πολλάκις, ὅτι δὴ τὴν φύσιν ἄνθρωπος ἦν. ἐλύπει δέ με κἀκεῖνο, νὴ τοὺς θεούς, εἴποτ' ἐνθυμηθείην ὡς ἄρα μνήμην τινὰ ἔχουσι παρ' ὑμῖν τινές. οὐδὲ γὰρ οὐδὲ ἄχρι ῥήματος καὶ ψιλῆς ὑπονοίας ἠβουλόμην παρ' ὑμῖν μνημονεύεσθαι.

[13] τοσοῦτον δέ μοι περιῆν τοῦ φίλτρου τοῦ πρὸς ἄνθρωπον ὥστε καὶ μέχρι θεῶν καὶ τῶν ἀγαλμάτων ἐξετείνετο τὸ μῖσος, ὅτι δὴ τούτους οἱ κατάρατοι πρὸς τὴν αὑτῶν μορφὴν ἐξετύπουν ἄνθρωποι. καὶ τοὺς Αἰγυπτίους ἐμίσουν μέν, τί γὰρ οὐκ ἔμελλον ἀνθρώπους ὄντας; καθ' ἓν δὲ τοῦτο ἀπεδεχόμην, ὅτι δὴ τὰ τῶν θεῶν ἀγάλματα οὐκ ἀνθρωποειδῆ, θηριωδέστερον δέ τινα ἔχοντα τὸν τύπον κατεσκεύαζον πολὺ ‹πλέον› τῶν ἀνθρώπων τοὺς κύνας πρέπειν θεοῖς πρὸς τὴν εἰκασίαν πιστεύσαντες.

[14] ηὐχόμην δὲ τὴν Φαέθοντος διφρείαν ἐπιστῆναί ποτε καὶ τὸν πολὺν κατακλυσμὸν ἐκεῖνον ὃν οἱ ποιηταὶ θρυλοῦσιν. οὐδὲν γὰρ ἂν ἦν εὐτυχέστερον ἢ τὸ σύμπαν τῶν ἀνθρώπων γένος ἀφανισθῆναι πυρὶ καὶ σιδήρῳ καὶ ὕδατι καὶ τὴν γῆν ὥσπέρ τινος νοσήματος ἀπαλλαγῆναι καθαρθεῖσαν τῷ πυρί.

Sunday, September 23, 2018


Is Bad Poetry Now a Crime?

Rockdale County Police Blotter (September 21, 2018; emphasis added):
Levi Lajuan Gibbs, 18, Covington, reckless conduct, false statements/writings; concealment of facts, possession of firearm or knife during commission of or attempt to commit certain rimes, tampering with evidence.
Screen capture:

Hat tip: Laudator Junior.



Life at 60

A.A. Gill (1954-2016), "Life at 60," The Sunday Times (June 29, 2014):
This is one of the biggest changes in ageing. The continuous heartbeat rhythm that tells you your experiences are now rationed. How many more Ring cycles will I get to? How many more times will I see Venice emerging out of the lagoon? How many cassoulets, English cherries? How many summits in the Highlands? How many long lunches with old friends? How many old friends are left to me?

That sounds maudlin, but it doesn't feel like that. It adds to the pleasure, a sentiment to everything, an extra gypsy violin to life. I linger over things now: flowers, moonlight, Schubert, lunch, bookshops. Also I mind less about standing in queues, sitting in traffic, waiting for a bus or my call to be answered. Everything has a pinch of piquancy, a smudge of melodrama, and I like that.


Health looms over the elderly like a threatening monsoon. No ache is innocuous. No lump or discoloured, sagging patch of body is ignorable except our toenails, which become the most sordidly repellent things in all nature. We covertly examine ourselves and our effluvia for the premonition of the dark humour that will carry us away. There is no such thing as a routine checkup. They are all life-or-death appointments.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.



Gore Vidal (1925-2012), Julian (1964; rpt. New York: Modern Library, 1984), p. 142:
The malice of a true Christian attempting to destroy an opponent is something unique in the world. No other religion ever considered it necessary to destroy others because they did not share the same beliefs. At worst, another man's belief might inspire amusement or contempt—the Egyptians and their animal gods, for instance. Yet those who worshipped the Bull did not try to murder those who worshipped the Snake, or to convert them by force from Snake to Bull. No evil ever entered the world quite so vividly or on such a vast scale as Christianity did.
But cf. Juvenal's 15th satire, on the religious feud between inhabitants of two Egyptian villages, lines 33-38 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
Between the neighbours Ombi and Tentyra there still blazes a lasting and ancient feud, an undying hatred, a wound that can never be healed. On each side, the height of mob fury arises because each place detests the gods of their neighbours. They think that only the gods they themselves worship should be counted as gods.

inter finitimos vetus atque antiqua simultas,
inmortale odium et numquam sanabile vulnus,
ardet adhuc Ombos et Tentura. summus utrimque
inde furor volgo, quod numina vicinorum
odit uterque locus, cum solos credat habendos
esse deos quos ipse colit.

Saturday, September 22, 2018


Have a Happy Day

Libanius, Declamations 26.7 (tr. D.A. Russell):
And there's another thing calculated to drive a man out of the agora: it's the practice, that has somehow come into our lives, of greeting people by saying 'have a happy day'. I don't for the life of me see the advantage in this. Nobody in a painful situation is any the better for being told to 'have a happy day'.

καὶ μὴν κἀκεῖνο δεινὸν ἐξελάσαι τῆς ἀγορᾶς τὸ τῆς προσρήσεως οὐκ οἶδ' ὁπόθεν εἰς τὸν βίον εἰσελθὸν τὸν δεῖνα χαίρειν. οὐ γὰρ ἔγωγε, μὰ τοὺς θεούς, ὁρῶ τοῦ ῥήματος τὸ κέρδος. οὐ γὰρ ᾧ γε λύπης ἀξίως ἔχει τὰ πράγματα, βελτίω παρὰ τὸ χαίρειν ἀκοῦσαι γίγνεται.
In America, it's "Have a nice day," or in the Bible Belt where I live, "Have a blessed day."

A friend writes from Europe:
In Arizona last year I was subjected a couple of times to "Have a good one" but never summoned up the courage to ask "Do you mean wank or crap?".


A Greekless Age

Paul Shorey (1857-1934), "Philology and Classical Philology," Classical Journal 1.6 (May, 1906) 169-196 (at 169-170):
Greek has always been the best gauge of the philological temperature, from the absolute zero of the dark centuries to the blood heat of the Augustan age and the Renaissance. Latin is a necessity; Greek is the first of luxuries. "Latin," said Porson, or was it Bentley? "a man may in some sort master. Of Greek every man learns only so much as God permits." In the great ages of enthusiasm God permits a good deal. In the trough of the waves, in the intervals of reaction and depression, men try to believe that Latin alone will do as well. Greek is studied perfunctorily and without conviction, if at all, and the wail of the Greek professor goes up ever the same. In the time of Ausonius the world was settling down to the longest Greekless age since our civilization began. And his tribute in wonderfully constructed Horatian Sapphics to the unfortunate occupants of the chair of Greek at Augustodunum has a perennial pathos for their successors in like case. After celebrating the eloquence, the fees, the throngs of students, the diplomatic preferments of the professors of rhetoric, he comes to the names of those cultivators of the Attic muse, the grammarians Spercheius and Menestheus:
Sedulous your zeal for implanting knowledge,
Slight the harvest, little the Greek you taught me,
Yet because you fell in my time I give you
Hon'rable mention.
Even so! Carve it on our tombs, ye graduates in criminology and spring-housecleaning. We fell in your time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Ordeals of a Schoolboy

Robin Lane Fox, Augustine: Conversions to Confessions (New York: Basic Books, 2015), figures 5 and 8, with extended descriptions of the figures from p. 566:

5. Mosaic panels which give a unique representation of a schoolboy's ordeals. They are now in private collections in the USA, but once they surrounded a bigger floor in north Syria, surely in or near Antioch, and plausibly dated to the fifth century AD, although I have wondered if perhaps it was contemporary with Libanius in the fourth. Here, young Kimbros, left, is flogged and then taken to Marianos, seated, probably a primary grammar-teacher. Black-winged Disease (Nosos) hovers by the bed-ridden Apollonides, whom Marianos visits, perhaps as a fellow teacher, as Libanius sometimes did. With the help of C. Marinescu. (Photo: Stefan Hager)

8. Kimbros' friend Markianos, on the left, with the personified figure of Petitioning (Enteuxis) at his right. Kimbros and his friends are discussing, with a dog, below right, and then the personified figure of Informing (Menusis) reveals details to the seated teacher, Alexandros. Kimbros is then held by the feet and head by his two friends and in my view is to be flogged by the standing figure with a lash, a sort of ancient pandy-bat. The panels beautifully relate to the perils of schooling, friendship and flogging which are recalled by Augustine and Libanius in their own past. (Photo: Stefan Hager)

See also Constantin Marinescu et al., "Paideia's Children: Childhood Education on a Group of Late Antique Mosaics," in Ada Cohen and Jeremy B. Rutter, edd., Constructions of Childhood in Ancient Greece and Italy (Athens: The American School of Classical Studies in Athens, 2007 = Hesperia, Supplement 41), pp. 101-114.

Related post: Plagosus Orbilius.


Mine Take, and Last, a Long Time

Paul Valéry (1871-1945), Collected Works, Vol. XII: Degas, Manet, Morisot, tr. David Paul (New York: Pantheon Books, ©1960), pp. 173-174:
Natural pearls, matured and deep-flavored wines, truly accomplished individuals, all suggest a slow storing up of like and successive contributory causes; their excellence accumulates slowly because its limit is perfection.

There was a time when man could emulate this patience. Illuminated manuscripts; deeply carven ivories; hard stones polished to perfection and sharply graved; lacquers and tints obtained by imposing layer after layer of thin and translucent color; sonnets devotedly waited for, deliberately delayed, ceaselessly rehandled by the poet — all such products of a determined and disinterested labor have ceased to be made. The time has gone when time did not matter. Man today has no mind to cultivate what cannot be done quickly. It seems as if the idea of eternity has grown dim in proportion as the distaste for prolonged tasks has increased. We can no longer accept the idea of creating something of inestimable value by means of a labor as regular and ceaseless as nature's own. Patience and tenacity are irksome to our age; it thinks to get its work over and done by great expenditures of energy.

Les perles fines, les vins profonds et mûrs, les personnes véritablement accomplies, font songer d'une lente thésaurisation de causes successives et semblables; la durée de l'accroissement de leur excellence a la perfection pour limite.

L'homme, jadis, imitait cette patience. Enluminures; ivoires profondément refouillés; pierres dures parfaitement polies et nettement gravées laques et peintures obtenues par la superposition d'une quantité de couches minces et translucides; sonnets amoureusement attendus, volontairement retardés, indéfiniment ressaisis par le poète, — toutes ces productions d'une industrie opiniâtre et vertueuse ne se font guère plus, et le temps est passé où le temps ne comptait pas. L'homme d'aujourd'hui ne cultive point ce qui ne peut point s'abréger. On dirait que l'affaiblissement dans les esprits de l'idée d'éternité coïncide avec le dégoût croissant des longues tâches. Nous ne supportons plus de former une valeur inestimable par un travail égal et indéfini comme celui de la nature. L'attente et la constance pèsent à notre époque, qui essaye de se délivrer de son ouvrage à grands frais d'énergie.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Causes of Discord

Tacitus, Histories 2.38 (tr. Clifford H. Moore):
The same divine wrath, the same human madness, the same motives to crime drove them on to strife.

eadem illos deum ira, eadem hominum rabies, eaedem scelerum causae in discordiam egere.


A Classical Education

Paul Valéry (1871-1945), Collected Works, Vol. XII: Degas, Manet, Morisot, tr. David Paul (New York: Pantheon Books, ©1960), p. 22 (on Degas):
As for me, I am still astounded by the complete absence of the simplest notions of the most elementary practicality, in a man so intelligent and — what is more — classically educated. In some ways he had no more sense than an old woman.

In the lycées of 1850, the curriculum must have been quite as ridiculous as that of today, though more thorough. Not one of the firsts in the Concours Général would have been able to point in the sky to the stars mentioned by Virgil; and as practitioners of Latin verse, they were radically unaware of the fact that French verse has a music of its own. Neither cleanliness, nor the smallest notions of hygiene, nor deportment, nor even the pronunciation of our language, had any place in the programs of that incredible system, conceived as it was to exclude carefully anything to do with the body, the senses, the sky, the arts, or social life....

Quant à moi, je demeure étonné du manque des notions les plus simples et des pratiques les plus élémentaires chez un homme si intelligent, et d'ailleurs nourri aux lettres classiques. Il avait sur bien des points des idées de bonne femme.

L'instruction que l'on dispensait vers 1850 dans les lycées devait être aussi absurde, quoique plus forte, que celle qui se donne aujourd'hui. Pas un de ces premiers prix du Concours Général n'eût été capable de montrer dans le ciel les étoiles dont parle Virgile; et ces fabricants de vers latins ignoraient radicalement qu'il y a une musique du vers français. Ni la propreté, ni les moindres notions d'hygiène, ni l'art de se tenir, ni même la prononciation de notre langue ne figuraient dans les programmes de cet incroyable enseignement, des conceptions duquel le corps, les sens, le ciel, les arts et la vie sociale étaient soigneusement exclus...
Id., p. 23:
[H]e nevertheless belonged to that delightful class of connoisseurs who take an obstinate pleasure in their own narrow-mindedness, are merciless to any novelty that is merely new, their minds full of Racine and old music, tireless quoters, "classicists" to the point of ferocity and extravagant outbursts — people who are now, alas, a vanished race.

[I]l n'en demeurait pas moins un de ces connaisseurs délicieux, obstinément, voluptueusement étroits, impitoyables aux nouveautés qui ne sont que neuves, nourris de Racine et d'ancienne musique, citateurs et «classiques» jusqu'à la férocité, à l'extravagance, aux éclats, qui nous sont malheureusement une espèce disparue.


Gaze On

Byron, Lara II.i:
Night wanes — the vapours round the mountains curl'd,
Melt into morn, and Light awakes the world.
Man has another day to swell the past,
And lead him near to little, but his last;
But mighty Nature bounds as from her birth,
The sun is in the heavens, and life on earth;
Flowers in the valley, splendour in the beam,
Health on the gale, and freshness in the stream.
Immortal man! behold her glories shine,
And cry, exulting inly, "They are thine!"
Gaze on, while yet thy gladden'd eye may see,
A morrow comes when they are not for thee;
And grieve what may above thy senseless bier,
Nor earth nor sky will yield a single tear;
Nor cloud shall gather more, nor leaf shall fall,
Nor gale breathe forth one sigh for thee, for all;
But creeping things shall revel in their spoil,
And fit thy clay to fertilise the soil.

Monday, September 17, 2018


Effect of Peace

Tacitus, Histories 2.17 (tr. Clifford H. Moore):
Long peace had broken their spirits, so that they were ready for any kind of servitude...

longa pax ad omne servitium fregerat...


Divine Revelation

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), Recollections of My Youth, tr. C.B. Pitman (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1883), p. 51:
The sight of the Acropolis was like a revelation of the Divine...

Quand je vis l'Acropole, j'eus la révélation du divin...


Dispute at a Dinner Party

Joseph Waite, "Memoir," in Thomas Saunders Evans, Latin and Greek Verse (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1893), pp. i-lii (at xxix-xxx; the Bishop was Henry Phillpotts, Bishop of Exeter):
At one of the Bishop's frequent and delightful dinner parties, Professor Evans quoted Martial's epigram—
Callidus imposuit nuper mihi caupo Rauennae;
quum peterem mistum uendidit ille merum.

Ravenna's crafty tapster was a cheat;
I called for half-and-half; he served me neat.
'Quote correctly, Professor,' said another scholar at the table, who was somewhat of a Rupert in conversation, 'quum mistum exegi.' 'Surely that can scarcely be right,' answered Mr Evans. 'Why not?' 'Well, I think Martial would not ‘have used the word "exegi" in such a case, and, at any rate, he should have said "exigerem".' 'I do not know what he would or should have said, but I will lay you a wager of ten to one that I am right.' The Professor, unaccustomed to this brusque style of argument, looked perplexed as if wondering whether he could have fallen into some unaccountable blunder. When the party rose to go into the drawing-room, he crossed the College to his own house and brought back with him a small copy of Martial. 'Bishop,' he said, looking as if he had been the object of a nefarious assault, 'do you know I was quite right in my quotation? Here is the book.' 'Yes,' said the Bishop, 'I knew you were right, but you also made a mistake.' 'A mistake!' 'Yes, you did not know your man. You should have taken his wager and made him pay ten pounds for his positiveness and ignorance.' That is what the Bishop himself undoubtedly would have done.
The epigram is Martial 3.57, and the point is that water was more expensive than wine at Ravenna (see 3.56). There are no significant variants in D.R Shackleton Bailey's Teubner edition (p. 99).

Hat tip: Alan Crease. who says, "Nobody's ever quoted Martial at my dinner parties." I myself have more than once quoted "Non amo te, Sabidi..." (1.32) at a dinner party, by way of explaining my irrational dislike of certain people (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg, a photograph of whose face adorns my dart board).


An Old Idea

Aristophanes, Assemblywomen 590-594 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
I propose that everyone should own everything in common,
and draw an equal living. No more rich man here, poor man there,
or a man with a big farm and a man without land enough for his own
grave, or a man with many slaves and a man without even an attendant.
No, I will establish one and the same standard of life for everyone.

κοινωνεῖν γὰρ πάντας φήσω χρῆναι πάντων μετέχοντας
κἀκ ταὐτοῦ ζῆν, καὶ μὴ τὸν μὲν πλουτεῖν, τὸν δ᾿ ἄθλιον εἶναι,
μηδὲ γεωργεῖν τὸν μὲν πολλήν, τῷ δ᾿ εἶναι μηδὲ ταφῆναι,
μηδ᾿ ἀνδραπόδοις τὸν μὲν χρῆσθαι πολλοῖς, τὸν δ᾿ οὐδ᾿ ἀκολούθῳ.
ἀλλ᾿ ἕνα ποιῶ κοινὸν πᾶσιν βίοτον, καὶ τοῦτον ὅμοιον.
R.G. Ussher ad loc.:

Friday, September 14, 2018


The Past

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Bach and Handel," Complete Essays, Vol. I: 1920-1925 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000), pp. 332-333 (at 332):
The past, for most of us, consists of a few little archipelagos of facts dotted sparsely here and there in the illimitable ocean of our ignorance.


As Usual

Tacitus, Histories 1.35.1 (tr. Clifford H. Moore):
No one knew; everyone affirmed.

nemo scire et omnes adfirmare.


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