Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Plutarch on Quietude

Plutarch, fragment 143, tr. F.H. Sandbach:
How wise a thing, it would seem, is quietude! In particular it serves for studying to acquire knowledge and wisdom, by which I do not mean the wisdom of shop and market-place, but that mighty wisdom which makes him that acquires it like to God. Those forms of study that are practised in towns among the crowds of humanity exercise the so-called shrewdness that is really knavery. Hence those who excel in them have been diversified by the needs of city life, like so many fancy products of the culinary art, <and have become ready to do innumerable wrongs> and indeed to perform innumerable dreadful services. But solitude, being wisdom's training-ground, is a good character-builder, and moulds and reforms men's souls. There is nothing to stand in the way of their development, nor are they straightway distorted by collision with many small conventions, as are souls that are confined in towns; living in a pure air and for the most part away from the haunts of men, they grow up erect and sprout their wings, watered by quietude's streams, so smooth and pellucid. Here the mind turns to diviner sorts of learning and sees with a clearer vision. This, surely, is the reason why it was in solitary spots that man founded all those shrines of the gods that have been long established from ancient times, above all those of the Muses, of Pan and the Nymphs, and of Apollo and all gods who are our guides in music; to my mind, they kept the blessings of education away from the dreadful and abominable influences of the towns.

σοφὸν ἔοικε χρῆμα τὸ τῆς ἡσυχίας πρός τ' ἄλλα καὶ εῖς ἐπιστήμης καὶ φρονήσεως μελέτην· λέγω δὲ οὐ τὴν καπηλικὴν καὶ ἀγοραίαν, ἀλλὰ τὴν μεγάλην, ἥτις ἐξομοιοῖ θεῷ τὀν αὐτὴν ἀναλαβόντα. αἱ μὲν γὰρ ἐν ταῖς πόλεσι καὶ τοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων ὄχλοις γιγνόμεναι μελέται γυμνάζουσι τὴν λεγομένην δριμύτητα, πανουργίαν οὖσαν· ὥστε τοὺς ἐν αὐταἰς ἄκρους οἷον ὐπὸ μαγείρων τῶν ἐν ταῖς πόλεσι χρειῶν διαπεποικιλμένους πόσα δ' οὐχὶ ** πόσα δ' οὐχὶ καὶ διακονήματα δεινὰ ἐργάζεσθαι· ἡ δ' ἐρημία, σοφίας οὖσα γυμνάσιον, ἠθοποιὸς ἀγαθὴ καὶ πλάττει καὶ μετευθύνει τῶν ἀνδρῶν τὰς ψυχάς. οὐδὲν γὰρ αὐταῖς ἐμπόδιόν ἐστι τῆς αὐξήσεως, οὐδὲ πρὸς πολλὰ καὶ μικρὰ νόμιμα προσπταίουσαι κάμπτονται εὐθύ, καθάπερ αἱ ταῖς πόλεσιν ἐναπειλημμέναι ψυχαί· ἀλλ' ἐν ἀέρι καθαρῷ καὶ τὰ πολλὰ ἔξω διαιτώμεναι τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀνίασιν ὀρθαὶ καὶ πτεροφυοῦσιν, ἀρδόμεναι τῷ διαυγωτάτῳ τε καὶ λειοτάτῳ ῥεύματι τῆς ἡσυχίας, ἐν ᾧ τά τε μαθήματα τοῦ νοῦ θεοειδέστερα καὶ καθαρώτερον ὁρᾷ. διὰ τοῦτό τοι καὶ τῶν θεῶν τὰ ἷερά, ὅσα ἐκ τοῦ ἀρχαίου πάλαι νενόμισται, τοῖς ἐρημοτάτοις χωρίοις ἐνίδρυσαν οἱ πρῶτοι, μάλιστα δὲ Μουσῶν τε καὶ Πανὸς καὶ Νυμφῶν καὶ Ἀπόλλωνος καὶ ὅσοι μουσικῆς ἡγεμόνες θεοί, διακρίναντες, ὡς οἷμαι, τὰ παιδείας καλὰ τῶν ἐν ταῖς πόλεσι δεινῶν τε καὶ μιαρῶν τινῶν.
Sandbach's introductory note on this fragment:
F. Wilhelm, Rh. Mus. lxxiii (1924), pp. 466 ff., translates into German and accumulates a mass of illustrative material. He notes that the question of retirement from city life was in the air in the latter part of the first century A.D., as is shown by the discussions of Seneca, Epist. lxviii, Epictetus, iv.4, Dio Chrysostom, xx, Quintilian, x.3.32 ff., Tacitus, Dialogus, 12 f.
The reference is to Friedrich Wilhelm, "Plutarchos ΠΕΡΙ ΗΣΥΧΙΑΣ (Stob. IV 16, 18 p. 398 f. H.)," Rheinisches Museum 73.4 (1924) 466-482.

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