Friday, October 30, 2020


Ubi Sunt?

Anonymous, in F.J.E. Raby, ed., The Oxford Book of Medieval Latin Verse (1959; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), pp. 433-434 (at 434):
Dic, ubi Salomon, olim tam nobilis,
vel ubi Samson est, dux invincibilis,        30
vel pulcher Absalon, vultu mirabilis,
vel dulcis Jonathas, multum amabilis?

Quo Caesar abiit, celsus imperio,
vel Dives splendidus, totus in prandio?
dic, ubi Tullius, clarus eloquio,        35
vel Aristoteles, summus ingenio?

Tot clari proceres, tot rerum spatia,
tot ora praesulum, tot regna fortia;
tot mundi principes, tanta potentia,
in ictu oculi clauduntur omnia.        40
Anonymous, in R.T. Davies, ed., Medieval English Lyrics: A Critical Anthology (1964; rpt. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988), p. 174:
Telle me where is Salamon, sumtime a kinge riche?
Or Sampson in his strenkethe, to whom was no man liche.

Or the fair man, Absolon, merveilous in chere?        15
Or the duke, Jonatas, a well-beloved fere?

Where is become Cesar, that lord was of al?
Or the riche man cloithd in purpur and in pal?

Telle me where is Tullius, in eloquence so swete?
Or Aristotle the philisophre with his wit so grete?        20

Where ben these worithy that weren here toforen?
Boithe kinges and bishopes her power is all loren.

All these grate princes with her power so hiye
Ben vanished away in twinkeling of an iye.

Thursday, October 29, 2020


Eugenics and Dysgenics

Plato, Menexenus 237 a (tr. Tom Griffith):
Why were they good? Because they were born of good ancestry.

ἀγαθοὶ δὲ ἐγένοντο διὰ τὸ φῦναι ἐξ ἀγαθῶν.
Shakespeare, Cymbeline 4.2.26:
Cowards father cowards and base things sire base.


What Shall I Do With Bob My Boy?

Martial 5.56, tr. in The Epigrams of Martial. Translated into English Prose. Each Accompanied by One or More Verse Translations, From the Works of English Poets, and Various Other Sources (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1890), p. 250:
To what master to entrust your son, Lupus, has been an anxious object of consideration with you for some time. Avoid, I advise you, all the grammarians and rhetoricians; let him have nothing to do with the books of Cicero or Virgil; let him leave Tutilius1 to his fame. If he makes verses, give him no encouragement to be a poet; if he wishes to study lucrative arts, make him learn to play on the guitar or flute. If he seems to be of a dull disposition, make him an auctioneer or an architect.

1 A rhetorician, whose daughter Quintilian married.

Cui tradas, Lupe, filium magistro,
quaeris sollicitus diu rogasque.
omnes grammaticosque rhetorasque
devites, moneo: nihil sit illi
cum libris Ciceronis aut Maronis,        5
famae Tutilium suae relinquat;
si versus facit, abdices poetam.
artes discere vult pecuniosas?
fac discat citharoedus aut choraules;
si duri puer ingeni videtur,        10
praeconem facias vel architectum.
Some translations of the same in verse (id.):
Whene'er I meet you, still you cry,
"What shall I do with Bob my boy?"
Since this affair you'd have me treat on,
Ne'er send the lad to Paul's or Eton.
The Muses let him not confide in,
But leave those jilts to fate or Dryden.
If with damn'd rhimes he racks his wits,
Send him to Mevis or St Kit's.
Would you with wealth his pockets store well?
Teach him to pimp or bolt a door well:
If he 'as a head not worth a stiver,
Make him a curate or hog-driver.         Tom Brown

You on one great concern your thoughts employ;
Still asking how to educate your boy.
First, carefully avoid, if you are wise,
All Greek and Latin masters, I advise.
Let him both Cicero and Virgil shun,
Unless you wish him to be quite undone.
Then, of a lad you never can have hope,
Who verses makes, or reads a line in Pope.
If he in gainful business would engage,
Teach him to sin or play upon the stage.
Or if he is too dull to be a player,
Teach him to job, and he may die a mayor.         [William] Hay
Peter Howell, Martial, The Epigrams: Book V: Edited with an Introduction, Translation & Commentary (1995; rpt. Warminster: Aris & Philips, 2007), pp. 139-140:
Hat tip: Alan Crease.

Cf. excerpts from a letter to Ted Turner from his father, in Ted Turner, Call Me Ted (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2008), pp. 34-36:
My dear son:

I am appalled, even horrified, that you have adopted classics as a major. As a matter of fact, I almost puked on my way home today.


I am a practical man, and for the life of me I cannot possibly understand why you should wish to speak Greek. With whom will you communicate in Greek?


I suppose everybody has to be a snob of some sort, and I suppose you will feel that you are distinguishing yourself from the herd by becoming a classical snob. I can see you drifting into a bar, belting down a few, turning around to the guy on the stool next to you—a contemporary billboard baron from Podunk, Iowa—and saying, "Well, what do you think of Leonidas?" He will turn to you and say, "Leonidas who?" You will turn to him and say, "Why, Leonidas, the prominent Greek of the twelfth century." He will, in turn, say to you, "Well, who the hell was he?" You will say, "Oh, you don’t know anything about Leonidas?" and dismiss him. And not discuss anything else with him for the rest of the evening. He will feel that you are a stupid snob and a fop, and you will feel that he is a clodhopper from Podunk, Iowa.

There is no question but this type of useless information will distinguish you, set you apart from the doers of the world. If I leave you enough money, you can retire to an ivory tower and contemplate for the rest of your days the influence that the hieroglyphics of prehistoric man had upon William Faulkner.


I think you are rapidly becoming a jackass and the sooner you get out of that filthy atmosphere, the better it will suit me.


Devotedly, DAD

Wednesday, October 28, 2020


Exaggeration and Oversimplification

A.D. Nock, "Hellenistic Mysteries and Christian Sacraments," Mnemosyne 5.3 (1952) 177-213 (at 213):
Without exaggeration and oversimplification little progress is made in most fields of humanistic investigation. Hypotheses such as have been mentioned have served to stimulate a great amount of critical enquiry; they have liberated the study of Christian beginnings from an unwholesome isolation; they have freed us from an overemphasis on these aspects of early Christianity which commended themselves to reasonable votaries of progress at the beginning of this century. In reacting against them we must beware of exaggeration in the opposite direction and of any tendency to assume simple relations of cause and effect in an area in which they are very rare. We must, again, do justice to the high seriousness and continued vitality of ancient paganism and to the essential unity of much of man's behavior towards the unseen.


The Lack of Rewards for Learning

Stephen C. Ferruolo, The Origins of the University: The Schools of Paris and Their Critics, 1100-1215 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1985), p. 100, with note on p. 335:
In Missus sum in vineam, another satire on the lack of rewards for learning, the complaining scholar—this time a poet rather than a theologian—does actually choose to give up study rather than suffer the hardships of poverty. Lamenting his own inability to find patronage, the poet advises others of the uselessness of learning. Why honor books or spend time studying in Paris when even Homer, if he went to a court empty-handed, would be thrown out? No more of this learning, he exclaims. Why should he endure poverty and the miserable life of a scholar? It is far better to sleep in a soft bed with a woman than to endure long nights of study in a cold room alone. For him, life without wealth is no better than death, and besides, money is needed to support love. So why not quit? Learning only makes men proud and causes young men to boast. The poem ends with a call to others, too, to give up their studies and spend their time eating and drinking.14

14. Missus sum in vineam, ed. Strecker, no. 6, pp. 82-88.
The reference is to Karl Strecker, ed., Moralisch-Satirische Gedichte Walters von Chatillon (Heidelberg: Winter, 1929). The Latin text with an English translation by Robert Levine can be found here (scroll down to Poem 6).

Tuesday, October 27, 2020


What Is a Scholar?

Robert Graves (1895-1985), The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, 4th ed. (1997; rpt. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), p. 21:
But, after all, what is a scholar? One who may not break bounds under pain of expulsion from the academy of which he is a member.


Keep Watch

Homer, Iliad 10.192-193 (Nestor to the sentinels; tr. A.T. Murray):
Even so now, dear children, keep your watch, neither let sleep
seize any man, lest we become a cause of rejoicing to our foes.

οὕτω νῦν, φίλα τέκνα, φυλάσσετε, μηδέ τιν᾽ ὕπνος
αἱρείτω, μὴ χάρμα γενώμεθα δυσμενέεσσιν.

Monday, October 26, 2020


Men Like Ourselves

Bertrand Russell, letter to the editor of The Nation (August 15, 1914):
A month ago, Europe was a peaceful comity of nations; if an Englishman killed a German, he was hanged. Now, if an Englishman kills a German, or if a German kills an Englishman, he is a patriot, who has deserved well of his country. We scan the newspapers with greedy eyes for news of slaughter, and rejoice when we read of innocent young men, blindly obedient to the word of command, mown down in thousands by the machine-guns of Liège. Those who saw the London crowds, during the nights leading up to the Declaration of War, saw a whole population, hitherto peaceable and humane, precipitated in a few days down the steep slope to primitive barbarism, letting loose, in a moment, the instincts of hatred and blood-lust against which the whole fabric of society has been raised. "Patriots" in all countries acclaim this brutal orgy as a noble determination to vindicate the right; reason and mercy are swept away in one great flood of hatred; dim abstractions of unimaginable wickedness—Germany to us and the French, Russia to the Germans—conceal the simple fact that the enemy are men, like ourselves, neither better nor worse—men who love their homes and the sunshine, and all the simple pleasures of common lives; men now mad with terror in the thought of their wives, their sisters, their children, exposed, with our help, to the tender mercies of the conquering Cossack.


Self-Inflicted Wounds

Procopius, History of the Wars 2.26.36 (tr. H.B. Dewing):
For men, as a general thing, bring down upon their own heads the most of the misfortunes which are going to befall them.

οἱ γὰρ ἄνθρωποι τὰ πολλὰ τῶν ἀτυχημάτων σφίσιν αὐτοῖς ἐκ τοῦ ἐπὶ πλεῖστον τῶν ξυμβησομένων προστρίβονται.

Saturday, October 24, 2020


Vergil, Georgics 1.22

Walter Savage Landor, "Second Conversation" between Samuel Johnson and John Horne Tooke, Imaginary Conversations, Vol. III (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1909), pp. 400-451 (at 427):
Johnson. Here, take the Georgics; I usually carry them about me.

Tooke. Has Ovid, has Lucan, has any other Latin poet, written such balderdash and bombast as the nineteen verses in the beginning, at the close of an invocation already much too prolix? Why all these additions to the modest prayer of Varro, which he has versified? Here let me suggest a new and a necessary reading just above these lines:—
"Quique novas alitis non ullo semine fruges."
It must be uno, to avoid nonsense,—which is always a benefit, even in poetry,—and so represent wheat, barley, oats, &c.; that is to say "not only one kind of grain." The lines of the letter n and the double l may have been much alike in manuscript, and may have easily misled transcribers. I will not dwell upon the verses after
"Tethys emat omnibus undis;"
but really those eight appear to me like an excrescence on the face of a beautiful boy.

Johnson. They are puerile, are they?—a blemish, a deformity!

Tooke. In honest truth I think so.
So far as I can tell, no editor of Vergil even mentions Landor's conjecture.


Little God of Small Things

Greek Anthology 9.334 (by Perses; tr. J.W. Mackail):
Even me the little god of small things if thou call upon in due season thou shalt find; but ask not for great things; since whatsoever a god of the commons can give to a labouring man, of this I, Tycho, have control.

κἀμὲ τὸν ἐν σμικροῖς ὀλίγον θεὸν ἢν ἐπιβώσῃς
    εὐκαίρως, τεύξῃ· μὴ μεγάλων δὲ γλίχου.
ὡς ὅτι δημοτέρων δύναται θεὸς ἀνδρὶ πενέστῃ
    δωρεῖσθαι, τούτων κύριός εἰμι Τύχων.

Πέρσου εἰς Σατύρου ἢ Πανὸς ἄγαλμα ἢ καὶ Πριήπου corrector cod. Palatini
3 ὅτι Stephanus: ὅτε codd.
δημοτέρων Hecker: δημογέρων codd.
4 Τύχων Reiske: τυχών vel τυχῶν codd.
Diodorus Siculus 4.6.4 (on Priapus; tr. C.H. Oldfather):
This god is also called by some Ithyphallus, by others Tychon.

τοῦτον δὲ τὸν θεὸν τινὲς μὲν Ἰθύφαλλον ὀνομάζουσι, τινὲς δὲ Τύχωνα.
See also Vladymir Borukhovich, "The God Tychon in a Graffito from the Island of Berezan," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 121 (1998) 165-166.

Friday, October 23, 2020


A Huckster

Procopius, History of the Wars 2.15.25 (tr. H.B. Dewing):
And there has been set over us as ruler a huckster who has made our destitution a kind of business by virtue of the authority of his office.

ἐφέστηκέ τε ἡμῖν ἄρχων κάπηλος, τὴν ἡμετέραν ἀπορίαν ἐργασίαν τινὰ τῇ τῆς ἀρχῆς ἐξουσίᾳ πεποιημένος.


Anglo-Saxon Language and Literature

Allen J. Frantzen, Desire for Origins: New Language, Old English, and Teaching the Tradition (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990), p. 2 (note omitted):
Many specialists in modern literatures regard medievalists, and especially Anglo-Saxonists, as "antiquaries," a term used in the past—and often used derisively—to denote those who studied the past for its own sake while willfully neglecting the present. Many modernists doubt that a subject so technical, philological, and remote as Anglo-Saxon still merits a place in the business of the undergraduate or graduate degree. Once again, bad pedagogy comes to mind. Many former doctoral candidates recall their graduate courses in Old English, and courses in Beowulf in particular, as a horror of monotonous grammar drills and tedious translation of words that were to be found only once or twice in a text but that still, for some reason, had to be looked up many times. To make matters worse, presiding over this philological busyness were proponents of a culture typified on the one hand by the machismo of carousing in beer halls, of treasure-giving, longing for exile, or complaining about being in exile, and, on the other hand, of piety and guilt, constant reminders of the need to repent in anticipation of the terrors of the Last Judgment. Thus, Anglo-Saxon language and literature recall both the oppression of philological discipline—translation and memorization—and the vague, violent primitivism that cliché has attached to Anglo-Saxon culture.



Walter Savage Landor, "Second Conversation" between Samuel Johnson and John Horne Tooke, Imaginary Conversations, Vol. III (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1909), pp. 400-451 (at 422-423, Tooke speaking):
I am a bad man, but exactly in the contrary of the word's original meaning, which I thank you for reminding me of. A bad man is a bade man, or bidden man; a slave in other words: and the same idea was attached to the expression by the Italians and the French (while their language and they had a character) in cattivo and chétif, and by us in caitiff, men in no other condition than that wherein they must do as they are bid. We should ourselves have been in no higher condition, if we had not resisted what, in palaces and churches and colleges, was called legitimate power; and indeed we should still be, rather than men, a pliant unsubstantial herbage, springing up from under the smoky, verminous, unconcocted doctrine of passive obedience, to be carted off by our kings amid their carols, and cocked and ricked and cut, and half-devoured, half-trampled, and wasted, in the pinfold of our priesthood.
On the uncertain etymology of bad see the following articles by Anatoly Liberman: Cf. Greek κακός — "Comme pour beaucoup de mots signifiant «mal», pas d'étymologie établie" (Pierre Chantraine), "No clear etymology" (Robert Beekes).

Thursday, October 22, 2020


A Hero

Tom Shippey, Laughing Shall I Die: Lives and Deaths of the Great Vikings (London: Reaktion Books, 2018), p. 37:
A hero is defined not by victory but by defeat. Only in defeat can you show what you're really made of. Only in final defeat can you show that you will never give in. That's why the gods have to die as well. If they did not die, how could they show true courage? If they were really immortal and invulnerable, who would respect them?

Wednesday, October 21, 2020


Coast Guard

Beowulf 318-319 (the coast-guard speaking to Beowulf; tr. J.R.R. Tolkien):
To the sea will I go, against unfriendly hosts my watch to keep.

                                Ic to sæ wille
wið wrað werod      wearde healdan.
Stephen A. Barney, Word-Hoard: An Introduction to Old English Vocabulary, 2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), p. 19:
Id., p. 65:
Id., p. 31:
On the entire episode (but not these lines) see Margaret W. Pepperdene, "Beowulf and the Coast-Guard," English Studies 47 (1966) 409-419.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020


Personal Hygiene

Arrian, Discourses of Epictetus 4.11.9-18 (tr. Robin Hard):
[9] We should endeavour as far as possible to achieve something similar with regard to the body too. It is impossible that there should not be some flow of mucus from a human being, since he is constituted in the way that he is. For that reason, nature has created hands, and has made our nostrils themselves like tubes to carry away the fluids. So if anyone sniffs them up again, I say that he isn't acting as is appropriate for a human being. [10] It was impossible that our feet should not get muddy, or dirty at all, when we pass through filth of that kind; nature has thus provided us with water and with hands. [11] It was impossible that some dirt should not get left behind on our teeth when we’ve eaten; and so nature says to us, 'Clean your teeth.' Why? So that you may be a human being, and not a wild beast or a pig. [12] It was impossible that through our sweat and the rubbing of our clothes, some uncleanness should not be left behind on our body and need to be cleaned off; for this reason, we have water, oil, hands, a towel, a scraper, and everything else that is used for cleaning the body. [13] Not in your case? But a smith will remove the rust from his iron, and has tools made for that purpose, and you yourself will wash your plate before you eat, unless you're irredeemably dirty and unclean; and yet when it comes to your poor body, you don't want to wash it and make it clean?

'Why should I?', the man says.

[14] I'll tell you again: in the first place, to act as is appropriate for a human being, and secondly, so as not to disgust those whom you meet. [15] You're doing something of that kind even here, without realizing it. You think that you have the right to give out a bad smell. Very well, you may have it. But do you think that those who sit by you, or recline by you at table, should have it too, and those who kiss you? [16] Oh, go off into the desert somewhere, as you deserve, and live there alone, taking pleasure in your own odours. But living in a city as you do, what sort of a person do you think you're showing yourself to be, to behave in such a thoughtless and inconsiderate manner? [17] If nature had entrusted a horse to your care, would you have neglected it and failed to look after it? Well then, think of your own body as a horse that has been entrusted to you; wash it, wipe it, make it such that no one will turn away from you, no one will seek to avoid you. [18] And who doesn't want to avoid a man who is dirty, who smells, and whose skin looks even worse in colour than someone who has been spattered with dung? In the latter case, the smell rises merely from the outside and is accidental, but in the other, it arises from neglect, and thus comes from within, as though from some form of putrefaction.

[9] Δεῖ δέ τι ἐοικὸς τούτῳ καὶ ἐπὶ σώματος φιλοτεχνεῖν κατὰ τὸ ἐνδεχόμενον. ἀμήχανον ἦν μύξας μὴ ῥεῖν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τοιοῦτον ἔχοντος τὸ σύγκραμα· διὰ τοῦτο χεῖρας ἐποίησεν ἡ φύσις καὶ αὐτὰς τὰς ῥῖνας ὡς σωλῆνας πρὸς τὸ ἐκδιδόναι τὰ ὑγρά. ἂν οὖν ἀναρροφῇ τις αὐτάς, λέγω ὅτι οὐ ποιεῖ ἔργον ἀνθρωπικόν. [10] ἀμήχανον ἦν μὴ πηλοῦσθαι τοὺς πόδας μηδὲ ὅλως μολύνεσθαι διὰ τοιούτων τινῶν πορευομένους· διὰ τοῦτο ὕδωρ παρεσκεύασεν, διὰ τοῦτο χεῖρας. [11] ἀμήχανον ἦν ἀπὸ τοῦ τρώγειν μὴ ῥυπαρόν τι προσμένειν τοῖς ὀδοῦσι· διὰ τοῦτο "πλῦνον," φησίν, "τοὺς ὀδόντας." διὰ τί; ἵν᾿ ἄνθρωπος ᾖς καὶ μὴ θηρίον μηδὲ συίδιον. [12] ἀμήχανον μὴ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἱδρῶτος καὶ τῆς κατὰ τὴν ἐσθῆτα συνοχῆς ὑπολείπεσθαί τι περὶ τὸ σῶμα ῥυπαρὸν καὶ δεόμενον ἀποκαθάρσεως· διὰ τοῦτο ὕδωρ, ἔλαιον, χεῖρες, ὀθόνιον, ξύστρα, νίτρον, ἔσθ᾿ ὅθ᾿ ἡ ἄλλη πᾶσα παρασκευὴ πρὸς τὸ καθῆραι αὐτό. [13] οὔ· ἀλλ᾿ ὁ μὲν χαλκεὺς ἐξιώσει τὸ σιδήριον καὶ ὄργανα πρὸς τοῦτο ἕξει κατεσκευασμένα, καὶ τὸ πινάκιον αὐτὸς σὺ πλυνεῖς, ὅταν μέλλῃς ἐσθίειν, ἐὰν μὴ ᾖς παντελῶς ἀκάθαρτος καὶ ῥυπαρός· τὸ σωμάτιον δ᾿ οὐ πλυνεῖς οὐδὲ καθαρὸν ποιήσεις;

—Διὰ τί; φησίν.—

[14] Πάλιν ἐρῶ σοι· πρῶτον μὲν ἵνα τὰ ἀνθρώπου ποιῇς, εἶτα ἵνα μὴ ἀνιᾷς τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας. [15] τοιοῦτόν τι καὶ ἐνθάδε ποιεῖς καὶ οὐκ αἰσθάνῃ. σαυτὸν ἄξιον ἡγῇ τοῦ ὄζειν· ἔστω, ἴσθι ἄξιος. μή τι καὶ τοὺς παρακαθίζοντας, μή τι καὶ τοὺς συγκατακλινομένους, μή τι καὶ τοὺς καταφιλοῦντας; [16] ἔα ἄπελθ᾿ εἰς ἐρημίαν πού ποτε, ἧς ἄξιος εἶ, καὶ μόνος δίαγε κατόζων σεαυτοῦ. δίκαιον γάρ ἐστι τῆς σῆς ἀκαθαρσίας σὲ μόνον ἀπολαύειν. ἐν πόλει δ᾿ ὄντα οὕτως ἀπερισκέπτως καὶ ἀγνωμόνως ἀναστρέφεσθαι τίνος σοι φαίνεται; [17] εἰ δ᾿ ἵππον σοι πεπιστεύκει ἡ φύσις, περιεώρας αὐτὸν καὶ ἀτημέλητον; καὶ νῦν οἴου σου τὸ σῶμα ὡς ἵππον ἐγκεχειρίσθαι· πλῦνον αὐτό, ἀπόσμηξον, ποίησον, ἵνα σε μηδεὶς ἀποστρέφηται, μηδεὶς ἐκτρέπηται. [18] τίς δ᾿ οὐκ ἐκτρέπεται ῥυπαρὸν ἄνθρωπον, ὄζοντα, κακόχρουν μᾶλλον ἢ τὸν κεκοπρωμένον; ἐκείνη ἡ ὁσμὴ ἔξωθέν ἐστιν ἐπίθετος, ἡ δ᾿ ἐξ ἀθεραπευσίας ἔσωθεν καὶ οἱονεὶ διασεσηπότος.
W.A. Oldfather ad loc.:
The excesses, probably Oriental in origin, to which Christian ascetism soon went in regard to despising cleanliness, seem to have begun to manifest themselves already in the early second century among enthusiastic young Stoics and would-be Cynics. It is interesting to see how Epictetus, simple and austere as he was, vigorously maintained the validity of older Greek and Roman feeling in this regard.
Related posts:



A tourtière baked by my brother:
He used the recipe handed down from our maternal grandmother, who was born in Yamachiche, Québec.

Monday, October 19, 2020


Native Soil

Procopius, History of the Wars 2.12.8-17 (tr. H.B. Dewing):
[8] There was a certain Augarus in early times, toparch of Edessa (for thus the kings of the different nations were called then). Now this Augarus was the most clever of all men of his time, and as a result of this was an especial friend of the Emperor Augustus. [9] For, desiring to make a treaty with the Romans, he came to Rome; and when he conversed with Augustus, he so astonished him by the abundance of his wisdom that Augustus wished never more to give up his company; for he was an ardent lover of his conversation, and whenever he met him, he was quite unwilling to depart from him. [10] A long time, therefore, was consumed by him in this visit. And one day when he was desirous of returning to his native land and was utterly unable to persuade Augustus to let him go, he devised the following plan.

[11] He first went out to hunt in the country about Rome; for it happened that he had taken considerable interest in the practice of this sport. And going about over a large tract of country, he captured alive many of the animals of that region, and he gathered up and took with him from each part of the country some earth from the land; thus he returned to Rome bringing both the earth and the animals. [12] Then Augustus went up into the hippodrome and seated himself as was his wont, and Augarus came before him and displayed the earth and the animals, telling over from what district each portion of earth was and what animals they were. [13] Then he gave orders to put the earth in different parts of the hippodrome, and to gather all the animals into one place and then to release them. So the attendants did as he directed. [14] And the animals, separating from each other, went each to that portion of earth which was from the district in which it itself had been taken.

[15] And Augustus looked upon the performance carefully for a very long time, and he was wondering that nature untaught makes animals miss their native land. Then Augarus, suddenly laying hold upon his knees, said, [16] "But as for me, O Master, what thoughts dost thou think I have, who possess a wife and children and a kingdom, small indeed, but in the land of my fathers?" [17] And the emperor, overcome and compelled by the truth of his saying, granted not at all willingly that he should go away, and bade him ask besides whatever he wished.
Greek here.

Related posts:

Sunday, October 18, 2020


In Defence of Ananias and Sapphira

Acts 5.1-11 (Revised Standard Version):
But a man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much." And she said, "Yes, for so much." But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Hark, the feet of those that have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.
Walter Savage Landor, "William Penn and Lord Peterborough," Imaginary Conversations, Vol. III (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1909), pp. 9-123 (at 66, Peterborough speaking):
Would He, with such righteousness, such gentleness, such forbearance, have treated Ananias and Sapphira as Peter his successor did? Certainly the popes descend in a right line from this prince of the apostles; who very properly bears in his statue the head of Jupiter the thunderer. If he really did toward Ananias and Sapphira, what we are bound to believe he did, he neglected the example and disobeyed the commands of his master, and he infringed the laws and usurped the magistrature of his country. Would any modern king, Christian or Mahomedan or idolater, would any republic of any age, permit a private man to enforce, under pain or threat of death, so rigid and bitter an equality? Would you yourselves, who come nearest to the discipline of Christ, insist upon it? I do not ask whether you would point out for reprobation, I do not ask whether you would strike with extinction, a virtuous, generous, unsuspicious couple, who had given to the indigent the greater part of their possessions. Extinction for what crime?—the crime of holding back from their enthusiastic prodigality a slender pittance, with an object perhaps as justifiable and as sacred as charity itself. Their motives were unexamined, their cause unheard. We may suppose them desirous of repurchasing some quiet country-house, some shady little meadow, some garden with its trellised alcove or its woodland path at the end of it, the scene of their earliest tenderness and first caresses. There may be things about us so dear to us, that we should almost bear our soundest flesh to be cut away, before we could surrender them to another; and from a feeling so very different from avarice, that the avaricious man is perhaps the only one who is quite incapable of it. There are localities that have in them somewhat of an identity with ourselves: insomuch that, in almost all ages and countries, the poets have appealed to their consciousness: and poets search out and seize on resemblances of truth, even more striking than truth itself.


A Lost World

Joseph W. Moser, 2,001 Most Useful German Words (Mineola: Dover Publications, Inc., 2012), p. 5:
Abend(-e) m.      evening
Am Abend geht Markus mit Freunden ins Kino.
In the evening, Markus goes to the movies with friends.

Abendessen n.      dinner
Zum Abendessen fahren wir heute ins Gasthaus.
Today we are going to a restaurant for dinner.
Not during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saturday, October 17, 2020


The Civilian Hierarchy

Alan Cameron, Circus Factions: Blues and Greens at Rome and Byzantium (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976; rpt. 1999), pp. 80-81:

Friday, October 16, 2020


The Ghosts of the Dead Past

Samuel Butler (1835-1902), The Note-Books (London: Jonathan Cape, 1926), p. 180:
We want a Society for the Suppression of Erudite Research and the Decent Burial of the Past. The ghosts of the dead past want quite as much laying as raising.

Thursday, October 15, 2020


Outgroup Favoritism

Aeschylus, Suppliants 401 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
You honored aliens and brought ruin upon your own land.

ἐπήλυδας τιμῶν ἀπώλεσας πόλιν.
Alan H. Sommerstein ad loc.:
Pelasgus' detractors are imagined as pointedly contrasting his solicitude for foreigners with his neglect of the interests of the Argives themselves.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020


Scholarly Progress?

Craig Kallendorf, review of Andreas Sirchich von Kis-Sira, Der Aeneis-Kommentar von Juan Luis de la Cerda (1612): kritische Edition, Übersetzung und Erschließung des ersten Buchs (Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 2020 = Noctes neolatinae, 36), in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2020.09.19
It is easy for twenty-first-century classicists to work from an unspoken model of scholarly progress in which each generation consigns to the dustbin of history those scholars who went before it, but in fact early modern scholars were much more steeped in the Latin world than we are and have much to teach us today.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020


A Mangled Motto

Portrait of Christopher Marlowe at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge:

John Goodwin, ed., Peter Hall's Diaries: The Story of a Dramatic Battle (London: H. Hamilton, 1983), p. 167:
The book was very useful though for my thinking on Tamburlaine. The inscription on the presumed portrait of the young Marlowe, discovered in the fifties, reads, 'Quod me nutrit me detruit' — 'that which nourishes me destroys me.' An excellent motto for Tamburlaine; and for Marlowe.
For "Quod me nutrit me detruit" read "Quod me nutrit me destruit".

Roy Strong, The Tudor and Stuart Monarchy: Pageantry, Painting, Iconography, Vol. II: Elizabethan (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1995), p. 301:
Love, too, is the complaint that afflicts the melancholy youth in the portrait sometimes called 'Christopher Marlowe' at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Here again the arms are crossed and the sable-clad sitter is accompanied by a doleful motto: Quod me nutruit me destruit (that which nourishes me destroys me). The latter is a variant of a well-known device in Paradin's Devises Héroïques taken by the Lord of St Valier for a certain noble womans sake, willing to insinuate hereby, that as her beautie and comelines did please his minde, so might it cast him into danger of his life.17

17 The Heroicall Devices of M. Claudius Paradin (London, 1591), pp. 357-8.
For "Quod me nutruit me destruit" read "Quod me nutrit me destruit".

Robert McCrum, Shakespearean: On Life & Language in Times of Disruption (London: Picador, 2020), Prologue (page number unknown):
Through the darkness, under a brilliant spotlight, the enigmatic portrait of the anonymous young man glows like an icon in the dining hall of the Cambridge college where I grew up. After more scrutiny, this late-Tudor treasure, painted on wood, will furnish two dates — Aetatis suae 21 Anno Domini 1585, the sitter's age, plus the year in which he was posing — and a sombre, transgressive motto, Quod me nutrit me detruit, meaning, 'That which nourishes me also destroys me.' [....] In the England of 1585, his inky costume alludes to Machiavellian thought, atheism and fashionable melancholy. Quod me nutrit me detruit. What unrequited love does this effeminate youth refer to? What existential torment? Who is he, and what are his circumstances?
For "Quod me nutrit me detruit" read "Quod me nutrit me destruit".

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Monday, October 12, 2020


An Echo of Plautus' Trinummus

David Butterfield, "Five Housman Notes and Queries," Housman Society Journal 40 (2014) 86-96 (at 94, discussing Housman's edition of Manilius; brackets in original):
ad IV.478: hunc uersum si nosset Theodorus Birtius, in hospitium suum calamitatis I. Muell. manual. class. antiqu. I iii p. 72 recepisset.17
Housman thought little of Theodor Birt's 1913 volume on textual transmission and criticism; after asserting that Birt was ignorant of this verse's existence, he refers to his collection (either of metrical examples or as a whole)18 as an 'abode of woe' (hospitium calamitatis). The phrase is drawn from the comic playwright Plautus' Trinummus (553-4): hospitium calamitatis, quid uerbis opus est? | quamuis malam rem quaeras, illic reperias. '[The human mind is] an abode of woe: what need is there for words? Whatever bad thing you may search for, you may find it there.' The attack on Birt is therefore phrased in grimly pessimistic terms about the fundamental impurity of man's mind.

17. 'If Theodor Birt had known of this verse, he would have welcomed it into his abode of woe at Vol. 1.iii p.72 of Iwan von Mueller's Handbuch der Klassischen Altertumswissenschaft [Kritik und Hermeneutik, Munich, 1913].'

18. Birt provides ad loc. a controversial series of cases where final short vowels appear to be standing in lieu of long syllables in dactylic verse.
In the passage from the Trinummus, Plautus isn't talking about the human mind, but rather about a plot of land.



A Safe Space

Persius 6.12 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
Here, I needn't worry about the mob...

hic ego securus volgi...
Isaac Casaubon ad loc.:
Jam quibus studiis in hoc secessu incumbat, ostendit: ita enim verba ejus accipienda. Heic, inquit, agimus nos securi vulgi, id est, parum solliciti, quid de nobis vulgus judicet: neque enim e judicio vulgi pendemus, quod proprium est ambitiosi et gloriae cupidi, ut dicebamus initio primae. Securitas haec, de qua Persius sentit, illa est, quam conciliat sui studiosis sola virtus: cujus ista est laus propria, quod animos omni perturbatione affectuum liberatos in securo tranquillitatis portu ἀκυμάντῳ collocat: multa Seneca et alii philosophi, sed appositissime ad hunc locum Chrysostomus in Matthaeum Homilia ΧΧV: τίς ἐστιν, ait, ἡ ἰσχὺς τῆς ἀρετῆς; τὸ μετὰ ἀσφαλείας ζῇν, τὸ μηδενὶ τῶν δεινῶν εὐχείρωτον εἶναι, et plura in hanc sententiam.


Happy Columbus Day

Dióscoro Puebla (1831-1901), Desembarco de Colón (Madrid, Museo del Prado, accession number P006766):

Related posts:

Sunday, October 11, 2020


Thought, Word, and Deed

Andy Orchard, "Beowulf and Other Battlers: An Introduction to Beowulf," in Richard North and Joe Allard, edd., Beowulf and Other Stories: A New Introduction to Old English, Old Icelandic, and Anglo-Norman Literatures (Harlow: Pearson Longman, 2007), pp. 63-94 (at 75-76):
'Þu eart mægenes strang    ond on mode frod,
wis wordcwida.' (Beowulf, lines 1844–5)

'You are strong in might and wise in mind, clever in speeches.'
This particular combination, often described as the 'thought, word and deed' triad, and probably popularised in Anglo-Saxon England through Irish Christian sources, can be found in a number of places elsewhere in the poem, as for example, where Hrothgar mourns the loss of his companion Æschere, ripped apart by Grendel's mother:
                   'Dead is Æschere,
Yrmenlafes    yldra broþor,
min runwita    ond min rædbora,
eaxlgestealla,    ðonne we on orlege
hafelan weredon,    ðonne hniton feþan,
eoferas cnysedan.' (Beowulf, lines 1324–9)

'Æschere is dead, Yrmenlaf's elder brother, my close confidant and my counsel-giver, my shoulder-companion when in battle we protected our heads as footsoldiers clashed, struck boar-helmets.'
The triad 'close confidant . . . counsel-giver . . . shoulder-companion' (runwita . . . rædbora, eaxlgestealla) evidently alludes to the same 'thought, word, and deed' triad, in precisely the same order.

The interest of the Beowulf poet's evident identification of this triad with worldly and individual heroic endeavour is that it can be traced back to a Christian pattern describing how at Doomsday mankind will be judged for what they have done in 'thought, word and deed', and it became a motif most associated with preaching texts. However, certain Anglo-Saxons writing Latin poetry in the earlier period extend the theme, like the Beowulf poet, to praise individuals for their meritorious lives. So, for example, Bede (who died in 735), says in his poetic account of Saint Cuthbert that 'Cuthbert shines brilliant in mind, in hand, and in mouth, and looks after the flocks entrusted to him with prayers and advice'; later in the same poem he reuses the same theme to connect Cuthbert to the Church Fathers: 'For that man was devoted to God in his mind, and pleasant in his mouth, accustomed to recall the holy deeds of the Fathers, he also introduces quite often those of his own, which triumphs he performed with only a heavenly witness.'
See Patrick Sims-Williams, "Thought, Word and Deed: An Irish Triad," Ériu 29 (1978) 78-111.

Saturday, October 10, 2020



William Shakespeare, Coriolanus 2.3.213-216 (text and line numbering as in John Dover Wilson's edition in The New Shakespeare series):
They have chose a consul that will from them take
Their liberties, make them of no more voice
Than dogs that are as often beat for barking
As therefore kept to do so.

Friday, October 09, 2020



James 4:9 (KJV):
Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.

ταλαιπωρήσατε καὶ πενθήσατε καὶ κλαύσατε· ὁ γέλως ὑμῶν εἰς πένθος μετατραπήτω καὶ ἡ χαρὰ εἰς κατήφειαν.
Franz Mussner, Der Jakobusbrief, 5th ed. (Freiburg: Herder, 1987), p. 186:

Thursday, October 08, 2020


A Passion for Perfection

G.B.A. Fletcher, quoted in Grant Richards, Housman, 1897-1936 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1942), p. 385:
He was shy by nature and he had a passion for perfection—for perfection in scholarship, food, personal relationships and everything else. Anything imperfect was torture to him. Conversation that fell short of what he felt to be worth while he instinctively avoided. Taciturn he often was, but it was not more often than in other people the taciturnity of moroseness. He was often silent because he preferred not to speak inaccurately or shoddily. He was often solitary because any substitute for perfect intimacy seemed to him too poor a thing.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020


The Golden Age

Thomas Middleton (1580-1627), "Father Hubburds Tales: Or The Ant, And the Nightingale," in his Collected Works (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007), pp. 164-182 (at 181):
There was a Golden Age! who murdered it?
How died that Age, or what became of it?


The Frog-King

Petronius, Satyricon 77.6 (my translation):
He who was a frog is now a king.

qui fuit rana, nunc est rex.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020


The Antiquarian Priesthood

Michael Parenti, The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome (New York: The New Press, 2003), pp. 223-224:
My desire has been to make the classical sources used herein accessible to the lay reader. Most present-day historians of antiquity seem determined to make them inaccessible, a fact that itself might be indicative of the pedantic and elitist nature of their training. In regard to ancient sources, they resort to a mode of Latin citation so severely abbreviated as to be identifiable only to select colleagues specially schooled in classical literature. So we encounter indecipherable references like "B.i.146" and "De fin., V.65." To add to the difficulty, a key to such arcane abbreviations is rarely provided, thus ensuring that the interested layperson who wishes to delve into ancient sources, or at least fathom what they might be, is properly stymied.

Furthermore, the classicists make a point of not listing the ancient sources in their otherwise copious bibliographies, not even in the original Latin. With the help of lexicons and after a deep immersion in the literature, the persevering lay reader (including the non-classicist historian) eventually might be able to divine that "Sall. Bell Iug 71" is a reference to Sallust Bellum Iugurthinum and is available in English as Sallust's The Jugurthine War. Persistent lay readers might even be able to discover, as I did, that "Plin. NH VII. 91–2" is a reference not to the younger Pliny but to Gaius Secundus Plinius (maior), Naturalis Historia, that is, the elder Pliny's Natural History. But what are the unanointed to do with "Ad Q. fr. II.iv.1" or "Q.F.I.i"? (Which happen to be Ad Quintum Fratrem or To [Cicero's] Brother Quintus.) Knowing enough Latin to guess that "Ep. ad Caes" (or sometimes it is just "ad Caes") is Epistulae ad Caesarem, one can conclude that someone had written a letter to Caesar; but when not even an abbreviation of the author's name is given, we would have to know enough on our own to guess that it was Sallust and not the more likely Cicero whose letters survive in such abundance.

This abstruse mode of citation is used even by progressive scholars such as Neal Wood and the incomparable G.E.M. de Ste. Croix, both of whom otherwise seem interested in communicating with audiences beyond the antiquarian priesthood. One of the few exceptions to such pedantry is Arthur D. Kahn, who in his The Education of Julius Caesar (1986) provides a listing of the ancient sources he used, both in English and Latin, as well as a key to their abbreviations—which is only one of several reasons for welcoming his book.
Most classical scholars (I think) use the abbreviations listed in the Oxford Classical Dictionary.


Content of Mind

Anonymous, in English Madrigal Verse, 1588-1632, ed. E.H. Fellowes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1920), p. 63:
In crystal towers and turrets richly set
    With glittering gems that shine against the sun,
In regal rooms of jasper and of jet
    Content of mind not always likes to woon.
But often times it pleaseth her to stay
In simple cotes enclosed with walls of clay.
Attributed to Geoffrey Witney by Alfred Einstein, Essays on Music (New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1962), p. 134.

Monday, October 05, 2020


The Charm of Mere Age

Samuel Butler (1835-1902), The Note-Books (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1917), pp. 150-151:
And then there is the charm of mere age. Any Italian picture of the early part of the sixteenth century, even though by a worse painter than Raffaelle, can hardly fail to call up in us a solemn, old-world feeling, as though we had stumbled unexpectedly on some holy, peaceful survivors of an age long gone by, when the struggle was not so fierce and the world was a sweeter, happier place than we now find it, when men and women were comelier, and we should like to have lived among them, to have been golden-hued as they, to have done as they did; we dream of what might have been if our lines had been cast in more pleasant places — and so on, all of it rubbish, but still not wholly unpleasant rubbish so long as it is not dwelt upon.

Sunday, October 04, 2020


Our Anglo-Saxon Forefathers

S.A. Dunham, A History of Europe During the Middle Ages, Vol. III (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green & Longman, 1834), p. 81:
To state the liberal qualities, the manly wisdom, the public virtue, of our Anglo-Saxon forefathers, has been a favourite employment for declamation in a certain noisy assembly. Such declamation shows a deplorable ignorance of their character, their history, their institutions. They were neither liberal nor just; they were neither wise nor virtuous. On the contrary, every remaining record proves that they were at once the most barbarous, the most selfish, the most bloodthirsty, unjust, odious, and yet despicable, of the European nations; that they were destitute of all virtue, public or private. How such a horde of lawless savages contrived to escape mutual destruction by the violence or perfidy of each other, is a problem of impracticable solution.


A Howler

Paul Robertson, Soundscapes: A Musician's Journey through Life and Death (London: Faber & Faber, 2016), p. 164:
We may call this ESP, or prayer, or love, or the Divine, or the space between the notes — or whatever else we will. Leonardo's miraculous Sistine Chapel depiction of God creating Adam captures exactly this profound and beautiful mystery.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who remarks, "Leonardo would scowl, and Michelangelo grimace, at the misattribution. So much for publishers' readers."



Days of Strife

Beowulf 1059-1062 (tr. Howard D. Chickering, Jr.):
Therefore understanding       is always best,
the spirit's forethought.       Much love, much hate,
must he endure       who thinks to live long
here in this world,       in our days of strife.

Forþan bið andgit       æghwær selest,
ferhðes foreþanc.       Fela sceal gebidan
leofes ond laþes,       se þe longe her
on ðyssum windagum       worolde bruceð.
The same, tr. Francis B. Gummere:
Therefore is insight always best,
and forethought of mind. How much awaits him
of lief and of loath, who long time here,
through days of warfare this world endures!

Saturday, October 03, 2020



William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 3, Act 1, Scene 4, lines 86 and 91 (Queen Margaret speaking):
I prithee, grieve, to make me merry, York.


Stamp, rave, and fret, that I may sing and dance.

Friday, October 02, 2020



Adam Smith, letter to Thomas Cadell (March 15, 1788):
I am a slow a very slow workman, who do and undo everything I write at least a half a dozen of times before I can be tolerably pleased with it...
Related post: Revise and Rewrite.


Stylistic Simplicity

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), The World as Will and Representation, Vol. I, Book III, § 47 (tr. E.F.J. Payne):
Just as the beautiful bodily form can be seen to the best advantage with the lightest clothing, or even no clothing at all, and thus a very handsome man, if at the same time he had taste and could follow it, would prefer to walk about almost naked, clothed only after the manner of the ancients; so will every fine mind rich in ideas express itself always in the most natural, candid, and simple way, concerned if it be possible to communicate its thoughts to others, and thus to relieve the loneliness that one is bound to feel in a world such as this. Conversely, poverty of mind, confusion and perversity of thought will clothe themselves in the most far-fetched expressions and obscure forms of speech, in order to cloak in difficult and pompous phrases small, trifling, insipid, or commonplace ideas. It is like the man who lacks the majesty of beauty, and wishes to make up for this deficiency by clothing; he attempts to cover up the insignificance or ugliness of his person under barbaric finery, tinsel, feathers, ruffies, cuffs, and mantles. Thus many an author, if compelled to translate his pompous and obscure book into its little clear content, would be as embarrassed as that man would be if he were to go about naked.

[W]ie die schöne Körperform bei der leichtesten, oder bei gar keiner Bekleidung am vortheilhaftesten sichtbar ist, und daher ein sehr schöner Mensch, wenn er zugleich Geschmack hätte und auch demselben folgen dürfte, am liebsten beinahe nackt, nur nach Weise der Antiken bekleidet, gehn würde; — eben so nun wird jeder schöne und gedankenreiche Geist sich immer auf die natürlichste, unumwundenste, einfachste Weise ausdrücken, bestrebt, wenn es irgend möglich ist, seine Gedanken Ändern mitzutheilen, um dadurch die Einsamkeit, die er in einer Welt wie diese empfinden muß, sich zu erleichtern: umgekehrt nun aber wird Geistesarmuth, Verworrenheit, Verschrobenheit sich in die gesuchtesten Ausdrücke und dunkelsten Redensarten kleiden, um so in schwierige und pomphafte Phrasen kleine, winzige, nüchterne, oder alltägliche Gedanken zu verhüllen, Demjenigen gleich, der, weil ihm die Majestät der Schönheit abgeht, diesen Mangel durch die Kleidung ersetzen will und unter barbarischem Putz, Flittern, Federn, Krausen, Puffen und Mantel, die Winzigkeit oder Häßlichkeit seiner Person zu verstehen sucht. So verlegen wie dieser, wenn er nackt gehn sollte, wäre mancher Autor, wenn man ihn zwänge, sein so pomphaftes, dunkles Buch in dessen kleinen, klaren Inhalt zu übersetzen.

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