Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Mark Antony Goes Native
 Who would not weep when he hears and sees Antony himself, the man twice consul, often imperator, to whom was committed in common with me the management of the public business, who was entrusted with so many cities, so many legions —  when he sees that this man has now abandoned all his ancestors' habits of life, has emulated all alien and barbaric customs, that he pays no honour to us or to the laws or to his fathers' gods, but pays homage to that wench [Cleopatra] as if she were some Isis or Selene, calling her children Helios and Selene,  and finally taking for himself the title of Osiris or Dionysus, and, after all this, making presents of whole islands and parts of the continents, as though he were master of the whole earth and the whole sea?Id. 50.28.3:
 τίς δ᾿ οὐκ ἂν θρηνήσειε καὶ ἀκούων καὶ ὁρῶν αὐτὸν τὸν Ἀντώνιον τὸν δὶς ὕπατον, τὸν πολλάκις αὐτοκράτορα, τὸν τὴν προστασίαν μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ τῶν κοινῶν ἐπιτραπέντα, τὸν τοσαύτας μὲν πόλεις τοσαῦτα δὲ στρατόπεδα ἐγχειρισθέντα,  νῦν πάντα μὲν τὰ πάτρια τοῦ βίου ἤθη ἐκλελοιπότα, πάντα δὲ τἀλλότρια καὶ βαρβαρικὰ ἐζηλωκότα, καὶ ἡμῶν μὲν ἢ τῶν νόμων ἢ τῶν θεῶν τῶν προγονικῶν μηδὲν προτιμῶντα, τὴν δ᾿ ἄνθρωπον ἐκείνην καθάπερ τινὰ Ἶσιν ἢ Σελήνην προσκυνοῦντα, καὶ τούς τε παῖδας 4αὐτῆς Ἥλιον καὶ Σελήνην ὀνομάζοντα,  καὶ τὸ τελευταῖον καὶ ἑαυτὸν Ὄσιριν καὶ Διόνυσον ἐπικεκληκότα, κἀκ τούτων, καθάπερ πάσης μὲν τῆς γῆς πάσης δὲ τῆς θαλάσσης κυριεύοντα, καὶ νήσους ὅλας καὶ τῶν ἠπείρων τινὰ κεχαρισμένον;
And yet I can tell you of no greater prize that is set before you than to maintain the renown of your forefathers, to preserve your own proud traditions, to take vengeance on those who are in revolt against us, to repel those who insult you, to conquer and rule all mankind, to allow no woman to make herself equal to a man.
καίτοι μεῖζον οὐδὲν ἂν ἄλλο φήσαιμι ὑμῖν προκεῖσθαι τοῦ τὸ ἀξίωμα τὸ τῶν προγόνων διασῶσαι, τοῦ τὸ φρόνημα τὸ οἰκεῖον φυλάξαι, τοῦ τοὺς ἀφεστηκότας ἀφ᾿ ἡμῶν τιμωρήσασθαι, τοῦ τοὺς ὑβρίζοντας ὑμᾶς ἀμύνασθαι, τοῦ πάντων ἀνθρώπων νικήσαντας ἄρχειν, τοῦ μηδεμίαν γυναῖκα περιορᾶν μηδενὶ ἀνδρὶ παρισουμένην.
Those Funny Squiggles
Eric Griffiths, like Dante, believed the fraudulent belong in a lower circle of Hell than thieves, adulterers, heretics and murderers, as his more conceited students soon found out. Cutting through their grandiloquent chatter, their bons mots and pretensions to have read more than they actually had, he would take to his feet and expose, one by one, every error in their reasoning. He impressed on them that their oversight of a particular nuance in a poem was not only an intellectual failure, but a moral one, akin to ignoring what someone has to say.Hat tip: Alan Crease.
Likewise he was banned from interviewing applicants to Trinity in 1998 after telling 17-year-old Tracy Playle not to bother with the ancient Greek in a line of TS Eliot because "being from Essex, you don't know what those funny squiggles are".
[W]hen his tutor at Balliol College, Oxford, suggested that he consider the career of a professor of English literature, he remarked in his extraordinarily lilting voice, "I have never felt that literature was something to be studied, but rather something to be enjoyed."
ANTIQUITY (AND EVERYTHING CONNECTED WITH IT) Dull and boring.Id.:
ANTIQUITÉ (ET TOUT CE QUI S'Y RAPPORTE) Poncif, embêtant.
ETYMOLOGY The easiest thing in the world with the help of Latin and a little ingenuity.Id.:
ÉTYMOLOGIE Rien de plus facile à trouver avec le latin et un peu de réflexion.
GRAMMARIANS All pedants.Id.:
GRAMMAIRIENS Tous pédants.
IDIOTS Those who think differently from you.Id.:
IMBÉCILES Ceux qui ne pensent pas comme vous.
LEARNING Despise it as the sign of a narrow mind.
ÉRUDITION La mépriser comme étant la marque d'un esprit étroit.
Monday, November 12, 2018
The Sweetest Thing, for a Misanthrope
His greatest pleasure's seeing nobody.
ἥδιστόν ἐστ᾿ αὐτῷ γὰρ ἀνθρώπων ὁρᾶν
During the last days, my outfit assembled fast. Most of it came from Millet's army surplus store in The Strand: an old Army greatcoat, different layers of jersey, grey flannel shirts, a couple of white linen ones for best, a soft leather windbreaker, puttees, nailed boots, a sleeping bag (to be lost within a month and neither missed nor replaced); notebooks and drawing blocks, rubbers, an aluminium cylinder full of Venus and Golden Sovereign pencils; an old Oxford Book of English Verse. (Lost likewise, and, to my surprise—it had been a sort of Bible—not missed much more than the sleeping bag.) The other half of my very conventional travelling library was the Loeb Horace, Vol. I, which my mother, after asking what I wanted, had bought and posted in Guildford. (She had written the translation of a short poem by Petronius on the flyleaf, chanced on and copied out, she told me later, from another volume on the same shelf: 'Leave thy home, O youth, and seek out alien shores ... Yield not to misfortune: the far-off Danube shall know thee, the cold North-wind and the untroubled kingdom of Canopus and the men who gaze on the new birth of Phoebus or upon his setting...' She was an enormous reader, but Petronius was not in her usual line of country and he had only recently entered mine. I was impressed and touched.
The Immense Fun of Eternity
There was also that twisted-head idea of heaven which describes the immense fun of eternity asId., p. 47:
Prostrate before Thy throne to lie,Children notice these things and, though they may make jokes about them among themselves, are often seriously troubled by the apparent seriousness with which adults take them.
And gaze and gaze on Thee.
Children, as well as adults, make humorous, bantering, scurrilous, and abusive uses of the notion of hell as everlasting post-mortem damnation. But I was so appalled by this possibility that I would lie awake at night worrying about it, frightened of going to sleep because of the obvious analogy between sleep and death. People were always talking about someone or other who "died in his sleep." My mother tried to console me by quoting John 3:16, but there seemed to be no way of being really and truly sure that one actually and genuinely did believe in Jesus, or whether one had not inadvertently committed the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost by laughing at the limerick
Il y avait un jeune homme de DijonWhich, I suppose could be translated into English as
Qui n'amait pas la religion.
Il dit, "O ma foi,
Comme drôle sont ces trois:
Le Pere, et le Fils, et le Pigeon."
There was a young fellow of Dijon,As one is tempted to fall over a precipice from vertigo, the child exposed to this grotesque Bible religion is apt to mutter compulsively under his breath, "Damn the Holy Ghost," and then suffer from paroxysms of guilt. Do the adults seriously mean that if you whisper this diabolic formula you will, when dead, squirm and scream in unquenchable fire forever and ever and ever, Amen? After all, a child is not theologically sophisticated, and takes this imagery literally.
Who took a dislike to religion.
He said, "Oh my God,
These three are so odd—
The Father, the Son, and the Pigeon."6
6 Why translate it? Because most of my American readers, especially the younger, do not understand French, or any language other than their own. Strangely, from a European point of view, they may otherwise be amazingly intelligent people. Also, unless they come from a respectably churchly family (Episcopalian or Presbyterian) or from the Bible-crazed South, they will not have read the Bible at all, and thus will not understand the reference John 3:16, a verse from the Gospel of Saint John in which it is said that "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Even then, an intelligent young American hasn't the faintest idea of what is meant by an "only-begotten Son" or by "eternal life."
But these impoverished Christians do nothing in their religious observances except chatter. They tell God what he ought and ought not to do, and inform him of things of which he is already well aware, such as that they are miserable sinners, and proceed then to admonish one another to feel guilt and regret about abominable behavior which they have not the least intention of changing. If God were the sort of being most Christians suppose him to be, he would be beside himself with boredom listening to their whinings and flatteries, their redundant requests and admonitions, not to mention the asinine poems set to indifferent tunes which are solemnly addressed to him as hymns.Id., pp. 70-71:
As I have said, I simply couldn’t get along with the Christian God. He was a bombastic bore, and not at all the sort of fellow you would want to entertain for dinner, because you would be sitting on the edge of your chair listening to his subtle attempts to undermine your existence and to probe the unauthentic nature of your life. He was like the school chaplain who took you aside for a VERY SERIOUS TALK. He had no gaieté d'esprit, no charm, no lilt, no laughter, and no sensual delight in the world of nature which he had supposedly created.
Given the vagaries of survival, the most representative artifact of Roman eroticism is the humble lamp. Small, ceramic, and produced in truly innumerable quantities, lamps survive across the centuries. The culture where sex was supposedly reduced to sexual fumbling in the dark is the same culture that has left, in rather startling abundance, lamps decorated with the most uninhibited exertions. Lamps assure us that erotic art was not the preserve of the elite alone. The sheer numbers and archaeological findspots of erotic-themed lamps, furthermore, militate against the suggestion that these artifacts were anything other than a basic and broadly diffused domestic instrument. Sex — along with mythology, the animal kingdom, and the world of public entertainments — provided one of the most inexhaustible sources of decoration; the standard study of the huge collection of Italian lamps in the British Museum suggests that sex may have provided the very most common theme. The range and inclusiveness of the erotic repertoire suggests that myth, fantasy, and farce were exuberantly mingled. Modern studies conventionally divide the erotic lamps into two classes: Erotes (depictions of Eros) and symplegmata ("embracings" — a sort of learned prudery). This division does not adequately capture the range and meaning of different erotic motifs. The figure of Eros himself, symbol of joy and life, was unfailingly popular; though our eyes may be desensitized to the power of such a mythological commonplace, in Roman culture, where sexual passion was an immanent divine force, the blending of spirituality and sensuality ought not be discounted. The symplegmata lamps present the most varied images. Some are mythological, such as Zeus (qua swan) and Leda. Others are perhaps allegorical, such as the scenes of women with horses (which, maybe, refer to the Ass legend; the scenes of men with donkeys are probably not so easily rescued into decency). Some have a theme that is perhaps comic, perhaps poignant, perhaps mocking: the popular motif of the old man watching a couple perform feats of love. There are some same-sex pairings, and some elaborate sexual positions, but these are all rare. Mostly what the lamps depict is one man and one woman on a bed — sometimes beneath a canopy, sometimes with a lamp in the background — joined in carnal embrace.89
89. In general, Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking, 250– 254; on the popularity of erotic themes, see, e.g., Donald M. Bailey, A Catalogue of Lamps in the British Museum, vol. 2 (London, 1980), 64; Annalis Leibundgut, Die römischen Lampen in der Schweiz: Eine Kultur- und handelsgeschichtliche Studie (Bern, 1977), for a focused study; for the relative rarity of same-sex conjunctions and oral sex, see Bailey, Catalogue, 64–65.
Lamp at Römisch-Germanische Museum, Cologne
Sunday, November 11, 2018
Raymond H. Geselbracht, "The Ghosts of Andrew Wyeth: The Meaning of Death in the Transcendental Myth of America," New England Quarterly 47.1 (March, 1974) 13-29 (at 20, footnotes omitted):
Like Thoreau, Wyeth thought it wiser to look west rather than east for inspiration. He is drawn neither to the city nor to Europe. "I'm just a country boy," he says. "I think I'll stay right here in Chadds Ford out of all the hullabaloo." He rejects the urgings of friends that he must go to Europe to find profound subjects. "To me that's inane," he answers. "If you want something profound, the American countryside is exactly the place." Europe, he feels, could only take something away. "I might lose something very important to my work," he says, "maybe innocence. And anyway, all those poops come back from Europe, I don't see where they're so damned deeper in what they do. Seems to me they get thinner." He holds up as an example of his meaning his picture The Patriot (1964) — "There's a certain awkward, primitive quality in that portrait," he maintains, "I feel could only have been done by an American." And, one might add, this portrait could only have been done by an American who does not live in the city. In New York City, for example, Wyeth finds only "a little bit of this and that ... a watered-down human being." The original of The Patriot, however — Ralph Cline of Cushing, Maine — is "an essence absolutely in a being," Wyeth says. "There's something about an apple that's pure McIntosh that hasn't been cross-bred with other apples."All of the quotations come from Richard Meryman, "Andrew Wyeth," Life, LVIII, 116 (May 14, 1965).
Our Lady of the Stiletto
One of the greatest curiosities of Naples I discovered only on my return journey. A half-pay German officer from the war of 1870 had told me what to look for in the obscure church of St Agostino alla Zecca; and I found it plain enough. In front of one of the altars stands a very remarkable realistic figure, life-size, in glazed and coloured terra-cotta. I seem to remember that they told me it represented Sta Agata. She raises her outspread hands and is about to stagger backwards, while a dagger sticks to the hilt under her collar-bone and pierces to the heart. This realism comes home to the population of Naples, where stabbing affrays are far more frequent than in any other European city of similar population. This little church, therefore, has become consecrated in the popular mind to what we may call Our Lady of the Stiletto. The man who has a vendetta on hand vows it to this altar in case of success, just as the mother has vowed a head of wax (or silver, if she is rich enough) for her child's life, or the lover a heart for success in his love. Thus the altar is hung with dozens of triumphant stiletti; moreover, the boards erected to receive them show also a considerable number of empty nails, which tell an even more gruesome tale. For, here and there, some other man has vowed his own particular vendetta, and has reinforced the religious force of that vow by borrowing one of the consecrated stiletti to do the job with. He has never come back to replace it; and each empty nail stands for two murders at least. The objects speak plainly enough for themselves; but I took care to get full corroboration. The sacristan, questioned on the subject, admitted reluctantly that each of these daggers stood for a mala morte.
Translation or Nothing
We may talk as we please about the beauty of the original and the impossibility of adequate translation, but the fact remains that for most of us it is translation or nothing.On Stewart see D.W. Spangler, "Mary Stewart—Educator, Author, and Club Woman," Colorado Magazine 37 (1950) 218-225.
Forgotten, Spurned, Despised, and Ridiculed
The fact is, you are too full of thoughts of your own interest and advantage to care anything for us. One would think, to read the endless books and newspaper articles on matters and subjects relating to "industries" and "peoples," that there was nothing of these in existence outside the towns. Parliaments are elected for the towns; laws are passed for the towns; armies and navies are raised and built to protect the towns; wages, rights, privileges, arts and crafts, and everything else, are for the same. The dweller in the country—the humble agriculturist, the most honourable and most necessary of all workers, the alpha and omega, the beginning, end, and middle, the very backbone and support of every industry and all society, is forgotten, spurned, despised, and ridiculed. But the sun shines bright in the country; the birds sing, the flowers bloom, the trees cast their shadow, the wind breathes gently or pipes shrilly; here is simplicity, joy, and content, with no lust for more. In the towns are fever and fret, galled hearts and feelings, ceaseless agitation, classes and sects, furnaces and wheels, pushing and shoving, trampling under foot, very hell upon earth. Bravo for old Dudley Sansum and Jemmy Boulton, and the others who never knew the contagion! Freedom from it is like the primal state in the Garden of Eden, before Adam and Eve plucked the forbidden fruit.Id., p. 284:
There is ten times greater slavery and bondage in towns and cities and manufactories than among the fields and hedgerows. That is where they cringe and fawn and grovel in servitude, and sigh and groan, shedding tears, and worshipping idols. Are the villagers really churlish and unsympathetic? Why, everyone speaks to everyone in country places, each to all, and all to each, strangers as well. That may be simplicity. I have heard it called extremely inconvenient, and a nuisance, which may be so, but it is the reverse of churlishness. No one speaks to you in the towns, on the other hand. There you may wander for hours, up and down, pushing and shoving with the crowd, or meeting with a sea of faces, but there is no greeting, no recognition, no smile of welcome; simply the cold stare, the vacant regard, the inquisitorial glance, or downright indifference.Related posts:
- The Country versus the City
- A Town and a Country Life Compared Together
- Tired of the Town
- Country Comforts and Town Grievances
- No Relish for the Country
- Life in the Country
- Kick a Tree for Me
- Away from the Roar and the Rattle
- I Don't Like It
- They Call It Enjoyment
- Rome versus Bilbilis
- Aversion from Solitude and Rural Scenes
- The City versus the Country
- Country Mouse and City Mouse
Saturday, November 10, 2018
Architects of Our Own Sadness
It is clear that in mulling over harsh judgments, sinister predictions, and bad memories, we fashion our own sadness; in a certain sense, we savor it.Related posts:
Il est clair qu'à remâcher des jugements sévères, des prédictions sinistres, des souvenirs noirs, on se présente sa propre tristesse; on la déguste en quelque sorte.
- The Self-Tormentor
- Advice To a Self-Tormentor
- Advice to Poor Jackself
- Self-Imposed Burdens
- The Blue-Devil-Hunting Crew
- Path to Happiness
The Power of Money
It was said long ago, but I will say it nevertheless:Donald J. Mastronarde on lines 439-440:
money is held in the highest esteem by mortals,
and of all that is in the world of men it has the greatest power.
πάλαι μὲν οὖν ὑμνηθέν, ἀλλ᾿ ὅμως ἐρῶ·
τὰ χρήματ᾿ ἀνθρώποισι τιμιώτατα
δύναμίν τε πλείστην τῶν ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἔχει.
438-442 del. Hartung
The silliest and the most sinful of the many heresies of pseudo-democracy is to pretend that all studies and all learning are 'created equal'. They are not. It matters just as much to a person's education what he learns and is taught as it matters to his salvation what he believes. True education does not consist in being taught just anything, any more than true religion consists in believing just anything.PPE = Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
This, like most truths, is 'a hard saying'. It does not indeed oblige us to assert that in 1963, unlike 1300, theology is education and all else vanity. It does not even oblige us to assert that nothing but classics, or philosophy, or mathematics, or PPE is education. It does prevent us from assuming that students are being educated because they are at a university, irrespective of what their studies are. It does prevent us from daring to say that a subject becomes part of education because you teach it at a school, or at a CAT or in a university.
There are two aspects to education: one is the content, the subject matter itself; the other is the manner in which, and the purpose with which it is studied. 'All men,' said Aristotle, 'by nature desire to know.' The pursuit of truth, the effort to comprehend, arrange, interpret some aspect or other of the universe we perceive is an activity of humanity which justifies, rewards and motivates itself. The study of something for its own sake, for the sake of knowing, understanding, grasping it and for nothing else, is an essential characteristic of education, lower or higher, though more obviously of higher education.
CAT = College of Advanced Technology
Harold Bloom, quoted in Ken Shulman, "Bloom and Doom," Newsweek, Vol. 124, No. 15 (October 10, 1994) 75:
At NYU I am surrounded by professors of hip-hop. At Yale, I am surrounded by professors far more interested in various articles on the compost heap of so-called popular culture than in Proust or Shakespeare or Tolstoy.
While working in the great railway factory at Swindon, Alfred Williams taught himself enough Greek and Latin to translate Ovid, Pindar, Sappho, Plato, Menander, and Horace. He mastered the Greek alphabet by chalking it up on machinery, and faced down a resentful supervisor who tried to make him erase it. In 1900 he began a Ruskin College correspondence course in English literature, beginning with Bede and ending with Wordsworth. It was an astonishing feat of self-education—and it left out the whole Victorian era. Even a reviewer for the WEA magazine, trying hard to be positive, advised him to write less anachronistic verses: "Poems where shepherds and shepherdesses are of Arcadia and not of Wiltshire, and rhymed translations of the classics, are part of a literary output which is necessarily and frankly imitative."106 But Williams stubbornly resisted the new. As he put it, W.B. Yeats, Robert Bridges, Thomas Hardy, Richard Le Gallienne all "produced in me a veritable disgust of modern 'tack.' FORTY LINES OF DRYDEN CONTAIN MORE POETRY THAN TWELVE LARGE VOLUMES OF THE MODERN MUDDLE. I cannot help it one bit, but I can get more pleasure out of a page of Ovid than out of a bundle of our moderns."107Alfred Williams, Life in a Railway Factory (1915; rpt. London: Duckworth & Co., 1920), pp. 289-290:
106. K. T. Wallas, review of Alfred Williams, Songs of Wiltshire, Highway 2 (December 1909): 36–37.
107. Leonard Clark, Alfred Williams: His Life and Work (Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1969), 15–22, 28, 45.
At the forge, however, the steady persistence of my efforts towards self-improvement was not appreciated. Day after day the foreman of the shed came or sent someone with oil or grease to obliterate the few words of Latin or Greek which I had chalked upon the back of the sooty furnace in order to memorise them.
Friday, November 09, 2018
A Harsh Necessity
One has to put up with the idiocies of the powers that be.
τὰς τῶν κρατούντων ἀμαθίας φέρειν χρεών.
Related post: Despair at the Current Political Scene.
A Peculiar Idiom
[I]n Ajax's famous words in Sophocles' play, 665 ἐχθρῶν ἄδωρα δῶρα κοὐκ ὀνήσιμα ('the gifts of enemies are no gifts and of no benefit'), the privative ἄδωρα is to be taken as 'non-gifts', though etymologically it means 'not consisting of gifts' (see DEBRUNNER 1917: 58 §117). On this peculiar idiom, which can involve different stems (e.g. Soph. Phil. 534 ἄοικος οἴκησις 'a dwelling that is no dwelling'), see most recently Gustav MEYER's study of the stylistic use of nominal compounding in Greek (1923: 103–4). Latin writers who imitate this have to resort to privatives in -tus, as e.g. in Cicero, Philippics 1.5 insepulta sepultura for Gk τάφος ἄταφος ('a burial that was no burial'), or in an unknown Roman tragedian (fr. 42, v. 80 Ribbeck) innuptis nuptiis for Gk ἄγαμος γάμος ('a marriage that is no marriage').—In imitation of tragedy, where such privative compounds can stand even in a predicative relation to their simplex nouns (cf. Soph. Ajax 665, quoted above), the philosophers also ventured to use this sort of pattern. So, e.g. Plato, Laws 6, 766d πάσα ... πόλις ἄπολις ἂν γίγνοιτο 'the whole city would become a non-city', Aristotle, Physics 1. 8, 191b6 (ὁ ἰατρὸς) ἰατρεύει καὶ ἀνίατρος γίνεται ᾗ ἰατρός '(the doctor) practises as a doctor or becomes a non-doctor qua doctor', Theophrastus (in Plutarch, Lycurgus 10.2) τὸν πλοῦτον ἄζηλον καὶ ἄπλουτον ἀπεργάσασθαι 'he made wealth an object of no desire and even un-wealth', and so on. Another example is ἀπάθη in the sense of 'not real πάθη' in Antiphon the Sophist, B 5 (no. 87 DIELS & KRANZ). Compare Pausanias 6.22.3 ταύτας τὰς ὀλυμπιάδας 'ἀνολυμπιάδας' οἱ Ἠλεῖοι καλοῦντες οὐ σφᾶς ἐν καταλόγῳ τῶν ὀλυμπιάδων γράφουσιν 'the Eleans call these Olympiads non-Olympiads, and omit them from the list'.W.S. Barrett on Euripides, Hippolytus 1144 (p. 376):
See also Detlev Fehling, "ΝϒΚΤΟΣ ΠΑΙΔΕΣ ΑΠΑΙΔΕΣ A. Eum. 1034 und das Sogenannte Oxymoron in der Tragödie," Hermes 96.2 (1968) 142-155.
He who has the furor philosophicus within him will already no longer have time for the furor politicus and will wisely refrain from reading the newspapers every day, let alone working for a political party...
Der, welcher den furor philosophicus im Leibe hat, wird schon gar keine Zeit mehr für den furor politicus haben und sich weislich hüten, jeden Tag Zeitungen zu lesen oder gar einer Partei zu dienen...
Thursday, November 08, 2018
In AD 376, a large body of Goths arrived at the Danube River, pleading to be allowed into the Empire as refugees. These were the same barbarians whose forefathers had slain an emperor, sacked Athens and Ephesus, and taunted the walled-in Romans for living like birds in a cage. They had recently received their comeuppance from the Huns and Alans—two nations then widely identified with Gog and Magog. The Goths had no answer to the tactics of the steppe men, and after a desultory attempt at building their own great wall, they decided that perhaps the Empire knew a thing or two about security after all.Ammianus Marcellinus 31.4.6 (tr J.C. Rolfe):
The Romans would have been amply justified in turning away their old foes. The Goths certainly had it coming, and schadenfreude, after all, is a dish best served while watching one's archenemies scramble haplessly to construct a proper wall. But thousands of men, socialized from birth to be warriors, were seeking entrance into an Empire whose greatest problem remained how to recruit soldiers from a walled and unwarlike populace, and from a certain perspective the arrival of the Goths could be viewed as an opportunity. A bold and unfortunate idea presented itself. The Romans, eyeing the crowd of barbarians as just so many potential recruits, agreed to the Goths' request. Roman officers supplied vessels to transfer the Goths into the Empire, ferrying them across the Danube on boats, rafts, and canoes for several days and nights. At the time, it must have seemed like a clever and perhaps even generous move—good for both the Goths and the Romans—but this Gothic Dunkirk soon turned sour. For in the memorable phrase of the Roman historian Ammianus, Rome had just admitted its own ruin.
The refugees, unhappy in their new conditions, had hardly entered the Empire before they turned on their hosts, ambushed a Roman garrison, and began raiding cities and villas. According to Ammianus, the land was set on fire. Women watched while their husbands were murdered. The Goths tore babies from their mothers' breasts and dragged children over the dead bodies of their parents. They drew ever closer to Constantinople, the city that had only recently emerged as one of the dual capitals of a state that in those days typically had two emperors. The refugees had become invaders...
With such stormy eagerness on the part of insistent men was the ruin of the Roman world brought in.
ita turbido instantium studio orbis Romani pernicies ducebatur.
As for recruiting foreigners to serve in the armed forces because citizens are too unwarlike and unwilling, cf. Dominic Nicholls, "Armed Forces open door to foreign recruits who have never lived in Britain," Telegraph (November 4, 2018):
Foreign nationals will be allowed to join the Armed Forces without having ever lived in Britain, ministers will announce on Monday, in a major move to address a deepening recruitment crisis.Thanks to Jim K. for drawing my attention to the article in the Telegraph.
The Ministry of Defence will drop a requirement for applicants from Commonwealth countries to have resided in Britain for five years, The Telegraph has learned.
Military leaders now hope to recruit 1,350 extra personnel from foreign countries every year to the navy, army and air force.
It comes amid a struggle to recruit enough servicemen and women which has left the army "disappearing before our eyes", according to MPs.
Under the new policy, applicants from countries including Australia, India, Canada, Kenya and Fiji will be considered for every role in the armed forces. The Royal Navy and RAF will begin recruitment procedures immediately, with Army applications opening in early 2019.
Giving evidence to the Commons Defence Select Committee recently Lieutenant General Sir Mark Poffley, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff for Military Capability, admitted the army had failed to hit recruitment targets in recent years.
From an annual requirement of around 10,000 recruits, the army has only had around 7,000 entrants for each of the last three years.
In the first quarter of 2018 only seven per cent of the required number of soldiers had been recruited. "They are going to miss the target by some margin," Lt Gen Poffley said.
Not many days passed before four Germans arrived from Argyroupolis with an interpreter. They sat down at the coffee-shop, summoned the Mayor of the village, and at once began asking him questions. The first thing they asked was, had the villagers taken part in the battle against the parachutists? The Mayor answered that our village was so far away that we hardly knew that a battle had taken place. Then they asked if the village possessed any arms, but once more the Mayor said that the villages had given up all their arms to the country at the time of the Albanian war, and that only a fowling-piece or two still remained. The Germans said they must all be handed over, even fowling-pieces, and that for each gun that was withheld ten men would be shot and their houses burnt down.From Simon Steyne's obituary of Psychoundakis:
'You must collect them all at the village police-station and the police will bring them to us at Argyroupolis,' they said 'and the wireless set must be handed over as well.' So the owner was called and told where and when it should be taken. Meanwhile some of the villagers had collected and were gazing at the Germans with curiosity. And the inquisitive ones were not a few, because many thought they were beholding some kind of strange animal.
The villagers thought it would be wise to hand over a few rotten and harmless guns — any old iron to deceive the Germans with — in case they had learnt that we possessed any arms. It would be best, they said, for the sporting-guns to be handed over as well lest the Germans should learn the owners' names from the list of licences in the records at Canea. So about a dozen sporting-guns were collected at the police-station, and about the same number of totally useless rifles. The good ones were hidden away as carefully as sacred relics — holy things to be used at the right time, when the signal of liberation should be given; and there were plenty, because, when the English retreated to Sphakia, even small boys had gone down to the seashore and the valleys bringing rifles back with them.
The days followed each other and news came from all over Crete of the daily brutalities committed by the Germans. Every day we learnt of new burnings and shootings and fear grew inside us but also strengthened the hatred in our souls.
But when I asked George why he had immediately joined the resistance in Crete, he looked at me as though I was from another planet and replied with one word: "philopatria" — love of my country.Related posts:
English as a Dead Language
Poetry occupies a diminished status in 'high culture.' Very few educated people under seventy have been compelled to learn poems by heart at school; committing even stray lines of Shakespeare or Shelley to memory has become a rare, eccentric habit. This means that contemporary poets can rely on little or no shared poetic tradition with such readers as they have. There is little incentive for a public figure to quote 'famous' verses in a speech, because there are so few people, even with advanced academic degrees in literature, who would get what he is talking about or recognise the reference.Related post: Wilderness Were Paradise Enow.
Over the past fifty years, pop music has come to replace most of the social functions of traditional poetry even among educated people. Nobody would think you strange if you could not recite lines from Milton's Paradise Lost; though you would seem an alien if you were unable to recognise and identify any of the pop songs which most people around you have passively absorbed, through mass media, widespread internet dissemination and use as background music in public places. If you refer to certain pop songs in public, you can take for granted that strangers will generally pick up the reference.
The gallant soul endures such blows as heaven deals and does not refuse them.
ὅστις εὐγενὴς βροτῶν,
φέρει τά γ' ἐκ θεῶν πτώματ' οὐδ' ἀναίνεται.
τά γ' ἐκ θεῶν Headlam: τὰ τῶν θεῶν γε codd.
The Growth of Trees
Therefore, much as he loved his native tongue, he favoured no violent efforts to revive it. He had begun with his own family. For the first two or three children, he made a point of bringing nursemaids down who spoke the Cymric pure and undefiled of Snowdonia. This had one curious and unexpected reaction. His eldest boy was only four or five when, one fine summer day, Owen told me of a dialogue in the garden before breakfast. 'It's a fine morning, Father.' 'Yes, my boy.' 'Trees growing fine.' 'Yes, my boy.' 'Jesus Christ makes them grow.' 'Well ... yes, my boy.' 'I know what he makes them grow for ... He wants them to burn people with.' The nursemaid from Snowdonia was, probably, a Calvinistic Methodist whose own rudimentary eschatology had been absorbed in a still cruder form by the child.
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
But the power of fate is strange; neither wealth nor martial valour, nor a wall, nor black ships crashing through the sea can escape it.Commentators compare Bacchylides, fragment 24 (tr. David A. Campbell):
ἀλλ᾿ ἁ μοιριδία τις δύνασις δεινά·
οὔτ᾿ ἄν νιν ὄλβος οὔτ᾿ Ἄρης,
οὐ πύργος, οὐχ ἁλίκτυποι
κελαιναὶ νᾶες ἐκφύγοιεν.
But mortals are not free to choose prosperity nor stubborn war nor all-destroying civil strife: Destiny, giver of all things, moves a cloud now over this land, now over that.
θνατοῖσι δ᾿ οὐκ αὐθαίρετοι
οὔτ᾿ ὄλβος οὔτ᾿ ἄκναμπτος Ἄρης
οὔτε πάμφθερσις στάσις,
ἀλλ᾿ ἐπιχρίμπτει νέφος ἄλλοτ᾿ ἐπ᾿ ἄλλαν
γαῖαν ἁ πάνδωρος Αἶσα.
The Departing Guest
And so it happens that we seldom can find a man who claims to have lived a happy life, who quits life in contentment when his time is up, like a guest who has dined well.Lucretius 3.938-939 (tr. W.H.D. Rouse, rev. Martin F. Smith):
inde fit, ut raro, qui se vixisse beatum
dicat et exacto contentus tempore vita
cedat uti conviva satur, reperire queamus.
Why not, like a banqueter fed full of life, withdraw with contentment and rest in peace, you fool?Lucretius 3.957-960:
cur non ut plenus vitae conviva recedis
aequo animoque capis securam, stulte, quietem?
But because you always crave what you have not, and contemn what you have, life has slipped by for you incomplete and ungratifying, and death stands by your head unexpected, before you can retire glutted and full of the feast.
sed quia semper aves quod abest, praesentia temnis,
inperfecta tibi elapsast ingrataque vita,
et nec opinanti mors ad caput adstitit ante
quam satur ac plenus possis discedere rerum.
Moreover I, my son, have attentively observed mankind, in what a dismal state of ruin they are. And I have been amazed that they are not utterly prostrated by the calamities which surround them, and that even their wars are not enough for them, nor the pains they endure, nor the diseases, nor the death, nor the poverty; but that, like savage beasts, they must needs rush upon one another in their enmity, trying which of them shall inflict the greater mischief on his fellow. For they have broken away from the bounds of truth, and transgress all honest laws, because they are bent on fulfilling their selfish desires (for, whensoever a man is eagerly set on obtaining that which he desires, how is it possible that he should fitly do that which it behoves him to do?); and they acknowledge no restraint, and but seldom stretch out their hands towards truth and goodness, but in their manner of life behave like the deaf and the blind. Moreover, the wicked rejoice, and the righteous are disquieted. He that has, denies that he has; and he that has not, struggles to acquire. The poor seek help, and the rich hide their wealth, and every man laughs at his fellow. Those that are drunken are stupefied, and those that have recovered themselves are ashamed. Some weep, and some sing; and some laugh, and others are a prey to care. They rejoice in things evil, and a man that speaks the truth they despise.See The Letter of Mara bar Sarapion in Context. Proceedings of the Symposium Held at Utrecht University, 10–12 December 2009. Edited by Annette Merz and Teun Tieleman (Leiden: Brill, 2012).