Wednesday, October 31, 2018



Joseph Patrick Christopher, S. Aureli Augustini Hipponiensis Episcopi De Catechizandis Rudibus Liber Unus. Translated with an Introduction and Commentary (Washington: The Catholic University of America, 1926), p. 314 (on 26.11 omnia huius saeculi pompa et deliciae et curiositas interibunt):
Curiositas is used in a good sense in Cicero; cf. Ep. ad Att. II,12,2, sum in curiositate ὀξύπεινος. It is a word of bad repute in the one place in which it occurs in Scripture; cf. Num. 4,20, alii nulla curiositate videant quae sunt in sanctuario. In this latter sense it is found both in patristic and mediaeval writers. Cf. Tert. De Praesc. Haer. 7, nobis curiositate opus non est post Christum Iesum; id. Apol. 25, nam etsi a Numa concepta est curiositas superstitiosa (on which see Mayor's and Souter's note, p. 335); Sanct. Bernard., De Gradibus Humilitatis, 10, primus itaque superbiae gradus est curiositas; Thomas à Kempis, De Imit. Christi, 4,7,2, tam curiosus ad nova audienda et pulchra intuenda.
See also:


Western Civilization

Winston Churchill, speech at Royal Albert Hall, London (May 14, 1947):
It has been finely said by a young English writer, Mr Sewell, that the real demarcation between Europe and Asia is no chain of mountains, no natural frontier, but a system of beliefs and ideas which we call Western Civilisation. 'In the rich pattern of this culture,' says Mr Sewell,
there are many strands; the Hebrew belief in God; the Christian message of compassion and redemption; the Greek love of truth, beauty and goodness; the Roman genius for law. Europe is a spiritual conception. But if men cease to hold that conception in their minds, cease to feel its worth in their hearts, it will die.
These are not my words, but they are my faith; and we are here to proclaim our resolve that the spiritual conception of Europe shall not die. We declare, on the contrary, that it shall live and shine, and cast a redeeming illumination upon a world of confusion and woe.


A Howler

G.G. Coulton (1858-1947), Fourscore Years: An Autobiography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1943), pp. 81-82:
We were always allowed to prepare the morrow's work in pairs, and generally did so. My usual partner was G.F. Colborne....[O]nce, in the Lower Fifth, he suffered heavily for our partnership. We were at Livy, XXI, 10, where Hanno tries to dissuade his city from war: 'Aegatis insulas Erycemque ante oculos proponite, quae terra marique per quattuor et viginti annos passi sitis'.1 It was probably I who had excogitated the absurd translation of that sentence, but Colborne, as it happened, was put on to construe it, and he thus rendered the words: 'Set before your eyes the Aegatian Isles and Eryx, which suffered thirst by land and sea for four-and-twenty years.' He was sent down ignominiously, and it took him several lessons to work his way up again to first or second.

1 'Set before your eyes the [case of] the Aegatian Isles & Eryx; [consider] what [disasters] you have suffered for 24 years, both by land and by sea.'
Related posts:

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


Required Courses at School

G.G. Coulton (1858-1947), Fourscore Years: An Autobiography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1943), p. 50:
The compulsion did me good in the long run, but I was too undeveloped to take long views. Later experience has taught me the value of compulsory virtue: I wonder whether any more specious falsehood was ever invented than the flattering parrot cry that nothing good has ever been done under compulsion. Therefore I have no grudge against the dullness of many classroom hours; there, the clay was as much at fault as the potter, the boy as the teacher. Dr Johnson noted how men are seldom more innocently employed than when they are making money; and boys are seldom doing things better than when they listen to older folk struggling to impress older folk's ideas. Great is the importance of merely listening to what we do not immediately understand; how many grown-up people do we meet who have really learned to listen to each other? There is a deep psychological truth in the cry reported from one modern boy, weary of a modern school which deifies originality: 'Must I always do just what I like?' And I admit myself grateful to those who, in the classroom, dragged me through paths of Greek and Latin which I should never have trodden by mere unforced choice.
Id., p. 81 (on A.W. Rowe at Felsted Grammar School):
Yet, even at the time, I could not resist a certain gratitude towards the strong hand which took me by the scruff of the neck and carried me through pages of Herodotus and Thucydides, Aeschylus and Sophocles, Virgil and Horace and Livy and Cicero, which I should never have had half the courage and perseverance to attack by myself.
Related post: A Strong Recommendation.


Wigbert Destroys Zutibure

Robert Bartlett, Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things? Saints and Worshippers from the Martyrs to the Reformation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), pp. 620-621:
And there are other cases of saints being used to replace earlier pagan natural sacral sites as part of a conscious policy. Bishop Wigbert of Merseburg (1004–9), for example, sought to wean his Slav parishioners away from their sacred trees in this way:
By diligent preaching he recalled his flock from the empty superstition of their error and uprooted the grove called Zutibure [swiety bor, "holy grove"] which the local inhabitants honoured as a god and which, from ancient times, had never been violated, constructing there a church dedicated to the holy martyr Romanus.60
The pagan worshippers of Greece and Rome and of medieval eastern and northern Europe had their public and communal ceremonies and sites, but they could also approach the holy in the shade of a grove of tall trees or down the steps leading to underground caves and pools. For medieval Christians, the official sacred place was the indoor and man-made space of the church. And within their churches, the most holy spots were the altars, which contained relics and might display them, and the shrines of the saints. Human remains within a consecrated building, not trees or pools, evoked awe and reverence.

60 Thietmar of Merseburg, Chronicon 6.37, p. 282.
The date of the grove's destruction was 1009. Here is the Latin:
Praedicatione assidua commissos a vana superstitione erroris reduxit lucumque Zutibure dictum, ab accolis ut Deum in omnibus honoratum et ab aevo antiquo numquam violatum, radicitus eruens sancto martiri Romano in eo ecclesiam construxit.
18th century church in Schkeitbar, built over the ruins of the older one constructed by Wigbert:

Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who noted, "The trees seem to have made a come-back."



What a Privilege!

Niall Rudd, "Classics as a Subject," Classics Ireland 16 (2009) 49-66 (at 63-64):
Catullus and the lyrical Horace have always been the translator's despair:
Miser Catulle, desinas ineptire,
et quod vides perisse perditum ducas.

(Poor wretch, Catullus, cease to act this foolish farce,
and what you see is over recognize as gone.)

Diffugere nives, redeunt iam gramina campis,
arboribusque comae.

(The snows have fled, the grass is now coming back to the pastures
and tresses to the trees.)
Those are the ipsissima verba of men who have brought pleasure and comfort to their readers for two millennia. And they are still talking to us. What a privilege to be taught their language!

Monday, October 29, 2018


Expressing a View

Robert Bartlett, Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things? Saints and Worshippers from the Martyrs to the Reformation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), pp. 587-588:
The man who lowered his breeches and broke wind in the direction of a saint's shrine as it was carried in procession was expressing a view, even if not arguing a position.²

² William of Malmesbury, Gesta pontificum Anglorum 5.275, p. 656.
Thanks to Eric Thomson for the passage from William of Malmesbury, translated by M. Winterbottom, along with the Latin:
1. Mingling with the throng of pious people who came to the festival can be found a fair number of rascals, who pick up an easy living by making their audience guffaw with jokes prepared in advance. When I was a boy, one of this type had arrived; his wit was sharper than that of others, and he was also good at making obscene gestures if words did not do the trick. 2. When the shrine of the saint was carried out of doors—it is improper even to tell the story—this man brazenly confronted it. He first polluted the air by baring his private parts, then went on to foul it by farting. This made fools laugh; but the monks were aggrieved that a scoundrel's babble should go unpunished. But the confessor's ear was at hand to hear their calls for vengeance. The man had scarcely lowered his breeches when, for all to see, he was forcibly seized by an evil spirit and began to pay the penalty for his shamelessness. 3. He spun in a circle, foaming at the mouth like a boar kept whirling around by a pack of baying hounds, and grinding his teeth; in fact it was quite clear that he had been taken over by the same Devil who had set him on this evil course. His friends, forceful only to be kind, grabbed him and haled him off home whether he liked it or not. 4. He was tied to a post there, and they imagined he was engaged in quiet reflection when he suddenly burst out of his bonds, overturned the table on the lunch party, punched some and brained others, and, armed with the tableware, made them all take to their heels. His companions, thinking he should not be left to his own devices, formed a phalanx and seized the madman for a second time, tied him up more tightly, and hauled him to the tomb. 5. There, after three nights' vigil and three days' fast, he was cured of his evil spirit but (more important) of his wantonness. For the monks prayed for him, purchasing the health of another at the cost of their own groans. After that he was always restrained and gentle, though his bloodshot eyes were baleful and threatening, and rolled in a way that always scared us boys. We remembered how, before he got better, he would sit at the tomb, glaring at us and sallying out to attack us, with foul expectoration if he had no other recourse.

1. Inter religiosorum multitudinem ad festum uenientium nebulonum quoque se immergit copia, qui facili compendio uictum mercantur, dum excogitatis salibus audientium cachinnos eitiunt. Quorum unus, me puero, illuc uenerat, preter ceteros ludo mordente facetus, obscenos quoque gestus imitari peritus, si quando uerbis minus agentibus destitueretur. 2. Hic beati scrinio foras portato impudens, quod importunum etiam relatu est, contra stetit, primoque nudato inguine incestauit aera, tum deinde crepitu uentris emisso turbauit auras. Id, quamquam fatuis risum imperasset, monachis tamen in immanem dolorem uenit, qui dolerent impune nebulonem garrire. Enimuero illis uindictam imprecantibus uicina non defuit auris confessoris. Vix enim uestes demiserat, et ecce coram populo, uiolento compressus demone, penas impudentiae pendebat. 3. Ita rotabatur in girum, ita spumabat in modum suis quem latratus canum circumagit, ita crepitantibus frendebat molaribus, ut palam fieret quod in illius ditionem transisset cuius instinctu tantum scelus inceptasset. Quare, a sotiis pie uiolentis correptus, ad manus uellet nollet domum tractus est. 4. Ibi ad postem ligatus, dum aliquid quietius meditari putaretur, ex inprouiso erupit. Super conuivas prandentes mensam depulit, aliquos pugnis contudit, aliquos telis excerebrauit, omnes effugauit, uasis, quae apposita erant, pro armis usus. At uero sotii, qui miserum non relinquendum putarent, in cuneum conglobati, dementem iterum corripiunt, artioribusque loris constrictum ad sepulchrum pertrahunt. 5. Ibi, tribus uigilatis noctibus totidemque ieiunatis diebus, monachis suplicantibus et gemitibus suis alienam salutem mercantibus, sanatus est non solum demone, sed, quod prestantius dicas, lecacitate, perpetuo post haec modestus et lenis, ueruntamen oculis fellitis et minacibus, quorumque sanguinea intortione nos pueros semper territaret, recordantes quod ante sanitatem sedens ad sepulchrum uultu intenti in nos fatiebat impetum, si aliud nequiret immundum eiectans sputum.



Holy Shoes

Robert Bartlett, Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things? Saints and Worshippers from the Martyrs to the Reformation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), p. 31:
These [early Irish saints] include figures like Ailbe of Emly, who was fostered by a she-wolf (whom he later saved from hunters) and who could produce a hundred horses from a cloud and walk on the sea; or Luguid or Molua of Clonfertmulloe, whose shoe miraculously cleared the beer which was being served at a royal feast but was making the guests vomit — after Luguid's shoe had been dipped in it, "it made everyone very drunk."
Id., p. 88:
Commenting on John the Baptist’s shoe in the church of the Carthusians in Paris, he [Calvin] remarks: "It was stolen twelve or thirteen years ago but they immediately found another one. Indeed, there will never be a shortage of such relics as long as the race of shoemakers endures."16

16 Ibid. [Traité des reliques], p. 81.
Id., p. 245:
Even an object as humble as a shoe could absorb miraculous power through its regular and close contact with a holy man. Libertinus, prior of the Italian monastery of Fondi around the middle of the sixth century, used to carry with him the shoe of his revered, recently deceased, abbot, Honoratus. One day he encountered a woman clutching her dead baby; she believed he had the power to bring the child back to life. Struggling between humility and pity, Libertinus eventually prayed for the child, then placed Honoratus's shoe upon its chest, and "at his prayers the soul of the child returned to the body."30

30 Gregory I, Dialogi 1.2.6 (2, p. 28).


A Stifling, Stultifying World

George Orwell (1903-1950), Burmese Days, chapter 5:
It is a stifling, stultifying world in which to live. It is a world in which every word and every thought is censored....In the end the secrecy of your revolt poisons you like a secret disease. Your whole life is a life of lies.


Our Masters

Winston Churchill, speech at Forum Cinema, Devonport (February 9, 1950):
You know, ladies and gentlemen, our Socialist masters think they know everything. They even try to teach the housewife how to buy her food. Mr Douglas Jay has said:
'Housewives as a whole cannot be trusted to buy all the right things, where nutrition and health are concerned. This is really no more than an extension of the principle according to which the housewife herself would not trust a child of four to select the week's purchases. For in the case of nutrition and health, just as in the case of education, the gentleman in Whitehall really does know better what is good for people than the people know themselves.'
That is what Mr Jay has said. Was there ever a period in the history of this island when such a piece of impertinence could have been spread about by a Minister?


Sir Stafford Cripps is reported to have said: 'You must have controls so that people cannot do just as they like.' There speaks the true voice of the Socialist. People must not do what they like. They must do what their Socialist masters (to use the word of the Attorney-General) think is good for them and tell them what to do.
Winston Churchill, speech at Usher Hall, Edinburgh (May 18, 1950):
I must, however, draw your attention to the characteristic remark by Dr Dalton, the new Minister of Town and Country Planning. In announcing one of his minor concessions he said, 'This is an experiment in freedom. I hope it will not be abused.' Could you have anything more characteristic of the Socialist rulers' outlook towards the public? Freedom is a favour; it is an experiment which the governing class of Socialist politicians will immediately curtail if they are displeased with our behaviour. This is language which the head of a Borstal Institution might suitably use to the inmates when announcing some modification of the disciplinary system. What an example of smug and insolent conceit! What a way to talk to the British people! As a race we have been experimenting in freedom, not entirely without success, for several centuries, and have spread the ideas of freedom throughout the world. And yet, here is this Minister, who speaks to us as if it lay with him to dole out our liberties like giving biscuits to a dog who will sit up and beg prettily.
Related post: Let's Stop Somebody from Doing Something!

Sunday, October 28, 2018


A Resting-Place for Ostriches

Jeremiah 10.18-22 (Brenton Septuagint Translation, with Greek):
[18] For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will overthrow the inhabitants of this land with affliction, that thy plague may be discovered.

ὅτι τάδε λέγει Κύριος Ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ σκελίζω τοὺς κατοικοῦντας τὴν γῆν ταύτην ἐν θλίψει ὅπως εὑρεθῇ ἡ πληγή σου.

[19] Alas for thy ruin! thy plague is grievous: and I said, Surely this is thy wound, and it has overtaken thee.

οὐαὶ ἐπὶ συντρίμματί σου, ἀλγηρὰ ἡ πληγή σου. κἀγὼ εἶπα Ὄντως τοῦτο τὸ τραῦμά σου, καὶ κατέλαβέν σε.

[20] Thy tabernacle is in a ruinous state, it has perished; and all thy curtains have been torn asunder: my children and my cattle are no more: there is no more any place for my tabernacle, nor place for my curtains.

ἡ σκηνή σου ἐταλαιπώρησεν, ὤλετο, καὶ πᾶσαι αἱ δέρρεις σου διεσπάσθησαν· οἱ υἱοί μου καὶ τὰ πρόβατά μου οὐκ εἰσίν, οὐκ ἔστιν ἔτι τόπος τῆς σκηνῆς μου, τόπος τῶν δέρρεών μου.

[21] For the shepherds have become foolish, and have not sought the Lord; therefore the whole pasture has failed, and the sheep have been scattered.

ὅτι οἱ ποιμένες ἠφρονεύσαντο, καὶ τὸν κύριον οὐκ ἐζήτησαν· διὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐνόησεν πᾶσα ἡ νομή, καὶ διεσκορπίσθησαν.

[22] Behold, there comes a sound of a noise, and a great earthquake from the land of the north, to make the cities of Juda a desolation, and a resting-place for ostriches.

φωνὴ ἀκοῆς ἰδοὺ ἔρχεται καὶ σεισμὸς μέγας ἐκ γῆς βορρᾶ τοῦ τάξαι τὰς πόλεις Ἰούδα εἰς ἀφανισμὸν καὶ κοίτην στρουθῶν.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who writes:
What curmudgeon worth his salt doesn’t rejoice at the mention of grievous plagues, ruinous tabernacles, curtains torn asunder, foolish shepherds and scattered sheep, earthquakes and desolation? But the upshot of this cataclysm is apparently "a resting-place for ostriches" (all presumably with their heads in the sand) which sent me into a paroxysm of laughter.



Aristophanes, Frogs 185-187 (Charon speaking; tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Who's for release from cares and troubles?
Who's for the Plain of Oblivion? For Ocnus' Twinings?
The Land of the Cerberians? The buzzards? Taenarum?

τίς εἰς ἀναπαύλας ἐκ κακῶν καὶ πραγμάτων;
τίς εἰς τὸ Λήθης πεδίον, ἢ 'ς Ὄκνου πλοκάς,
ἢ 'ς Κερβερίους, ἢ 'ς κόρακας, ἢ 'πὶ Ταίναρον;

186 Ὄκνου πλοκάς Aristarchus ap. Phot. 338.8 = Suda o 399: ὄνου πόκας codd., Ὀνουπόκας Radermacher
Alan H. Sommerstein ad loc.:

K.J. Dover ad loc.:

Ludwig Radermacher ad loc.:


English Language and Literature

Winston Churchill, speech on receiving the London Times Literary Award, delivered at Grosvenor House, London (November 2, 1949):
English literature is a glorious inheritance which is open to all — there are no barriers, no coupons, and no restrictions. In the English language and in its great writers there are great riches and treasures, of which, of course, the Bible and Shakespeare stand alone on the highest platform. English literature is one of our greatest sources of inspiration and strength. The English language is the language of the English-speaking people, and no country, or combination or power so fertile and so vivid exists anywhere else on the surface of the globe. We must see that it is not damaged by modern slang, adaptations, or intrusions. We must endeavour to popularise and strengthen our language in every way. Broadly speaking, short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all. Thus, being lovers of English, we will not only improve and preserve our literature, but also make ourselves a more intimate and effective member of the great English-speaking world, on which, if wisely guided, the future of mankind will largely rest.

Saturday, October 27, 2018



Sue Prideaux, I Am Dynamite! A Life of Friedrich Nietzsche (London: Faber & Faber, 2018), p. 37:
Fewer than than 1,400 lines survive by the sixth-century BC Greek poet Theognis of Megara. This gives Theognis something in common with Nietzsche's other subjects, Empedocles and Diogenes Laertius.
The remains of Theognis and Empedocles are exiguous, true, but Diogenes Laertius survives in bulk (ten books of his Lives of the Philosophers).

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Friday, October 26, 2018


Two Feet

Euripides, Bacchae 647 (tr. David Kovacs):
Hold on! Calm your anger!

στῆσον πόδ᾽, ὀργῇ δ᾽ ὑπόθες ἥσυχον πόδα.

πόδα codd.: τροπόν Musgrave, βάσιν Blomfield, φρένα Middendorf
That's a rather spare translation of the Greek, which more literally means:
Bring your foot to a standstill, put a quiet foot under your anger.
E.R. Dodds ad loc.:
[T]he first πόδα is literal, the second metaphorical.

Thursday, October 25, 2018


One-Man Rule

Winston Churchill, speech broadcast to the United States from London (August 8, 1939):
One thing has struck me as very strange, and that is the resurgence of the one-man power after all these centuries of experience and progress. It is curious how the English-speaking peoples have always had this horror of one-man power. They are quite ready to follow a leader for a time, as long as he is serviceable to them; but the idea of handing themselves over, lock, stock and barrel, body and soul, to one man, and worshipping him as if he were an idol — that has always been odious to the whole theme and nature of our civilisation. The architects of the American Constitution were as careful as those who shaped the British Constitution to guard against the whole life and fortunes, and all the laws and freedom of the nation, being placed in the hands of a tyrant.


Abasement of Enemies?

Euripides, Bacchae 877-880 (tr. E.R. Dodds in his commentary):
Or what god-given right is more honourable in the sight of men than to keep the hand of mastery over the head of a foe?

                       ἢ τί τὸ κάλλιον
παρὰ θεῶν γέρας ἐν βροτοῖς
ἢ χεῖρ᾽ ὑπὲρ κορυφᾶς
τῶν ἐχθρῶν κρείσσω κατέχειν;
But cf. Warren E. Blake, "Euripidis Baccharum interpretatio secundum versus 877-881," Mnemosyne 60.4 (1933) 361-368, who puts an interrogation mark after βροτοῖς and reads instead of in the following line. Blake is followed by Valdis Leinieks, "Euripides, Bakchai 877-81=897-901," Journal of Hellenic Studies 104 (1984) 178-179, who translates:
What is the better gift of the gods among men? Is it to hold a stronger hand over the heads of enemies?
According to Blake and Leinieks, the implied answer to the second question is no. See also Valdis Leinieks, The City of Dionysos: A Study of Euripides' Bakchai (Stuttgart: Β.G. Teubner, 1996), pp. 370-372.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Book Reviews

Simon Heffer, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (London: Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1998), p. 306:
As well as continuing his intellectual life by working on his history of the House of Lords, he gave readers of The Times, in March 1963, a clue to other cerebral recreations, in a contribution to a series entitled 'Critics Under Review'. He wrote that 'I am a devotee of reviews. I like reading them; I like writing them — signed or unsigned.' He admitted that he experienced a 'little instant of happy surprise when the early morning mind discovers that it is Thursday', the day The Times published its book reviews.152 'Every single review — even the reviews of the novels, though I never read novels themselves — will have been read before I so much as peep to see if the Times has reported my winding-up speech on the middle page or dismissed my policies with paragraphs of portentous ambivalence in a third leader.' Powell wrote that he enjoyed witnessing the meeting of minds between reviewer and author, and the collection of  'effortless gobbets of information'.

For him, the newspapers only skimmed the surface of the intellectual possibilities of the review. The specialist journal was far superior in this respect, and he noted with longing that 'something departed for ever from the pleasures of specialist review reading when A.E. Housman gibbeted his last victim'. He confessed that his reason for liking writing reviews was 'terribly crude. I like to be given books.' He could not understand those reviewers who sold their books once the reviews were done. To him, 'almost any book, however remote its subject, seems to me worth shelf-room'. Most revealingly, he claimed to like reviewing because it gave him an excuse to read; at bottom, he liked the challenge with which reviewing presented him. 'The knowledge that one has to write a review fixes the salient points of a book upon the mind, like the landmarks along a route by which the traveller must return.'

152 The Times, 28 March 1963.



Gerrard Winstanley (1609-1676), "A Watch-Word to the City of London, and the Army," The Law of Freedom and Other Writings, ed. Christopher Hill (1973; rpt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 125-151 (at 148):
[A]wake, awake, the enemy is upon thy back, he is ready to scale the walls and enter possession, and wilt thou not look out?


Plain Clothes and Food

Plutarch, Sayings of Spartans: "Agesilaus," 21 (= Moralia 210 A; tr. Frank Cole Babbitt):
In answer to the man who expressed surprise at the plainness of the clothes and the fare both of himself and of the other Spartans, he said, "From this mode of life, my friend, we reap a harvest of liberty."

Πρὸς δε τὸν ἐπιθαυμάζοντα τὴν μετριότητα τῆς ἐσθῆτος καὶ τῆς τροφῆς αὐτοῦ τε καὶ τῶν ἄλλων Λακεδαιμονίων "ἀντὶ ταύτης," ἔφη, "τῆς διαίτης, ὦ ξένε, τὴν ἐλευθερίαν ἀμώμεθα."

ἀμώμεθα: μώμεθα Valckenaer, μνώμεθα S.A. Naber


Fake News

Caesar, Civil War 1.21.1:
...falsis nuntiis...

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Of Mice and Men

Plutarch, Sayings of Spartans: "Agesilaus," 9 (= Moralia 208 F; tr. Frank Cole Babbitt):
At another time he saw a mouse being dragged from a hole by a boy who had hold of him, and the mouse turned and bit the hand that held him and escaped; whereupon Agesilaus called the attention of the bystanders to this, and said, "When the smallest animal thus defends itself against those who do it wrong, consider what it becomes men to do."

Ἄλλοτε ἰδὼν μῦν ἑλκόμενον ἐκ θυρίδος ὑπὸ παιδαρίου κρατοῦντος, ἐπεὶ ὁ μῦς ἐπιστραφεὶς ἔδακε τὴν χεῖρα τοῦ κρατοῦντος καὶ ἔφυγεν, ἐπιδείξας τοῖς παροῦσιν εἶπεν, "ὅταν τὸ ἐλάχιστον ζῷον οὕτως ἀμύνηται τοὺς ἀδικοῦντας, τί τοὺς ἄνδρας προσήκει ποιεῖν λογίζεσθε."



Plautus, The Braggart Soldier 885 (tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
But nobody is clever enough on his own.

at nemo solus satis sapit.
Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975), chapter 28:
One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity there ain't nothing can beat teamwork.

Monday, October 22, 2018


To Drive Away Cares

Cypria, fragment 18 (tr. M.L. West):
Wine, Menelaus, is the best thing the gods have made
for mortal men for dispelling cares.

οἶνόν τοι, Μενέλαε, θεοὶ ποίησαν ἄριστον
θνητοῖς ἀνθρώποισιν ἀποσκεδάσαι μελεδώνας.
Euripides, Bacchae 278-283 (tr. David Kovacs):
The son of Semele, discovered ... the drink that flows from the grape cluster and introduced it to mortals. It is this that frees trouble-laden mortals from their pain—when they fill themselves with the juice of the vine—this that gives sleep to make one forget the day's troubles: there is no other treatment for misery.

                                     ... ὁ Σεμέλης γόνος
βότρυος ὑγρὸν πῶμ᾿ ηὗρε κἀσηνέγκατο
θνητοῖς, ὃ παύει τοὺς ταλαιπώρους βροτοὺς
λύπης, ὅταν πλησθῶσιν ἀμπέλου ῥοῆς,
ὕπνον τε λήθην τῶν καθ᾿ ἡμέραν κακῶν
δίδωσιν, οὐδ᾿ ἔστ᾿ ἄλλο φάρμακον πόνων.
Horace, Odes 2.11.17-18 (tr. Niall Rudd):
Euhius dispels
gnawing anxieties.

dissipat Euhius
curas edaces.


Criticism of This Blog

Plautus, The Braggart Soldier 751 (tr. Paul Nixon):
Oh, do dispense with that hackneyed, ancient twaddle, won't you?

quin tu istanc orationem hinc veterem atque antiquam amoves?

Saturday, October 20, 2018


Eating and Drinking

The Admonitions of Ipuwer (Papyrus Leiden 344), VIII (tr. Miriam Lichtheim):
Lo, a man is happy eating his food. Consume your goods in gladness, while there is none to hinder you. It is good for a man to eat his food. God ordains it for him whom he favors.
Id., XIII:
It is however good when people get drunk, when they drink miyet with happy hearts.


A Liar and a Braggart

Plautus, The Braggart Soldier 21-23 (the parasite Artotrogus is the speaker, referring to the soldier Pyrgopolynices; tr. Paul Nixon):
If anyone ever saw a bigger liar
and more colossal braggart than this fellow,
he can have me for his own with full legal rights.

periuriorem hoc hominem si quis viderit
aut gloriarum pleniorem quam illic est,
me sibi habeto, ei ego me mancupio dabo.


The Religion of Peace

Euripides, Bacchae 417-433 (on Dionysus; tr. David Kovacs):
The god, Zeus's son,
rejoices in the feast,
he loves wealth-giving
Peace, the goddess who rears boys to manhood.
Equally both to the rich
and to the lowly he has given
the painless joy of wine.
He hates the man who does not make this his aim,
by day and through the sweetness of night
to live a life of bliss,
and to keep his heart and his thoughts wise,
far from men of excess.
What the simple folk believe and practice
that shall I accept.

ὁ δαίμων ὁ Διὸς παῖς
χαίρει μὲν θαλίαισιν,
φιλεῖ δ᾿ ὀλβοδότειραν Εἰρήναν,
κουροτρόφον θεάν.        420
ἴσαν δ᾿ ἔς τε τὸν ὄλβιον
τόν τε χείρονα δῶκ᾿ ἔχειν
οἴνου τέρψιν ἄλυπον·
μισεῖ δ᾿ ᾧ μὴ ταῦτα μέλει,
κατὰ φάος νύκτας τε φίλας        425
εὐαίωνα διαζῆν,
σοφὰν δ᾿ ἀπέχειν πραπίδα φρένα τε
περισσῶν παρὰ φωτῶν·
τὸ πλῆθος ὅ τι τὸ φαυλότερον ἐνόμισε χρῆ-        430
ταί τε, τόδ᾿ ἂν δεχοίμαν.
Diodorus Siculus 3.64.7 (on Dionysus; tr. C.H. Oldfather):
He also instructed all men who were pious and cultivated a life of justice in the knowledge of his rites and initiated them into his mysteries, and, furthermore, in every place he held great festive assemblages and celebrated musical contests; and, in a word, he composed the quarrels between the nations and cities and created concord and deep peace where there had existed civil strifes and wars.

καταδεῖξαι δὲ καὶ τὰ περὶ τὰς τελετὰς καὶ μεταδοῦναι τῶν μυστηρίων τοῖς εὐσεβέσι τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ δίκαιον βίον ἀσκοῦσι, πρὸς δὲ τούτοις πανταχοῦ πανηγύρεις ἄγειν καὶ μουσικοὺς ἀγῶνας συντελεῖν, καὶ τὸ σύνολον συλλύοντα τὰ νείκη τῶν ἐθνῶν καὶ πόλεων ἀντὶ τῶν στάσεων καὶ τῶν πολέμων ὁμόνοιαν καὶ πολλὴν εἰρήνην κατασκευάζειν.
Roman copy of Cephisodotus' statue of Peace holding the infant Wealth (Munich, Glyptothek 219):

Friday, October 19, 2018


Martin Staemmler

Christopher B. Krebs, A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011), p. 224:
Blood and soil are precisely the topic of People and Race, an educational booklet written by the professor of philology Martin Staemmler.
Staemmler was a professor of pathology, not philology.




Sam Wolfson, "Cursed: witches are planning a public hexing of Brett Kavanaugh," The Guardian (October 16, 2018):
A coven of witches will gather in an occult bookstore in Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday to place a hex on the supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh. Tickets to the event, which cost $10, with half the proceeds going to women's and LGBT charities, have already sold out.
Whatever side of the political divide you're on, here, for free, as a public service, are some curses to use against whomever you happen to hate:


These Are the Only Ones Who Really Live

Augustine, Sermon 345.1 (tr. Edmund Hill):
And the rich above all have to hear this, because when the poor look at them, they grumble, sigh, praise them, envy them, would love to be on their level, lament that they are so much below it, and among their praises of the rich they frequently say this sort of thing: "These are the only ones, these the only ones who really live."

Et maxime hoc divites audire debent, quos quando pauperes intuentur, murmurant, gemunt, laudant, invident, aequari optant, impares se esse dolent, et inter laudes divitum hoc plerumque dicunt: Soli sunt isti, isti soli vivunt.


Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still

Euripides, Bacchae 201-203 (tr. E.T Coleridge):
The faith we inherited from our fathers, old as time itself, no reasoning shall cast down; no! though it were the subtlest invention of wits refined.

πατρίους παραδοχάς, ἅς θ᾽ ὁμήλικας χρόνῳ
κεκτήμεθ᾽, οὐδεὶς αὐτὰ καταβαλεῖ λόγος,
οὐδ᾽ εἰ δι᾽ ἄκρων τὸ σοφὸν ηὕρηται φρενῶν.
Livy 39.15.2-3 (against the introduction of Bacchic rites in 186 B.C.; tr. J.C. Yardley):
Citizens: never has there been a meeting for which this formal prayer to the gods that we make together has been not only so appropriate but also so necessary, since it reminds you that these are the deities whom your ancestors ordained that you should venerate, worship and address in prayer—not those that besot men's minds with depraved foreign beliefs and as if with infernal stimuli drive them to all manner of criminal and immoral acts.

Nulli umquam contioni, Quirites, tam non solum apta sed etiam necessaria haec sollemnis deorum comprecatio fuit, quae vos admoneret hos esse deos quos colere venerari precarique maiores vestri instituissent, non illos qui pravis et externis religionibus captas mentes velut furialibus stimulis ad omne scelus et ad omnem libidinem agerent.
Related posts:



Simon Worrall, "Building walls may have allowed civilization to flourish," National Geographic (October 5, 2018), an interview with David Frye, author of Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick (New York: Scribner, 2018)
Let's go back in time to the first walls. Who built them and why?

The first walls were city walls and they originated with the very first cities, like Jericho, the city of the Bible, which was first constructed sometime in the tenth millennium B.C., as many as 12,000 years ago. It was a walled city and, subsequently, nearly all cities in the ancient world were walled.

The first border walls aren't found until the late 2000s B.C., in Mesopotamia. Security is why they were built. There were two different lifestyles developing: a lifestyle of the people I call wallers, who are workers who build things and identify themselves by their civilian occupations. They sought to secure themselves by building structures that would protect them even when they were sleeping at night. Outside the walls, you have a very different sort of society, people inured to the dangers of living in an un-walled world. Non-wallers were peoples we generally refer to historically as barbarians, like the Huns, the Goths, or the Mongols. They were viewed with fear by the wall-builders. And that's what inspired the construction of the early walls.

You write, "No invention in human history played a greater role (than walls) in creating and shaping civilization." Some people might vote for writing or gunpowder. Make your case.

I would make the case that there would be no writing and nothing as complex as gunpowder without first the construction of walls. The ancient human need for security is one of the fundamentals of life and has to be achieved before we can achieve other things. It was walls that gave people the security to sit and think. It's hard to imagine a novel being written in a world in which every man is a warrior. Until a society achieves security, it can't think about anything except the dangers all around it. As a consequence its culture will be limited.
Related post: The Wall.

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Request from the Front Lines

Letter from the decurion Masclus to his commanding officer Flavius Cerialis (Vindolanda Tablets III, 628 = inv. no. 93.1544, excerpt; tr. Alan K. Bowman and J. David Thomas):
My fellow soldiers have no beer. Please order some to be sent.

ceruesam commilitiones
non habunt quam
rogo iubeas mitti
On habunt see J.N. Adams, "The New Vindolanda Writing-Tablets," Classical Quarterly 53.2 (November, 2003) 530-575 (at 544-545).


Dictators on Their Pedestals

Winston Churchill, broadcast to the United States (October 16, 1938):
You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police. On all sides they are guarded by masses of armed men, cannons, aeroplanes, fortifications, and the like — they boast and vaunt themselves before the world, yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home — all the more powerful because forbidden — terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic. They make frantic efforts to bar out thoughts and words; they are afraid of the workings of the human mind. Cannons, aeroplanes, they can manufacture in large quantities; but how are they to quell the natural promptings of human nature, which after all these centuries of trial and progress has inherited a whole armoury of patent and indestructible knowledge?

Dictatorship — the fetish worship of one man — is a passing phase. A state of society where men may not speak their minds, where children denounce their parents to the police, where a businessman or small shopkeeper ruins his competitor by telling tales about his private opinions — such a state of society cannot long endure if brought into contact with the healthy outside world. The light of civilised progress with its tolerances and co-operation, with its dignities and joys, has often in the past been blotted out. But I hold the belief that we have now at last got far enough ahead of barbarism to control it, and to avert if, if only we realise what is afoot and make up our minds in time. We shall do it in the end. But how much harder our toil for every day's delay!


Use It or Lose It

Hippocrates, In the Surgery 20 (tr. E.T. Withington):
(Remember) that use strengthens, disuse debilitates.

Ὅτι χρῆσις κρατύνει, ἀργίη δὲ τήκει.


A Disgraced Member of the Royal Family

Peter Parsons, City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish: Greek Lives in Roman Egypt (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007), p. 69, with notes on pp. 232-233:
More widely dispersed were imperial portraits, painted (like the mummy portraits) in coloured wax on wooden panels, a form of secular icon.35 Such perhaps were the 'little images' of Caracalla and his deified father Severus and his mother Julia Domna dedicated (according to an official survey) in many temples in the city of Oxyrhynchos and in the surrounding villages; each entry puts this dedication first, and then the accumulated offerings of the faithful ('1 purple throw, rotted and useless; 1 bronze folding mirror; 1 bronze platter; 2 statuettes of Zeus and Hera ...').36 No mention of Geta here: because these images were made before his public career, or after his disgrace? or because he had been brushed out? One group portrait still survives, painted in lively colours on a wooden disk 12 inches in diameter: Julia Domna with fashionable coiffure, Severus a crowned and bearded figure of godlike benevolence, in front the two sons: the podgy adolescent on the right survives intact, diadem and all; his brother to the left (and this must be Geta) has the face scratched out. Indeed, scratching out was not enough. The face is covered with a green-brown deposit which (according to the original publication) gives off a bad smell when moistened. It seems that a loyal hand daubed the disgraced prince with animal excrement.37

35 Colours and wax for imperial images in the early fourth century: 55.3791–2.

36 12.1449 (BL 1; 7; 9; 11) (lines 1–17 = SP 2.405).

37 On this tondo (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Antikensammlung 31329) see Heinen (1991). Reproduced here as ill. 20.
Id., illustration 20:

20. Damnatio Memoriae. Emperor Septimius Severus and family, Greek style: painting on wood. The face of the younger son, Geta (lower left), was scratched out and daubed over after he was murdered by his brother Caracalla (see pages 68-70).

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Gagged and Muzzled

Winston Churchill, speech at Théâtre des Ambassadeurs, Paris (September 24, 1936):
How could we bear, nursed as we have been in a free atmosphere, to be gagged and muzzled; to have spies, eavesdroppers, and delators at every corner; to have even private conversation caught up and used against us by the secret police and all their agents and creatures; to be arrested and interned without trial; or to be tried by political or party courts for crimes hitherto unknown to civil law?


Blessings of Dionysus

Euripides, Bacchae 378-385 (tr. William Arrowsmith):
These blessings he gave:
the sacred company's dance and song,
laughter to the pipe
and the loosing of cares
when the shining wine is poured
at the feast for the gods,
and the wine bowl casts its sleep
on feasters crowned with ivy.

              ὃς τάδ᾽ ἔχει,
θιασεύειν τε χοροῖς
μετά τ᾽ αὐλοῦ γελάσαι        380
ἀποπαῦσαί τε μερίμνας,
ὁπόταν βότρυος ἔλθῃ
γάνος ἐν δαιτὶ θεῶν, κισ-
σοφόροις δ᾽ ἐν θαλίαις ἀν-
δράσι κρατὴρ ὕπνον ἀμφιβάλλῃ.        385
The same, in Gilbert Murray's very free version:
    For his kingdom, it is there,
    In the dancing and the prayer,
In the music and the laughter,
    In the vanishing of care,
And of all before and after;
In the Gods' high banquet, when
    Gleams the grape-blood, flashed to heaven;
Yea, and in the feasts of men
Comes his crownèd slumber; then
    Pain is dead and hate forgiven!
Valdis Leinieks, The City of Dionysos: A Study of Euripides' Bakchai (Stuttgart: Β.G. Teubner, 1996), pp. 222-223:
Wine is a form of nourishment. Dionysos provides it (οἴνωι, 142; οἴνου, 707) miraculously to his worshipers along with milk and honey when they are hungry. The main function of wine (ἀμπέλου ῥοῆς, 281; βότρυος...γάνος, 382-383; ἄμπελον, 772; οἴνου, 423), however, is medicinal. It brings forgetfulness of pain (λήθην τῶν...κακών, 282; ἄλυπον, 423; παυσίλυπον, 772) and induces sleep (ὕπνον, 282, 385). As a positive force wine brings joy (γάνος, 261, 383; χάριν, 535; τέρψιν, 423; τερπνόν, 774). By expelling pain and bringing joy wine contributes to the enjoyment of the simple and unambitious life.


Classics versus Mathematics

Cecil Torr (1857-1928), Small Talk at Wreyland: Second Series (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1921), pp. 77-78:
Looking back on my eight years of Harrow and Cambridge and judging them by results, I find that Classics have supplied me with a mass of interesting and amusing facts to think about, whereas Mathematics only taught me how to think on abstract things. Hardly any Mathematics linger in my mind. Sometimes, when I am going to sleep, I think of Space and wonder whether it is circumnavigated by the curves that go away to Negative Infinity and come back again from Positive Infinity, as if the two Infinities met. Sometimes I snap at people for saying Two and Two make Four as if it were an axiom, instead of being a result attained by rigid proof. And I sometimes lose my temper when they talk of what would happen if there were a Fourth Dimension. I tell them they can get a Fourth Dimension by putting Tetrahedrals for Cartesians, and it makes no more difference than putting Centigrade for Fahrenheit and thereby getting 15° of cold instead of 5° of heat.

Until I went to Harrow, I had a tutor at home, and he taught me to read Virgil as anyone reads Dante, not stopping over every word to consider it as grammar. But this did not assist me there. "Optative Future used where Indicative Future would be required in Direct Oration." That is my note on Aeschylos, Persae, 360. I remember that my mind was far away at Athens, watching the gusts of passion sweep across the audience when the play recalled the battle they had fought at Salamis seven years before. And my mind came back to Harrow with a jerk at hearing the suave voice of Dr Butler addressing me by name, repeating this, and recommending me to note it down.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


You Be the Judge

Tacitus, Germania 3.4 (tr. Maurice Hutton):
I have no intention of furnishing evidence to establish or refute these assertions: everyone according to his temperament may minimise or magnify their credibility.

quae neque confirmare argumentis neque refellere in animo est: ex ingenio suo quisque demat vel addat fidem.
This should be the official policy of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other companies who now censor Internet content under the guise of "fact checking" and "policing hate speech." Either that, or they should follow Chairman Mao's advice:
Let a hundred flowers bloom, and a hundred schools of thought contend.


Big Chief

Ian Morris, Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), p. 35, with note on p. 272:
!Kung men have been seen to undermine upstarts by sarcastically calling them "Big Chief" and ostentatiously ignoring them, and similar behavior is common all over the world. Among Paliyan foragers in South India, Hadza in Tanzania, and Ngukurr in Australia, for instance, ambitious men are regularly brought down by mockery of their pretensions.48

If laughter fails, foragers can escalate their disapproval. Ostracism is a popular technique, and often grows directly out of mockery. A common first step, recorded in several societies, is for people to pretend that they cannot hear or understand what the upstart is saying, howling with laughter as he gets angrier and angrier. If this still does not work, an upstart might be physically expelled from the group for a while, or the other members of the group might themselves decamp, leaving the offending party to scurry after them.

48. Examples taken from Boehm 1999, p. 75.
Boehm 1999 = Christopher Boehm, Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999)


A Great Treasure

Winston Churchill, speech at Théâtre des Ambassadeurs, Paris (September 24, 1936):
We must recognise that we have a great treasure to guard; that the inheritance in our possession represents the prolonged achievement of the centuries; that there is not one of our simple uncounted rights today for which better men than we are have not died on the scaffold or the battlefield.


Religion Without Ethics

Lewis Richard Farnell, The Cults of the Greek States, Vol. V (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909), pp. 238-239:
As to the moral question, so natural to the modern mind, it is almost irrelevant here; and to understand the reality of much ancient religion we must free ourselves from some modern preconceptions. As the highest flight of religion rises above mere morality, so a religion may be most powerful in its appeal and yet remain directly non-moral. In the Bakchai of Euripides, the unconcerned reply of the prophet to Pentheusd, 'Dionysos does not constrain women to be chaste,' expresses truthfully the attitude of this religion to morality, so far as the public cults reflect it. Those of the traditional Hellenic divinities were mainly ethical; but Dionysos in his public functions left morality alone, offering no new ethical gospel...

d l. 314.

Monday, October 15, 2018



John Burnet (1863-1928), "Form and Matter in Classical Teaching," Essays and Addresses (London: Chatto & Windus, 1929), pp. 29-45 (at 35-38):
The great scholars of the past never talked about research at all, though they did an amount of it that casts our efforts wholly into the shade. All their work was subordinated to one end, the enjoyment of the things themselves. Nothing is more striking in the lives of these great men than the way in which they read and re-read the whole of ancient literature for the sheer joy of it. They did not dally with the handmaids like Penelope's suitors; it was the image of Antiquity in its strength and beauty they really cared for, and the rest of their work was but the brightening of the glass through which we behold it, and the removal of excrescences from the surface of the image itself.

But nowadays learning has become a trade, and the trail of βαναυσία is over it all. There are posts to be won and reputations to be made with the least possible expenditure of time and trouble, and the easiest thing to do is to imitate a little piece of the great men's scaffolding. You need not trouble about the plan of the building, indeed, there need not be a building at all, if only the scaffolding is sufficiently elaborate. Scholarship in the old-fashioned sense is a thing of slow growth; it implies ripe knowledge and a trained judgment. 'Research,' on the other hand, is certainly laborious, but, in its lower forms, it requires little knowledge and makes few calls upon the higher powers of the mind. That is why we hear most talk of it in the newer American and colonial universities, where there is not yet any great tradition of scholarship. It is the desire to get results without the processes which alone can give them value, that is at the bottom of the whole movement. I propose now to show you how the thing is done.

By common consent, the constitution of an author's text is the highest aim that a scholar can set before himself. It is also one of the most difficult things in the world. Most people, however, are quite ignorant of the difference between a real recension and the production of a readable text that will pass muster. So much has been done already, that the production of a respectable text is not really very difficult. Up to a certain point, a sort of rough common sense, a sort of ἄγροικος σοφία, will acquit itself tolerably well in a task of this kind. Of course you do not trouble to collate MSS or to study the tradition of your author's text. You take for granted that a certain MS is 'the best,' and you follow that as closely as you dare, on the plea that you believe in 'objective criticism.' You need not go beyond the critical apparatus of the latest German edition. Indeed, you need not go so far. To most people, textual criticism is a mystery altogether, and they will respect you if you reprint the Teubner text with a selection of readings from Bekker or Dindorf at the bottom of the page. The risk of detection is very slight indeed. Even good scholars seldom know much about the text of more than one or two authors, and a few judicious compliments in the preface will probably silence the two or three men who could expose you if they thought it worth while. Even if one of them does say any thing, that can always be put down to professional jealousy and brazened out somehow.

This kind of thing is being done every day, and it is directly encouraged by loose talk about 'research.' But there are lower depths still. A man who knows little more than the Greek alphabet can count prepositions by the fireside. Of course it is dry work, but there are universities which will give you a doctor's degree for it, you will be accounted a truly scientific philologist, and you will be entitled to look down upon the man who can only write Latin prose or Greek iambics, though he may have a thousand times more knowledge and skill than you have. This is a pretty pass for classical scholarship to come to, but every one who has ever felt it his duty to read through what is facetiously called the literature of a subject knows that the picture I have drawn is not exaggerated.

It is to be observed also that the people who talk most about 'research' are not those who have done any. It is a word which is most often on the lips of people who say they would do it if they were 'encouraged,' that is to say, practically, if they were paid for it in advance. It is this which has vulgarized the word and made it offensive to many people. We hear of the 'endowment of research,' 'research scholarships,' and the like, as if it was all a question of money. But true research can never be fostered in that way. I don't suppose that any of the greatest discoveries have ever been paid for at all, and I am sure that they have all been made by men who had no thought of being paid for them. Let a man get his living by performing some definite social service like teaching, and keep his research work free from contamination by the thought of promotion or gain.
The word has been debased much further in our day, when people look things up on Google and call it research.



Euripides, Bacchae 369 (Teiresias on Pentheus; tr. David Kovacs):
His talk is folly and he's a fool.

μῶρα γὰρ μῶρος λέγει.
In Gilbert Murray's version:
Blind words and a blind heart!



E.R. Dodds, commentary on Euripides, Bacchae, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960), pp. 116-117 (on line 367):
Examples of such tragic 'punning' (ἐτυμολογεῖν) are many, especially in Aesch. and Eur. (cf. Kranz, Stasimon 287 ff., Platnauer on IT. 32). Elmsley, who collected and discussed them (on Bacch. 508), found the practice ψυχρόν. The Greeks did not, because they kept something of the primitive feeling that the connexion between a person and his name is significant, not accidental, φύσει not νόμῳ—names are for them, in Norden's words, 'visible pictures of invisible realities'. To us a pun is trivial and comic because it calls attention to the irrelevant; but the Greek felt that it pointed to something deeply relevant.

Sunday, October 14, 2018


Nature's Religion

Brabazon Newcomen Casement (1852-1910), "Nature's Religion," in R.Y. Tyrrell and Edward Sullivan, edd., Echoes from Kottabos (London: E. Grant Richards, 1906), p. 261:
To me no shrine with walls of clay,
No dome engirt with marble towers;
I worship thee in the open day
Amid the meadows and the flowers.

The shadows of the mighty trees
To me are dim religious light;
To me the murmurs of the breeze
Are voices of the infinite.
Not a great poem, but worth adding to the following collection:
Tyrrell and Sullivan attribute the poem to B.M.C., i.e. Brabazon M. Casement, but I think the author was Brabazon Newcomen Casement.


Preference for the Past

William Manchester, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill. Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 (1983; rpt. New York: Delta, 1989), pp. 11-12:
In a thousand little ways he revealed his preference for the past and his reluctance to part with it. Victorian expressions salted his speech: "I venture to say," "I am greatly distressed," "I rejoice," and "I pray"; so many of his memos began "Pray do," "Pray do not," or "Pray give me the facts on half a sheet of paper" that they became known among his staff as "Churchill's prayers." If it was time to leave Chartwell for London, and he wanted to know if his chauffeur was behind the wheel, he would ask: "Is the coachman on his box?" After the House of Commons snuffbox was destroyed in the Blitz, he replaced it with one from his family's ancestral home of Blenheim, explaining, "I confess myself to be a great admirer of tradition." He frankly preferred "the refinements of Louis XIV" to the modern "age of clatter and buzz, of gape and gloat." He also thought that "bad luck always pursues peoples who change the names of their cities. Fortune is rightly malignant to those who break with the customs of the past." Accordingly, Istanbul was Constantinople to him; Ankara was Angora; Sevastopol was Sebastopol; and in a directive to his minister of information dated August 29, 1941, he wrote: "Do try to blend in without causing trouble the word Persia instead of Iran." As for Cambodia and Guatemala, they didn't exist for him; he had got this far without having heard of them and saw no need to change now. He spoke of Sir Walter Raleigh, Henry VIII, and James I as though they were his contemporaries.



Robert Garland, The Greek Way of Death (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), pp. 70-71:
The pleasures awaiting the dead in Hades are also suggested by the series of so-called 'Totenmahl' (death-feast) reliefs which would have us believe that life below was one long drinking-party. This is in striking contrast to the Homeric picture, where nobody eats or drinks except when summoned by the living to partake of an irregular sacrifice. The principal compositional features of the series include a man reclining on a klinê on the right, a table beside him laden with various kinds of food, including cakes, fruit, pomegranates and eggs, and a seated woman on his left. The exact schema, as Thönges-Stringaris (1965) notes, can be traced to a frieze from the North Palace of Assurbanipal at Nineveh. The inspiration for the series seems to derive from votive reliefs carrying representations of feasting deities and heroes, like the one of Pluto and Persephone discussed earlier in the chapter. These make their first appearance in Greece towards the end of the sixth century. The earliest Totenmahl relief appears to be a stêlê found in the Peiraios dated c. 400 B.C. (fig. 14). The series comes to an end c. 300-280 B.C. Examples have been found not only in Attika, but all over the Greek world, including Sparta, Argos, Corinth, Boeotia, Aetolia, Poteidaia, Melos, Delos, Thasos, Samos, as well as Asia Minor and Italy. They could be erected to members of both sexes, as their inscriptions prove. Other compositional features include the head of a horse in a square box in the top left-hand corner of the relief, the dead man's arms and armour suspended in the background as though hanging from a wall,

Fig. 14. A Totenmahl or 'Death feast' relief c. 400 B.C., showing the deceased as husband and wife drinking together. On the left a slave with an amphora attends. On the right a survivor watches on.
and a snake, either coiled under the table and perhaps raising its head in the direction of the food, or else entwined around a tree. Sometimes a wine-pourer attends.

What finally remains unclear is whether the figures represented on the reliefs are conceived of as enjoying in the afterlife the pleasures of earthly existence or whether they are frozen in life, caught at a characteristic moment, as it were, as their friends remembered them and as they themselves would wish to be remembered. Lending some support to the theory that they are in fact supposed to be dead is Sokrates' comment in the Republic quoted above that according to the Orphics the reward for the just in Hades is 'everlasting drunkenness' (2.363d).

Despite the emphasis on food and drink, bowels do not abound in Hades, as Vermeule (1979, 27) has sensitively observed — a point of contrast with the Egyptian notion of the afterlife, in accordance with which the dead were occasionally provided with both bathroom and lavatory so that they should feel 'perfectly at home' (Scharff 1947, 18).
Most descriptions of the afterlife seem boring to me, but I do find appealing the notion of "one long drinking-party." In Garland's figure 14 above (Athens, National Archaeological Museum, inv. 1501), note the dog under the table gnawing a bone.


A Strong Recommendation

William George Clarke (1821-1878), "General Education and Classical Studies," Cambridge Essays, Contributed by Members of the University (London: John W. Parker and Son, 1855), pp. 281-308 (at 293):
When a missionary catches a young savage, he does not conceive his business to be to supply him with the food he loves, and leave him to rove about in nudity, picking off the white babies of the settlement with little poisoned arrows, but to train him, against his will, to a civilized acquiescence in beef and broad-cloth, buttons and good behaviour.

An English boy is a young savage in his way, and a judicious application of force is not only not useless, but even necessary, not only not cruelty, but kindness. By force I do not mean violence; I would have them ruled by authority, not the birch. The first lesson, the most important lesson a boy has to learn, is the duty of submission to restraint, of application to a distasteful task, whose meaning and value he is only to comprehend hereafter. It would be fatal to mental discipline and powers of application to begin by inculcating the notion that each boy need only learn what he liked.
Id. (at 294):
[I]t is no valid objection to any subject to affirm that it is dry and distasteful, but on the contrary, a strong recommendation.

Saturday, October 13, 2018


Don't Take a Cab to Cithaeron

Euripides, Bacchae 191-192 (tr. David Kovacs):
No chariot then will take us to the mountains.

No, for then the god would be less honored.

οὔκουν ὄχοισιν εἰς ὄρος περάσομεν.

ἀλλ᾿ οὐχ ὁμοίως ἂν ὁ θεὸς τιμὴν ἔχοι.
The title is adapted from E.R. Dodds, commentary on Euripides, Bacchae, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960), p. 90, who speaks of "taking a cab to Cithaeron." The lines bring to mind the scene I often used to see at the start of Shabbat at the lower, southern end of Fairview Avenue in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where the sidewalks were thronged with worshippers walking up the hill. It was an inspiring sight.


A Religious and Cultural Act

Edward Rice, Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1990), p. 107:
Then defecation also meant a religious and cultural act, for practices differ from those of the West. A Muslim should enter the lavatory on his left, not right, foot, and he cleanses himself with water (or sand or earth if there is no water) with his left hand. The two heirs of Europeans in India, the half-caste Anglo-Indians and the half-caste Goans of Portuguese antecedents, were divided on the issue of toilet custom. The former followed English practice and used toilet paper after defecation; the Goans washed themselves with water, using the left hand, as did other Indian communities. The Anglo-Indians derided the Goans as "washers" and the Goans castigated the Anglo-Indians as "wipers."



He Spends Most of His Time at Home

James Diggle, "Foreword" to C.W. Willink, Collected Papers on Greek Tragedy (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. viii-x (at viii):
In 1966 and 1968 two articles appeared in the Classical Quarterly, on problems of text and interpretation in Euripides' Bacchae and Hippolytus, under the authorship of 'C.W. Willink, Eton College'. In 1970 I found myself at Eton, as Examiner for the Newcastle Scholarship. I asked whether I might have the opportunity to pay my respects to the author. 'I doubt if you will see him,' I was told. 'He spends most of his time at home, writing on Euripides.'

Friday, October 12, 2018


The Complete Absorption of the Mind upon an Agreeable Occupation

Winston Churchill, speech at the Authors' Club, London (February 17, 1908):
The fortunate people in the world — the only really fortunate people in the world, in my mind, — are those whose work is also their pleasure. The class is not a large one, not nearly so large as it is often represented to be; and authors are perhaps one of the most important elements in its composition. They enjoy in this respect at least a real harmony of life. To my mind, to be able to make your work your pleasure is the one class distinction in the world worth striving for; and I do not wonder that others are inclined to envy those happy human beings who find their livelihood in the gay effusions of their fancy, to whom every hour of labour is an hour of enjoyment, to whom repose — however necessary — is a tiresome interlude, and even a holiday is almost deprivation. Whether a man writes well or ill, has much to say or little, if he cares about writing at all, he will appreciate the pleasures of composition. To sit at one's table on a sunny morning, with four clear hours of uninterruptible security, plenty of nice white paper, and a Squeezer pen — that is true happiness. The complete absorption of the mind upon an agreeable occupation — what more is there than that to desire? What does it matter what happens outside? The House of Commons may do what it likes, and so may the House of Lords. The heathen may rage furiously in every part of the globe. The bottom may be knocked clean out of the American market. Consols may fall and suffragettes may rise. Never mind, for four hours, at any rate, we will withdraw ourselves from a common, ill-governed, and disorderly world, and with the key of fancy unlock that cupboard where all the good things of the infinite are put away.
Now, I am a great admirer of the Greeks, although, of course, I have to depend upon what others tell me about them, and I would like to see our educationists imitate in one respect, at least, the Greek example. How is it that the Greeks made their language the most graceful and compendious mode of expression ever known among men? Did they spend all their time studying the languages which had preceded theirs? Did they explore with tireless persistency the ancient root dialects of the vanished world? Not at all. They studied Greek. They studied their own language. They loved it, they cherished it, they adorned it, they expanded it, and that is why it survives a model and delight to all posterity. Surely we, whose mother-tongue has already won for itself such an unequalled empire over the modern world, can learn this lesson at least from the ancient Greeks and bestow a little care and some proportion of the years of education to the study of a language which is perhaps to play a predominant part in the future progress of mankind.


Nymph of This Place

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum VI (Inscriptiones urbis Romae Latinae), 5 (Inscriptiones Falsae), 3e:

Huius nympha loci, sacri custodia fontis,
    Dormio, dum blandae sentio murmur aquae.
Parce meum, quisquis tangis cava marmora, somnum
    Rumpere. Sive bibas sive lavere tace.
In Alexander Pope's rendering:
Nymph of the grot, these sacred springs I keep,
    And to the murmur of these waters sleep;
Ah, spare my slumbers, gently tread the cave!
    And drink in silence, or in silence lave.
Barbara Baert, "The Sleeping Nymph Revisited: Ekphrasis, Genius Loci and Silence," in Karl A.E. Enenkel and Anita Traninger, edd., The Figure of the Nymph in Early Modern Culture (Leiden: Brill, 2018), pp. 149-176 (at 153), offers a version clearly based on Pope's but with a gross misprint in the final word:
Nymph of this place, these sacred springs I keep,
And to the murmur of these waters sleep;
Ah spare my slumbers, gently tread the cave!
And drink in silence, or in silence leave.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Sleeping Nymph



Power of Latin

From my favorite news source, The Onion:
Report: Students Who Take Latin Have Better Chance Of Summoning Demon Later In Life

CHICAGO—Saying the classical language was a practical choice for anyone interested in awakening the dead, a new report released Thursday by the University of Chicago found that students who take Latin have a better chance of summoning a demon later in life. "According to our data, children who studied Latin in grade school were far more likely to contact, summon, and then raise a damned soul from the underworld," said classics department chair Emily Greenwood, adding that students who learned Latin tended to be more adept at chanting ancient incantations, opening up portals, and comprehending Demonic screams. "On the whole, young people who studied root languages like Latin had a much easier time communicating in tongues, and could sometimes even convince spirits to do their bidding. However, those who didn't were more prone to lag far behind their peers and often died at the hands of a bloodthirsty, vengeful succubus." Greenwood added that while knowing Latin provided students certain advantages in summoning demons, it had absolutely zero bearing on their ability to send them back to Hell when they were done.

Thursday, October 11, 2018


Did Socrates Call Slander the Tool of the Losers?

Kyra Haas, "No, Socrates didn't call slander the 'tool of the losers'," Politifact (October 8, 2018):
A viral image on Facebook quotes Socrates as saying, "When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the losers."​

There's no evidence Socrates said that.
Joel Eidsath (per litteras) suggests that the substance of the quotation is contained in Plato's Apology. He adduces the following two passages.

Plato, Apology 21 b-d (tr. Christopher Emlyn-Jones and William Preddy):
Now consider why I say these things. It's because I'm going to tell you where my bad reputation comes from....So by examining him carefully—there's no need for me to tell you his name; he was one of the politicians who, when I investigated him, gave me this impression, fellow Athenians—and by engaging him in conversation it seemed to me that this man seemed to be wise both to a lot of other people and above all to himself, but he wasn't. Then I attempted to demonstrate to him that he thought he was wise, but wasn't. Consequently then I earned his dislike and that of many of those who were standing by....
Id. 22 e-23 a:
So as a result of this scrutiny, men of Athens, I incurred a great deal of enmity of a very harsh and grievous kind, so that from this there have arisen many slanders, and I got this label "wise."
The Greek:
Σκέψασθε δὴ ὧν ἕνεκα ταῦτα λέγω· μέλλω γὰρ ὑμᾶς διδάξειν ὅθεν μοι ἡ διαβολὴ γέγονεν....διασκοπῶν οὖν τοῦτον—ὀνόματι γὰρ οὐδὲν δέομαι λέγειν, ἦν δέ τις τῶν πολιτικῶν πρὸς ὃν ἐγὼ σκοπῶν τοιοῦτόν τι ἔπαθον, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, καὶ διαλεγόμενος αὐτῷ—ἔδοξέ μοι οὗτος ὁ ἀνὴρ δοκεῖν μὲν εἶναι σοφὸς ἄλλοις τε πολλοῖς ἀνθρώποις καὶ μάλιστα ἑαυτῷ, εἶναι δ' οὔ· κἄπειτα ἐπειρώμην αὐτῷ δεικνύναι ὅτι οἴοιτο μὲν εἶναι σοφός, εἴη δ' οὔ. ἐντεῦθεν οὖν τούτῳ τε ἀπηχθόμην καὶ πολλοῖς τῶν παρόντων....

....Ἐκ ταυτησὶ δὴ τῆς ἐξετάσεως, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, πολλαὶ μὲν ἀπέχθειαί μοι γεγόνασι καὶ οἷαι χαλεπώταται καὶ βαρύταται, ὥστε πολλὰς διαβολὰς ἀπ' αὐτῶν γεγονέναι, ὄνομα δὲ τοῦτο λέγεσθαι, σοφὸς εἶναι.
In other words, because Socrates' enemies were unsuccessful in debating him, they made slanderous accusations against him.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018


The Elimination of the Individual

Winston Churchill, speech at the Philomathic Society Dinner, Liverpool (November 21, 1901):
One aspect of modern life which strikes me very much is the elimination of the individual. In trade, vast and formidable combinations of labour stand arrayed against even vaster and more formidable combinations of capital, and, whether they war with each other or cooperate, the individual in the end is always crushed under.


Nothing would be worse than that independent men should be snuffed out and that there should be only two opinions in England — the Government opinion and the Opposition opinion. The perpetually unanimous Cabinet disquiets me. I believe in personality. The House of Commons depends for its popularity, and consequently for its power, on the personality of its members.

We live in an age of great events and little men, and if we are not to become the slaves of our own systems or sink oppressed among the mechanism we ourselves created, it will only be by the bold efforts of originality, by repeated experiment, and by the dispassionate consideration of the results of sustained and unflinching thought.


Bad Europeans

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), As I Was Saying, XIX: About White Fronts:
I do not want the English or anybody else to be international in the sense of cosmopolitan. Christendom has developed in a national form; and men who have no patriotism are not inside Europe but rather outside it. A Frenchman who does not love France, an Englishman who does not love England, is a bad European and not a good European.


Beatus Vir

Euripides, Bacchae 72-87 (tr. David Kovacs):
O blessed the man who,
happy in knowing the gods' rites,
makes his life pure
and joins his soul to the worshipful band,
performing bacchic rites upon the mountains,
with cleansings the gods approve:
he performs the sacred mysteries
of Mother Cybele of the mountains,
and shaking the bacchic wand up and down,
his head crowned with ivy,
he serves Dionysus.
On bacchants, on you bacchants!
Bring the roaring
son of a god, Dionysus,
from Phrygia's mountains to Hellas' streets,
broad for dancing! Bring Bromios!

ὦ μάκαρ, ὅστις εὐδαί-
μων τελετὰς θεῶν εἰ-
δὼς βιοτὰν ἁγιστεύει
καὶ θιασεύεται ψυ-        75
χὰν ἐν ὄρεσσι βακχεύ-
ων ὁσίοις καθαρμοῖσιν,
τά τε ματρὸς μεγάλας ὄρ-
για Κυβέλας θεμιτεύων
ἀνὰ θύρσον τε τινάσσων        80
κισσῷ τε στεφανωθεὶς
Διόνυσον θεραπεύει.
ἴτε βάκχαι, ἴτε βάκχαι,
Βρόμιον παῖδα θεὸν θεοῦ
Διόνυσον κατάγουσαι        85
Φρυγίων ἐξ ὀρέων Ἑλλάδος εἰς εὐ-
ρυχόρους ἀγυιάς, τὸν Βρόμιον.
I have two nit-picking comments on the translation. First, in lines 78-79, I don't see "Mother Cybele of the mountains" but rather "great Mother Cybele," i.e. Magna Mater. Second, at line 84, θεὸν is left untranslated — the Greek signifies not just "son of a god," but "god, son of a god."

Tuesday, October 09, 2018


A Law of Nature

Tacitus, Histories 4.74.2 (tr. Clifford H. Moore):
There will be vices so long as there are men...

vitia erunt, donec homines...


Tres Faciunt Collegium

John Scheid, The Gods, the State, and the Individual: Reflections on Civic Religion in Rome, tr. Clifford Ando (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), pp. 67-68, with notes on p. 157:
Who says that all the people or even a large part of them ought to attend the thousand and one rites of public religion? Tres faciunt collegium: three people make a college. This Roman principle establishes that it sufficed that three persons be present in order for the collectivity concerned to have been represented, in the same way that the Jewish minyan constitutes a community empowered to act collectively. Literally meaning "number," the minyan is the quorum of ten adult males required to hold a public service.22 The Roman pontifex maximus, for his part, could not decide alone; two other pontiffs had to express the same opinion in order for his view to be valid. As Cicero explains in his speech On the Responses of the Haruspices, "what three pontiffs have decided has always seemed to the Roman people, always to the Senate, always to the immortal gods themselves sufficiently sacred, sufficiently august, sufficiently attentive to religious scruple."23 The protocols of cult celebrated at Rome and in the Roman suburbs reveal that the twelve Arval Brethren were generally not all present, though they were charged with public sacrifice. We know as well that a number of ordinary citizens were present for the rites. But if it was necessary that a minimal number of celebrants be present in order for the cultic act to be valid, the addition of a fourth or a twelfth priest mattered not at all. This point deserves emphasis. In public cult, there was no need to judge the quality of a religious act by the number of celebrants present, and no further benefit derived in proportion to the number of citizens attending a cultic act, as if there were some necessary relation between the conviction and fervor of individuals and the size of the audience. In a religion that granted primacy to the obligation and the exactitude of ritual performance, piety consisted above all in observing ritual requirements, not in going beyond them. A Roman would have been tempted to describe as superstitious any superfluity of fervor.

22. Jean-Christophe Attias and Esther Benbassa, Dictionnaire de civilisation juive (Paris: Larousse, 1997).

23. Cicero, De haruspicum responsis 12.

Monday, October 08, 2018


Similar Intellectual Interests

Sidonius, Letters 4.1.1 (to his cousin Probus; tr. W.B. Anderson):
A second bond between our hearts has come from the affinity of our intellectual interests, for we have the same taste in literary matters, praising or blaming the same things, and we are always at one in our approval or disapproval of any particular form of diction.

secundus nobis animorum nexus accessit de studiorum parilitate, quia idem sentimus culpamus laudamus in litteris et aeque nobis quaelibet dictio placet improbaturque.


A Ball Game

Gregory of Nyssa, Letters 16.1a (tr. Anna M. Silvas, with her note):
Those who play ball go about it in some such way such as this.225 Standing apart in three places, two of them take accurate aim and toss the ball one to the other, each catching it in turn from the other, while they bluff the player in the middle who is jumping up at it. By turning the face in a certain direction, and with a certain movement of the hand to the right or the left they make a show of throwing. But whatever direction they see him scurrying, they throw it to the other side instead, thwarting his expectation with a trick.

225 'i.e. the game of φαινίδα, called also ἐφετίνδα by Hesychius', ibid. 535, n. 5.

Οἷόν τι ποιοῦσιν οἱ τῇ σφαίρᾳ παίζοντες, ὅταν τριχῆ διαστάντες ἀντιπέμπωσιν ἀλλήλοις ἐν εὐστοχίᾳ τὴν βολὴν ἄλλος παρ' ἄλλου διαδεχόμενοι, διαπαίζουσι δὲ τὸν ἐν τῷ μέσῳ πρὸς αὐτὴν ἀναπηδῶντα, τῇ ἐσχηματισμένῃ τοῦ προσώπου ὁρμῇ καὶ τῇ ποιᾷ τῆς χειρὸς ἐνδείξει κατὰ τὸ δεξιὸν ἢ εὐώνυμον τὴν βολὴν προδείξαντες, ἐφ' ὅπερ <δ'> ἂν ἴδωσιν αὐτὸν ὁρμῶντα, κατὰ τὸ ἐναντίον ἀποπεμπόμενοι καὶ τὴν ἐλπίδα δι' ἀπάτης ἐψεύσαντο...

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