Monday, January 02, 2017


Quod Supra Nos, Nihil Ad Nos

Minucius Felix, Octavius 13.1 (Caecilius speaking), tr. G.W. Clarke, The Octavius of Marcus Minucius Felix (1974; New York: Newman Press, 1974), p. 71, with his note on pp. 240-241:
Whenever he [Socrates] was asked a question about the heavens, he made his famous reply: 'What is above us is of no concern to us.'166

166 quod supra nos, nihil ad nos. As so formulated, this adage is quoted only by Christian writers, by Lact. Div. inst. 3.20.10 (celebre hoc proverbium), cf. Epit. 32.3; Jerome Adv. Ruf. 3.28 (ML 23.500); Tert. Ad nat. 2.4.15. Unlike the former two, who ascribe the saying, with Caecilius, to Socrates, Tertullian ascribes it to Epicurus. There has, consequently, been much discussion as to the correct attribution (e.g., Axelson 101 ff. and Beaujeu and Pellegrino ad loc.). But Ariston ap. Stobaeus Flor. 80.7 (3.104 ed. Meineke) shows that the saying was proverbial; cf. Apostol. 15.95C τὰ ὑπὲρ ἡμᾶς οὐδὲν πρὸς ἡμᾶς; (2.654, Corp. paroem. Graec. ed. Leutsch); and suitably interpreted, both Epicurus and (more readily) Socrates might have been reasonably accredited with the nostrum in the philosophical tradition. For Epicurus see H. Usener, Epicurea (repr. Rome 1963) 229 no. 342 (de meteoris), cf. 71 (Κυρ. Δοξ. 2). For Socrates, Cic. Acad. post. 14.15: caelestia autem vel procul esse a nostra cognitione ... vel ... nihil tamen ad bene vivendum; Aul. Gellius Noctes Atticae 14.3.5: Xenophon negat Socraten de caeli atque naturae causis rationibusque umquam disputavisse.

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