Sunday, March 31, 2019


The Rot Had Set In

Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990), Caesar's Vast Ghost: Aspects of Provence (1990; rpt. London: Faber & Faber, 1995), pp. 135-136:
The rot had set in, the slow spiral of disharmony and disintegration had started to sap the foundations of the Roman ethos, the civic ethos which linked together, in firm religious union, civic sense, civic order, and the public happiness and social well-being which flowed from and shaped a comforting sense of wholeness. The idea of an individual and private religious field of understanding and operation was literally shocking to the Roman — perturbing even, for it bred sects which categorically refused to have anything to do with the formal worship of the people. 'You refuse to go to our shows and processions,' writes the outraged Minucius Felix in his Octavius, 'You are never present at our public banquets, you shrink in disgust from our sacred games . . .' When Tacitus writes that the Christians were 'the enemies of mankind,' he was thinking of their explicit denial of everything which for the Roman spelt truth in practically a scientific sense. It was what made the world go round! For them there was no fact of human behaviour which was not distinguished by a profound piety. To share the behaviour of Jews and Christians — it was unthinkably dangerous: it might stop the grass growing or the sun rising on the morrow. Quite apart from the fact that their behaviour was unctuous and self-righteous beyond belief, they believed themselves the chosen race, chosen by the monotheistic projection they worshipped, having duly warned all and sundry that this phantom was 'a jealous god and would tolerate no other to compete with him.' What a contrast to the tolerant, easy-going pluralism of Roman pantheism with its generous outlines, its gods and goddesses who were ever-present, in every communal activity, and as familiar to the devout public as film stars are today. They attested to the prime link with Mother Nature, not a withdrawal from it into a snobbish seclusion of sectarianism, each believer with his or her private and exclusive version of God.
Minucius Felix's Octavius is of course a pro-Christian tract — the quotation comes from the mouth of the "outraged" pagan interlocutor Caecilius and doesn't represent the views of the author.

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Acceptable to God

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), Of Human Bondage, chapter XI:
Philip got up and knelt down to say his prayers. It was a cold morning, and he shivered a little; but he had been taught by his uncle that his prayers were more acceptable to God if he said them in his nightshirt than if he waited till he was dressed. This did not surprise him, for he was beginning to realise that he was the creature of a God who appreciated the discomfort of his worshippers.
Id., chapter XIV (on reading the Bible):
He read industriously, as he read always, without criticism, stories of cruelty, deceit, ingratitude, dishonesty, and low cunning. Actions which would have excited his horror in the life about him, in the reading passed through his mind without comment, because they were committed under direct inspiration of God.

Saturday, March 30, 2019


A Qualm of Boredom

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), Of Human Bondage, chapter XV:
The dead languages were taught with such thoroughness that an old boy seldom thought of Homer or Virgil in after life without a qualm of boredom; and though in the common room at dinner one or two bolder spirits suggested that mathematics were of increasing importance, the general feeling was that they were a less noble study than the classics. Neither German nor chemistry was taught, and French only by the form-masters; they could keep order better than a foreigner, and, since they knew the grammar as well as any Frenchman, it seemed unimportant that none of them could have got a cup of coffee in the restaurant at Boulogne unless the waiter had known a little English.

Friday, March 29, 2019


Humans Are Unique

Bernd Heinrich, Summer World: A Season of Bounty (New York: Ecco, 2009), pp. 185-186:
Lice are ectoparasites (parasites living on our skin rather than under it), and ectoparasites are remarkably species-specific; each kind of bird or mammal has its very own louse and flea species living on it because each is an island with regard to the others. However, even though any one nonhuman mammal species has the dubious honor of hosting only one of each louse or flea species, humans are unique: we have three species of lice. They are head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis); body lice (Pediculus humanus corporis), which live primarily in clothing; and pubic lice (Pthirus pubis).


Black Holes

Alexander Murray, Suicide in the Middle Ages, Vol. I: The Violent against Themselves (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 47:
Astronomers, aware that their means of cognition, light, is subject to the laws they are trying to deduce from what it tells them, have deduced that the cosmos itself contains such zones of impenetrable darkness. They call them black holes, and explain how, in them, gravitational force is too great, for light cannot escape, so that we can never see into them, only calculate their existence from the behaviour of light near their edge. History has its black holes. I do not mean the massive, natural ephemerality of most human thoughts and actions, in which those remembered or recorded form rare exceptions, stars in a black sky. I mean categories of thought and action innately antithetical to record, which hide from it as from an enemy. Among many examples of which historians have become aware is sacramental confession to a priest. If the penitent's words were recorded or remembered his sins would be put behind him less effectively. It is easy to think of other examples.

In the European Middle Ages, suicide is one. In searching for it, that is to say, we have to expect a historical black hole, and look for events in the act of vanishing into it.


Most Painful

Tyrtaeus, fragment 10, lines 1-14 (tr. M.L. West):
For it is fine to die in the front line,
   a brave man fighting for his fatherland,
and the most painful fate's to leave one's town
   and fertile farmlands for a beggar's life,
roaming with mother dear and aged father,        5
   with little children and with wedded wife.
He'll not be welcome anywhere he goes,
   bowing to need and horrid poverty,
his line disgraced, his handsome face belied;
   every humiliation dogs his steps.        10
This is the truth: the vagrant is ignored
   and slighted, and his children after him.
So let us fight with spirit for our land,
   die for our sons, and spare our lives no more.

τεθνάμεναι γὰρ καλὸν ἐνὶ προμάχοισι πεσόντα
   ἄνδρ᾽ ἀγαθὸν περὶ ᾗ πατρίδι μαρνάμενον,
τὴν δ᾽ αὐτοῦ προλιπόντα πόλιν καὶ πίονας ἀγροὺς
   πτωχεύειν πάντων ἔστ᾽ ἀνιηρότατον,
πλαζόμενον σὺν μητρὶ φίλῃ καὶ πατρὶ γέροντι        5
   παισί τε σὺν μικροῖς κουριδίῃ τ' ἀλόχῳ.
ἐχθρὸς μὲν γὰρ τοῖσι μετέσσεται, οὕς κεν ἵκηται
   χρησμοσύνῃ τ᾽ εἴκων καὶ στυγερῇ πενίῃ,
αἰσχύνει τε γένος, κατὰ δ᾽ ἀγλαὸν εἶδος ἐλέγχει,
   πᾶσα δ᾽ ἀτιμίη καὶ κακότης ἕπεται.        10
εἰ δ' οὕτως ἀνδρός τοι ἀλωμένου οὐδεμί' ὤρη
   γίνεται οὔτ' αἰδὼς, οὐδ' ὀπίσω γένεος,
θυμῷ γῆς πέρι τῆσδε μαχώμεθα καὶ περὶ παίδων
   θνήσκωμεν ψυχέων μηκέτι φειδόμενοι.
See W.J. Verdenius, "Tyrtaeus 6-7 D: A Commentary," Mnemosyne 22.4 (1969) 337-355 (at 337-345).

Thursday, March 28, 2019


I Don't Think They Knew Much Science

Mark Helprin, interviewed by James Linville, Paris Review, issue 126 (Spring, 1993):
Twenty years ago, I was for a time a graduate student at Princeton. In a seminar I was forced to attend that I think was entitled Variations of the Romantic Self (now you see why they had to force me), we read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and after we reached the line that reads, "The water, like a witch's oils, / Burnt green, and blue and white," the professor said, Here we have to pay particular attention to the symbolism, for the obvious reason that the sea cannot look like that.

Yes it can, I said. Of course it can. How do you mean? some epicene students asked, though not in those words. They must have asked this question in snaky, coily, slimy words, of which any ten in a row would put me to sleep like a tank truck full of chloroform. The sea sometimes looks like that, I said, and sometimes writers forswear symbolism and ingenuity for the sake of description and conveyance, which is a perfectly fine thing to do, for the world is a miraculous and beautiful place. But the sea, they maintained, does not glow. Oh yes it does, I insisted, and proceeded to describe the bioluminescence of the Sargasso Sea. I don't think they knew much science and they seemed to be unacquainted with bioluminescence. How did I know about this? I've seen it, I reported. Where? In the Sargasso Sea; I was a sailor in the British Merchant Navy. Come to think of it, just like the ancient mariner! It was the season of hurricanes and we had diverted the ship into the doldrums to escape a storm . . .
Hat tip: Daniel Orazio.


Making the Dead Speak

Alexander Murray, Suicide in the Middle Ages, Vol. I: The Violent against Themselves (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 4:
There was once a discipline, taught in books and assigned to professionals, whose aim was to conjure dead people to life and make them speak. It was called necromancy. Its function has long passed to historians, whose method is now the only one recognized.
Related post: Blood for the Ghosts.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019



Victor Davis Hanson, The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization (New York: The Free Press, 1995), p. 78, with note on p. 462:
Last, the diverse production of cereals, fruits, olives, vines, and livestock virtually ensures the grower self-sufficiency—autarkeia, the Greeks' cherished economic and social sense of independence—both for the immediate needs of the family and the wider requirements of the farm itself. Bread and gruel from barley and wheat; fresh, dried, and juiced products from deciduous fruit trees; cooking oil, soap, and cured fruit from olives; raisins, grapes, and wine from the vine; vegetables and greens out of the garden; meat, cheese, milk, hides, and wool from livestock—having all these allows Laertes to exist quite apart from the palace below. Similarly, most lubricants and lighting oil (olives), fertilizer (manure, legumes), cooking fuel, and even some farming implements (local woods), are also obtainable without need for outside barter, much less purchase. Everything from grape stakes to stove wood to building materials could be fabricated from trees, reeds, mud bricks, and clays available in the countryside.49

49. For autarkeia, see Sallares 297-300; Campell and Sherrard 323-24; Osborne 1987: 17-18. For more specific examples of self-sufficiency in Greece, see Foxhall and Forbes 66; Boardman 1977: 192; Amouretti 1986: 177-196; McDonald and Rapp 54-57. "A farm," the comic playwright Philemon makes his rustic say, "supplies every human want, wheat, oil, wine, figs, and honey" (fr. 105 Kock). Such bounty, Timocles says, is not a farm, "but a crown" (Timocles fr. 36 Kock).
Philemon, fragment 105 (my translation):
A most fitting possession for men is a farm;
For what nature asks, a farm provides with care:
Wheat, oil, wine, figs, honey.
Silver plate and purple dye are
Well suited for the stage, but not for life.

διακαιότατον κτῆμ' ἐστὶν άνθρώποις άγρός·
ὧν ἡ φύσις δεῖται γὰρ ἐπιμελῶς φέρει,
πυρούς, ἔλαιον, οἶνον, ἰσχάδας, μέλι.
τὰ δ' ἀργυρώματ' ἐστὶν ἥ τε πορφύρα
εἰς τοὺς τραγῳδοὺς εὔθετ', οὐκ εἰς τὸν βίον.
Timocles, fragment 36 (tr. J.M. Edmonds):
FARMER Honey and oil and figs both dried and green.
B A cornucopia, not a farm, you mean.

ΓΕΩΡΓΟΣ σῦκ', ἔλαιον, ἰσχάδας, μέλι.
B σὺ μὲν εἰρεσιώνην, οὐ γεωργίαν λέγεις.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. εἰρεσιώνη:
branch of olive or laurel wound round with wool and hung with fruits, dedicated to Apollo and borne about by singing boys at the Πυανόψια and Θαργήλια, while offerings were made to Helios and the Hours, and afterwards hung up at the house-door.


A Specialized Eccentricity

Donald R. Howard (1927-1987), Chaucer: His Life, His Works, His World (New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1989), p. 32:
The classical humanism that was just coming into vogue at the end of the fourteenth century became the center of the university curriculum in the sixteenth century and remained so until the beginning of our own century; it became obsolescent for us over fifty years ago—about as many years as the Old Humanism had been obsolescent in Chaucer's time. But it is not yet obsolete. All those editions with scientific-looking textual notes, all those philological disquisitions (and dissertations) line the shelves of libraries; there are still Classics Departments in our colleges, and classical scholars, and a smattering of students who can read Latin and Greek. It is only that where once Classics was the essence of a university education, it is now a specialized eccentricity, like playing the krummhorn.


The Ancient View of the World

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Notebook 28 [40] (spring-summer 1878; tr. Ladislaus Löb):
To regain the ancient view of the world! The Moira really above everything, the gods the representatives of real powers! To become one of the ancients!

Die antike Weltbetrachtung wieder gewinnen! Wirklich die Moira über allem, die Götter Repräsentanten wirklicher Mächte! Antik werden!
Capitalized, Moira = Μοῖρα, goddess of fate, but with the definite article I somehow would have expected the plural Moirai (Μοῖραι).

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


The Drought of March

Donald R. Howard (1927-1987), Chaucer: His Life, His Works, His World (New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1989), p. xv:
And facts, like everything else, go out of fashion. In the 1960s it was reckoned a fact that "the drought of March," referred to in the opening lines of The Canterbury Tales, was a purely rhetorical convention drawn from the literature of Mediterranean countries where March is a dry month; England, hardly ever dry, certainly suffers no droughts in March. It was one of the best facts going, and it produced a corollary fact, that Chaucer's poetry, like all medieval poetry, is bookish and conventional—we must not expect actualities in it. These facts were printed in textbooks and taught in universities; I taught them myself, alas. Then it occurred to one scholar that March in England may be dry in some places; to another that weather may have changed since Chaucer's day; and to another that the word "drought" in Middle English meant not total lack of rain but only dryness. Actually, Chaucer lived in the "Little Ice Age," which came over Europe early in his century and lasted until the end of the seventeenth century. It brought a shorter growing season. March was dry, in some places still is. Farmers counted on this relatively dry period for planting; it was, a folklorist discovered, as proverbial in England among farmers as in Mediterranean countries among poets, and so were April showers. Realism, banished from the opening lines of The Canterbury Tales for a decade or so, was permitted reentry. The drought of March became a fact again.


A Family Man

Homer, Iliad 6.365-368 (Hector speaking; tr. Peter Green):
For I'm going first to my own house, in order to visit
my household, my dear wife, my infant son—who knows
if I'll ever come safely home to them again,
or whether the gods will destroy me at the hands of the Achaians?

καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼν οἶκον δὲ ἐλεύσομαι ὄφρα ἴδωμαι
οἰκῆας ἄλοχόν τε φίλην καὶ νήπιον υἱόν.
οὐ γὰρ οἶδ᾽ εἰ ἔτι σφιν ὑπότροπος ἵξομαι αὖτις,
ἦ ἤδη μ᾽ ὑπὸ χερσὶ θεοὶ δαμόωσιν Ἀχαιῶν.


Signs and Tokens

William Shakespeare, Richard III 2.4.35-41:
When clouds are seen, wise men put on their cloaks;
When great leaves fall, then winter is at hand;
When the sun sets, who doth not look for night?
Untimely storms make men expect a dearth.
All may be well; but, if God sort it so,
'Tis more than we deserve, or I expect.

Monday, March 25, 2019


Yet More Feline Dedicatees of Books

Christine M. Korsgaard, Fellow Creatures: Our Obligations to the Other Animals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), p. v:
Id., p. xiii:
I will restrain my desire to personally thank all of the pets I've ever had, and all of the sparrows and squirrels who have dined at my feeder over the years, for sharing my life and for making me think. Instead I will settle for dedicating this book to just a few of them, the cats who have been the home companions of my adult life.
Related posts:

Sunday, March 24, 2019


Hick Bread

Paul Gruchow (1947-2004), Grass Roots: The Universe of Home (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1995), pp. 45-46:
The only acute pain that I can recall suffering because of my family's poverty was the intense humiliation I felt when I discovered, as an adolescent, that most people lived another way and that there was something shameful, so far as others were concerned, about the way we lived. I was embarrassed to invite my friends to our house, which I had thought cozy and warm until I was made to see it as dirty and bare.

Bread was the issue over which we children voiced our new-found shame. Ours was home baked, using wheat raised and ground on the farm, leavened with home-cultured yeast, and sweetened with honey made by the bees we kept at the bottom of our garden. It was fabulous bread; almost every year it won my mother a purple ribbon at the Chippewa County fair. The slicing of the first loaf in a new batch, still steaming, its sweet, nutty aroma filling the kitchen, was one of the sacred rituals of our household.

But my sisters and I, driven by the collapse of rural society out of our local school and into the consolidated town school, had tasted the allure of a new world. We had acquired the preference of the age for anything manufactured over anything homemade. We suddenly coveted boughten bread, contrived from flour so denuded of its essence that its only nutrients came from artificial additives. We were no longer content to eat hick bread. "Wonder Bread builds strong bodies seven ways," we said, proud of our familiarity with modern advertising slogans. We yammered and complained, I am ashamed to confess, until Mother finally gave up baking bread, and we began to eat, like modern folk, a factory substitute.



Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Notebook 23 [16] (end of 1876-summer 1877; tr. Ladislaus Löb):
The moment when airship travel is invented and introduced is favourable to socialism because it changes all concepts of landed property. Man is everywhere and nowhere; he is uprooted. We must safeguard ourselves by means of societies, with strict mutual commitments and the exclusion of all those who are not committed. Otherwise all will take to the air and settle somewhere else if they cannot pay or do not wish to keep a commitment.

Der Moment, in welchem die Luftschifffahrt erfunden und eingeführt wird, ist günstig für den Socialismus, denn der verändert alle Begriffe von Boden-Eigenthum. Der Mensch ist überall und nirgends, er wird entwurzelt. Man muß durch Gesellschaften sich sicherstellen, in strenger gegenseitiger Verpflichtung und Ausschließung aller Nichtverpflichteten. Sonst geht alles in die Lüfte und läßt sich anderswo nieder, wenn er nicht zahlen kann, nicht Verpflichtung halten mag.

Saturday, March 23, 2019


Prayer to Repel Invaders

Homer, Iliad 8.526-527 (Hector speaking; tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
I pray in high hope to Zeus and the other gods to drive out from here these dogs borne by the fates...

εὔχομαι ἐλπόμενος Διί τ᾽ ἄλλοισίν τε θεοῖσιν
ἐξελάαν ἐνθένδε κύνας κηρεσσιφορήτους...

εὔχομαι ἐλπόμενος: ἔλπομαι εὐχόμενος Zenodotus
See Leonard Charles Muellner, The Meaning of Homeric ΕΥΧΟΜΑΙ through its Formulas (Innsbruck: Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft, 1976), pp. 57-62.


Measuring the Merits of a Scholar

Bernard Lewis (1916-2018), Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian (New York: Viking: 2012), p. 273:
Unfortunately, the merits of a scholar are measured by publications, and the merits of these publications are measured by their bulk. This is perhaps inevitable when decisions are made by committees of experts who do not read, or if they read, do not understand, the works of those who come before them for judgment. This development has coincided—I think coincided is the right word—with the neocolonial expansion of the social sciences into whole areas, indeed continents, which were once peacefully cultivated by philologists and historians, and with the increasing use of techniques of research and exposition which are at once extravagant and arcane. This has often meant that works are unread because they are unreadable, uncomprehended because they are incomprehensible. Both qualities are believed to conceal vast learning and great profundity.

Friday, March 22, 2019


Eating and Drinking

Joannes van Deventer, Graduale (Cuijk, Crosier Monastery of St. Agatha, MS M I 001, finished in 1529), fol. 153 verso:


From F.A.W.P. Bull, The Miniature Art of Joannes van Deventer, Crosier of the Monastery of St. Agatha, tr. James Remmerswaal (2011), pp. 12-13.



Homer, Iliad 10.70-71 (tr. Peter Green):
Let's join the hard work ourselves, for this, it would seem,
is the burden of evil that Zeus laid on us at our birth.

ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτοί περ πονεώμεθα· ὧδέ που ἄμμι
Ζεὺς ἐπὶ γιγνομένοισιν ἵει κακότητα βαρεῖαν.



Abraham Lincoln, Speech in the Illinois Legislature Concerning the State Bank (January 11, 1837):
Mr. Chairman, this movement is exclusively the work of politicians; a set of men who have interests aside from the interests of the people, and who, to say the most of them, are, taken as a mass, at least one long step removed from honest men. I say this with the greater freedom because, being a politician myself, none can regard it as personal.

Thursday, March 21, 2019


Chapel of Bones

Thanks very much to a friend for these photographs of the Chapel of Bones (Capela dos Ossos) in the Church of St. Francis (Igreja de São Francisco), Évora, Portugal.


Dative Singular of a Third Declension Noun

Valerius Maximus, Memorable Doings and Sayings, Vol. I: Books 1-5. Edited and Translated by D. R. Shackleton Bailey (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000 = Loeb Classical Library, 492), pp. 438-439 (5.1.praef.):
Liberalitatii quas aptiores comites quam humanitatem et clementiam dederim, quoniam idem genus laudis expetunt?

What more suitable companions should I give to liberality than humanity and mercy, since they seek the same kind of praise?
Liberalitatii is a mistake — it should be Liberalitati. The error persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library.



The Best Job

Julian Jackson, De Gaulle (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018), pp. 11-12, with notes (expanded by me) on pp. 820-821:
In two careful sentences of his War Memoirs, de Gaulle wrote of his father: 'My father, a man of thought, culture, tradition, was imbued with a sense of the dignity of France. He made me discover its History.'30 Later in life, when asked to name the person who had most influenced him, he would always unhesitatingly mention his father. Henri de Gaulle was remembered by his many pupils as charmingly vieille France, a gentle survivor from another age: distinguished and formal, undemonstrative and erudite. In this family, Gaulle later recalled, 'intellectual work was all that counted.'31 Henri passed on to his son a reverence for writers and the life of the mind. In London during the war de Gaulle ruminated one day on another possible existence:
The most wonderful job in the world would be as a librarian ... in a small provincial town, perhaps a municipal library in Brittany ... What calm! What a wonderful life! ... Suddenly, turning sixty, one begins to write an 80-page monograph entitled: 'Did Madame de Sévigné ever visit Pontivy?' ... One becomes increasingly frenetic, writing stinging letters to the deacon who quibbles about a date.32
30. DGM [i.e. Charles de Gaulle, Mémoires (Gallimard, 2000)] 5.

31. Guy, En écoutant [i.e. Claude Guy, En écoutant de Gaulle. Journal 1946-1949 (Grasset, 1996)], 168.

32. François Coulet, Vertu des temps difficiles (Plon, 1967), 165-6.
The quotation in French:
Le plus beau métier, voyez-vous, c'est d'être bibliothécaire ... Je ne veux pas parler d'une grande bibliothèque, mais d'un poste de petit bibliothécaire, dans une petite ville de province, en Bretagne, une bibliothèque municipale ... Quel calme! Quelle belle vie! ... Et puis, brusquement, quand arrive la soixantaine, on se met à écrire une monographie de quatre-vingt pages: Mme de Sévigné est-elle passée par Pontivy? Alors, on devient frénétique, on envoie des lettres cinglantes au chanoine qui chicane sur une date, on persécute tout le monde, on n'arrête pas ... Oui, croyez-moi, bibliothécaire, c'est le plus beau des métiers.
Hat tip: Joel Eidsath.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


The Typical Greek Farmer

Victor Davis Hanson, The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization (New York: The Free Press, 1995), pp. 5-6:
Twenty-four centuries ago, Theophrastus, the urban philosopher, portrayed this "other" Greek as an oaf and a clod who "will sit down with his cloak hitched above his knees, exposing his private parts. He is neither surprised nor frightened by anything he sees on the street, but let him catch sight of an ox or a donkey or a billy-goat, and he will stand and gaze at it" (Char. 4.8). The typical Greek farmer was a man who cared little for dress, shunned the palestra and gymnasium, was rarely portrayed on Greek pots, and never appeared in a Platonic dialogue. He owned no mounts, better to be seen soiled among pigs and goats, his mongrel hound snapping at his side. But the other Greek also has no boss, stands firm in battle "squarely upon his legs" with "no swagger in his lovelocks," a man who "does not cleanshave beneath his chin" (Archil. 114), who judges the sophist in the assembly by the same yardstick he prunes vines and picks olives, and so cannot be fooled, a man who knows that his land "never plays tricks, but reveals clearly and truthfully what it can and cannot do," that it "conceals nothing from our knowledge and understanding and so becomes the best tester of good and bad men" (Oec. 20.13-14). Aristophanes described this other Greek "covered with dust, fond of garlic pickle, with a facial expression like sour vinegar" (Ar. Eccl. 289-92). He has no belly for the prancing aristocrat and even less for the mob on the dole. He idealizes his ten acres—not much more, rarely less—and he wants others like him to have about the same. He walks rarely into town, and then mostly just to vote and go home, disgusted at the noise, the squalor, and the endless race for pelf and power. And because he suffers no master, he speaks his due, fights his own battles, and leaves an imprint of self-reliance and nonconformity, a legacy of independence that is the backbone of Western society.
Theophrastus, Characters 4.7-8 (tr. Jeffrey Rusten):
He sits down with his cloak hitched up above his knee, thereby revealing his nakedness. He doesn't enjoy or gawk at anything else on the street—yet stands in rapt attention at the sight of a cow, an ass, or a goat.

καὶ ἀναβεβλημένος ἄνω τοῦ γόνατος καθιζάνειν ὥστε τὰ γυμνὰ αὐτοῦ φαίνεσθαι. καὶ ἐπ᾿ ἄλλῳ μὲν μηδενὶ μήτε εὐφραίνεσθαι μήτε ἐκπλήττεσθαι ἐν ταῖς ὁδοῖς, ὅταν δὲ ἴδῃ βοῦν ἢ ὄνον ἢ τράγον, ἑστηκὼς θεωρεῖν.
Archilochus, fragment 114 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
I have no liking for a general who is tall, walks with a swaggering gait, takes pride in his curls, and is partly shaven. Let mine be one who is short, has a bent look about the shins, stands firmly on his feet, and is full of courage.

οὐ φιλέω μέγαν στρατηγὸν οὐδὲ διαπεπλιγμένον
οὐδὲ βοστρύχοισι γαῦρον οὐδ᾿ ὑπεξυρημένον,
ἀλλά μοι σμικρός τις εἴη καὶ περὶ κνήμας ἰδεῖν
ῥοικός, ἀσφαλέως βεβηκὼς ποσσί, καρδίης πλέως.
Xenophon, Oeconomicus 20.13-14 (tr. E.C. Marchant):
For the land makes no deceptive displays but reveals frankly and truthfully what she can and cannot do. Because she conceals nothing from our knowledge and understanding, the land is the surest tester of bad and lazy men.

οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν ὅ τι ἐπὶ ἀπάτῃ δείκνυσιν, ἀλλ᾿ ἁπλῶς ἅ τε δύναται καὶ ἃ μὴ σαφηνίζει τε καὶ ἀληθεύει. δοκεῖ δέ μοι ἡ γῆ καὶ τοὺς κακούς τε καὶ ἀργοὺς τῷ εὔγνωστα καὶ εὐμαθῆ πάντα παρέχειν ἄριστα ἐξετάζειν.
Aristophanes, Assemblywomen 289-292 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
It's off to the Assembly, gentlemen! The magistrate
has sounded his warning:
anyone who isn't there bright and early,
covered with dust,
happy with garlic soup for breakfast,
with a salsa look in his eye,
will not get his three-obol pay.

χωρῶμεν εἰς ἐκκλησίαν ὦνδρες· ἠπείλησε γὰρ
ὁ θεσμοθέτης, ὃς ἂν
μὴ πρῲ πάνυ τοῦ κνέφους
ἥκῃ κεκονιμένος,
στέργων σκοροδάλμῃ,
βλέπων ὑπότριμμα, μὴ
δώσειν τὸ τριώβολον.



M.F.K. Fisher (1908-1992), "G Is for Gluttony," An Alphabet for Gourmets:
It is a curious fact that no man likes to call himself a glutton, and yet each of us has in him a trace of gluttony, potential or actual. I cannot believe that there exists a single coherent human being who will not confess, at least to himself, that once or twice he has stuffed himself to the bursting point, on anything from quail financière to flapjacks, for no other reason than the beastlike satisfaction of his belly. In fact I pity anyone who has not permitted himself this sensual experience, if only to determine what his own private limitations are, and where, for himself alone, gourmandism ends and gluttony begins.

It is different for each of us, and the size of a man's paunch has little to do with the kind of appetite which fills it. Diamond Jim Brady, for instance, is more often than not called "the greatest glutton in American history," and so on, simply because he had a really enormous capacity for food. To my mind he was not gluttonous but rather monstrous, in that his stomach was about six times normal size. That he ate at least six times as much as a normal man did not make him a glutton. He was, instead, Gargantuan, in the classical sense. His taste was keen and sure to the time of his death, and that he ate nine portions of sole Marguéry the night George Rector brought the recipe back to New York from Paris especially for him does not mean that he gorged himself upon it but simply that he had room for it.

I myself would like to be able to eat that much of something I really delight in, and I can recognize overtones of envy in the way lesser mortals so easily damned Brady as a glutton, even in the days of excess when he flourished. Probably this country will never again see so many fat, rich men as were prevalent at the end of the last century, copper kings and railroad millionaires and suchlike literally stuffing themselves to death in imitation of Diamond Jim, whose abnormally large stomach coincided so miraculously with the period. He ate a hundred men like "Betcha-Million" Gates into their oversized coffins simply because he was a historical accident, and it is interesting to speculate on what his influence would be today, when most of the robber barons have gastric ulcers and lunch off crackers and milk at their desks. Certainly it is now unfashionable to overeat in public, and the few real trenchermen left are careful to practice their gastronomical excesses in the name of various honorable and respected food-and-wine societies.


I am a poor figure of a glutton today in comparison with that frank adolescent cramming. In fact I can think of nothing quite like it in my present make-up. It is true that I overeat at times, through carelessness or a deliberate prolonging of my pleasure in a certain taste, but I do not do it with the voracity of youth. I am probably incapable, really, of such lust. I rather regret it: one more admission of my dwindling powers!


Local Museums

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Sketches of Etruscan Places, II ("Tarquinia"):
The museum is exceedingly interesting and delightful, to anyone who is even a bit aware of the Etruscans. It contains a great number of things found at Tarquinia, and only things found at Tarquinia: at least, so the guide said.

Which is exactly as should he. It is a great mistake to rape everything away from its setting, and huddle it together in the "great centres." It is all very well to say, the public can then see the things. The public is a hundred-headed ass, and can see nothing. A few intelligent individuals do wander through the splendid etruscan museum in Florence, struggling with the abstraction of many fascinating things from all parts of Etruria confusing the sensitive soul. But the public, if it straggles in, straggles out again in utter boredom. When shall we learn that it is no use approaching the still-vital creations of dead men as if they were so many machine-parts which, fitted together, would make a "civilisation"! Oh, the weary, asinine stupidity of man's desire to "see the thing as a whole." There is no whole—the wholeness no more exists than the equator exists. It is the dreariest of abstractions.


It only we would realise it, and not tear things from their settings. Museums anyhow are wrong. But if one must have museums, let them be small, and above all, let them be local. Splendid as the etruscan museum is in Florence, how much happier one is in the museum at Tarquinia, where all the things are Tarquinian, and at least have some association with one another, and form some sort of organic whole.
Id., VI ("Volterra"):
Museums, museums, museums, object-lessons rigged out to illustrate the unsound theories of archaeologists, crazy attempts to coordinate and get into a fixed order that which has no fixed order and will not be coordinated! It is sickening! Why must all experience be systematized? Why must even the vanished Etruscans be reduced to a system? They never will be. You break all the eggs, and produce an omelette which is neither Etruscan nor Roman not Italic nor Hittite, nor anything else, but just a systematized mess. Why can't incompatible things be left incompatible? If you make an omelette out of a hen's egg, a plover's, and an ostrich's, you won't have a grand amalgam or unification of hen and plover and ostrich into something we may call "oviparity." You'll have that formless object, an omelette.

So it is here. If you try to make a grand amalgam of Cerveteri and Tarquinia, Vulci, Vetulonia, Volterra, Chiusi, Veii, then you won't get the essential Etruscan as a result, but a cooked-up mess which has no life-meaning at all. A museum is not a first-hand contact: it is an illustrated lecture. And what one wants is the actual vital touch. I don't want to be "instructed"; nor do many other people.

They could take the more homeless objects for the museums, and still leave those that have a place in their own place: the Inghirami Tomb here at Volterra.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


In the Beginning

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Sketches of Etruscan Places, II ("Tarquinia"):
And before Buddha or Jesus spoke the nightingale sang, and long after the words of Jesus and Buddha are gone into oblivion the nightingale still will sing. Because it is neither preaching nor teaching nor commanding nor urging. It is just singing. And in the beginning was not a Word, but a chirrup.


Marriage Proposal

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Nicholas Nickleby, chapter LXIII (Tim Linkinwater to Miss La Creevy):
'Come,' said Tim. 'Let's be a comfortable couple. We shall live in the old house here, where I have been for four-and-forty year; we shall go to the old church, where I've been, every Sunday morning, all through that time; we shall have all my old friends about us — Dick, the archway, the pump, the flower-pots, and Mr. Frank's children, and Mr. Nickleby's children that we shall seem like grandfather and grandmother to. Let's be a comfortable couple, and take care of each other! And if we should get deaf, or lame, or blind, or bed-ridden, how glad we shall be that we have somebody we are fond of, always to talk to and sit with! Let's be a comfortable couple. Now, do, my dear!'


Attention, Young People

Pseudo-Phocylides, Sentences 220-221 (tr. P.W. van der Horst):
Revere those with gray hair on the temples and yield your seat
and all privileges to aged persons.

αἰδεῖσθαι πολιοκροτάφους, εἴκειν δὲ γέρουσιν
ἕδρης καὶ γεράων πάντων.
Related post: Proper Deference to an Old Man.

Monday, March 18, 2019



Homer, Iliad 18.417-420 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
And in support of their master moved his attendants.
These are golden, and in appearance like living young women.
There is intelligence in their hearts, and there is speech in them
and strength, and from the immortal gods they have learned how to do things.

          ὑπὸ δ᾽ ἀμφίπολοι ῥώοντο ἄνακτι
χρύσειαι ζωῇσι νεήνισιν εἰοικυῖαι.
τῇς ἐν μὲν νόος ἐστὶ μετὰ φρεσίν, ἐν δὲ καὶ αὐδὴ
καὶ σθένος, ἀθανάτων δὲ θεῶν ἄπο ἔργα ἴσασιν.
"Their master" = Hephaestus.



Raymond B. Cowles (1896-1971), Desert Journal (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), p. 119:
Since those early experiments the ecological role of the predator as a necessary sanitizing agent has become well known. The capture and quick removal of abnormal individuals within a group of gregarious animals aid in the prevention of the spread of disease, either from illness or infected wounds that could introduce sepsis into scratches on their neighbors. Another plus is the removal from the breeding stock of individuals with obvious genetic impairments. In other words, with the defective phenotypes eliminated, they will not breed and multiply and thus burden their own kind. I believe that no exceptions have been found to the role of predation as a useful influence for the good of the group and successive generations, no matter how harsh it may be to the one removed. To our sentiments of sympathy, even this role of a predator seems brutal and emotionally hard to accept. It is but one example, however, of the fact that the group, and this includes not only the present, but innumerable future members, is far more important than the welfare or security of any single transient individual. This may seem like the antithesis of our present philosophy of the "sanctity of life" and the "dignity and rights of the individual"—and it is.


A Continuance of Life

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Sketches of Etruscan Places, I ("Cerveteri"):
And death, to the Etruscan, was a pleasant continuance of life, with jewels and wine and flutes playing for the dance. It was neither an ecstasy of bliss, a heaven, nor a purgatory of torment. It was just a natural continuance of the fullness of life. Everything was in terms of life, of living.
Id., III ("The Painted Tombs of Tarquinia. 1," on the Tomb of Hunting and Fishing):
The scene is natural as life, and yet it has a heavy archaic fullness of meaning. It is the death-banquet; and at the same time it is the dead man banqueting in the underworld; for the underworld of the Etruscans was a gay place. While the living feasted out of doors, at the tomb of the dead, the dead himself feasted in like manner, with a lady to offer him garlands and slaves to bring him wine, away in the underworld. For the life on earth was so good, the life below could but be a continuance of it.

Sunday, March 17, 2019


Very Thin Protection

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Sea and Sardinia, VIII ("Back"):
And never for a second must one be off one's guard for one's watch and money and even hanky. When I first came to Italy after the war I was robbed twice in three weeks, floating round in the sweet old innocent confidence in mankind. Since then I have never ceased to be on my guard. Somehow or other, waking and sleeping one's spirit must be on its guard nowadays. Which is really what I prefer, now I have learnt it. Confidence in the goodness of mankind is a very thin protection indeed. Integer vitae scelerisque purus will do nothing for you when it comes to humanity, however efficacious it may be with lions and wolves.



Valerius Maximus, Memorable Doings and Sayings 2.1.6 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
But whenever some strife arose between husband and wife, they would repair to the chapel of the goddess Viriplaca, which is on the Palatine. There they would say in turn what they wanted to say and go back in harmony, laying aside their contention.

Quotiens vero inter virum et uxorem aliquid iurgii intercesserat, in sacellum deae Viriplacae, quod est in Palatio, veniebant, et ibi invicem locuti quae voluerant, contentione animorum deposita, concordes revertebantur.

Saturday, March 16, 2019


Different Strokes for Different Folks

Euripides, fragment 560 (from Oeneus; tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
Yet one person enjoys some kinds of behaviour more, and another, others.

ἀλλ᾿ ἄλλος ἄλλοις μᾶλλον ἥδεται τρόποις.

Friday, March 15, 2019



Myles Dillon, Early Irish Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948; rpt. 1958), pp. 163-164 ("a twelfth-century poem"):
Delightful to me to be on an island hill, on the crest of a rock, that I might often watch the quiet sea;

That I might watch the heavy waves above the bright water, as they chant music to their Father everlastingly.

That I might watch its smooth, bright-bordered shore, no gloomy pastime, that I might hear the cry of the strange birds, a pleasing sound;

That I might hear the murmur of the long waves against the rocks, that I might hear the sound of the sea, like mourning beside a grave;

That I might watch the splendid flocks of birds over the well-watered sea, that I might see its mighty whales, the greatest wonder.

That I might watch its ebb and flood in their course, that my name should be—it is a secret that I tell—'he who turned his back upon Ireland';

That I might have a contrite heart as I watch, that I might repent my many sins, hard to tell;

That I might bless the Lord who rules all things, heaven with its splendid host, earth, ebb, and flood;

That I might scan one of the books to raise up my soul, now kneeling to dear heaven, now chanting the psalms;

Now gathering seaweed from the rocks, now catching fish, now feeding the poor, now in my cell;

Now contemplating heaven, a holy purchase, now a little labour, it would be delightful.


The History of Western Culture

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Notebook 6 [14] (summer, 1875; tr. Ladislaus Löb, with his notes):
Early Greek philosophy was throughout a philosophy of statesmen. How paltry our statesmen are! Incidentally, that is the greatest difference between the Pre-Socratics and Post-Socratics.

Among them one does not find the 'revolting claim to happiness',6 as one does from Socrates onward. Not everything revolves round the condition of their soul: for that is something that one does not ponder without danger. Later the γνῶθι σαυτόν7 of Apollo was misunderstood.

Nor did they chatter and grumble like that, and they did not write either.

Enfeebled Greek culture was Romanised, coarsened, made decorative, then accepted as a decorative culture by enfeebled Christianity as an ally and spread by force among uncivilised peoples — that is the history of Western culture. The stunt has been pulled, and the Greek and the sanctimonious brought together.

6 Adapted from Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena, Book I, 'Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit', ch. 5.

7 know yourself. One of the mottoes inscribed over the entrance to Apollo's oracle at Delphi.

Die ältere griechische Philosophie ist die Philosophie von lauter Staatsmännern. Wie elend steht es mit unsern Staatsmännern! Das unterscheidet übrigens die Vorsokratiker und die Nachsokratiker am meisten.

Bei ihnen hat man nicht „die garstige Pretension auf Glück”  wie von Socrates ab. Es dreht sich doch nicht alles um den Zustand ihrer Seele: denn über den denkt man nicht ohne Gefahr nach. Später wurde das γνῶθι σαυτόν des Apoll mißverstanden.

Auch schwätzten und schimpften sie nicht so, auch schrieben sie nicht.

Das geschwächte Griechenthum, romanisirt, vergröbert, decorativ geworden, dann als decorative Cultur vom geschwächten Christenthum als Bundesgenosse acceptirt, mit Gewalt verbreitet unter uncivilisirten Völkern — das ist die Geschichte der abendländischen Cultur. Das Kunststück ist geleistet, und das Griechische und das Pfäffische zusammengebracht.


How Detestable

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Sea and Sardinia, III ("Cagliari"):
One realises, with horror, that the race of men is almost extinct in Europe. Only Christ-like heroes and woman-worshipping Don Juans, and rabid equality-mongrels. The old, hardy, indomitable male is gone. His fierce singleness is quenched. The last sparks are dying out in Sardinia and Spain. Nothing left but the herd-proletariat and the herd-equality mongrelism, and the wistful poisonous self-sacrificial cultured soul. How detestable.


One Day

Euripides, fragment 420 (from Ino; tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
Do you see how small the things are that bring down tyrants whose power has long increased, and how one day brings some down from a height, and lifts others up? Wealth has wings! Those who once had it, I see dashed from their hopes, backs laid to the ground.

ὁρᾷς τυράννους διὰ μακρῶν ηὐξημένους,
ὡς σμικρὰ τὰ σφάλλοντα, καὶ μί᾿ ἡμέρα
τὰ μὲν καθεῖλεν ὑψόθεν, τὰ δ᾿ ἦρ᾿ ἄνω.
ὑπόπτερος δ᾿ ὁ πλοῦτος· οἷς γὰρ ἦν ποτε,
ἐξ ἐλπίδων πίπτοντας ὑπτίους ὁρῶ.        5
Donald J. Mastronarde on Euripides, Phoenissae 1689:

Thursday, March 14, 2019


Genius Loci

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Sea and Sardinia, III ("Cagliari"):
The spirit of the place is a strange thing. Our mechanical age tries to override it. But it does not succeed. In the end the strange, sinister spirit of the place, so diverse and adverse in differing places, will smash our mechanical oneness into smithereens, and all that we think the real thing will go off with a pop, and we shall be left staring.


A Very Valiant Trencherman

Anka Muhlstein, Balzac's Omelette: A Delicious Tour of French Food and Culture with Honoré de Balzac, tr. Adriana Hunter (New York: Other Press, 2011), page number unknown:
Once the proofs were passed for press, he sped to a restaurant, downed a hundred oysters as a starter, washing them down with four bottles of white wine, then ordered the rest of the meal: twelve salt meadow lamb cutlets with no sauce, a duckling with turnips, a brace of roast partridge, a Normandy sole, not to mention extravagances like dessert and special fruit such as Comice pears, which he ate by the dozen.


Vocational Training

Pseudo-Phocylides, Sentences 158 (tr. P.W. van der Horst):
And if someone has not learned a craft, he must dig with a hoe.

εἰ δέ τις οὐ δεδάηκε τέχνης, σκάπτοιτο δικέλλῃ.
Related post: Fit to Beg in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Circumstances Favorable to Concentration and Reflection

Richard Johnson Walker (1868-1934), Euripidean Fragments Emended (London: Burns Oates & Washburn Ltd, 1920), Introductory Note:
The four following papers — I can think of no better term — were written by me in the Argentine Republic in the spring (to the north of the Equator it was the autumn) of 1919. One after another I sent them to a friend in England to deal with as best he could. He and I find that the simplest course is to present them as a small book; to which, being on a visit to Spain, I am just in time to prefix these words of explanation and apply a few necessary touches of rapid revision.

May 30, 1920.
Id., p. 1:
The following attempts at emendation of Fragments of Euripidean plays having titles beginning with A (about a quarter of the whole) are the result of a month's sea-voyage. The circumstances were exceptionally favourable to concentration and reflexion. My detachment was completed by the fact that I took with me no classical books whatever except Nauck's Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta and Kirchhoff's Euripides (which does not include the Fragments), though later I contrived with difficulty to purchase on shore a small Greek-Spanish lexicon, which I have employed as a check on my accentuation. I am not without hope that under these novel conditions I have here and there really seen new light. But that is for the reader to judge.
Id., p. 13:
The time has arrived for me to submit the second quarter of my task, namely a treatment of various Fragments of Euripides that come from plays with initial letters ranging from B to O (Greek alphabet), both inclusive.

It has proved possible on land to reproduce to some extent the isolation of a sea-voyage, and I still have access to no classical books whatever, except those mentioned in my previous instalment. Work under such conditions possesses, I think, a certain value, as it incontestably possesses a certain fascination, of its own.
The book is dedicated to the memory of William Ross Hardie (1862-1916), who taught the author at Balliol College, Oxford. The author was the son of Frederick William Walker (1830–1910), High Master of Manchester Grammar School and St. Paul's School, London, and Maria Johnson.

Reviews of the book:
Walker was an odd character — see especially the lengthy dedication (to Michael James O'Doherty) of his The Ichneutae of Sophocles (London: Burns and Oates Ltd., 1919).


So Good!

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Sea and Sardinia, I ("As Far as Palermo"):
The near end of the street was rather dark, and had mostly vegetable shops. Abundance of vegetables—piles of white-and-green fennel, like celery, and great sheaves of young, purplish, sea-dust-coloured artichokes, nodding their buds, piles of big radishes, scarlet and bluey purple, carrots, long strings of dried figs, mountains of big oranges, scarlet large peppers, a last slice of pumpkin, a great mass of colours and vegetable freshnesses.
However, and however, it is seven o'clock, and the shops are beginning to shut. No more shop-gazing. Only one lovely place: raw ham, boiled ham, chickens in aspic, chicken vol-au-vents, sweet curds, curd cheese, rustic cheese-cake, smoked sausages, beautiful fresh mortadella, huge Mediterranean red lobsters, and those lobsters without claws. "So good! So good!" We stand and cry it aloud.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


No World Other Than This

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore, edd., A Source Book in Indian Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957), p. 235 (from Sarva-Siddhanta-Samgraha):
8. There is no world other than this; there is no heaven and no hell; the realm of Siva and like regions are invented by stupid impostors of other schools of thought.

9. The enjoyment of heaven lies in eating delicious food, keeping company of young women, using fine clothes, perfumes, garlands, sandal paste, etc.

10. The pain of hell lies in the troubles that arise from enemies, weapons, diseases; while liberation (mokṣa) is death which is the cessation of life-breath.

11. The wise therefore ought not to take pains on account of that [i.e., liberation]; it is only the fool who wears himself out by penances, fasts, etc.

12. Chastity and other such ordinances are laid down by clever weaklings. Gifts of gold and land, the pleasure of invitations to dinner, are devised by indigent people with stomachs lean with hunger.

Monday, March 11, 2019


Topographical Minutiae

E.K. Rand (1871-1945), A Walk to Horace's Farm (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1930), pp. 6-7:
It is of interest to inquire just where the Sabine Farm was situated. Readers of Horace's Odes sometimes do not care to know; the imagination of the poet supplies material for a fairyland of their own constructing, and hunting about in the Classical Atlas is not exciting or remunerative work. But to the traveller in Italy, to one who treads those sacred places known to him only from books before, no topographical minutiae seem irrelevant. The past is enlivened in an indescribable way, for the discovery of actual sites not only gratifies scientific curiosity, but supplies new food for the imagination.


A Schoolboy's Occupations

John Clayton, letter to his father (Uppingham, November 2, 1808), in An Account of the Roman Antiquities Preserved in the Museum at Chesters, Northumberland, to which is Added a Series of Chapters Describing the Excavations Made by the Late John Clayton, Esqire, F.S.A., at Cilurnum, Procolitia, Borcovicus, and Other Sites on the Roman Wall, 2nd rev. ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1907), pp. 20-22:
I received your letter, and will, in compliance with your request, endeavour, as far as I am able, to give you a full and candid account of all that you require. I shall in the first place lay before you my daily occupations, and the books with which I am at present engaged. On Monday, in the morning we read Homer and Theocritus in turn, and in the afternoon Cicero's Tusculan Disputations, together with a portion of Virgil's Aeneid, or the Odes of Horace, which two last we take by turns, besides which we write a Latin theme. On Tuesday, in the morning, we read the Epistles in the Greek Testament, and in the afternoon write a copy of Latin verses. On Wednesday our occupations are the same as on Monday, except that instead of Cicero's Tusculan Disputations we read his Epistles; and instead of a Theme we translate a portion of some Latin author or other; unless we have the week before executed our exercises particularly well, and in that case we are excused the Translation. On Thursday we read Thucydides or Herodotus, the two first Greek historians, and translate a Greek epigram into Latin verse. On Friday morning we read the Satires or Epistles of Horace, and in the afternoon Huntingford's Greek Exercises, that is, convert bad Greek into good, together with a second lesson in Horace. Saturday morning is employed in Geography, and in the afternoon in writing a copy of Latin verses. Besides which, we are occupied in accounts daily an hour-and-a-half. My leisure hours (which are principally on Saint days, id est, whole Holidays) I partly employ in reading Sallust, as we do not read it all in school. I have already finished the Bellum Catiiinarium, and am beginning the Jugurthine War, which I hope also to finish before the Christmas Holidays. We have at this season of the year no amusement that can in any great degree divert our attention; by that means very little time is lost, but it is utterly impossible for a school-boy to seclude himself entirely from amusements, he must now and then join in the recreations of the Play Grounds. I have now laid before you in as full a manner as I am able (and I hope to your satisfaction) my weekly occupations. I shall in the next place give you a list of the books I have entirely or nearly finished. I have gone through nearly the whole of Horace, and likewise of Virgil. I have finished what are extant of the Works of Callimachus, and read a great part of Ovid's Metamorphoses and Epistles, and two plays of Terence.



Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (January, 1825):
It is my own humor to despise pedigree. I was educated to prize it. The kind Aunt whose cares instructed my youth (& whom may God reward) told me oft the virtues of her & mine ancestors. They have been clergymen for many generations, & the piety of all & the eloquence of many is yet praised in the Churches. But the dead sleep in their moonless night; my business is with the living.
On the importance of pedigree, I side with Emerson's Aunt Mary, although we disagree on what constitutes good breeding stock. As Samuel Butler pointed out (The Way of All Flesh, chapter 26):
I have often thought that the Church of Rome does wisely in not allowing her priests to marry. Certainly it is a matter of common observation in England that the sons of clergymen are frequently unsatisfactory.
I find one blot on my escutcheon, a Methodist preacher a few generations back. Mostly I'm lucky in my forefathers, with lots of farmers and soldiers in the mix.

Related posts:

Sunday, March 10, 2019



Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Human, All Too Human, Vol. I, Part 5, § 226 (tr. Marion Faber):
Origin of faith. The bound spirit assumes a position, not for reasons, but out of habit; he is a Christian, for example, not because he had insight into the various religions and chose among them; he is an Englishman not because he decided for England; but rather, Christianity and England were givens, and he accepted them without having reasons, as someone who was born in wine country becomes a wine drinker. Later, when he was a Christian and an Englishman, he may also have devised some reasons in favor of his habit; even if these reasons are overthrown, he, in his whole position, is not. Ask a bound spirit for his reasons against bigamy, for example, and you will learn whether his holy zeal for monogamy is based on reasons or on habit. The habit of intellectual principles without reasons is called faith.

Herkunft des Glaubens. — Der gebundene Geist nimmt seine Stellung nicht aus Gründen ein, sondern aus Gewöhnung; er ist zum Beispiel Christ, nicht weil er die Einsicht in die verschiedenen Religionen und die Wahl zwischen ihnen gehabt hätte; er ist Engländer, nicht weil er sich für England entschieden hat, sondern er fand das Christenthum und das Engländerthum vor und nahm sie an ohne Gründe, wie Jemand, der in einem Weinlande geboren wurde, ein Weintrinker wird. Später, als er Christ und Engländer war, hat er vielleicht auch einige Gründe zu Gunsten seiner Gewöhnung ausfindig gemacht; man mag diese Gründe umwerfen, damit wirft man ihn in seiner ganzen Stellung nicht um. Man nöthige zum Beispiel einen gebundenen Geist, seine Gründe gegen die Bigamie vorzubringen, dann wird man erfahren, ob sein heiliger Eifer für die Monogamie auf Gründen oder auf Angewöhnung beruht. Angewöhnung geistiger Grundsätze ohne Gründe nennt man Glauben.

Saturday, March 09, 2019


A Lawyer

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), Catriona, Chapter II (Charles Stewart speaking):
"I'm a lawyer, ye see: fond of my books and my bottle, a good plea, a well-drawn deed, a crack in the Parliament House with other lawyer bodies, and perhaps a turn at the golf on a Saturday at e’en."


Inscription for a Lintel

LATEBRAE DVLCES. See Horace, Epistles 1.16.15-16 (tr. John Davie):
This retreat, so charming, yes, if you believe me, so beautiful,
keeps me safe and sound, you'll be pleased to know, in September's season.

hae latebrae dulces, etiam, si credis, amoenae,
incolumem tibi me praestant Septembribus horis.
Latebrae is more than a retreat — it's a hiding place.

Norman W. Dewitt, "Epicurean Doctrine in Horace," Classical Philology 34.2 (April, 1939) 127-134 (at 132):
Λάθε βιώσας.—Frag. 86 Bailey, 551 Usener. This idea appealed to Horace chiefly in his later years; a single reference occurs in the Satires but several in the Epistles. Characteristic is the tendency to associate it with the Sabine farm and deserted or semi-deserted towns, Lebedus, Gabii, Fidenae, Ulubrae, Ferentinum. The ideology, of course, is more pervasive than the specific terminology. The key words are fallo = λανθάνω, obliviscor, et similia (Satires ii.6.62):
ducere sollicitae iucunda oblivia vitae.
Epistles i.11.7-10:
scis Lebedus quid sit? Gabiis desertior atque
Fidenis vicus; tamen illic vivere vellem,
oblitus meorum, obliviscendus et illis.
Ibid. 29-30:
                                      quod petis hic est;
est Ulubris, animus si te non deficit aequus.
Ibid. 16.15: "hae latebrae dulces, etiam, si credis, amoenae"; ibid. 17.10: "nec vixit male qui natus moriensque fefellit"; ibid. 18.103: "an secretum iter et fallentis semita vitae."
But cf. Geert Roskam, Live Unnoticed (Λάθε βιώσας): On the Vicissitudes of an Epicurean Doctrine (Leiden: Brill, 2007), pp. 172-173 (at 173, note omitted):
What precisely does Horace want to escape from at his estate? It is neither the troubles of the political world, nor the disadvantages which a great fame entails, but the Septembribus horis. Horace's sweet latebrae provide protection against the unhealthy season of autumn. Accordingly, the emphasis in this context is not upon reaching tranquillity of mind, nor even by attaining ἀσφάλεια ἐξ ἡσυχίας, but upon maintaining corporeal health. The whole passage, then, has nothing to do with the Epicurean ideal of λάθε βιώσας.

Friday, March 08, 2019


Right Next to You

Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, Vol. I, ed. Bruno Snell, rev. Richard Kannicht (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1986), p. 262 (92 Sosiphanes Syracusanus F 3, my translation):
Unfortunate in many things, happy in few,
o mortals, why do you glory in your wealth,
which one day gives and another takes away?
If you have good luck, although you're nothing, at once
you think thoughts equal to heaven, and powerful
Death you don't see, although he stands right next to you.

ὦ δυστυχεῖς μὲν πολλά, παῦρα δ' ὄλβιοι
βροτοί, τί σεμνύνεσθε ταῖς ἐξουσίαις,
ἃς ἕν τ' ἔδωκε φέγγος ἕν τ' ἀφείλετο;
ἢν δ' εὐτυχῆτε μηδὲν ὄντες εὐθέως
ἴσ' οὐρανῷ φρονεῖτε, τὸν δὲ κύριον
Ἅιδην παρεστῶτ' οὐχ ὁρᾶτε πλησίον.
ἔδωκε and ἀφείλετο: gnomic aorists?


Recovery from Illness

Homer, Odyssey 5.394-399 (tr. Peter Green):
As most welcome appear to his children renewed signs of life
in a father who's laid on a sickbed, suffering agonies,        395
long wasting away, attacked by some hateful spirit,
but then, oh joy, the gods free him from his illness —
so welcome seemed to Odysseus the land and its forest,
and he swam on, longing to set foot on solid earth.

ὡς δ᾿ ὅτ᾿ ἂν ἀσπάσιος βίοτος παίδεσσι φανήῃ
πατρός, ὃς ἐν νούσῳ κεῖται κρατέρ᾿ ἄλγεα πάσχων,        395
δηρὸν τηκόμενος, στυγερὸς δέ οἱ ἔχραε δαίμων,
ἀσπάσιον δ᾿ ἄρα τόν γε θεοὶ κακότητος ἔλυσαν,
ὣς Ὀδυσῆ᾿ ἀσπαστὸν ἐείσατο γαῖα καὶ ὕλη,
νῆχε δ᾿ ἐπειγόμενος ποσὶν ἠπείρου ἐπιβῆναι.
Anthony J. Podlecki, "Some Odyssean Similes," Greece & Rome 18.1 (April, 1971) 81-90 (at 89):
As Fränkel observes in discussing this simile, 'homecoming, safety, and return to health are interchangeably compared'.1 The detail of the sick father and his children puts us back in the context of Odysseus' return to Ithaca, and the yearning of Telemachus for his father: we see things from the children's viewpoint, and Odysseus' return — which is not yet — is, as it were, a return from mortal disease and the realm of death (Book ix) to health and life. There is a possibility, too, that the long wasting disease, κρατέρ᾿ ἄλγεα πάσχων | δηρὸν τηκόμενος, is meant to suggest one of the etymologies of Odysseus' name, 'man of sufferings'.2

1 Die homerischen Gleichnisse, 95.

2 Cf. Odysseus' own description of himself as πολύστονος (xix.118). For the etymology see Stanford's note on xix.407-9 with refs. there.

Thursday, March 07, 2019


The Sweetest Laughter

Sophocles, Ajax 79 (Athena to Odysseus; tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
Is not laughing at one's enemies the most delightful kind of laughter?

οὔκουν γέλως ἥδιστος εἰς ἐχθροὺς γελᾶν;

οὔκουν Markland: οὐκοῦν codd.
punctum interrog. pos. Valckenaer



Tolstoy, War and Peace I.i.3 (tr. Anthony Briggs):
Because of the self-confidence with which he had spoken, no one could tell whether what he had said was very clever or very stupid.


Chapter and Verse

Bernard M.W. Knox (1914-2010), The Heroic Temper: Studies in Sophoclean Tragedy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964), p. 10:
In this field the critic must, like the old-time preacher, quote chapter and verse; his thesis stands or falls on its relation to the text, those words which are all we have left of the original performance in the theater of Dionysus.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019


Is It Worth It?

Erasmus, "The Abbot and the Learned Lady," Colloquies (tr. Craig R. Thompson):
Learning costs immense toil, and after all you must die.

Immensis laboribus comparatur eruditio, ac post moriendum est.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019


Manual Labor

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Man the Reformer. A Lecture read before the Mechanics' Apprentices' Library Association at the Masonic Temple, Boston, January 25, 1841:
But quite apart from the emphasis which the times give to the doctrine, that the manual labor of society ought to be shared among all the members, there are reasons proper to every individual, why he should not be deprived of it. The use of manual labor is one which never grows obsolete, and which is inapplicable to no person. A man should have a farm or a mechanical craft for his culture. We must have a basis for our higher accomplishments, our delicate entertainments, of poetry and philosophy, in the work of our hands. We must have an antagonism in the tough world for all the variety of our spiritual faculties, or they will not be born. Manual labor is the study of the external world. The advantage of riches remains with him who procured them, not with the heir. When I go into my garden with a spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health, that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands. But not only health, but education is in the work. Is it possible that I who get indefinite quantities of sugar, hominy, cotton, buckets, crockery-ware, and letter-paper, by simply signing my name once in three months to a check in favor of John Smith & Co., traders, get the fair share of exercise to my faculties by that act, which nature intended for me in making all these far-fetched matters important to my comfort? It is Smith himself, and his carriers, and dealers, and manufacturers, it is the sailor, the hide-drogher, the butcher, the negro, the hunter, and the planter, who have intercepted the sugar of the sugar, and the cotton of the cotton. They have got the education, I only the commodity. This were all very well if I were necessarily absent, being detained by work of my own, like theirs, work of the same faculties; then should I be sure of my hands and feet, but now I feel some shame before my wood-chopper, my ploughman, and my cook, for they have some sort of self-sufficiency, they can contrive without my aid to bring the day and year round, but I depend on them, and have not earned by use a right to my arms and feet.
On hide-droghing, see Richard Henry Dana (1815-1882), Two Years Before the Mast, chapter XIV.

Benedict Coleman, The Hide-Drogher (Dana Point, California):


Scholarly Perseverance

Aeschylus, Agamemnon. Edited with a Commentary by Eduard Fraenkel, Vol. I: Prolegomena, Text, Translation (1950; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962), p. 58 (on Verrall):
Unfortunately he had little patience and even less of that special gift of scholarly perseverance that enables a man to swallow vast clouds of dust in the faint hope that in the end his labour may be rewarded by a small grain of gold.


Mardi Gras

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Notebook 10 [165] (autumn 1887; tr. Kate Sturge):
Only the coarsest can fail to experience the presence of Christians and Christian values as an oppression under which every truly festive mood goes to the devil. The festival includes: pride, exuberance, unruliness; foolishness; mockery of all kinds of earnest stuffiness; a divine Yes to oneself out of animal plenitude and perfection — all states to which the Christian may not honestly say Yes.

The festival is paganism par excellence.

Man muß sehr grob sein, um nicht die Gegenwart von Christen und christlichen Werthen als einen Druck zu empfinden unter dem jede eigentliche Feststimmung zum Teufel geht. Im Fest ist einbegriffen: Stolz, Übermuth, Ausgelassenheit; die Narrheit; der Hohn über alle Art Ernst und Biedermännerei; ein göttliches Jasagen zu sich aus animaler Fülle und Vollkommenheit — lauter Zustände, zu denen der Christ nicht ehrlich Ja sagen darf.

Das Fest ist Heidenthum par excellence.

Monday, March 04, 2019


No Barriers

Aeschylus, Agamemnon. Edited with a Commentary by Eduard Fraenkel, Vol. I: Prolegomena, Text, Translation (1950; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962), pp. 60-61:
Nor are there here (nor, for that matter, in anything that Wilamowitz wrote) any departmental barriers. For him there was no such thing as a watertight compartment of textual criticism, another of historical grammar, another of metre, another of history of religion, another of ancient law, and so forth. No single subsection of the technique of research was allowed to get the better of the rest: they had all to be subservient and to co-operate to one purpose only, the adequate interpretation of the text in hand.


Democracy Crowning Demos

A.J.L. Blanshard, "Depicting Democracy: An Exploration of Art and Text in the Law of Eukrates," Journal of Hellenic Studies 124 (2004) 1-15, plate 1(b):

For the law of Eukrates, see Greek Historical Inscriptions: 404-323 BC. Edited with introduction, translations, and commentaries by P. J. Rhodes and Robin Osborne (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, rpt. 2007), pp. 388-392, number 79. An excerpt from the law (Inscriptiones Graecae II3 1 320 = Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 12.87):
If any one rises up against the people for a tyranny or joins in setting up the tyranny or overthrows the people of Athens or the democracy at Athens, whoever kills the man who has done any of these things shall be undefiled.

ἐάν τις ἐπαναστῆι τῶι δήμωι ἐπὶ τυραννίδι ἢ τὴν τυραννίδα συνκαταστήσηι ἢ τὸν δῆμον τὸν Ἀθηναίων ἢ τὴν δημοκρατίαν τὴν Ἀθήνησιν καταλύσηι, ὃς ἂν τὸν τούτων τι ποιήσαντα ἀποκ<τ>είνηι, ὅσιος ἔστω.

Sunday, March 03, 2019


Black and Foul and Dry

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Twilight in Italy, chapter II (The Lemon Gardens):
Yet what should become of the world? There was London and the industrial counties spreading like a blackness over all the world, horrible, in the end destructive. And the Garda was so lovely under the sky of sunshine, it was intolerable. For away, beyond, beyond all the snowy Alps, with the iridescence of eternal ice above them, was this England, black and foul and dry, with her soul worn down, almost worn away. And England was conquering the world with her machines and her horrible destruction of natural life. She was conquering the whole world.


Aeschylus' Knowledge of Astrology

Aeschylus, Agamemnon. Edited with a Commentary by Eduard Fraenkel, Vol. II: Commentary on 1-1055 (1950; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962), p. 5 (on line 6, footnote omitted):
δυνάστας is claimed by Headlam as an astrological term, on which Housman remarks (in his copy of Headlam's prose translation, kindly lent me by Hugh Last): 'Aeschylus knew no more of astrology than of Christianity or the pox.'


The Church Militant

Friedrich Nietzsche, letter to Malwida von Meysenbug (Sils-Maria, September 24, 1886; tr. Peter Fuss and Henry Shapiro):
Only a "church militant" needs intolerance; and faith deeply at peace and sure of itself has room for skepticism, for mildness towards other people and other things.

Nur eine ecclesia militans hat die Intoleranz nöthig; jede tiefe Ruhe und Sicherheit des Glaubens erlaubt die Skepsis, die Milde gegen Andere und Anderes.


Ancient Coins

Goethe, Italian Journey (Sicily, April 12, 1787; tr. W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer):
Today we were shown Prince Torremuzza's collection of coins. I went there almost reluctantly. I understand too little about this field, and a merely inquisitive tourist is the bane of the true connoisseur. But after all, one has to begin somewhere, so I relented and derived great pleasure and some profit from our visit.

The ancient world was dotted with cities and even the smallest of them has left us, in its precious coins, a record, if not of the whole course of art history, at least of some epochs of it. An eternal spring of art's immortal fruits and flowers smiled up at us out of these drawers, telling of a craftsmanship perfected and practised over a lifetime, and of much else besides.

Alas, we others possessed in our youth nothing but family medals which say nothing and coins bearing the portraits of emperors in which the same profile is repeated ad nauseam, of overlords who cannot be regarded as paragons of humanity. It makes me sad to think that in my youth my historical knowledge was limited to Palestine, which had no images at all, and Rome, which had far too many. Sicily and Magna Graecia have given me hope of a new life.

The fact that I indulge in general reflections on these objects is proof that I still know precious little about them; but I hope I shall gradually improve in this, as in everything else.
Coin from Syracuse, 212-214 B.C. (Athena obverse, Artemis reverse):

See David R. Sear, Greek Coins and Their Values, Vol. I: Europe (London: Seaby, 1978), p. 105, number 997.

Saturday, March 02, 2019


Faculty Meetings

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Notebook 19 [21] (summer, 1872; tr. Ladislaus Löb):
Terrible danger: a fusion of the American type of political wheeling and dealing with the unstable culture of scholars.

Schreckliche Gefahr: daß das amerikanische-politische Getreibe und die haltlose Gelehrtenkultur sich verschmelzen.



Goethe, Italian Journey (Venice, October 8, 1786; tr. W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer):
The art of mosaic, which gave the Ancients their paved floors and the Christians the vaulted Heaven of their churches, has now been degraded to snuff boxes and bracelets. Our times are worse than we think.

Die Kunst, welche dem Alten seine Fußboden bereitete, dem Christen seine Kirchenhimmel wölbte, hat sich jetzt auf Dosen und Armbänder verkrümelt. Diese Zeiten sind schlechter, als man denkt.

Friday, March 01, 2019


A Fool

Amphis, fragment 21 (tr. S. Douglas Olson):
Any mortal who doesn't try to add some pleasure to his life and let everything else go is a fool in my eyes and those of wise judges generally, and the gods have sent him bad luck.

ὅστις δὲ θνητὸς γενόμενος μὴ τῷ βίῳ
ζητεῖ τι τερπνὸν προσφέρειν, τὰ δ᾿ ἄλλ᾿ ἐᾷ,
μάταιός ἐστιν ἔν γ᾿ ἐμοὶ καὶ τοῖς σοφοῖς
κριταῖς ἅπασιν ἐκ θεῶν τε δυστυχής.


Übermensch or Überaff?

Steven E. Aschheim, The Nietzsche Legacy in Germany: 1890-1990 (1992; rpt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), pp. 36-37:
Inasmuch as the early academic reception of Nietzsche was both hostile and slow,87 there may have been an initial grain of truth to the observation that Nietzsche tended to attract more marginal and "bohemian" elements.88 In 1900 Karl Kraus called such modish Nietzscheans "the super-apes of the coffee-house" (Überaffen des Kaffeehauses).89

87. Walter Eckstein, "Friedrich Nietzsche in the Judgement of Posterity," Journal of the History of Ideas 6 (1945).

88. Hubert Treiber, "Nietzsches 'Kloster für freiere Geister': Nietzsche und Weber als Erzieher," in Die Religion von Oberschichten, ed. Peter Antes and Donate Pahnke (Marburg: Diagonal-Verlag, 1989).

89. Die Fackel, 2, 51 (August 1900), 21-22. Quoted in Vivetta Vivarelli, "Das Nietzsche-Bild in der Presse der deutschen Sozialdemokratie um die Jahrhundertwende," Nietzsche-Studien 13 (1984), 531.
Related post: Trousered Apes.


Four Walls

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), The Topical Notebooks, Vol. 3 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1994), p. 113:
I think four walls one of the best of our institutions. A man comes to me & oppresses me by his presence: he looks very large & unanswerable, yet not beneficent. I cannot dispose of him whilst he stays; he quits the room, & passes not only out of the house but, as it were, out of the horizon; he is a mere phantasm or ghost; I think of him no more. I recover my sanity, the Universe dawns on me again.

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