Monday, August 10, 2020


Expect the Worst

Terence, Phormio 241-246 (tr. Peter Brown):
That's why everyone, particularly at a time when things are going especially well for them, should think through how to bear trouble and adversity—danger, loss, or exile! A man returning from abroad should always expect his son to have behaved badly, or his wife to have died, or his daughter to have fallen ill, and should reflect that these things hit everyone, that they can happen; that way, nothing will catch him unprepared. If anything turns out better than he expected, he should reckon it all as profit.

quam ob rem omnis, quom secundae res sunt maxume, tum maxume
meditari secum oportet quo pacto advorsam aerumnam ferant,
pericla damna exsilia. peregre rediens semper cogitet
aut fili peccatum aut uxoris mortem aut morbum filiae
communia esse haec, fieri posse, ut ne quid animo sit novom;        245
quidquid praeter spem eveniat, omne id deputare esse in lucro.
R.H. Martin ad loc.:
The thought of these lines corresponds very closely to a passage from Euripides' Theseus (Nauck fr. 392), translated by Cic. Tusc. III.29 (Cicero goes on to quote Phormio 241-6—with some minor differences in the text).
Euripides, fragment 964 Kannicht (among the incertae fabulae; tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp, slightly modified by me):
I learned this from a wise man:
I kept my mind turned to anxieties and misfortunes,
presenting to myself exile from my fatherland,
and untimely death, and other paths of misery,
so that, should I suffer any of the things I imagined in my thoughts,
nothing might befall me unexpectedly and hurt me the more.

ἐγὼ δὲ <ταῦτα> παρὰ σοφοῦ τινος μαθὼν
εἰς φροντίδας νοῦν συμφοράς τ᾿ ἐβαλλόμην,
φυγάς τ᾿ ἐμαυτῷ προστιθεὶς πάτρας ἐμῆς
θανάτους τ᾿ ἀώρους καὶ κακῶν ἄλλας ὁδούς,
ἵν᾿ εἴ τι πάσχοιμ᾿ ὧν ἐδόξαζον φρενί,
μή μοι νεῶρες προσπεσὸν μᾶλλον δάκοι.

suppl. Nauck
Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 3.14.29 (translating Euripides; tr. Andrew P. Peabody):
I bore in mind the lessons of a sage,
And thought of ills the future had in store,
Of bitter death, or of an exile's doom,
Or some vast weight of evil hanging o'er me,
That so, if dire calamity should come,
It could not creep upon me unawares.

nam qui haec audita a docto meminissem viro,
futuras mecum commentabar miserias:
aut mortem acerbam aut exsili maestam fugam,
aut semper aliquam molem meditabar mali,
ut, si qua invecta diritas casu foret,
ne me imparatum cura laceraret repens.

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