Friday, August 23, 2019


Enough of This Ancient History

Herodotus 9.27.4 (tr. A.D. Godley):
But since it is idle to recall these matters — for they that were erstwhile valiant may now be of lesser mettle, and they that lacked mettle then may be better men now — enough of these doings of old time.

ἀλλ' οὐ γάρ τι προέχει τούτων ἐπιμεμνῆσθαι· καὶ γὰρ ἂν χρηστοὶ τότε ἐόντες ὡυτοὶ νῦν ἂν εἶεν φλαυρότεροι, καὶ τότε ἐόντες φλαῦροι νῦν ἂν εἶεν ἀμείνονες. παλαιῶν μέν νυν ἔργων ἅλις ἔστω.


A Dish of Beastliness

Algernon Swinburne, letter to the New York Daily Tribune (written January 30, 1874, published February 25, 1874), from The Swinburne Letters. Edited by Cecil Y. Lang, Vol. 2: 1869-1875 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), pp. 274-275:
I am informed that certain American journalists, not content with providing filth of their own for the consumption of their kind, sometimes offer to their readers a dish of beastliness which they profess to have gathered from under the chairs of more distinguished men. While the abuse lavished on my name and writings could claim no higher than a nameless source, I have always been able to say with Shelley2—'I have neither curiosity, interest, pain nor pleasure, in anything, good or evil, they can say of me. I feel only a slight disgust, and a sort of wonder that they presume to write my name.' If I am to believe that that name has been made the mark for such vile language as is now publicly attributed to men of note in the world of letters, I, who am not sufficiently an expert in the dialect of the cesspool and the dung-cart to retort in their own kind on these venerable gentlemen—I, whose ears and lips alike are unused to the amenities of a conversation embroidered with such fragments of flowery rhetoric as may be fished up by congenial fingers or lapped up by congenial tongues out of the sewerage of Sodom—can return no better or more apt reply than was addressed by the servant of Octavia to the satellites of Nero and applied by Lord Denman when counsel for Queen Caroline to the sycophants of George IV. A foul mouth is so ill matched with a white beard that I would gladly believe the newspaper scribes alone responsible for the bestial utterances which they declare to have dropped from a teacher whom such disciples as these exhibit to our disgust and compassion as performing on their obscene platform the last tricks of tongue now possible to a gap-toothed and hoary-headed ape, carried first into notice on the shoulder of Carlyle, and who now in his dotage spits and chatters from a dirtier perch of his own finding and fouling; Coryphaeus or choragus of his Bulgarian tribe of autocoprophagous baboons who make the filth they feed on.

Averting with a peculiar emotion which I need not specify my eyes and nostrils from the sight and savour of such things, I need not stoop as though to blow off any speck of leaving from a name which I trust and think, though it may well be that it has gained nothing, has at least lost nothing in my hands of its hereditary honour. Those to whom it is known only as an object of reviling from writers with or without a name of their own, may yet do well to ask themselves how far such follies and such villainies may be likely to affect the repute or disturb the consciousness of one to whom it is given to remember that wellnigh at the very outset of his course he had earned the praise and won the friendship of Landor, of Hugo, and of Mazzini; and who, though he may see no need and feel no inclination to seek shelter behind the name or beneath the countenance of any man, has yet in the sense of this not unmerited honour an enduring source of such pleasures and such pride as the 'most sweet voices'3 of his revilers are about equally competent to give and to take away.

2. Letter to Leigh Hunt, Jan. 25, 1822, published in Richard Garnett's Relics of Shelly (1862).

3. Coriolanus, II.iii.180.
The "gap-toothed and hoary-headed ape" was Ralph Waldo Emerson, who in an interview had called Swinburne "a perfect leper and a mere sodomite." See Clyde K. Hyder, "Emerson on Swinburne: A Sensational Interview," Modern Language Notes 48.3 (March, 1933) 180-182.

Thanks very much to Eric Thomson for his help.

Thursday, August 22, 2019


Baldness Cured

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 11.1305 (tr. Celia E. Schultz):
Tullia Superiana fulfilled her vow to Minerva Memor willingly and with just cause, on account of the restoration of her hair.

Minervae Memori Tullia Superiana restitutione facta sibi capillorum v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito)


A Profusion of Paper

W.G. Sebald (1944-2001), The Rings of Saturn, tr. Michael Hulse (New York: New Directions, 1998), pp. 8-9 (on Janine Dakyns):
Many a time, at the end of a working day. Janine would talk to me about Flaubert's view of the world, in her office where there were such quantities of lecture notes, letters and other documents lying around that it was like standing amidst a flood of paper. On the desk, which was both the origin and the focal point of this amazing profusion of paper, a virtual paper landscape had come into being in the course of time, with mountains and valleys. Like a glacier when it reaches the sea, it had broken off at the edges and established new deposits all around on the floor, which in turn were advancing imperceptibly towards the centre of the room. Years ago, Janine had been obliged by the ever-increasing masses of paper on her desk to bring further tables into use, and these tables, where similar processes of accretion had subsequently taken place, represented later epochs, so to speak, in the evolution of Janine's paper universe. The carpet, too, had long since vanished beneath several inches of paper; indeed, the paper had begun climbing from the floor, on which, year after year, it had settled, and was now up the walls as high as the top of the door frame, page upon page of memoranda and notes pinned up in multiple layers, all of them by just one corner. Wherever it was possible there were piles of papers on the books on her shelves as well. It once occurred to me that at dusk, when all this paper seemed to gather into itself the pallor of the fading light, it was like the snow in the fields, long ago, beneath the ink-black sky. In the end Janine was reduced to working from an easy chair drawn more or less into the middle of her room where, if one passed her door, which was always ajar, she could be seen bent almost double scribbling on a pad on her knees or sometimes just lost in thought. Once when I remarked that sitting there amidst her papers she resembled the angel in Dürer's Melancholia, steadfast among the instruments of destruction, her response was that the apparent chaos surrounding her represented in reality a perfect kind of order, or an order which at least tended towards perfection. And the fact was that whatever she might be looking for amongst her papers or her books, or in her head, she was generally able to find right away.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


Disconnected Units of Twenty or Thirty Lines Each

Evan T. Sage, "Cicero and the Agrarian Proposals of 63 B.C.," Classical Journal 16 (1921) 230-236 (at 230):
In some ways the hardest and most important task of the Latin teacher is to make his students realize that Latin is something more than a series of disconnected units of twenty or thirty lines each, and that in the works of Caesar and Cicero we have historical documents that tell an important, and even an interesting, story.


Legislation Under Consideration

Cicero, On the Agrarian Law I.1.1 (tr. John Henry Freese):
By the immortal gods! do such ideas appear to you to be sober men's plans or the dreams of men drunk with wine? do they look like the deliberate opinions of wise men or the raving wishes of madmen?

haec, per deos immortales! utrum esse vobis consilia siccorum an vinulentorum somnia et utrum cogitata sapientium an optata furiosorum videntur?
Id. II.33.89:
See what a world of difference there is between the counsels of our ancestors and the madness of these men!

videte, quantum intervallum sit interiectum inter maiorum nostrorum consilia et inter istorum hominum dementiam.



Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Ecce Homo ("Why I Am So Clever," § 8; tr. Walter Kaufmann):
Scholars who at bottom do little nowadays but thumb books — philologists, at a moderate estimate, about 200 a day — ultimately lose entirely their capacity to think for themselves. When they don't thumb, they don't think. They respond to a stimulus (a thought they have read) whenever they think — in the end, they do nothing but react. Scholars spend all of their energies on saying Yes and No, on criticism of what others have thought — they themselves no longer think.

The instinct of self-defense has become worn-out in them; otherwise they would resist books. The scholar — a decadent.

I have seen this with my own eyes: gifted natures with a generous and free disposition, "read to ruin" in their thirties — merely matches that one has to strike to make them emit sparks — "thoughts."

Early in the morning, when day breaks, when all is fresh, in the dawn of one's strength — to read a book at such a time is simply depraved!

Der Gelehrte, der im Grunde nur noch Bücher »wälzt« — der Philologe mit mässigem Ansatz des Tags ungefähr 200 — verliert zuletzt ganz und gar das Vermögen, von sich aus zu denken. Wälzt er nicht, so denkt er nicht. Er antwortet auf einen Reiz (— einen gelesenen Gedanken), wenn er denkt, — er reagirt zuletzt bloss noch. Der Gelehrte giebt seine ganze Kraft im Ja und Neinsagen, in der Kritik von bereits Gedachtem ab, — er selber denkt nicht mehr ...

Der Instinkt der Selbstvertheidigung ist bei ihm mürbe geworden; im andren Falle würde er sich gegen Bücher wehren. Der Gelehrte — ein décadent.

— Das habe ich mit Augen gesehn: begabte, reich und frei angelegte Naturen schon in den dreissiger Jahren »zu Schanden gelesen«, bloss noch Streichhölzer, die man reiben muss, damit sie Funken — »Gedanken« geben.

— Frühmorgens beim Anbruch des Tags, in aller Frische, in der Morgenröthe seiner Kraft, ein Buch lesen — das nenne ich lasterhaft!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


School Editions

Found (and purchased) by a friend, for 50p each:


Exhortation on the Battlefield

Herodotus 9.17.4 (speech of Harmocydes to the Phocians; tr. A.D. Godley):
For it is better to end our lives in action and fighting than tamely to suffer a shameful death.

κρέσσον γὰρ ποιεῦντάς τι καὶ ἀμυνομένους τελευτῆσαι τὸν αἰῶνα ἤπερ παρέχοντας διαφθαρῆναι αἰσχίστῳ μόρῳ.
ἀμυνομένους: J. Enoch Powell, A Lexicon to Herodotus (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1938), p. 18 (s.v. ἀμύνω, sense II.1, middle voice): defend oneself

παρέχοντας: Id., p. 293 (s.v. παρέχω, sense I.5, citing only this passage): submit ... dub.

Despite Powell's "dub.", I see no variants or conjectures in N.G. Wilson's Oxford Classical Text edition and no discussion in his Herodotea: Studies on the Text of Herodotus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). Powell's translation of this passage is unavailable to me. I might translate the sentence as follows:
For it is better to finish life while doing something and defending oneself than to perish by a most shameful death while submitting.
On Harmocydes' speech as a whole, see Vasiliki Zali, The Shape of Herodotean Rhetoric (Leiden: Brill, 2015), pp. 297-300.


Tight-Fitting Clothes

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), "The Parson's Tale," Canterbury Tales X.423-428 (tr. Larry D. Benson):
Alas, some of them show the bulge of their shape, and the horrible swollen members, that it seems like the malady of hernia, in the wrapping of their leggings; and also the buttocks of them fare as it were the back part of a she-ape in the full of the moon. And moreover, the wretched swollen members that they show through their style of clothing, in parting of their hoses into white and red, seems that half their shameful private members were flayed. [425] And if so be that they divide their hoses in other colors, as is white and black, or white and blue, or black and red, and so forth, then seems it, as by variance of color, that half the part of their private members were corrupt by the fire of Saint Anthony (inflammation of the skin), or by cancer, or by other such mischance. Of the back part of their buttocks, it is very horrible to see. For certainly, in that part of their body where they purge their stinking excrement, that foul part show they to the people proudly in scorn of decency, which decency that Jesus Christ and his friends observed to show in their lives.
Original, from Jill Mann's edition (London: Penguin Books, 2005), pp. 721-722:
Allas, somme of hem shewen the shap and the boce of hire horrible swollen membres, that semeth lik the maladye of hirnia, in the wrappinge of hire hoses, | and eek the buttokes of hem, that faren as it were the hindre part of a she-ape in the fulle of the moone. | And mooreover the wrecched swollen membres that they shewe thurgh degisinge, in departinge of hire hoses in whit and reed, semeth that half hire shameful privee membres weren flayn. [425] | And if so be that they departen hire hoses in othere colours, as is whit and blew, or whit and blak, or blak and reed, and so forth, | thanne semeth it as by variaunce of colour that half the partie of hire privee membres ben corrupt by the fir of Seint Antony, or by cancre, or by oother swich meschaunce. | Of the hindre part of hire buttokes it is ful horrible for to see, for certes, in that partie of hire body theras they purgen hire stinkinge ordure, | that foule partie shewe they to the peple proudly, in despit of honestetee, the which honestetee that Jesu Crist and hise frendes observede to shewen in hir live.

Monday, August 19, 2019



Herodotus 8.142.5 (tr. Robin Waterfield):
These foreigners are completely unreliable and dishonest.

βαρβάροισι ἐστὶ οὔτε πιστὸν οὔτε ἀληθὲς οὐδέν.


The Physiognomy Defence

Cicero, In Defence of Quintus Roscius 7.20 (tr. J.H. Freese):
I beg and beseech you, who know them, to contrast their lives; you who do not know them, look at their faces. Do not the head itself, and those clean-shaven eyebrows seem to reek of malice and proclaim craftiness aloud? If one can make a guess from the silent form of a man's body, does not Fannius seem to be composed entirely of fraud, trickery, and lies from the tips of his fingers to the top of his head? He always has his head and eyebrows shaved, that he may not be accused of having a single hair of an honourable man on him...

oro atque obsecro vos, qui nostis, vitam inter se utriusque conferte, qui non nostis, faciem utriusque considerate. nonne ipsum caput et supercilia illa penitus abrasa olere malitiam et clamitare calliditatem videntur? non ab imis unguibus usque ad verticem summum, si quam coniecturam affert hominibus tacita corporis figura, ex fraude, fallaciis, mendaciis constare totus videtur? qui idcirco capite et superciliis semper est rasis, ne ullum pilum viri boni habere dicatur...
See Elizabeth C. Evans, "Physiognomics in the Ancient World," Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 59.5 (1969) 1-101 (at 43). Cicero here portrays Fannius as a vir mollis, according to Jan B. Meister, "Pisos Augenbrauen: Zur Lesbarkeit aristokratischer Körper in der späten römischen Republik," Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte 58.1 (2009) 71-95 (at 78-79).



William Hazlitt (1778-1830), "On a Sun-Dial," Lectures on the English Comic Writers, with Miscellaneous Essays (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1910; rpt. 1913), pp. 208-216 (at 212-213):
I confess, nothing at present interests me but what has been—the recollection of the impressions of my early life, or events long past, of which only the dim traces remain in a smouldering ruin or half-obsolete custom. That things should be that are now no more, creates in my mind the most unfeigned astonishment. I cannot solve the mystery of the past, nor exhaust my pleasure in it. The years, the generations to come, are nothing to me. We care no more about the world in the year 2300 than we do about one of the planets. Even George IV. is better than the Earl of Windsor. We might as well make a voyage to the moon as think of stealing a march upon Time with impunity. De non apparentibus et non existentibus eadem est ratio. Those who are to come after us and push us from the stage seem like upstarts and pretenders, that may be said to exist in vacuo, we know not upon what, except as they are blown up with vanity and self-conceit by their patrons among the moderns. But the ancients are true and bonâ-fide people, to whom we are bound by aggregate knowledge and filial ties, and in whom, seen by the mellow light of history, we feel our own existence doubled and our pride consoled, as we ruminate on the vestiges of the past.



Vauvenargues (1715-1747), Reflections and Maxims, no. 102 (tr. F.G. Stevens):
We should expect the best and the worst from mankind, as from the weather.

Il faut tout attendre et tout craindre du temps et des hommes.

Sunday, August 18, 2019


Limitless Desire

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 5.7.20 (tr. Arthur P. Peabody):
Xerxes, indeed, replete with all the prizes and gifts of fortune, not content with his cavalry, his foot-soldiers, his vast fleet, his boundless supply of gold, offered a reward to him who should have invented a new pleasure, — with which he was not satisfied; for never will desire find an end.

nam Xerxes quidem refertus omnibus praemiis donisque fortunae, non equitatu, non pedestribus copiis, non navium multitudine, non infinito pondere auri contentus, praemium proposuit, qui invenisset novam voluptatem: qua ipsa non fuit contentus; neque enim umquam finem inveniet libido.


Without Money

William Hazlitt (1778-1830), "On the Want of Money," Lectures on the English Comic Writers, with Miscellaneous Essays (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1910; rpt. 1913), pp. 293-307 (at 304-305):
Literally and truly, one cannot get on well in the world without money. To be in want of money, is to pass through life with little credit or pleasure; it is to live out of the world, or to be despised if you come into it; it is not to be sent for to court, or asked out to dinner, or noticed in the street; it is not to have your opinion consulted or else rejected with contempt, to have your acquirements carped at and doubted, your good things disparaged, and at last to lose the wit and the spirit to say them; it is to be scrutinized by strangers, and neglected by friends; it is to be a thrall to circumstances, an exile in a foreign land; to forego leisure, freedom, ease of body and mind, to be dependent on the good-will and caprice of others, or earn a precarious and irksome livelihood by some laborious employment; it is to be compelled to stand behind a counter, or to sit at a desk in some public office, or to marry your landlady, or not the person you would wish; or to go out to the East or West-Indies, or to get a situation as judge abroad, and return home with a liver-complaint; or to be a law-stationer, or a scrivener or scavenger, or newspaper reporter; or to read law and sit in court without a brief; or to be deprived of the use of your fingers by transcribing Greek manuscripts, or to be a seal-engraver and pore yourself blind; or to go upon the stage, or try some of the Fine Arts; with all your pains, anxiety, and hopes, most probably to fail, or if you succeed, after the exertions of years, and undergoing constant distress of mind and fortune, to be assailed on every side with envy, back-biting, and falsehood, or to be a favourite with the public for awhile, and then thrown into the back-ground—or a jail, by the fickleness of taste and some new favourite; to be full of enthusiasm and extravagance in youth, of chagrin and disappointment in after-life; to be jostled by the rabble because you do not ride in your coach, or avoided by those who know your worth and shrink from it as a claim on their respect or their purse; to be a burden to your relations, or unable to do anything for them; to be ashamed to venture into crowds; to have cold comfort at home; to lose by degrees your confidence and any talent you might possess; to grow crabbed, morose, and querulous, dissatisfied with every one, but most so with yourself; and plagued out of your life, to look about for a place to die in, and quit the world without anyone's asking after your will.



Daniel Webster, Speech delivered in the Senate of the United States (March 7, 1850):
It is in the nature of man, manifested in his whole history, that religious disputes are apt to become warm in proportion to the strength of the convictions which men entertain of the magnitude of the questions at issue. In all such disputes, there will sometimes be found men with whom every thing is absolute; absolutely wrong, or absolutely right. They see the right clearly; they think others ought so to see it, and they are disposed to establish a broad line of distinction between what is right and what is wrong. They are not seldom willing to establish that line upon their own convictions of truth or justice; and are ready to mark and guard it by placing along it a series of dogmas, as lines of boundary on the earth's surface are marked by posts and stones. There are men who, with clear perception, as they think, of their own duty, do not see how too eager a pursuit of one duty may involve them in the violation of others, or how too warm an embracement of one truth may lead to a disregard of other truths equally important. As I heard it stated strongly, not many days ago, these persons are disposed to mount upon some particular duty, as upon a war-horse, and to drive furiously on and upon and over all other duties that may stand in the way. There are men who, in reference to disputes of that sort, are of the opinion that human duties may be ascertained with the exactness of mathematics. They deal with morals as with mathematics; and they think what is right may be distinguished from what is wrong with the precision of an algebraic equation. They have, therefore, none too much charity towards others who differ from them. They are apt, too, to think that nothing is good but what is perfect, and that there are no compromises or modifications to be made in consideration of difference of opinion or in deference to other men's judgment. If their perspicacious vision enables them to detect a spot on the face of the sun, they think that a good reason why the sun should be struck down from heaven. They prefer the chance of running into utter darkness to living in heavenly light, if that heavenly light be not absolutely without any imperfection.

Saturday, August 17, 2019


Government Surveillance of Subversives

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Gulliver's Travels, Book III, chapter VI:
Another professor showed me a large paper of instructions for discovering plots and conspiracies against the government. He advised great statesmen to examine into the diet of all suspected persons; their times of eating; upon which side they lay in bed; with which hand they wiped their posteriors; to take a strict view of their excrements, and from the colour, the odour, the taste, the consistence, the crudeness, or maturity of digestion, form a judgment of their thoughts and designs. Because men are never so serious, thoughtful, and intent, as when they are at stool, which he found by frequent experiment: for in such conjunctures, when he used merely as a trial to consider which was the best way, of murdering the king, his ordure would have a tincture of green; but quite different, when he thought only of raising an insurrection, or burning the metropolis.



Subjectivity and Objectivity

Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848-1931), Antigonos von Karystos (Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1881), p. 81 (tr. Richard Stoneman):
The tone is throughout subjective, the narrator speaks not with that dispassionate tedium that the philistines have always taken for objectivity, because it is forbidden them to wax enthusiastic about any subject, but from personal understanding and personal sensibility.

Der ton ist durchaus subjectiv, der berichterstatter redet nicht mit jener teilnahmlosen langweiligkeit, welche die philister allezeit für sachlich genommen haben, weil es ihnen versagt ist für eine sache sich zu erwärmen, sondern aus eigenem wissen mit eigenem gefühle.



Herodotus 8.73.3 (on the "seven nations" of the Peloponnese during the war with Persia; tr. A.D. Godley):
Now of these seven nations all the cities, save those aforesaid, sat apart from the war; and if I may speak freely, by so doing they took the part of the enemy.

τούτων ὦν τῶν ἑπτὰ ἐθνέων αἱ λοιπαὶ πόλιες, πάρεξ τῶν κατέλεξα, ἐκ τοῦ μέσου κατέατο· εἰ δὲ ἐλευθέρως ἔξεστι εἰπεῖν, ἐκ τοῦ κατήμενοι ἐμήδιζον.
"They took the part of the enemy" — more literally, "they sided with the Medes," or "they medized." See David F. Graf, "Medism: The Origin and Significance of the Term," Journal of Hellenic Studies 104 (1984) 15-30.


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