Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Beyond the World of Time and Change

A.J. Toynbee (1889-1975), The Tragedy of Greece: A Lecture Delivered for the Professor of Greek to Candidates for Honours in Literae Humaniores at Oxford in May 1920 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921), p. 12:
Certainly I found, in the worst moments of the war, that passages from the classics—some line of Aeschylus or Lucretius or Virgil, or the sense of some speech in Thucydides, or the impression of some mood of bitterness or serenity in a dialogue of Plato—would come into my mind and give me relief. I felt that these men had travelled along the road on which our feet were set; that they had travelled it farther than we, travelled it to the end; and that the wisdom of greater experience and the poignancy of greater suffering than ours was expressed in the beauty of their words. Personally I got that relief from acquaintance with Greek civilization as expressed in Greek literature, and I got it because it put me in communication with a different civilization from our own—with people who had experienced all and more than we had experienced, and who were now at peace beyond the world of time and change.


Out of Control

Vergil, Georgics 1.510-514 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Breaking the covenants which bind them, neighbouring cities
draw the sword; the god of unholy strife rages throughout the world,
even as when from the starting gates the chariots stream forth
and gather speed lap by lap, while the driver, tugging vainly at the reins,
is carried along by his steeds, and the car heeds not the curb!

vicinae ruptis inter se legibus urbes
arma ferunt; saevit toto Mars impius orbe:
ut cum carceribus sese effudere quadrigae,
addunt in spatia, et frustra retinacula tendens
fertur equis auriga neque audit currus habenas.


A Cold, Severe, Watchful Calculation of Probabilities

Charles Badham (1813-1884), ed., The Philebus of Plato, 2nd ed. (London: Williams and Norgate, 1878), pp. 21-22:
I have known critics to be charged with making difficulties and fancying faults for the pleasure of displaying their ingenuity in conjecture. The charge shows a thorough ignorance of the very frame of mind in which a critical scholar is obliged to work: such an one well knows that, if he durst so tamper with his own sense of truth, he would most certainly and speedily injure the one instrument on which he relies for success, his judgment. Others there are who treat all conjecturing as at best an effort of wit, and a pretty pastime. Such persons seem not to have considered that, if the ἄπειρον of verbal criticism consists of changes of similar letters and compendia, transpositions, bracketings and indications of hiatus, the πέρας which is to bring these elements to a γένεσις is, not a dithyrambic ecstasy which exults in its own contortions and tosses about wildly whatever it picks up, but a cold, severe, watchful calculation of probabilities, which shuns all outbreaks of fancy as interruptions of its work. But why should any one try to expostulate with the gainsayers? Some of them are too ignorant of the language to see any faults, and therefore cannot see the use of corrections. And yet it is useless to tell them so, for they can count on the applause of the many hundred minds which they have perverted. Some have tried verbal criticism and failed; and hate the pursuit which would not gratify their vanity and yield them fame. Let us dismiss the former with:
εὐδαιμονίζων ὄχλος ἐξέπληξέ σε.
and the latter with:
ἀπόλωλεν ἁλήθει᾿, ἐπεὶ σὺ δυστυχεῖς;
Both of the quotations are from Euripides, The former is fragment 783a (Calling you happy, the crowd drove you out of your senses), and the latter is Phoenician Women 922 (Has truth perished because you are unlucky?).



Jerome Carcopino, Daily Life In Ancient Rome. Edited with Bibliography and Notes by Henry T. Rowell...Translated from the French by E.O. Lorimer (London: George Routledge & Sons, Ltd., 1941), p. 271, with note on p. 318:
As among the Arabs still, belching was considered a politeness, justified by philosophers who thought the highest wisdom was to follow the dictates of nature.161

161. Cicero, Ad Fam. X [sic, read IX] 22, 5; Juvenal, 3, 107; Martial, X 48, 10; Pliny, Panegyricus 49.
Gilbert Highet, "Petronius the Moralist," Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 72 (1941) 176-194 (at 178, n. 14), rpt. in his Classical Papers (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), pp. 191-209 (at 193-194), criticizing Carcopino:
The same savant informs us (p. 271) that belching at table was good manners in Rome. He supports this remarkable assertion by quoting Cic. Fam. 9.22.5, Juv. 3.107, and Plin. Paneg. 49, which prove the exact opposite.
Cicero, Letters to Friends 9.22.5 (to L. Papirius Paetus; tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey, with his note):
So there you have a Stoic lecture: 'The Sage will call a spade a spade.' What a multitude of words out of one of yours, to be sure! I like you to have no inhibitions when you are addressing me. For myself, I adhere (and shall so continue, since it is my habit) to the modesty of Plato. That is why I have written to you in guarded language on a theme which the Stoics handle with complete freedom. But they also say that we ought to break wind and belch with equal unconstraint. So let us respect the Kalends of March!15

15 The date of the Matronalia, the festival of married women, on which husbands and lovers gave presents to their ladies.

habes scholam Stoicam: ὁ σοφὸς εὐθυρρημονήσει. quam multa ex uno verbo tuo! te adversus me omnia audere gratum est; ego servo et servabo (sic enim adsuevi) Platonis verecundiam. itaque tectis verbis ea ad te scripsi, quae apertissimis agunt Stoici ; sed illi etiam crepitus aiunt aeque liberos ac ructus esse oportere. honorem igitur Kalendis Martiis.
Juvenal 3.104-108 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
So we are not on a par. He's always ahead because, day or night, he can take his expression from someone else's face: he's ready to throw up his hands and cheer if his friend belches nicely or pisses straight or if the golden cup gives a fart when it's turned upside-down.

non sumus ergo pares: melior, qui semper et omni
nocte dieque potest aliena sumere vultum
a facie, iactare manus laudare paratus,
si bene ructavit, si rectum minxit amicus,
si trulla inverso crepitum dedit aurea fundo.
Martial 10.48.7-10 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
The bailiff's wife has brought me mallows to relieve the stomach and the garden's various wealth. There is sessile lettuce and clipped leeks, belching mint is not to seek, nor the salacious herb.

exoneraturas ventrem mihi vilica malvas
    attulit et varias quas habet hortus opes,
in quibus est lactuca sedens et tonsile porrum,
    nec deest ructatrix mentha nec herba salax.
Pliny, Panegyric 49.6 (tr. Betty Radice):
You do not arrive already gorged with a solitary feast before midday, to sit menacingly over your guests, watching and marking all they do, nor when they are fasting and hungry do you belch from a full stomach and present or rather throw at them the food you disdain to touch, and after a pretence at enduring this insulting mockery of a banquet take yourself back to secret gluttony and private excesses.

non enim ante medium diem distentus solitaria cena, spectator adnotatorque convivis tuis immines, nec ieiunis et inanibus plenus ipse et eructans non tam adponis quam obicis cibos quos dedigneris attingere, aegreque perpessus superbam illam convictus simulationem, rursus te ad clandestinam ganeam occultumque luxum refers.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), A Tale of a Tub, Sect. VIII:
In consequence of this, their next principle was, that man brings with him into the world, a peculiar portion or grain of wind, which may be called a quinta essentia, extracted from the other four. This quintessence is of a catholic use upon all emergencies of life, is improveable into all arts and sciences, and may be wonderfully refined, as well as enlarged, by certain methods in education. This, when blown up to its perfection, ought not to be covetously hoarded up, stifled, or hid under a bushel, but freely communicated to mankind. Upon these reasons, and others of equal weight, the wise Æolists affirm the gift of BELCHING to be the noblest act of a rational creature. To cultivate which art, and render it more serviceable to mankind, they made use of several methods. At certain seasons of the year, you might behold the priests among them, in vast numbers, with their mouths gaping wide enough against a storm. At other times were to be seen several hundreds linked together in a circular chain, with every man a pair of bellows applied to his neighbour's breech, by which they blew up each other to the shape and size of a tun; and for that reason, with great propriety of speech, did usually call their bodies, their vessels. When, by these and the like performances, they were grown sufficiently replete, they would immediately depart, and disembogue, for the public good, a plentiful share of their acquirements, into their disciples' chaps.

Monday, May 30, 2016



R.S. Surtees (1805-1864), Jorrocks's Jaunts and Jollities, new ed. (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1874), pp. 63-64:
It was a nice comfortable-looking place, with a blazing fire, half the floor covered with an old oil-cloth, and the rest exhibiting the cheerless aspect of the naked flags. About a yard and a half from the fire was placed the breakfast-table; in the centre stood a magnificent uncut ham, with a great quartern loaf on one side and a huge Bologna sausage on the other; besides these there were nine eggs, two pyramids of muffins, a great deal of toast, a dozen ship-biscuits, and half a pork-pie, while a dozen kidneys were spluttering on a spit before the fire, and Betsy held a gridiron covered with mutton-chops on the top; altogether there was as much as would have served ten people. "Now, sit down," said Jorrocks, "and let us be doing, for I am as hungry as a hunter. Hope you are peckish too; what shall I give you? tea or coffee?—but take both—coffee first and tea after a bit. If I can't give you them good, don't know who can. You must pay your devours, as we say in France, to the 'am, for it is an especial fine one, and do take a few eggs with it; there, I've not given you above a pound of 'am, but you can come again, you know— 'waste not want not.' Now take some muffins, do, pray. Batsey, bring some more cream, and set the kidneys on the table, the Yorkshireman is getting nothing to eat. Have a chop with your kidney, werry luxterous—I could eat an elephant stuffed with grenadiers, and wash them down with a ocean of tea; but pray lay in to the breakfast, or I shall think you don't like it. There, now take some tea and toast or one of those biscuits, or whatever you like; would a little more 'am be agreeable? Batsey, run into the larder and see if your Missis left any of that cold chine of pork last night—and hear, bring the cold goose, and any cold flesh you can lay hands on, there are really no wittles on the table. I am quite ashamed to set you down to such a scanty fork breakfast; but this is what comes of not being master of your own house. Hope your hat may long cover your family: rely upon it, it is 'cheaper to buy your bacon than to keep a pig.'"
Related post: Bacon and Eggs.


A World of Its Own

David Grene (1913-2002), Of Farming & Classics: A Memoir (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), p. 74:
But the most remarkable feature of classical training in my time was its obdurately philological character. This was much less so in France and Germany, where university professors paid much more than lip service to the content of Greek and Latin literature. Within such a specific context, our Irish professors certainly concerned themselves almost exclusively with the verbal and stylistic aspects of the languages studied (and the same was, as far as I can find out, largely true in England). In their publications these same interests took precedence. A few of these teachers and professors, I suppose, were a kind of barbarian, but not most of them. They felt that classics in itself was something quite different from literature, philosophy, or history. It was a study of a world of its own. In fact, I recently saw this very phrase in a speech by Professor Tom Mitchell, the present provost of Trinity College Dublin. The greater philologists of the old order penetrated deeper than most scholars with the power of an imagination awakened by an endless attention to, and absorption of, the minutest aspects of words of well-known texts in Greek and Latin. These classical texts are not exactly like those in modern languages, where contemporary usage is continually revising and rendering more exact our knowledge of the words, and where there is always more literature coming into existence to modify one's understanding of what has already been read. The Greek and Latin classics, frozen in expression, are beyond further contemporary modification.
Id., p. 75:
Nowadays, there is a distinct effort to see the classical projection as a field for comparative studies in anthropology or linguistic disciplines. But the period of classical studies between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries knew nothing of all this. Their attitude truly was toward a kind of liturgy, and liturgies achieve their effects by being learned (by heart if necessary) and forcing themselves into the obscurer parts of the mind and emotions. As a result, in the devotion, love, and veneration of the actual words of the texts, something has come alive in the culture of the West that cannot, I think, be put totally to sleep or lost.
Id., pp. 75-76:
I am one of the last living products of the older training. There are times when I feel that was fortunate for me because I was a late developer, and I doubt that in my early twenties I could have effectively dealt with the challenge to passion and mind in those classical texts—all the matters that I now press on my American students' attention. I was perhaps better served by the relentless Talmudism of my teachers, as far as my future career went, than I would have been by what now appears to be a much more enlightened approach. At the end of eight years in school and four more undergraduate years in college, I had come to know rather well, even if in a peculiar and some people would say distorted fashion, the languages and the texts of Greek and Latin literature.


In Memoriam

Xenophon, Memorabilia 2.2.13 (tr. E.C. Marchant):
Yes, and if someone fails to honor his parents' graves, the state inquires into that too, when it examines the candidates for office.

ἐάν τις τῶν γονέων τελευτησάντων τοὺς τάφους μὴ κοσμῇ, καὶ τοῦτο ἐξετάζει ἡ πόλις ἐν ταῖς τῶν ἀρχόντων δοκιμασίαις.
Plato, Laws 4.717d-718a (tr. R.G. Bury, emphasis added):
When parents die, the most modest funeral rites are the best, whereby the son neither exceeds the accustomed pomp, nor falls short of what his forefathers paid to their sires; and in like manner he should duly bestow the yearly attentions, which ensure honor, on the rites already completed. He should always venerate them, by never failing to provide a continual memorial, and assigning to the deceased a due share of the means which fortune provides for expenditure.

τελευτησάντων δὲ γονέων ταφὴ μὲν ἡ σωφρονεστάτη καλλίστη, μήτε ὑπεραίροντα τῶν εἰθισμένων ὄγκων μήτ᾽ ἐλλείποντα ὧν οἱ προπάτορες τοὺς ἑαυτῶν γεννητὰς ἐτίθεσαν, τάς τε αὖ κατ᾽ ἐνιαυτὸν τῶν ἤδη τέλος ἐχόντων ὡσαύτως ἐπιμελείας τὰς κόσμον φερούσας ἀποδιδόναι· τῷ δὲ μὴ παραλείπειν μνήμην ἐνδελεχῆ παρεχόμενον, τούτῳ μάλιστ᾽ ἀεὶ πρεσβεύειν, δαπάνης τε τῆς διδομένης ὑπὸ τύχης τὸ μέτριον τοῖς κεκμηκόσιν νέμοντα.
Demosthenes 24.107 (against Timocrates; tr. J.H. Vince):
What adequate satisfaction can you render, or by what punishment can you be punished as you deserve, you who, to say nothing of the rest, subvert the laws that protect old age, that compel the maintenance of parents in their lifetime, and ensure that they shall be honoured with due observance when they die?

καίτοι τίν᾿ ἂν ἀξίαν δοίης δίκην, ἢ τί σὺ παθὼν ἂν τὰ προσήκοντ᾿ εἴης πεπονθώς, ὅς, τὰ μὲν ἄλλ᾿ ἐῶ, ἀλλὰ τοὺς τῷ γήρᾳ βοηθοὺς λυμαίνει, οἳ καὶ ζῶντας ἀναγκάζουσι τοὺς παῖδας τοὺς γονέας τρέφειν, καὶ ἐπειδὰν ἀποθάνωσιν, ὅπως τῶν νομιζομένων τύχωσι, παρασκευάζουσιν;
See David Whitehead, "Goneis in Athenian Law (and Perception)," Electronic Antiquity 13.1 (November 2009) 27-56 (at 44-46, § 3.4).

The graves of my parents, with flowers placed there by my sister (her husband in the background):


Original Notions on the Subject of Education

Letter to the Editor of the Germantown, Pennsylvania, Telegraph (December 2, 1890), rpt. in The Critic, Vol. XV n.s., No. 367 (January 10, 1891) 22, partially rpt. from The Critic in Daniel Shealy, ed., Alcott in Her Own Time: A Biographical Chronicle of Her Life, Drawn from Recollections, Interviews, and Memoirs by Family, Friends, and Associates (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2005), p. 27:
Some weeks since I observed a query in the Telegraph as to the location of the house in Germantown in which Miss Alcott, the authoress, daughter of Amos Bronson Alcott, was born. As no one has answered it, I take the liberty of offering the subjoined reply:—

Louisa May Alcott, authoress of 'Little Women,' and other stories, was born Nov. 29, 1832, in a house somewhat retired from the main street, and known as 'The Pinery,' or 'Pine Place,' owing to its being surrounded by pine trees, and situated where the Post Office now stands, a few doors northwest of St. Luke's Church. Here her father taught school, composed of children of tender age. Mr. Alcott had original notions on the subject of education, and part of his system was to fortify his pupils against all surprises and to prepare them for all emergencies. One of his means of achieving this end was to walk stealthily behind them, when absorbed in study, and, without warning, suddenly kick the chair from under them. Whether this heroic practice answered the end desired or not I am unable to say, but I am able to say that it was far too advanced a method for the latitude of Germantown, where but one house had been built in forty years, and the risk of breaking the children's heads too great to commend it to their parents. So, after experimenting for a year or two, Mr. A., in despair, shook the dust of the stagnant old town from his feet, and didn't draw rein until he had reached Boston, in whose intellectual atmosphere his 'advanced thought' probably met with greater sympathy.
Above from The Critic.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Take Up Sound Studies

Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560), "De Corrigendis Adolescentium Studiis" (inaugural lecture at the University of Wittenberg, August 29, 1518), in his Opera quae supersunt omnia, ed. Carl Gottlieb Bretschneider (Halle: C.A. Schwetschke, 1843 = Corpus Reformatorum, XI), cols. 15-25 (at 25, tr. Ralph Keen):
Take up sound studies, and bear in mind what the poet said: Well begun is half done. Dare to know, cultivate the Romans, embrace the Greeks without whom the Romans cannot be properly studied.

Capessite ergo sana studia, et quod a Poëta dictum est, animo volvite: Dimidium facti qui coepit habet. Sapere audete, veteres Latinos colite, Graeca amplexamini, sine quibus Latina tractari recte nequeunt.
The poet is Horace, Epistles 1.2.40:
dimidium facti, qui coepit, habet; sapere aude.
What noun should we supply with Graeca? Volumina, or perhaps exemplaria? Cf. Horace, Ars Poetica 268-269 (tr. John Conington):
Make Greece your model when you write,
And turn her volumes over day and night.

                        vos exemplaria Graeca
nocturna versate manu, versate diurna.


Why need a noun be supplied at all? Might it not be a neuter plural adjective used as a substantive? ‘Greek things’, perhaps ‘Greek culture?’ Perfectly good Latin to do so.

Yours faithfully,

Dr A Girdwood
Head of Classics
Albyn School
17-23 Queen's Road,
Aberdeen, AB15 4PB


Nature Speaks to Us

Lucretius 3.931-962 (tr. C.H. Sisson):
If nature found a voice and began to scold
This is the sort of thing she might say to any of us:
'What is all this fuss about because you are mortal?
Have you got to burst into tears? What is wrong with death?
If the life you have had so far has been quite pleasant
And everything has not gone down the drain with a rush,
Why not depart like a guest who has had enough?
And, you fool, take your simple rest with a quiet mind?
But if all the pleasures of life have turned to nothing
And life is offensive, why do you want to add to it
Days which will end as badly as those you have had?
Better to make an end of life and effort
For there is nothing new I can devise for you
That is likely to please you: the rest of life is the same.
If your body is not worn out and there is still some movement
In your arms and legs, still, nothing will ever change
Although you should go on living for several centuries
Or even supposing you did not die at all.'
What could we reply but that nature has a good case
And that as she presents it every word is true?
If some poor wretch should complain of death more than he should
It serves him right if nature speaks even more sharply:
'No more blubbering, you moron; forget your complaints.'
And if it is a man of considerable age:
'You have gone feeble after having your life?
You want what you haven't got and despise the present
And that is how your life has slipped away.
Now death stands at your pillow before you are ready,
You cannot leave because you've not had enough!
You are too old for everything; give it up!
Give way gracefully; you have to, anyway.'

denique si vocem rerum natura repente
mittat et hoc alicui nostrum sic increpet ipsa:
"quid tibi tanto operest, mortalis, quod nimis aegris
luctibus indulges? quid mortem congemis ac fles?
nam si grata fuit tibi vita anteacta priorque        935
et non omnia pertusum congesta quasi in vas
commoda perfiuxere atque ingrata interiere,
cur non ut plenus vitae conviva recedis
aequo animoque capis securam, stulte, quietem?
sin ea quae fructus cumque es periere profusa        940
vitaque in offensost, cur amplius addere quaeris,
rursum quod pereat male et ingratum occidat omne,
non potius vitae finem facis atque laboris?
nam tibi praeterea quod machiner inveniamque,
quod placeat, nil est: eadem sunt omnia semper.        945
si tibi non annis corpus iam marcet et artus
confecti languent, eadem tamen omnia restant,
omnia si perges vivendo vincere saecla,
atque etiam potius, si numquam sis moriturus";
quid respondemus, nisi iustam intendere litem        950
naturam et veram verbis exponere causam?
atque obitum lamentetur miser amplius aequo,
non merito inclamet magis et voce increpet acri:
"aufer abhinc lacrimas, baratre, et compesce querellas!"
grandior hic vero si iam seniorque queratur:        955
"omnia perfunctus vitai praemia marces;
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.        960
nunc aliena tua tamen aetate omnia mitte
aequo animoque agedum iam annis concede: necessest."
Most modern editors follow Lachmann and transpose 952-954 after 955, but Sisson's translation retains the original order, and so I've kept it in the Latin text above.

See Tobias Reinhardt, "The Speech of Nature in Lucretius' 'De Rerum Natura' 3.931-71," Classical Quarterly 52.1 (2002) 291-304.

Saturday, May 28, 2016


Libertines versus Ascetics

Jerome, Letters 45.5 (to Asella), tr. F.A. Wright, Select Letters of St. Jerome, with an English Translation (London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1933 = Loeb Classical Library, 262), p. 185:
It is your pleasure to take a bath everyday; another man thinks such refinement rubbish. You belch after a meal of wild duck and boast of the sturgeon you devour; I fill my belly with beans. You take delight in troops of jesters; Paula and Melanium prefer those who weep. You want other people's goods; they despise their own. You like wine flavoured with honey; they have a sweeter drink, cold water. You consider that you are losing all that you have not at once drained dry, gobbled up, and devoured; they believe that the Scriptures are true and fix their desires on what is to come. Well, they are foolish old women to be persuaded of the resurrection of the body! But what is that to you? We for our part are not satisfied with your mode of life. Fatten yourself to your heart's content: I prefer a lean body and a pale face. You think people like us miserable: we regard you as more miserable still. Our opinion of you is like your opinion of us, and each in turn thinks the other insane.

tibi placet lavare cotidie, alius has munditias sordes putat; tu attagenam ructuas et de comeso acipensere gloriaris, ego faba ventrem inpleo; te delectant cachinnantium greges, Paulam Melaniumque plangentium; tu aliena desideras, illae contemnunt sua; te delibuta melle vina delectant, illae potant aquam frigidam suaviorem; tu te perdere aestimas, quidquid in praesenti non hauseris, comederis, devoraris, et illae futura desiderant et credunt vera esse, quae scripta sunt. esto: inepte et aniliter, quibus resurrectio persuasit corporum; quid ad te? nobis e contrario tua vita displicet. bono tuo crassus sis, me macies delectat et pallor; tu tales miseros arbitraris, nos te miseriorem putamus. par pari refertur sententia: invicem nobis videmur insani.
I've taken the Latin text from S. Eusebii Hieronymi Opera (Sect. I Pars I). Epistularum Pars I: Epistulae I-LXX, ed. Isidor Hilberg (Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1910 = Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, LIV), pp. 326-327, although I've changed Hilberg's consonantal u's to v's. Wright's Latin text (p. 184) omits par pari refertur sententia, although he translates it ("Our opinion of you is like your opinion of us"). Here is an image of Wright's Latin text (screen shot from Internet Archive):

The omission persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library.




Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Memoir F (on William Law's A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life):
Hell-fire and eternal damnation are darted from every page of the book; and it is, indeed, somewhat whimsical that the Fanatics who most vehemently inculcate the love of God should be those who despoil him of every amiable attribute.


Incompetent Botchers

Joshua Whatmough (1897-1964), review of J. Svennung, Compositiones Lucenses. Studien zum Inhalt, zur Textkritik und Sprache (Uppsala: Lundequistska Bokhandeln, 1941), in American Journal of Philology 69.4 (1948) 453-455 (at 454):
It is the merit of the book to demonstrate once more—what ought not to be and would not be necessary, if "scholarship" did not lure so many incompetent botchers beneath its cotton-wool protection from a cold and hard world—that the prime (and final) requirement of a would-be editor, first, last, and all the time, is a complete and accurate knowledge of the language of his text and of the history of it at the date at which the text was compiled. Again and again there are forms here which ninety-nine editors out of a hundred would gaily "emend."


Plea for Fewer Dogmas

Erasmus, letter 1334 (to John Carondelet; January 5, 1523), tr. John C. Olin, Christian Humanism and the Reformation: Selected Writings of Erasmus (New York: Fordham University Press, 1987), p. 190:
The sum and substance of our religion is peace and concord. This can hardly remain the case unless we define as few matters as possible and leave each individual's judgment free on many questions. This is because the obscurity of most questions is great and the malady is for the most part intrinsic to our human nature: we do not know how to yield once a question has been made a subject of contention. And after the debate has warmed up each one thinks that the side he has undertaken rashly to defend is absolute truth.
The Latin, from Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, edd. P.S. Allen and H.M. Allen, tom. V: 1522-1524 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924; rpt. 1992), pp. 177-178:
Summa nostrae religionis pax est et vnanimitas. Ea vix constare potest, nisi de quam potest paucissimis definiamus, et in multis liberum relinquamus suum cuique iudicium; propterea, quod ingens sit rerum plurimarum obscuritas, et hoc morbi fere innatum sit hominum ingeniis, vt cedere nesciant simul atque res in contentionem vocata est: quae postquam incaluit, hoc cuique videtur verissimum quod temere tuendum susceperit.
Voltaire, Treatise on Tolerance, on the Occasion of the Death of Jean Calas, XXI, tr. Brian Masters:
The fewer dogmas one has to deal with, the fewer the disputes over them; and the fewer disputes, the less the risk of calamity. If this is not true, then I am much mistaken.

Moins de dogmes, moins de disputes; & moins de disputes, moins de malheurs: si cela n'est pas vrai, j'ai tort.

Friday, May 27, 2016



Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), A Tale of a Tub, Sect. I:
Wisdom is a fox, who, after long hunting, will at last cost you the pains to dig out. It is a cheese, which, by how much the richer, has the thicker, the homelier, and the coarser coat; and whereof, to a judicious palate, the maggots are the best. It is a sack-posset, wherein the deeper you go, you will find it the sweeter. Wisdom is a hen, whose cackling we must value and consider, because it is attended with an egg; but then lastly, it is a nut, which, unless you choose with judgment, may cost you a tooth, and pay you with nothing but a worm.

Sack-posset recipes, from Mrs. Glasse, The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, new ed., (London: A. Millar et al., 1789), pp. 177-178:

To make an excellent SACK-POSSET.

BEAT fifteen eggs, whites and yolks very well, and strain them; then put three quarters of a pound of white sugar into a pint of canary, and mix it with your eggs in a bason; set it over a chafing-dish of coals, and keep continually stirring it till it is scalding hot. In the mean time grate some nutmeg in a quart of milk and boil it; then pour it into your eggs and wine, they being scalding hot. Hold your hand very high as you pour it, and somebody stirring it all the time you are pouring in the milk; then take it off the chafing-dish, set it before the fire half an hour, and serve it up.

To make another SACK-POSSET.

Take a quart of new-milk, four Naples biscuits, crumble them, and when the milk boils throw them in. Just give it one boil, take it off, grate in it some nutmeg, and sweeten to your palate; then pour in half a pint of sack, stirring it all the time, and serve it up. You may crumble white-bread, instead of biscuit.

Or make it thus:

BOIL a quart of cream, or new-milk, with the yolks of two eggs; first take a French roll, and cut it as thin as possibly you can in little pieces; lay it in the dish you intend for the posset. When the milk boils (which you must keep stirring all the time), pour it over the bread, and stir it together; cover it close, then take a pint of canary, a quarter of a pound of sugar, and grate in some nutmeg. When it boils pour it into the milk, stirring it all the time, and serve it up.


Blessings of Peace

Philemon, fragment 74 Kassel and Austin = 71 Kock (from the play Pyrrhus; tr. J.M. Edmonds):
There's a riddle wise men spend much time about;
So I've been told, and no one's yet found out.
What's meant by Good. Virtue, they say, or wit,
Any fudge rather than what's really it.
Out on my land, digging it spit by spit,
I've found the answer — Peace. Dear Zeus above,
What a Goddess! full of kindliness and love.
She gives us weddings, feasts, and friends, and wealth,
Offspring and kindred, corn, wine, pleasure, health;
And these are the things the loss of which implies
That all the life of all the living dies.

οἱ φιλόσοφοι ζητοῦσιν, ὡς ἀκήκοα,
περὶ τοῦτό τ' αὐτοῖς πολὺς ἀναλοῦται χρόνος,
τί ἐστιν ἀγαθόν, κοὐδὲ εἰς εὕρηκέ πω
τί ἐστιν. ἀρετὴν καὶ φρόνησίν φασι, καὶ
πλέκουσι πάντα μᾶλλον ἢ τί τἀγαθόν.        5
ἐν ἀγρῷ διατρίβων τήν τε γῆν σκάπτων ἐγὼ
νῦν εὗρον· εἰρήνη 'στίν· ὦ Ζεῦ φίλτατε,
τῆς ἐπαφροδίτου καὶ φιλανθρώπου θεοῦ.
γάμους, ἑορτάς, συγγενεῖς, παῖδας, φίλους,
πλοῦτον, ὑγίειαν, σῖτον, οἶνον, ἡδονὴν        10
αὕτη δίδωσι· ταῦτα πάντ' ἂν ἐκλίπῃ,
τέθνηκε κοινῇ πᾶς ὁ τῶν ζώντων βίος.



Jerome, Letters 52.8.2 (to Nepotian; tr. W.H. Fremantle et al.):
There is nothing so easy as by sheer volubility to deceive a common crowd or an uneducated congregation: such most admire what they fail to understand.

nihil tam facile, quam vilem plebiculam et indoctam contionem linguae volubilitate decipere, quae, quidquid non intellegit, plus miratur.



Joshua Whatmough (1897-1964), review of G. Herdan, Language as Choice and Chance (Groningen: Noordhoof, 1956), in American Journal of Philology 78.3 (1957) 314-320 (at 319):
Modern critics of Vergil would strike Vergil himself as lunatics, who ought to be restrained....And God himself, who gave man language, must regard some modern linguists (or would be linguists) in the same light.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


The Medical Version of the Platonic Ideal

Anne de Courcy, 1939: The Last Season (London: Thames and Hudson, 1989; pbk. London: Phoenix, 1989), pp. 123-124:
No organ, however, came under closer scrutiny than the gut, regarded with particular suspicion by Sir Arbuthnot [Lane] because of the large number of bacteria found there. His view was taken to heart by the general public, largely owing to the fact that any malfunction was so readily apparent. Anyone could tell if his gut was in good working order, or not. No specialist knowledge was required, no examination by another person necessary to know if Sir Arbuthnot's one vital criterion for a healthy colon — a regular daily motion — had been met. Every true-born Briton, of whatever age, social class, sex, or metier, was able to tell almost without thinking whether he or she had had 'a movement' that morning.

Such was the power of Sir Arbuthnot's proselytizing that the alternative spelt — quite literally, for many — doom and despair. Almost every complaint that did not actually kill was laid at the door of the sluggish bowel. Constipation, ran the accepted wisdom, caused not only migraine, lethargy, indigestion, halitosis and a poor complexion, but also more esoteric conditions such as difficulty in childbirth, depression, permanent fatigue, frigidity and impotence. Liquid paraffin sold by the gallon, and no bathroom cupboard was complete without a wardrobe of laxatives, frequently compared as to taste and effectiveness. Children were sent to the lavatory after breakfast to 'go', and were asked immediately afterwards if they had 'been', a metronomic punctuality being held up as the medical version of the Platonic ideal. At some preparatory schools, boys had to put a tick or cross against their names on a notice board, and thus it followed that everyone knew the state of his neighbour's bowels — information which occasionally followed them inconveniently into later life. In the greater delicacy of girls' boarding schools, those unable to mumble or nod the required affirmative were summoned that night to matron for a spoonful of Milk of Magnesia, Syrup of Figs or, in recalcitrant cases, a foul-tasting dose of castor oil.


But this was nothing compared to the remedies advertised in the popular press. Nowhere was Sir Arbuthnot Lane's influence so apparent as in the advertisement columns. If the Fuehrer had studied these, he could have been forgiven for thinking the entire British nation was so obsessed with its bowels, let alone so incapacitated by constipation, so as to render the rumble of war a mere irrelevant twittering on the sidelines.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.



Dinner with Atticus

Cornelius Nepos, Life of Atticus 14.1 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
No one at a dinner-party of his heard anything but a reader, which is the most agreeable form of entertainment, at least in my opinion; and dinner was never served at his house without reading of some kind, so that his guests enjoyed the gratification of the mind as well as of the appetite.

nemo in convivio eius aliud acroama audivit quam anagnosten, quod nos quidem iucundissimum arbitramur; neque umquam sine aliqua lectione apud eum cenatum est, ut non minus animo quam ventre convivae delectarentur.


The Blind Led by the Blind

Joshua Whatmough (1897-1964), review of Erik Wistrand, Nach innen oder nach aussen? Zum geographischen Sprachgebrauch der Römer (Göteborg: Wettergren und Kerbers Förlag, 1946), in Classical Philology 44.2 (April, 1949) 138-139 (at 139):
Every day of the week I observe students using Loeb—the blind led by the blind.
Dictionaries are no help, for the people who make them usually no longer do their own reading, and translators more often are found with dictionaries in their hands, and students with translations in theirs, than either of them with knowledge of Greek or Latin in their heads.
I suspect most moderns of a Babu knowledge of Greek and Latin...


Three Virtues

Euripides, fragment 853 (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
There are three virtues you should practise, child:
to honour the gods, the parents who begot you,
and the common laws of Greece. If you do these things,
you will always have good repute, the fairest of crowns.

τρεῖς εἰσιν ἀρεταὶ τὰς χρεών σ᾿ ἀσκεῖν, τέκνον,
θεούς τε τιμᾶν τούς τε φύσαντας γονῆς
νόμους τε κοινοὺς Ἑλλάδος· καὶ ταῦτα δρῶν
κάλλιστον ἕξεις στέφανον εὐκλείας ἀεί.
Cf. Lycurgus, Against Leocrates 15 (tr. J.O. Burtt):
For you must realize, Athenians, that you would be held to have neglected the virtues which chiefly distinguish you from the rest of mankind, piety towards the gods, reverence for your ancestors and ambition for your country, if this man were to escape punishment at your hands.

εὖ γὰρ ἴστε, ὦ Ἀθηναῖοι, ὅτι ᾧ πλεῖστον διαφέρετε τῶν ἄλλων ἀνθρώπων, τῷ πρός τε τοὺς θεοὺς εὐσεβῶς καὶ πρὸς τοὺς γονέας ὁσίως καὶ πρὸς τὴν πατρίδα φιλοτίμως ἔχειν, τούτου πλεῖστον ἀμελεῖν δόξαιτ᾿ ἂν εἰ τὴν παρ᾿ ὑμῶν οὗτος διαφύγοι τιμωρίαν.
One could translate γονέας in Lycurgus as parents.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


A Misprint in the Loeb Classical Library

Cornelius Nepos, fragment 3 (from a letter by him to Cicero), in Cornelius Nepos, On Great Generals. On Historians. Translated by J.C. Rolfe (1929; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984), pp. 330-331:
Tantum abest ut ego magistram esse putem vitae philosophiam beataeque vitae perfectricem, ut nullis magis existimem opus esse magistros vivendi quam plerisque qui in ea disputanda versantur. Video enim magnam partem eorum qui in schola de pudore et continentia praecipiant argutissime, eosdem in omnium ibidinum cupiditatibus vivere.

So far am I from thinking that philosophy can teach how to live and is the perfecter of a happy life, that I believe that none have more need of learning how to live than the greater number of those who are engaged in teaching philosophy. In fact, I observe that a great part of those same men who in the schools argue most subtly about moderation and self-restraint pass their lives a prey to all the passions.
For ibidinum read libidinum. The error persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library. Here is an image of the sentence containing the error from the physical book (screen shot from Google Books):



The Art of Political Lying

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), The Examiner, No. 15 (November 9, 1710; an "Essay upon the Art of Political Lying"):
I have been sometimes thinking, if a man had the art of the second sight for seeing lies, as they have in Scotland for seeing spirits, how admirably he might entertain himself in this town, by observing the different shapes, sizes, and colours of those swarms of lies which buzz about the heads of some people, like flies about a horse's ears in summer; or those legions hovering every afternoon in Exchange-alley, enough to darken the air; or over a club of discontented grandees, and thence sent down in cargoes to be scattered at elections.
Id. (on Thomas Wharton):
The superiority of his genius consists in nothing else but an inexhaustible fund of political lies, which he plentifully distributes every minute he speaks, and by an unparalleled generosity forgets, and consequently contradicts, the next half hour. He never yet considered whether any proposition were true or false, but whether it were convenient for the present minute or company to affirm or deny it; so that, if you think fit to refine upon him, by interpreting everything he says, as we do dreams, by the contrary, you are still to seek, and will find yourself equally deceived whether you believe or not: the only remedy is to suppose that you have heard some inarticulate sounds, without any meaning at all; and besides, that will take off the horror you might be apt to conceive at the oaths wherewith he perpetually tags both ends of every proposition: although, at the same time, I think he cannot with any justice be taxed with perjury when he invokes God and Christ, because he has often fairly given public notice to the world that he believes in neither.
Few lies carry the inventor's mark, and the most prostitute enemy to truth may spread a thousand without being known for the author: besides, as the vilest writer has his readers, so the greatest liar has his believers: and it often happens that, if a lie be believed only for an hour, it has done its work, and there is no further occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale has had its effect: like a man who has thought of a good repartee when the discourse is changed or the company parted; or like a physician who has found out an infallible medicine after the patient is dead.

Considering that natural disposition in many men to lie, and in multitudes to believe, I have been perplexed what to do with that maxim so frequent in everybody's mouth, that truth will at last prevail. Here has this island of ours, for the greatest part of twenty years, lain under the influence of such counsels and persons, whose principle and interest it was to corrupt our manners, blind our understanding, drain our wealth, and in time destroy our constitution both in church and state, and we at last were brought to the very brink of ruin; yet by the means of perpetual misrepresentations, have never been able to distinguish between our enemies and friends.


A Climax in St. Jerome

There is a good example of the rhetorical device known as climax or gradatio in Jerome, Letters 14.7.2 (to Heliodorus; tr. W.H. Fremantle et al.):
But where there is no honor there is contempt; and where there is contempt there is frequent rudeness; and where there is rudeness there is vexation; and where there is vexation there is no rest; and where there is no rest the mind is apt to be diverted from its purpose.

sed ubi honor non est, ibi contemptus est; ubi contemptus, ibi frequens iniuria; ubi autem iniuria, ibi et indignatio; ubi indignatio, ibi quies nulla; ubi quies non est, ibi mens a proposito saepe deducitur.
Related posts:


Mutual Aid

Cicero, Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino 38.111 (tr. J.H. Freese):
For we cannot do everything by ourselves; each has his part to play, in which he can be more useful than others. That is why friendships are formed—that the common interest may be furthered by mutual services.

non enim possumus omnia per nos agere; alius in alia est re magis utilis. idcirco amicitiae comparantur, ut commune commodum mutuis officiis gubernetur.


Latin Texts Suitable for Children?

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Memoir F:
By the common methods of discipline, at the expence of many tears and some blood, I purchased the knowledge of the Latin syntax; and not long since I was possessed of the dirty volumes of Phaedrus and Cornelius Nepos, which I painfully construed and darkly understood. The choice of these authors is not injudicious.

The Lives of Cornelius Nepos, the friend of Atticus and Cicero, are composed in the style of the purest age; his simplicity is elegant, his brevity copious; he exhibits a series of men and manners; and with such illustrations as every pedant is not indeed qualified to give, this Classic biographer may initiate a young Student in the history of Greece and Rome.

The use of fables or apologues has been approved in every age, from ancient India to modern Europe; they convey in familiar images the truths of morality and prudence, and the most childish understanding (I advert to the scruples of Rousseau) will not suppose either that beasts do speak, or that men may lye. A fable represents the genuine characters of animals, and a skillful master might extract from Pliny and Buffon some pleasing lessons of Natural history, a science well adapted to the taste and capacity of children. The Latinity of Phaedrus is not exempt from an alloy of the Silver age; but his manner is concise, terse, and sententious; the Thracian slave discreetly breathes the spirit of a freeman, and when the text is sound, the style is perspicuous. But his fables, after a long oblivion, were first published by Peter Pithou, from a corrupt manuscript: the labours of fifty editors confess the defects of the copy, as well as the value of the original; and a schoolboy may have been whipt for misapprehending a passage which Bentley could not restore, and which Burman could not explain.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


The Cavern of Fear and Sorrow

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Memoir F:
A school is the cavern of fear and sorrow; the mobility of the captive youths is chained to a book and a desk; an inflexible master commands their attention which every moment is impatient to escape; they labour like the soldiers of Persia under the scourge, and their education is nearly finished before they can apprehend the sense or utility of the harsh lessons which they are forced to repeat. Such blind and absolute dependence may be necessary, but can never be delightful.


City Vices and Country Virtues

Cicero, Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino 27.75 (tr. J.H. Freese):
The city creates luxury, from which avarice inevitably springs, while from avarice audacity breaks forth, the source of all crimes and misdeeds. On the other hand, this country life, which you call boorish, teaches thrift, carefulness, and justice.

in urbe luxuries creatur, ex luxurie existat avaritia necesse est, ex avaritia erumpat audacia, inde omnia scelera ac maleficia gignuntur; vita autem haec rustica, quam tu agrestem vocas, parsimoniae, diligentiae, iustitiae magistra est.


Burning Books Written by Epicurus

Lucian, Alexander the False Prophet 47 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
Hitting upon the "Established Beliefs" of Epicurus, which is the finest of his books, as you know, and contains in summary the articles of the man's philosophic creed, he brought it into the middle of the market-place, burned it on fagots of fig-wood just as if he were burning the man in person, and threw the ashes into the sea, even adding an oracle also:
"Burn with fire, I command you, the creed of a purblind dotard!"
But the scoundrel had no idea what blessings that book creates for its readers and what peace, tranquillity, and freedom it engenders in them, liberating them as it does from terrors and apparitions and portents, from vain hopes and extravagant cravings, developing in them intelligence and truth, and truly purifying their understanding, not with torches and squills and that sort of foolery, but with straight thinking, truthfulness and frankness.

εὑρὼν γὰρ τὰς Ἐπικούρου κυρίας δόξας, τὸ κάλλιστον, ὡς οἶσθα, τῶν βιβλίων καὶ κεφαλαιώδη περιέχον τῆς τἀνδρὸς σοφίας τὰ δόγματα, κομίσας εἰς τὴν ἀγορὰν μέσην ἔκαυσεν ἐπὶ ξύλων συκίνων ὡς δῆθεν αὐτὸν καταφλέγων, καὶ τὴν σποδὸν εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν ἐξέβαλεν, ἔτι καὶ χρησμὸν ἐπιφθεγξάμενος·
Πυρπολέειν κέλομαι δόξας ἀλαοῖο γέροντος·
οὐκ εἰδὼς ὁ κατάρατος ὅσων ἀγαθῶν τὸ βιβλίον ἐκεῖνο τοῖς ἐντυχοῦσιν αἴτιον γίγνεται, καὶ ὅσην αὐτοῖς εἰρήνην καὶ ἀταραξίαν καὶ ἐλευθερίαν ἐνεργάζεται, δειμάτων μὲν καὶ φασμάτων καὶ τεράτων ἀπαλλάττον καὶ ἐλπίδων ματαίων καὶ περιττῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν, νοῦν δὲ καὶ ἀλήθειαν ἐντιθὲν καὶ καθαῖρον ὡς ἀληθῶς τὰς γνώμας, οὐχ ὑπὸ δᾳδὶ καὶ σκίλλῃ καὶ ταῖς τοιαύταις φλυαρίαις, ἀλλὰ λόγῳ ὀρθῷ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ καὶ παρρησίᾳ.
Aelian, fragment 89 Hercher, tr. Emma J. Edelstein and Ludwig Edelstein, Asclepius: Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies (1945; rpt. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), pp. 201-202 (brackets in original):
The man Euphronius, a wretched creature, took pleasure in the silly talk of Epicurus and acquired two evils from this: being impious and intemperate.

He did not forget, when in such a wicked state, that shameless and impious treatise which the Gargettian [sc., Epicurus], like an offspring of the Titan brood, inflicted as a blot upon the life of men.

Being grievously afflicted with a disease (the sons of the Asclepiads call it pneumonia), he first besought the healing aid of mortals and clung to them.

The disease was stronger than the knowledge of the physicians.

When he was already tottering on the brink of death, his friends brought him to the temple of Asclepius. And as he fell asleep one of the priests seemed to say to him that there was one road to safety for the man, and only one remedy for the evils upon him, namely, if he burned the books of Epicurus, moistened the ashes of the impious, unholy, and effeminate books with melted wax and, spreading the plaster all over his stomach and chest, bound bandages all around them.

What he had heard he communicated to his friends and they were straightway filled with excessive joy because he did not come out, disdained and dishonored by the god.

And having learned a lesson from him, they followed him forthwith in a good and honorable life.
I can't find Aelian's Greek in Unicode format on the Internet, I'm unaware of any reliable and convenient optical character recognition tool for ancient Greek, and I'm too lazy to type it out myself, so faute de mieux here's an image of the Greek from Edelstein and Edelstein, pp. 200-201:

Monday, May 23, 2016


Qualifications Essential to a Traveller

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Memoir C:
But after supposing the previous and indispensable requisites of age, judgment, a competent knowledge of men and books, and a freedom from domestic prejudices, I will briefly describe the qualifications which I deem most essential to a traveller. He should be endowed with an active, indefatigable vigour of mind and body, which can seize every mode of conveyance, and support with a careless smile every hardship of the road, the weather, or the inn. It must stimulate him with a restless curiosity, impatient of ease, covetous of time and fearless of danger, which drives him forth, at any hour of the day or night, to brave the flood, to climb the mountain, or to fathom the mine on the most doubtful promise of entertainment or instruction. The arts of common life are not studied in the closet; with a copious stock of classical and historical learning, my traveller must blend the practical knowledge of husbandry and manufactures; he should be a Chymist, a botanist, and a master of mechanics. A musical ear will multiply the pleasures of his Italian tour; but a correct and exquisite eye, which commands the landscape of a country, discerns the merit of a picture, and measures the proportions of a building, is more closely connected with the finer feelings of the mind, and the fleeting image shall be fixed and realized by the dexterity of the pencil. I have reserved for the last a virtue which borders on a vice; the flexible temper which can assimilate itself to every tone of society from the court to the cottage; the happy flow of spirits which can amuse and be amused in every company and situation. With the advantage of an independent fortune and the ready use of national and provincial idioms, the traveller should unite the pleasing aspect and decent familiarity which makes every stranger an acquaintance, and the art of conversing with ignorance and dullness on some topic of local or professional information.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


The Royals

Leo Damrosch, Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), p. 66 (footnote omitted):
Spending time with the monarch gave Swift lasting immunity to hero worship, not that he was ever very susceptible to it. He once said in a sermon, "Princes are born with no more advantages of strength or wisdom than other men, and by an unhappy education are usually more defective in both than thousands of their subjects." According to Orrery, "his aversion to kings was invincible," and he was often heard to say that "he should be glad to see half a dozen kings dissected, that he might know what it was that stamped a greater value upon one prince than upon eleven millions of people."
Related posts:


A Rural Retreat

Jerome, Letters 43.3 (to Marcella; tr. F.A. Wright):
Therefore, as to-day we have traversed a great part of life's journey through rough seas, and as our barque has been now shaken by tempestuous winds, now holed upon rugged rocks, let us take this first chance and make for the haven of a rural retreat. Let us live there on coarse bread and on the green-stuff that we water with our own hands, and on milk, country delicacies, cheap and harmless. If thus we spend our days, sleep will not call us away from prayer, nor overfeeding from study. In summer the shade of a tree will give us privacy. In autumn the mild air and the leaves beneath our feet point out a place for rest. In spring the fields are gay with flowers, and the birds' plaintive notes will make our psalms sound all the sweeter. When the cold weather comes with winter's snows, I shall not need to buy wood: whether I keep vigil or lie asleep, I shall be warmer there, and certainly as far as I know, I shall escape the cold at a cheaper rate. Let Rome keep her bustle for herself, the fury of the arena, the madness of the circus, the profligacy of the theatre, and—for I must not forget our Christian friends—the daily meetings of the matrons' senate.

quapropter, quia multum iam vitae spatium transivimus fluctuando et navis nostra nunc procellarum concussa turbine, nunc scopulorum inlisionibus perforata est, quam primum licet, quasi quendam portum secreta ruris intremus. ibi cibarius panis et holus nostris manibus inrigatum, lac, deliciae rusticanae, viles quidem, sed innocentes cibos praebeant. ita viventes non ab oratione somnus, non saturitas a lectione revocabit. si aestas est, secretum arboris umbra praebebit; si autumnus, ipsa aeris temperies et strata subter folia locum quietis ostendit. vere ager floribus depingitur et inter querulas aves psalmi dulcius decantabuntur. si frigus fuerit et brumales nives, ligna non coemam: calidius vigilabo vel dormiam, certe, quod sciam, vilius non algebo. habeat sibi Roma suos tumultus, harena saeviat, circus insaniat, theatra luxurient et, quia de nostris dicendum est, matronarum cotidie visitetur senatus.
I wonder if "de vestris" or "de vostris" might be read for "de nostris," i.e. "your female friends," not "our Christian friends." On the matron's senate see "Aelius Lampridius", Life of Elagabalus 4.3-4 (tr. David Magie):
He also established a senaculum, or women’s senate, on the Quirinal Hill. Before his time, in fact, a congress of matrons had met here, but only on certain festivals, or whenever a matron was presented with the insignia of a "consular marriage"—bestowed by the early emperors on their kinswomen, particularly on those whose husbands were not nobles, in order that they might not lose their noble rank. But now under the influence of Symiamira absurd decrees were enacted concerning rules to be applied to matrons, namely, what kind of clothing each might wear in public, who was to yield precedence and to whom, who was to advance to kiss another, who might ride in a chariot, on a horse, on a pack-animal, or on an ass, who might drive in a carriage drawn by mules or in one drawn by oxen, who might be carried in a litter, and whether the litter might be made of leather, or of bone, or covered with ivory or with silver, and lastly, who might wear gold or jewels on her shoes.

fecit et in colle Quirinali senaculum, id est mulierum senatum, in quo ante fuerat conventus matronalis, sollemnibus dumtaxat diebus et si umquam aliqua matrona consularis coniugii ornamentis esset donata, quod veteres imperatores adfinibus detulerunt et iis maxime quae nobilitatos maritos non habuerant, ne innobilitatae remanerent. sed Symiamira facta sunt senatus consulta ridicula de legibus matronalibus: quae quo vestitu incederet, quae cui cederet, quae ad cuius osculum veniret, quae pilento, quae equo, quae sagmario, quae asino veheretur, quae carpento mulari, quae boum, quae sella veheretur, et utrum pellicia an ossea an eborata an argentata, et quae aurum vel gemmas in calciamentis haberent.


Educational Reform

Camille Paglia, "Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf," Arion, 3rd ser., 1.2 (Spring, 1991) 139-212 (at 201):
Attendance at conferences must cease to be defined as professional activity. It should be seen for what it is: prestige-hunting and long-range job-seeking junkets, meat-rack mini-vacations. The phrase "He or she is just a conference-hopper" (cf. "just a gigolo") must enter the academic vocabulary. I look for the day when conference-hopping leads to denial of employment or promotion on the grounds that it is a neglect of professional duties to scholarship and one's institution. Energies have to be reinvested at home. The reform of education will be achieved when we all stay put and cultivate our own garden, instead of gallivanting around the globe like migrating grackles. Furthermore, excessive contact with other academics is toxic to scholarship. Reading and writing academic books and seeing academics every day at work are more than enough exposure to academe. The best thing for scholars is contact with nonacademics, with other ways of thinking and seeing the world. Most of the absurdities of women's studies and French theory would have been prevented by close observation of ordinary life outside the university.
Id. (at 202):
Rushing people into print right after grad school just leads to portentous fakery, which no one reads anyhow. Maynard Mack was already saying in 1969 to our graduate seminar that "95% of what is published in any given year should be ritually burned at the end of that year." The pressure on shaky novices to sound important and authoritative makes for guano mountains of dull rubbish. Good writing and teaching require a creative sense of play. In American academe, as opposed to Great Britain, playfulness and humor, as well I know, are suspect, suggesting you aren't "serious" enough. But comedy is a sign of balanced perspective on life and thought. Humorlessness should be grounds for dismissal. Eccentric individualism, in the style of the old German scholars, must be tolerated.
Id. (at 205-206):
The spiritual vacuum of recent academe is responsible for the popularity of false teachers like the mushy Joseph Campbell, who gives people the long view of traditional mythology, and for the spread of New Age mysticism, whose hoaxer channelers satisfy the craving for ancestral voices. We need back-to-basics reform on every level of education. Old German philology was culture criticism at its learned, comprehensive best.


Four Propositions

Gilbert Highet (1906-1978), The Classical Papers, ed. Robert J. Ball (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), pp. 108-109:
The material of the world is not what it seems to be. A solid, like a rock, or a fluid, like water, is only apparently solid or fluid. Both the rock and the water are composed of myriads of invisible particles which are associated by laws of their own and are in constant movement.

This earth and the sun and moon and planets, all our universe, in fact, is made up of atoms. The atoms came together to form them, as tiny drops of water come together to form a river. In time, the atoms will separate again, and our universe will cease to exist, as a river does when it runs into the desert and evaporates. But the atoms will never cease to exist. They, and they alone, are eternal.

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, epidemics, and such disasters are not caused by God's anger. They are natural phenomena and can be explained scientifically.

Sensation and thought are functions of the body. The soul is not immortal, but is born in the body, develops with it, and will cease to exist when the other physical functions, such as respiration, and heartbeat, stop.

Of these four propositions, most civilized people in the Western world nowadays believe the first and the third. Many believe the second. Some believe the fourth. All four were accepted as unquestionable truth by many Greeks and Romans; they became the theme of a magnificent Latin poem; they were maintained for at least five centuries; and thereafter, for a thousand years, they were buried in oblivion. The first and second, if anyone had even thought of them in the Middle Ages, would have been dismissed as ridiculous; the third and fourth as blasphemous. And yet the Latin poem built on these statements somehow survived. That such a book, opposed to all the tenets of medieval Christianity and common sense, should have been laboriously copied out in the ninth century, obviously by monks who understood some of what they read and transcribed, is truly surprising. The poem itself, and the character of its author, are something of a mystery too. But one thing is certain: it is a superb poem and it was written by a great poet. His name was Lucretius. He wrote it about sixty years before the birth of Jesus, and he called it The Nature of Things, i.e., The Nature of the Universe.


The Devils' Cauldron

Arthur Symons (1865-1945), Studies in Seven Arts (New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1907), p. 168 (on the tympanum over the central doorway of Bourges Cathedral):
[T]riumphing devils thrust the sinners, naked, along the road to the bottomless pit. One devil has a second face in his stomach, like the monsters of the Cologne school of painters; another has a tail which ends in a dog's head, reaching forward through his legs and biting the legs of a man in front. Devils with faces full of horrible mirth lift up men and women on their shoulders, and stamp them down into a boiling cauldron; you see the flames underneath, and two devils blowing the bellows. Two toads climb up outside the cauldron; one is in the act of crawling into the mouth of a man, while the other sucks at the breast of a woman. There is a kind of cheerful horror in all these figures in pain; they are rendered calmly, without emotion, without pity.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


Duty of a Commentator

Jerome, Letters 37.3.1 (to Marcella; discussing Reticius' commentary on the Song of Songs; my translation):
There are countless things in his commentaries which I thought were paltry. His style, to be sure, is well-ordered and fluent in the high Gallic manner: but what has style to do with a commentator, whose business is not how to make himself appear eloquent, but rather how to make the prospective reader understand the intended meaning of the original writer.

innumerabilia sunt, quae in illius mihi commentariis sordere visa sunt. est sermo quidem conpositus et Gallicano coturno fluens: sed quid ad interpretem, cuius professio est non, quomodo ipse disertus appareat, sed quomodo eum, qui lecturus est, sic faciat intellegere, quomodo intellexit ille, qui scripsit?
Jerome, Letters 49(48).17.7 (to Pammachius; tr. W.H. Fremantle et al.):
A commentator has no business to dilate on his own views; his duty is to make plain the meaning of the author whom he professes to interpret.

commentatoris officium est, non quod ipse velit, sed, quid senitat ille, quem interpretatur, exponere.



Jerome, Letters 22.28.3 (to Eustochium; tr. W.H. Fremantle et al.):
Such men think of nothing but their dress; they use perfumes freely, and see that there are no creases in their leather shoes. Their curling hair shows traces of the tongs; their fingers glisten with rings; they walk on tiptoe across a damp road, not to splash their feet.

omnis his cura de vestibus, si bene oleant, si pes laxa pelle non folleat. crines calamistri vestigio rotantur, digiti de anulis radiant et, ne plantas umidior via spargat, vix imprimunt summa vestigia.


A College Dorm Room

Anonymous, "A Faithful Inventory of the Furniture Belonging to _______ Room in T.C.D. In Imitation of Dr. Swift's Manner. Written in the Year 1725":
—Quaeque ipse miserrima vidi.—VIRG.

Imprimis, there's a table blotted,
A tatter'd hanging all bespotted.
A bed of flocks, as I may rank it,
Reduced to rug and half a blanket.
A tinder-box without a flint,        5
An oaken desk with nothing in't.
A pair of tongs bought from a broker,
A fender and a rusty poker;
A penny pot and basin—this
Design'd for water, that for piss—        10
A broken-winded pair of bellows,
Two knives and forks, but neither fellows;
Item, a surplice, not unmeeting
Either for table cloth or sheeting;
There is likewise a pair of breeches,        15
But patched, and fallen in the stitches,
Hung up in study very little,
Plastered with cobweb and spittle,
An airy prospect all so pleasing,
From my light window without glazing.        20
A trencher and a college bottle,
Piled up on Locke and Aristotle.
A prayer-book which he seldom handles,
A save-all and two farthing candles.
A smutty ballad, musty libel,        25
A Burgersdicius and a Bible.
The C———— Seasons and the Senses
By Overton, to save expenses.
Item, (if I am not much mistaken,)
A mouse-trap with a bit of bacon.        30
A candlestick without a snuffer,
Whereby his fingers often suffer.
Two odd old shoes I should not skip here,
Each strapless serves instead of slippers.
And chairs a couple, I forgot 'em,         35
But each of them without a bottom.
Thus I in rhyme have comprehended
His goods, and so my schedule's ended.
This appears in The Poems of Thomas Sheridan, ed. Robert Hogan (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994), pp. 242-243, as part of Appendix III ("Poems of Doubtful Attribution") but I don't own the book and only p. 242 (the first 28 lines) is visible to me on Google Books. It used to be printed among Swift's poems. Some notes:

T.C.D.: Trinity College, Dublin
Quaeque ipse miserrima vidi: Vergil, Aeneid 2.5 (and which most wretched things I myself witnessed)
1 blotted: ink-stained
2 hanging: tapestry
   bespotted: some editions have besnotted
3 flocks: "A material consisting of the coarse tufts and refuse of wool or cotton, or of cloth torn to pieces by machinery, used for quilting garments, and stuffing beds, cushions, mattresses, etc." (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. flock, sense 2.a)
8 fender: "A metal frame placed in front of a fire to keep falling coals from rolling out into the room" (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v., sense 3.a)
13 unmeeting: unfit, unsuitable
17 study: closet, cupboard
21 trencher: plate
24 save-all: "A holder or fitting in which the last of a candle may be burnt to the end, typically consisting of a small pan with a projecting spike on which to fix the candle" (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v., sense 1.b)
26 Burgersdicius: Franciscus Burgersdicius (1590-1635), whose Institutionum logicarum libri duo was a college textbook
30 Overton: John Overton (1640-1708), seller of mezzotints


Academic Writing

Camille Paglia, from Sean Salai, "The Catholic Pagan: 10 Questions for Camille Paglia," America (February 25, 2015):
I have always written for a general audience interested in ideas. I believe culture critics should address the reader in a lucid, vivid and engaging manner. In college, I was very drawn to the lively, transparent writing style of early 20th-century British classicists like Gilbert Murray and C.M. Bowra. Academic writing needs to purge itself of its present provincialism, insularity and pseudo-French preciocity and recover the colloquial robustness and earthy rhythms of natural English.
Following my culture-hero, Oscar Wilde, I do not subscribe to the implicitly moralistic assumption that literature or art "teaches" us anything. It simply opens up our vision to a larger world—or allows us to see that world through a different lens. Greco-Roman culture, which is fast receding in American higher education, is one of the two foundational traditions of Western civilization, the other being the Judeo-Christian. These traditions twined about and influenced each other for centuries and produced the titanic complexity of the West, for good and ill. To ignore or minimize the Greco-Roman past is to put intellectual blinders on—but that is exactly what has been happening as colleges are gradually abandoning the big, chronological, two-semester freshman survey courses that once heavily emphasized classical antiquity. The trajectory is toward "presentism," a myopic concentration on society since the Renaissance—a noble, humanistic term, by the way, that is being ruthlessly discarded for the blobby new Marxist entity, "Early Modern."
Hat tip: Daniel Orazio.

Friday, May 20, 2016


Who Is the Apostate?

The Roman Emperor Julian is usually called the Apostate, for rejecting the Christian religion in which he was raised. But in a sly dig, Anatole France (1844-1924), The White Stone, tr. Charles E. Roche (London: John Lane, 1905), p. 136, called the Emperor Constantine the Apostate, because he abandoned the pagan religion of his forefathers in favor of Christianity:
The Emperor Julian, who restored to the Empire its old religion, which had been abolished by Constantine the Apostate, is justly regarded as an opponent of the Galilean.
The French:
L'empereur Julien, qui rétablit la vieille religion de l'Empire abolie par Constantin l'Apostat, passe avec raison pour un adversaire du Galiléen.


Lotism, Lottism, and Lottsism

Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012), The Age of Capital: 1848-1875 (1975; rpt. New York: Vintage Books, 1996), pp. 206-207 (footnote omitted):
It is easy to forget that the majority of the people living on earth still lived and died where they had been born, or, more precisely, that their movements were no greater or no different from what they would have been before the Industrial Revolution. There were certainly more people in the world who resembled the French, 88 per cent of whom in 1861 lived in the département of their birth — in the Lot département 97 per cent in the parish of their birth — than resembled more mobile and migratory populations.
Memoirs of the Life of John Constable Esq. R.A. Composed Chiefly of his Letters by C.R. Leslie, R.A., 2nd ed. (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1845) p. 49:
Willy Lott's House is situated on the edge of the river, close to Flatford Mill. It is a principal object in many of Constable's pictures; but the most exact view of it occurs in the one engraved for the 'English Landscape,' with the title of 'A Mill Stream,' and is taken from the front of the mill, the wheel of which occasions the ripple seen on the surface of the water. Willy Lott, its possessor, was born in it; and it is said, has passed more than eighty years without having spent four whole days away from it.
Flora Drury, "Great-grandmother who lived her whole life in the same cottage dies aged 104 in the home she cherished so dearly," Daily Mail (March 9, 2016):
Great-grandmother Ena Brown was born Georgina Lotts in January 1912, in the same small Hampshire cottage where she would live her whole life, and where she died last Thursday, surrounded by her family.


Read Him, Not About Him

Edward Dahlberg (1900-1977), Alms for Oblivion (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1964), p. 17:
[Sherwood] Anderson did not have the speculative intellect of a Plato, but he had the natural integrity of a fine elm, or a fertile sow, or a potato; he had a burly, carnal mind which was always very close to his urgent, lustful hands and nose, and his books he begat, rather than wrote.
Id., p. 19:
The way to understand a man like Anderson is not to read about him but to read him. Reading him, you find that all those workinghand words of his are redolent of hay and grass and midwest stables. Get Winesburg, Ohio, or Poor White, or Tar, or the Notebook, or his still unrecognized verse, A New Testament and Mid-American Chants. Anderson's books have the heady pollen of good orchards. Aristotle says that the pleasure we take in smelling apples is good, but that an interest in unguents is a sign of debauchery.
The reference is to Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 3.10.5 (1118a; tr. W.D. Ross):
We do not call those self-indulgent who delight in the odour of apples or roses or incense, but rather those who delight in the odour of unguents or of dainty dishes.

τοὺς γὰρ χαίροντας μήλων ἢ ῥόδων ἢ θυμιαμάτων ὀσμαῖς οὐ λέγομεν ἀκολάστους, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον τοὺς μύρων ἢ ὄψων.
"The way to understand a man like Anderson is not to read about him but to read him"—excellent counsel! Read Homer, not books about Homer, Plato, not books about Plato, etc.

Related posts:


Food of Demons

Jerome, Letters 21.13.4 (to Damasus; tr. Charles Christopher Mierow):
The food of the demons is the songs of poets, secular wisdom, the display of rhetorical language. These delight all with their sweetness; but while they captivate the ears with fluent verses of charming rhythm, they penetrate the soul as well and bind the inmost affections. But when they have been read with the greatest enthusiasm and effort, they afford their readers nothing more than empty sound and the hubbub of words. No satisfaction of truth, no refreshment of justice is found. They who are zealous for these things continue to hunger for truth, to lack virtue.

daemonum cibus est carmina poetarum, saecularis sapientia, rhetoricorum pompa verborum. haec sua omnes suavitate delectant et, dum aures dulci versibus modulatione currentibus capiunt, animam quoque penetrant et pectoris interna devinciunt. verum ubi cum summo studio fuerint ac labore perlecta, nihil aliud nisi inanem sonum et sermonum strepitum suis lectoribus tribuunt; nulla ibi saturitas veritatis, nulla iustitiae refectio reperitur. studiosi earum in fame veri, in virtutum penuria perseverant.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


A Terrible Decline

Edward Dahlberg (1900-1977), Alms for Oblivion (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1964), pp. 28-29:
Many people assume that one age is not worse than another, and that men are not more rigidly ruled by conscience in one generation than in succeeding ones. We have been witnessing a terrible decline in government, scruples, morals, and education. Who can compare the present men in Washington with Jefferson at Monticello, going about in a soiled dressing gown, and in rubbishy house-slippers, maintaining his residence only because his creditors were kind? What rough frontier Seneca can take the place alongside Andrew Jackson who returned to the Hermitage in Tennessee with ninety dollars in his wallet? God bless a humble, democratic indigence, for it is the parent of probity. We look in vain for a Cicero, a much-maligned Andrew Johnson, or even the terrible bigot of the reconstruction period, Thaddeus Stevens, who at least had character if not wisdom. What we require, as Kierkegaard wrote, is not a new form of government, but another Socrates.

The first thought that comes to mind is that a people who are continually demolishing old landmarks — the white farmhouse, the brownstones — where native genius and spirit once dwelt, are more prepared for war than for peace. No country has suffered so much from the ruins of war while being at peace as the American. There are Mexican laws forbidding avaricious and predatory realtors from erecting homes or offices or business places that do not conform with the character of the adobe dwellings in Taxco or in Cuernavaca. In Paris what an ease it is to memory, the heart's honeycomb, to see the many memorial plaques to Heine, to Berlioz, to Balzac, or the building where Strindberg once lived. At 137 Waverly Place, Poe composed some of his works. The rather dilapidated structure is occupied by a Mexican restaurant, and there is nothing on the bricks but grim vacancy. "Lo, the past is prophecy," said Herman Melville.

Students learn more reverence, homage, and courtesy from contemplating a house, a room, or a desk used by a Melville, a Whitman, a Poe, than from a congealed, academic reading of the Iliad, or "Ligeia." A nation that destroys old landmarks and sacral places eradicates love and learning.
Hat tip: Patrick Kurp.



Walt Whitman (1819-1892), "By Blue Ontario's Shore," § 4:
Piety and conformity to them that like,
Peace, obesity, allegiance, to them that like,
I am he who tauntingly compels men, women, nations,
Crying, Leap from your seats and contend for your lives!
Obesity makes little or no sense to me here. Did Whitman mean obeisancy, a rare variant of the noun obeisance? He used the recherché adjective obeisant in "Proud Music of the Storm," § 13.


Wine versus Beer

Greek Anthology 9.368 (by the Emperor Julian; tr. W.R. Paton, with his note):
Who and whence art thou, Dionysus? For, by the true Bacchus,
I know thee not: I know only the son of Zeus.
He smells of nectar, but thou of billy-goat. Did the Celts
for lack of grapes make thee out of corn?
Then thou shouldst be called Demetrius, not Dionysus,        5
being born of corn, rather than of the fire, and Bromus1 rather than Bromius.

1 "Bromus" is the Greek for oats; Bromius is a common title of Dionysus, derived probably from "bromus" = noise. In πῡρογενῆ, "wheat-born," there is a play on πῠρογενῆ, "fire-born."

τίς πόθεν εἶς, Διόνυσε; μὰ γὰρ τὸν ἀληθέα Βάκχον,
    οὔ σ᾿ ἐπιγιγνώσκω· τὸν Διὸς οἶδα μόνον.
κεῖνος νέκταρ ὄδωδε, σὺ δὲ τράγον· ἦ ῥά σε Κελτοὶ
    ἠπανίῃ βοτρύων τεῦξαν ἀπ᾿ ἀσταχύων.
τῷ σε χρὴ καλέειν Δημήτριον, οὐ Διόνυσον,        5
    πυρογενῆ μᾶλλον καὶ Βρόμον, οὐ Βρόμιον.
Text and commentary in D.L. Page, Further Greek Epigrams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 571-572, who remarks (at 571), "All that is known of beer in antiquity, including a recipe for making it, is assembled and discussed by the learned Olck in RE 3.457-63..." But now we have Max Nelson, The Barbarian's Beverage: A History of Beer in Ancient Europe (London: Routledge, 2005), who discusses "The Greek Prejudice against Beer" on pp. 25-37 and also (at 31) points out another pun in line 3 of Julian's epigram: τράγος in Greek can mean not only the foul-smelling billy-goat but also spelt, a grain used in the making of beer.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Hatred of Short Answers

Augustine, Letters 98.7-8 (to Boniface; tr. Marcus Dods):
Thereafter you add this sentence in conclusion: "To these questions I pray you to condescend to give me a short reply, not silencing me by the traditional authority of custom, but satisfying me by arguments addressed to my reason." [8] While reading this letter of yours over and over again, and pondering its contents so far as my limited time permitted, memory recalled to me my friend Nebridius, who, while he was a most diligent and eager student of difficult problems, especially in the department of Christian doctrine, had an extreme aversion to the giving of a short answer to a great question. If any one insisted upon this, he was exceedingly displeased; and if he was not prevented by respect for the age or rank of the person, he indignantly rebuked such a questioner by stern looks and words; for he considered him unworthy to be investigating matters such as these, who did not know how much both might be said and behoved to be said on a subject of great importance.

deinde scripta tua concludens, adiungis et dicis: 'ad istas ergo quaestiones peto breviter respondere digneris, ita ut non mihi de consuetudine praescribas, sed rationem reddas.' [8] his litteris tuis lectis et relectis et, quantum sinebant temporis angustiae, consideratis recordatus sum Nebridium amicum meum, qui cum esset rerum obscurarum ad doctrinam pietatis maxime pertinentium diligentissimus et acerrimus inquisitor, valde oderat de quaestione magna responsionem brevem. et quisquis hoc poposcisset, aegerrime ferebat eumque, si eius persona pateretur, vultu indignabundus et voce cohibebat indignum deputans, qui talia quaereret, cum, de re tanta quam multa dici possent deberentque, nesciret.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Reading List

Erasmus, De Ratione Studii 3, tr. William Harrison Woodward, Desiderius Erasmus Concerning the Aim and Method of Education (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1904), pp. 163-164:
But I must make my conviction clear that, whilst a knowledge of the rules of accidence and syntax is most necessary to every student, still they should be as few, as simple, and as carefully framed as possible. I have no patience with the stupidity of the average teacher of grammar who wastes precious years in hammering rules into children's heads.

For it is not by learning rules that we acquire the power of speaking a language, but by daily intercourse with those accustomed to express themselves with exactness and refinement, and by the copious reading of the best authors. Upon this latter point we do well to choose such works as are not only sound models of style but are instructive by reason of their subject-matter. The Greek prose-writers whom I advise are, in order, Lucian, Demosthenes, Herodotus: the poets, Aristophanes, Homer, Euripides; Menander, if we possessed his works, would take precedence of all three. Amongst Roman writers, in prose and verse, Terence, for pure, terse Latinity has no rival, and his plays are never dull. I see no objection to adding carefully chosen comedies of Plautus. Next, I place Vergil, then Horace; Cicero and Caesar follow closely; and Sallust after these. These authors provide, in my judgment, sufficient reading to enable the young student to acquire a working knowledge of the two great classical tongues.


For I affirm that with slight qualification the whole of attainable knowledge lies enclosed within the literary monuments of ancient Greece. This great inheritance I will compare to a limpid spring of whose undefiled waters it behoves all who truly thirst to drink and be restored.
The Latin, ed. Jean-Claude Margolin, from Erasmus, Opera Omnia, I.2 (Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company, 1971), pp. 115-116:
Verum vt huiusmodi praecepta fateor necessaria, ita velim esse, quoad fieri possit, quam paucissima, modo sint optima. Nec vnquam probaui literatorum vulgus qui pueros in his inculcandis complures annos remorantur.

Nam vera emendate loquendi facultas optime paratur, cum ex castigate loquentium colloquio conuictuque, tum ex eloquentium auctorum assidua lectione, e quibus ii primum sunt imbibendi, quorum oratio, praeterquam quod est castigatissima, argumenti quoque illecebra aliqua discentibus blandiatur. Quo quidem in genere primas tribuerim Luciano, alteras Demostheni, tertias Herodoto. Rursum ex poetis primas Aristophani, alteras Homero, tertias Euripidi. Nam Menandrum, cui vel primas daturus eram, desideramus. Rursum inter latinos quis vtilior loquendi auctor quam Terentius? Purus, tersus et quotidiano sermoni proximus, tum ipso quoque argumenti genere iucundus adolescentiae. Huic si quis aliquot selectas Plauti comoedias putet addendas quae vacent obscoenitate, equidem nihil repugno. Proximus locus erit Vergilio, tertius Horatio, quartus Ciceroni, quintus C. Caesari. Salustium si quis adiungendum arbitrabitur, cum hoc non magnopere contenderim, atque hos quidem ad vtriusque linguae cognitionem satis esse duco.


[V]erum ex instituto omnis fere rerum scientia a graecis auctoribus petenda est. Nam vnde tandem haurias vel purius, vel citius, vel iucundius quam ab ipsis fontibus?


Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Augustine, De Utilitate Credendi 16.34 (tr. Charles Lewis Cornish):
For the interchanges of day and night, and the settled order of things in Heaven, the revolution of years divided into four parts, the fall and return of leaves to trees, the boundless power of seeds, the beauty of light, the varieties of colors, sounds, tastes, and scents, let there be some one who shall see and perceive them for the first time, and yet such an one as we may converse with; he is stupified and overwhelmed with miracles: but we contemn all these, not because they are easy to understand, (for what more obscure than the causes of these?) but surely because they constantly meet our senses.

nam diei et noctis, vices, et constantissimum ordinem rerum caelestium, annorum quadrifariam conversionem, decidentes redeuntesque frondes arboribus, infinitam vim seminum, pulchritudinem lucis, colorum, sonorum, odorum, saporumque varietates, da qui primum videat atque sentiat, cum quo tamen loqui possimus; hebescit obruiturque miraculis: nos vero haec omnia, non cognoscendi facilitate — quid enim causis horum obscurius? — sed certe sentiendi assiduitate contemnimus.
Related posts:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


O Fortuna

Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks 1.4.51 (tr. G.W. Butterworth):
The Romans, although they ascribe their greatest successes to Fortuna, and believe her to be the greatest deity, carry her statue to the privy and erect it there, thus assigning to her a fit temple.

Ῥωμαῖοι δὲ τὰ μέγιστα κατορθώματα τῇ Τύχῃ ἀνατιθέντες καὶ ταύτην μεγίστην οἰόμενοι θεόν, φέροντες εἰς τὸν κοπρῶνα ἀνέθηκαν αὐτήν, ἄξιον νεὼν τὸν ἀφεδρῶνα νείμαντες τῇ θεῷ.
A more literal translation:
The Romans, ascribing their greatest successes to Fortuna and believing her to be the greatest deity, carried (her statue) to the shithole and set it up there, assigning to the goddess a worthy temple—the privy.
ἀφεδρών literally = "seat apart." Cf. ἕδρα = sitting-place, but also abode of a god, sanctuary, temple.

Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, The Archaeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy: Toilets, Sewers, and Water Systems (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), pp. 113-114 (footnotes omitted):
A difficult bowel movement was directly perceived as a source of danger (malum) to one's general state of health, a fact well established by Celsus in the first century A.D. It was clearly a more effective health measure for the goddess Fortuna to stand by and help out in this most natural of activities than it was to have some untrustworthy doctor attending to an eventual illness. Put more simply, good health and freedom from the evil that brings on illness relate directly to achievement of a successful bowel movement.

Fortuna seems to be a fairly well-established presence in the milieu of toilets. Representations of her (without her suppliant cacator) are found in the bath toilet of the Praedia of Julia Felix at Pompeii (II.4.3; fig. 81), in the public toilet of the Suburban Baths at Pompeii, in at least two private toilets in Pompeii (in the House of the Greek Epigrams, V.1.18, and in a very humble house toilet in V.4.9), and in a one-seat toilet in the so-called House of Domitia Lucilia in Rome.

In the toilet of the Suburban Baths, the nail holes in the plaster are visible on each side of the painted garland. Very likely, real flowers were at least occasionally hung there there both to honor the goddess and perhaps also to diminish the powerful smells from the toilet drains. Fortuna is not only in the central position of the toilet decoration (as she is in others), but in the toilet of the Suburban Baths she looks directly at the toilet users, as they must have looked at her, and it appears she was actually worshipped in these settings. An altar is present, if only painted; there are garlands (painted but there is evidence of fresh garlands, with the nail holes); and a sacrificial fire is represented in the paintings as well. Perhaps toilet users could ask Fortuna for divine favors—the favor of good health, the favor of a satisfactory bowel movement, the favor of finding no blood in one's stool, the favor of escaping the toilet unharmed.

As we saw in the archaeological evidence presented in chapter 1, Fortuna was also known in Ostia in connection with the latrine in the Barracks of the Firemen, where there is a shrine to her just opposite the toilet seats (fig. 51). The tympanon (triangular space above an architrave) of the small aedicula on the wall bears the inscription Fortunae sanct(um), "[This aedicula is] sacred to Fortuna." In the middle of the room was a fairly large freestanding altar dedicated to Fortuna with the inscription C(aius) Valerius / Myron b(ene) f(iciarius) pr(aefecti) / coh(ortis) IIII vig(ilum) / Fortunae / sanctae / v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) a(nimo), "Gaius Valerius Myron, beneficiary of the prefect of the fifth [sic, read fourth] cohort of the night watch, has gladly paid his vow to sacred Fortuna." C. Valerius Myron was grateful to Fortuna for something, and vowed to honor her well, which he did, so this dedication is another attestation to the fact that Fortuna was perceived to be protecting toilet users, perhaps at the same time as she was warning them to use the facilities wisely. The possibility of explosions inside the sewer and rats and other vermin coming out of toilets from the sewers certainly posed very real and serious threats to the exposed bottoms of toilet users.
Id., p. 185, figure 82:


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