Friday, April 30, 2021


What is the Good of Greek?

John William Mackail (1859-1945), "What is the Good of Greek?" Studies in Humanism (1938; rpt. Freeport: Books for Libraries Press, 1969), pp. 44-59 (at 45-46):
Times change; fashions vary; beliefs alter. In Scotland fifty years ago, when I was a schoolboy there, the question we are considering was seldom if ever asked. The value of Greek was taken for granted. Partly, this was a matter of old tradition in a proud and conservative race. Partly, it was due to the rooted belief in education, the national respect for learning for its own sake. Partly, it was the result of a more intangible prestige, towards which these and other elements combined. Education was prized, no doubt, for its results in market value. But it was prized higher, and more widely, for itself. It was recognized as enabling human beings, not perhaps to be successful in the ordinary sense, but to realize their moral powers and intellectual capacities; thus giving its possessors self-respect and entitling them to respect from others, furnishing them with a surer hold on life, with sources of lasting strength and inward happiness.

In education as thus viewed, as given and received in this spirit, the classics, and Greek in particular, held a prominent and an unchallenged place. With most pupils, the classical teaching received did not go beyond the elements; and it was, of course, only a small minority of the population who received even that. But to be entered on Latin was a source of great satisfaction; it was a distinction and a privilege. To be entered on Greek was a higher and rarer distinction still. Greek was regarded not as a useless luxury or an idle accomplishment, but as a prize for the aptest and most forward, who were a little envied, and a good deal looked up to, by their less fortunate schoolfellows. Nor was it a privilege in the lower sense of the term, the appanage of superior birth or wealth or social standing. That age was in a way more democratic than the present, because it was so by a common instinct rather than by contentious theory or abstract dogma. There were classes, and they were clearly defined; but they were organic. The artificial growth of class-consciousness was yet to come. Class-consciousness, and the sectionalism which it implies, are the antithesis of democracy, and they only hamper the life of a nation.

Such was the educational practice—it was rather practice or habit than theory—which produced a corresponding type of citizen: hard workers, clear reasoners, with developed capacities for acting and producing and thinking; with intelligence and character; people to whom life was a serious thing, and learning was perhaps the most precious thing in life.
Id. (at 47):
Now the use of Greek is this, that it lies at the base of humanism. It was through the Greek genius that man became fully human; and without Greek the humanistic mastery of life remains incomplete. And there is this further point to be added—it is of scarcely inferior importance—that the Greek achievement, more particularly in literature, both prose and poetry, is unequalled in quality. In the great Greek writers there is an excellence never reached before or since. They supply us, and this is as true now as it ever was, not only with an unfailing source of the highest human pleasure, but with a permanent model and standard for our own utmost effort.

Greek is not a quack specific. It can be badly taught and badly learned. It can be so handled (as all the best things can) that it becomes useless or worse than useless. But, even after all allowance is made for this, it is a gate opening into an enlarged and ennobled life. Education without Greek may be, and often is, very good; but with Greek it is better.
Id. (at 51):
Another point may be made here. The Greek masterpieces teach us the lesson, never more needed than now, of humility. They make us feel that we have to go to school to the Greeks. Goethe said of himself in the art of which he was so great a master, "Beside the Greek poets I am absolutely nothing." In a confused Babel of tongues, in the torrent of cleverness which spouts and foams round us in endless volume from journalists, novelists, poets, propagandists, it is through Greek that we can keep our feet on solid ground; can realize the virtue of direct truth to nature, of economy in language, of simplicity. Crystalline simplicity—what tells and what lasts—is the final quality of Greek work whether in prose or in poetry. In translations, even the best, it evaporates or becomes turbid.
Id. (at 59):
There is an old story, familiar no doubt to many here, of the question which I took for the title of this address being asked of a Dean of Christ Church a century ago or more, and of his reply that knowledge of Greek not only enabled those who possessed it to feel conscious superiority over others, but also led to positions of great dignity and emolument. The latter of these motives cannot be offered now; but there remains as a reward the dignity of human nature, and the spiritual emolument which cannot depreciate, cannot be lost or confiscated. For the former, the claim which holds good is that Greek makes us consciously superior not to others, but to ourselves. The good of Greek, in the last resort, is that it gives, in a way that nothing else quite does, the highest kind of joy; and such joys are not so common that we can afford to cast them away.



Vergil, Aeneid 10.501-502 (tr. Frederick Ahl):
Witness the human mind, knowing nothing of fate or the future,
Nothing about moderation when puffed with success and good fortune!

nescia mens hominum fati sortisque futurae
et servare modum rebus sublata secundis!
The same, tr. J.W. Mackail:
Ah spirit of man, ignorant of fate and the allotted future, or to keep bounds when elate with prosperity!
Albert Forbiger ad loc.:
Cum v. 501. cf. Hor. Od. III, 29, 29. Ovid. Trist. V, 14, 29. Silium VI, 659. Stat. Theb. II, 93. Iuven. VI, 556. ad Herenn. IV, 24. Tac. Hist. II, 7. alios et Ruhnk. adnot. ad Hom. h. in Cer. 256., cum v. 502. autem Hor. Od. II, 3, 1 sqq. Liv. XXX, 42. Claud. XXII, 160. et plures alios. Conington comparat Hom. Il. XVII, 201. — Verba fati sortisque futurae repetuntur in Anth. Lat. I, 172, 153. I. 178. 111. et III, 81, 43. Cf. etiam Lactant. de Phoen. (in Wernsd. P. Lat. min. III, 321.) 161. at fortunatae sortis fatique volucrem (a Wold. Ribbeckio laud.). 502. — sublata, quod vulgo elata. Cf. Ter. Hec. III, 5, 56. Caes. B.G. I, 15. all. Quod ad sententiam attinet, Ladew. comparat' Liv. XXX, 42, 15. Raro simul hominibus bonam fortunam bonamque mentem dari. Cf. etiam Silius VIII, 546. hunc locum sic imitatus: heu rebus servare serenis Inconsulta modum et pravo peritura tumore!

Thursday, April 29, 2021


A Fragment of Epicurus

Epicurus, fragment 471 in Hermann Usener, Epicurea (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1887), p. 301 = fragment 189 in Graziano Arrighetti, ed., Epicuro, Opere (Turin: Giulio Einaudi Editore, 1960), p. 510, from Porphyry, To Marcella 27 (tr. Kathleen O'Brien Wicker, rev. Elias Tempelis, with Arrighetti's Greek text):
It is not rare to find a man poor in the attainment of Nature but rich in empty false opinions. For no ignorant man is satisfied with what he has; instead he pines for what he does not have. So then, just as those who have a fever are always thirsty because of the serious nature of their disease and eagerly desire what is most detrimental, so also those who have the soul which manages it in distress are always in need of everything and fall prey to fickle desires under the influence of their excessive greed.

οὐ σπάνιόν γε εὑρεῖν ἄνθρωπον πρὸς τὸ τῆς φύσεως τέλος <πένητα> καὶ πλούσιον πρὸς τὰς κενὰς δόξας· οὐδεὶς γὰρ τῶν ἀφρόνων οἷς ἔχει ἀρκεῖται, μᾶλλον δὲ οἷς οὐκ ἔχει ὀδυνᾶται. ὥσπερ οὖν οἱ πυρέσσοντες διὰ κακοήθειαν τῆς <νόσου> ἀεὶ διψῶσι καὶ τῶν ἐναντιωτάτων ἐπιθυμοῦσιν, οὕτω καὶ οἱ τὴν ψυχὴν κακῶς ἔχοντες διακειμένην πένονται πάντων ἀεὶ καὶ εἰς πολυτρόπους ἐπιθυμίας ὑπὸ λαιμαργίας ἐμπίπτουσιν.
See Elias Tempelis, "A chapter of Epicurean philosophy in Porphyry's Letter to Marcella."

I find "those who have the soul which manages it in distress" to be awkward and misleading as a translation of οἱ τὴν ψυχὴν κακῶς ἔχοντες διακειμένην. I construe the adverb κακῶς as modifying the participle διακειμένην, i.e. "those who have the soul badly disposed." Peter Saint-Andre translates "those whose souls are in a bad condition."

Usener supplies some parallels, including (p. 302) Horace, Epistles 1.12.3-6 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Away with complaints; for he is not poor, who has enough of things to use. If stomach, lungs, and feet are all in health, the wealth of kings can give you nothing more.

                                                tolle querellas:
pauper enim non est, cui rerum suppetit usus.
si ventri bene, si lateri est pedibusque tuis, nil
divitiae poterunt regales addere maius.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021


Postulates and Methods of the Very Learned

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), "The Higher Criticism," Selected Essays (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1948), pp. 102-107 (at 102-103):
The Very Learned when they desire to fix the date or the authenticity or both of a piece of literature, adopt among other postulates, these:

(1) That tradition doesn't count.

(2) That common sense, one's general knowledge of the time, and all that multiplex integration which the sane mind effects from a million tiny data to a general judgement, is too tiny to be worthy of their august consideration.

(3) That the title 'Very Learned' (which gives them their authority) is tarnished by any form of general knowledge, and can only be acquired by confining oneself to a narrow field in which any fool could become an absolute master in about two years.

These are their negative postulates in dealing with a document.

As to their positive methods, of one hundred insufficient tricks I choose in particular these:

(1) The establishment of the date of the document against tradition and general air, by allusion discovered within it.

(2) The conception that all unusual events recorded in it are mythical, and therefore necessarily anterior to the document.

(3) The supposition that religious emotion, or indeed emotion of any kind, vitiates record.

(4) The use of a single piece of co-relative documentary evidence to destroy that general judgement.

(5) The fixed dogma that most writers of the past have spent most of their time in forging.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021


Things to Remember

Dio Cassius 56.18.2 (on the Germans, 9 A.D.; tr. Earnest Cary):
They had not, however, forgotten their ancestral habits, their native manners, their old life of independence, or the power derived from arms.

οὐ μέντοι καὶ τῶν πατρίων ἠθῶν τῶν τε συμφύτων τρόπων καὶ τῆς αὐτονόμου διαίτης τῆς τε ἐκ τῶν ὅπλων ἐξουσίας ἐκλελησμένοι ἦσαν.



Pindar, Pythian Odes 3.59-62 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
With our mortal minds we should seek from the gods that which becomes us,
knowing the way of the destiny ever at our feet.
Dear soul of mine, never urge a life beyond
mortality, but work the means at hand to the end.

χρὴ τὰ ἐοικότα πὰρ δαιμόνων μα-
στευέμεν θναταῖς φρασίν,
γνόντα τὸ πὰρ ποδός, οἵας εἰμὲν αἴσας.        60
μή, φίλα ψυχά, βίον ἀθάνατον
σπεῦδε, τὰν δ᾽ ἔμπρακτον ἄντλει μαχανάν.
Bruno Gentili ad loc.:

Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Pindaros (Berlin: Weidmann, 1922), p. 282 (footnote omitted):

Das gibt die Bedeutung des delphischen γνῶθι σαυτόν treffend wieder und wird durch die Aufforderung gekrönt, die Pindar an sein eigenes Ich richtet, aber auch auf Hieron und auf uns berechnet hat: nach unsterblichem Leben, nach dem Götterlose, sollen wir nicht streben, aber die Arbeit, die uns obliegt und der wir gewachsen sind, sollen wir tun. Denn diese Ethik drückt den Menschen damit nicht nieder, daß sie ihn in seine Sphäre weist, sondern verlangt von ihm nur τὰ ἑαυτοῦ πράττειν.

Monday, April 26, 2021


Your Last Day

Horace, Epistles 1.4.12-16 (tr. Colin Macleod):
Amid hopes and cares, attacks of fear and anger,
think of each dawn as lighting your last day:
an hour not counted on will be a gift.
Visit your plump, sleek, well-groomed friend, whenever
you want a laugh, in his Epicurean sty.

inter spem curamque, timores inter et iras
omnem crede diem tibi diluxisse supremum.
grata superveniet, quae non sperabitur hora.
me pinguem et nitidum bene curata cute vises,        15
cum ridere voles, Epicuri de grege porcum.
Eduard Fraenkel, Horace (1957; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), p. 325:
[Lines 12-14], although they do not contain an original or unfamiliar thought, are so full of vigour and deep feeling and worded with such perfect harmony that they sink into our memory for good.

Sunday, April 25, 2021


Politics in America

Bruce Catton (1899-1978), The Coming Fury (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1961 = The Centennial History of the Civil War, Vol. I), p. 12:
During the last few years events themselves had been irrational; politics in America could no longer be wholly sane. Here and there, like flickers of angry light before a thunderstorm, there had been bursts of violence, and although political debate continued, the nearness of violence—the reality of it, the mounting threat that it would monstrously grow and drown out all voices—made the debaters shout more loudly and appeal more directly to emotions that made reasonable debate impossible. Men put special meaning on words and phrases, so that what sounded good to one sounded evil to another, and certain slogans took on their own significance and became portentous, streaming in the heated air like banners against the sunset; and even the voices that called for moderation became immoderate.


Futility of Theomachy

Homer, Iliad 5.406-409 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
          Poor fool, the heart of Tydeus' son knows nothing
of how that man who fights the immortals lives for no long time,
his children do not gather to his knees to welcome their father
when he returns home after the fighting and the bitter warfare.

νήπιος, οὐδὲ τὸ οἶδε κατὰ φρένα Τυδέος υἱὸς
ὅττι μάλ᾽ οὐ δηναιὸς ὃς ἀθανάτοισι μάχηται,
οὐδέ τί μιν παῖδες ποτὶ γούνασι παππάζουσιν
ἐλθόντ᾽ ἐκ πολέμοιο καὶ αἰνῆς δηϊοτῆτος.
G.S. Kirk ad loc.:



Horace, Epistles 1.6.15-16 (tr. Colin Macleod):
The wise will be called mad, the just unjust,
if they go too far in seeking even goodness.

insani sapiens nomen ferat, aequus iniqui,
ultra quam satis est virtutem si petat ipsam.
Augustus S. Wilkins on ultra quam satis est:
There is no reason to suppose (with Macleane) that Horace is speaking either ironically or `with an unusual fit of enthusiasm'. The need of moderation in pursuit even of virtue is a commonplace with philosophers: cp. Cic. pro Mur. 30, 63 nostri illi a Platone et Aristotele, moderati homines et temperati aiunt...omnes virtutes mediocritate quadam esse temperatas. Cic. Tusc. IV. 25, 55 studia vel optimarum rerum sedata tamen et tranquilla esse debent. ib. IV. 29, 62 etiam si virtutis vehementior appetitus sit, eadem est omnibus ad deterrendum adhibenda oratio.
Cf. also ultra quam in Tacitus, Agricola 4 (tr. Herbert W. Benario):
I remember that he used to say that, early in his life, he would have devoted himself too enthusiastically to the study of philosophy, to an extent greater than was fitting for a Roman who was also a member of the senatorial class, had not the wisdom of his mother restrained his eager and excited spirit. Certainly his lofty and talented nature yearned for the beautiful ideal of great and noble glory with greater passion than caution. Soon the discernment of age calmed him down, yet he retained from his contact with philosophy a sense of proportion that is very difficult to acquire.

memoria teneo solitum ipsum narrare se prima in iuventa studium philosophiae acrius, ultra quam concessum Romano ac senatori, hausisse, ni prudentia matris incensum ac flagrantem animum coercuisset. scilicet sublime et erectum ingenium pulchritudinem ac speciem magnae excelsaeque gloriae vehementius quam caute adpetebat. mox mitigavit ratio et aetas, retinuitque, quod est difficillimum, ex sapientia modum.

Friday, April 23, 2021


Without Excuses

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "A School Song," lines 37-42:
This we learned from famous men,
    Knowing not its uses,
When they showed, in daily work,
Man must finish off his work—        40
Right or wrong, his daily work—
    And without excuses.


Summum Bonum

Raymond B. Waddington, Aretino's Satyr: Sexuality, Satire, and Self-Projection in Sixteenth-Century Literature and Art (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), pp. 12-13, with notes on pp. 167-168, and figures at the end of the book on unnumbered pages:
More significant for our purposes is the line of stylized, iconic illustration of Priapus. A concomitant of the vogue for serious investigation of antiquities by humanist scholars and artists,42 it reproduces the surviving priapic statuary in graphic form or illustrates the accounts of priapic worship in the Fasti and in the Carmina Priapea. Before 1480, a popular item of household decor was a pseudo-classical, bronze oil lamp with a cover, possibly designed by the medallist Cristoforo di Geremia, illustrating the sacrifice [of an ass] to Priapus.43 The basic strategem of such images is the presentation of the figure as a herm. The head will be bearded, satyr-like, often very similar to the conventional representations of Bacchus, frequently garlanded; the torso may be included; the genitals, almost invariably ithyphallic, should be present; the attributes of the god — pruning hook, fruit, flowers, libations — usually will be evident. Primaticcio's painting for the Pavilion de Pomona at Fontainebleau, which survives through an engraving by Master L. D., restores the god to the garden (fig. 2). Here we see groups of men and women, dressed all' antica, energetically working in the garden, watched by a couple in the left foreground, the whole presided over by the ithyphallic, bearded herm in the middle background. The presence of a child between the kneeling women suggests the harmony of humans with the productive cycles of nature.

Doubtless the most influential image of priapic worship was the famous woodcut in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Venice, 1499).44 In it Priapus is anthropomorphized to an unusual degree (fig. 3). Not only is the torso represented, his arms are included; with the right he holds his pruning hook and in his left hand a bowl of wine. The grotesquely large genitals are attached to the herm at the anatomically correct level, appearing rather as if a living Priapus were standing behind a podium with the ithyphallus protruding through an opening. Overhead is a leafy bower; before the altar the garlanded ass of Silenus is sacrificed; the numerous celebrants of both sexes play musical instruments, brandish torches, and throw fruit, flowers, and wine bottles toward the herm.

The essential point of the herm image, in all its variations, is synecdoche: the part, not the whole. The god is reduced to the phallus, symbolizing fertility, abundance, sexual potency, or simply male power. As a symbol, no matter how earnestly the desired result is implored by the worshippers, Priapus remains unthreatening to humans. His role is the passive one, theirs the active. However lifelike the artist's anatomical skill, the herm never has legs. The priapic literature and art thus have the consequence of returning the myth to its earliest form: once again the god is the phallus and the phallus is the god. A concomitant effect of priapism is to displace the classical sense of proportion in the representation of the male body. Greek aesthetics valued discreetly small genitalia and a disproportionately large penis suggested monstrosity;45 the Renaissance, however, accepted phallic gigantism as a summum bonum.

42 See Roberto Weiss, The Renaissance Discovery of Classical Antiquity (Oxford, 1969); Francis Haskell, History and Its Images: Art and the Interpretation of the Past (New Haven, 1993); and Leonard Barkan, Unearthing the Past: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Making of Renaissance Culture (New Haven, 1999).

43 See Anthony Radcliffe, 'Two Early Romano-Mantuan Plaquettes,' in Italian Plaquettes, ed. Alison Luchs, Studies in the History of Art 22 (Washington, D. C., 1989), 93-103.

44 The seminal role of the Hypnerotomachia woodcut is discussed by Fritz Saxl, 'Pagan Sacrifice in the Italian Renaissance,' Journal of the Warburg Institute 2 (1938-9): 359-63. The book's influence on artists in Aretino's ambit is noted by E. H. Gombrich, Symbolic Images: Studies in the Art of the Renaissance (London, 1972), 108. There is now a reliable English translation; see Francesco Colonna, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: The Strife of Love in a Dream, trans. Joscelyn Godwin (London, 1999).

45 On this, see Francois Lissarrague, 'The Sexual Life of Satyrs,' in Before Sexuality: The Construction of Erotic Experience in the Ancient Greek World, ed. David M. Halperin et al. (Princeton, 1990), 55-6.
2. 'The Garden of Priapus,' engraving after Primaticcio, by Master L. D. Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna.
3. 'The Worship of Priapus,' woodcut from Francesco Colonna, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1499). Reproduced by permission of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.



Horace, Epistles 1.2.62 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Anger is short-lived madness.

ira furor brevis est.
Seneca, On Anger 1.1.2 (tr. John W. Basore):
Certain wise men, therefore, have claimed that anger is temporary madness.

quidam itaque e sapientibus viris iram dixerunt brevem insaniam.


Some Compound Epithets of Ares

Homer, Iliad 5.31 (Athena to Ares) = 5.455 (Apollo to Ares; tr. Richmond Lattimore):
Ares, Ares, manslaughtering, blood-stained, stormer of strong walls...

Ἆρες Ἄρες βροτολοιγὲ μιαιφόνε τειχεσιπλῆτα...
G.S. Kirk on 5.31:
[P]resumably he would enjoy the savage epithets....Of his three epithets βροτολοιγός is straightforward, 'ruinous to mortals', μιαιφόνος means 'polluted by murder', cf. μιαίνω, μίασμα, and τειχεσιπλήτης 'approacher [i.e. attacker] of [city] walls', with -πλήτης connected with πέλας, πελάζω.

Thursday, April 22, 2021


Relations Between Rich and Poor

William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, chapter XIV:
Gratitude among certain rich folks is scarcely natural or to be thought of. They take needy people's services as their due. Nor have you, O poor parasite and humble hanger-on, much reason to complain! Your friendship for Dives is about as sincere as the return which it usually gets. It is money you love, and not the man; and were Croesus and his footman to change places you know, you poor rogue, who would have the benefit of your allegiance.



Pindar, Isthmian Odes 5.8-16 (tr. Anthony Verity):
And in athletic competitions too a man wins longed-for glory
when many crowns have bound his hair
for victories gained by hands or swiftness of feet.
But men's prowess is decided by the gods;
truly, two things only shepherd life to its sweetest perfection:
if a man is blessed with flourishing prosperity,
and if he enjoys a noble reputation.
Do not seek to become Zeus;
if a share of these blessings comes to you, you possess everything.
Mortal ways suit mortal men.

ἔν τ᾽ ἀγωνίοις ἀέθλοισι ποθεινὸν
κλέος ἔπραξεν, ὅντιν᾽ ἀθρόοι στέφανοι
χερσὶ νικάσαντ᾽ ἀνέδησαν ἔθειραν
ἢ ταχυτᾶτι ποδῶν.        10
κρίνεται δ᾽ ἀλκὰ διὰ δαίμονας ἀνδρῶν.
δύο δέ τοι ζωᾶς ἄωτον μοῦνα ποιμαίνοντι τὸν ἄλπνιστον εὐανθεῖ σὺν ὄλβῳ,
εἴ τις εὖ πάσχων λόγον ἐσλὸν ἀκούῃ.
μὴ μάτευε Ζεὺς γενέσθαι· πάντ᾽ ἔχεις,
εἴ σε τούτων μοῖρ᾽ ἐφίκοιτο καλῶν.        15
θνατὰ θνατοῖσι πρέπει.
C.M. Bowra, Pindar (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), p. 191:
Pindar certainly regards the victor's lot not merely as enviable but as among the most splendid portions that can befall anyone. It brings glory, happiness, fame, an extended sense of being and some kind of survival in remembrance after death; it excites admiration and love. This is as much as a man can hope for, and when he has it, he does after all, in his own sphere, enjoy some of the felicity of the gods, and that must suffice for him.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021


Finding Fault

Goethe, Faust, Part I, lines 3579-3584 (Gretchen speaking; tr. Walter Kaufman):
How for another person's shame
I found not words enough of blame.
How black it seemed—I made it blacker still,
And yet not black enough to suit my will.
I blessed myself, would boast and grin—
And now myself am caught in sin.

Wie konnt ich über andrer Sünden
Nicht Worte gnug der Zunge finden!
Wie schien mir's schwarz, und schwärzt's noch gar,
Mir's immer doch nicht schwarz gnug war,
Und segnet mich und tat so groß,
Und bin nun selbst der Sünde bloß!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021



Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.2.2 (tr. C.R. Haines):
Thou canst begin a new life! See but things afresh as thou usedst to see them; for in this consists the new life.

ἀναβιῶναι σοι ἔξεστιν· ἴδε πάλιν τὰ πράγματα, ὡς ἑώρας· ἐν τούτῳ γὰρ τὸ ἀναβιῶναι.
In Gregory Hays' translation:
You can return to life. Look at things as you did before. And life returns.



Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790-1867), "Marco Bozzaris," lines 33-36:
Strike—till the last armed foe expires;
Strike—for your altars and your fires;
Strike—for the green graves of your sires;
   God—and your native land!
Ludovico Lipparini, La morte di Marco Botzaris

Related post: How Can Man Die Better?


A Source of Great Pleasure

Cicero, De Finibus 1.19.62 (tr. H. Rackham):
He derives no inconsiderable pleasure from comparing his own existence with the life of the foolish.

cum stultorum vitam cum sua comparat, magna afficitur voluptate.
He = the Epicurean wise man.

Monday, April 19, 2021


The Rulers and the Ruled

Horace, Epistles 1.2.14 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Whatever folly the kings commit, the Achaeans pay the penalty.

quidquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi.
Roland Mayer ad loc.:
14 A summary, perhaps relying on a proverb found as early as Hesiod (Otto §1536), cf. Phaedr. 1.30.1 humiles laborant ubi potentes dissident. quidquid is internal acc. with delirant (G-L §333, Roby §1094). plectuntur, often of undeserved punishment (Palmer on Ov. Ep. 11.110), refers both to the plague sent by Apollo in Il. 1 to pay back the Achaeans for the theft of Chryseis as well as to the unnecessarily protracted fighting.
Mayer here seems at least partially dependent on Augustus S. Wilkins ad loc.:
quicquid, Roby § 1094, S. G. § 461. plectuntur, Sat. II. 7, 105 tergo plector 'I pay for it with my back'. The word is often used of undeserved or vicarious punishment: cp. Ov. Her. xi. 110 a! miser admisso plectitur ille meo! (with Palmer's note).
Quintus Horatius Flaccus, Briefe. Erklärt von Adolf Kiessling. 4. Auflage bearbeitet von Richard Heinze (Berlin: Weidmann, 1914), p. 26:
v. 14 gibt in antithetisch pointierter und allgemein gefaßter Sentenz den zweiten Vers des Iliasprooemiums wieder: (μῆνιν) οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε, und hebt somit den Einzelfall zur Geltung einer ewigen Wahrheit empor; der Gedanke an das Leid, das der Zwist der römischen principes über das ganze Volk gebracht hat, wird H. nicht fern gelegen haben.
As Kiessling and Heinze indicate, this line from Horace expresses a nearly universal truth.

Sunday, April 18, 2021


An Occasion for Prayer

Aristophanes, Frogs 479 (Dionysus speaking; my translation):
I shat in my clothes; invoke god.

ἐγκέχοδα· κάλει θεόν.
Kenneth Dover ad loc.:
This reminds me of an obscene song (play at your own risk, NSFW).



The Graces

Pindar, Olympian Odes 14.1-9 (tr. John Sandys):
Ye that have your portion beside the waters of Cephisus! Ye that dwell in a home of fair horses! Ye Graces of fertile Orchomenus, ye queens of song that keep watch over the ancient Minyae, listen to my prayer! For, by your aid, all things pleasant and sweet are accomplished for mortals, if any man be skilled in song, or be fair to look upon, or hath won renown. Yea, not even the gods order the dance or the banquet, without the aid of the holy Graces.
From Sandys' introduction to the ode:
Orchomenus in Boeotia was a most ancient city. It was the home of the primeval Minyae, and the Graces were there worshipped from the earhest times. The Ode is a brief processional hymn, mainly in honour of the Graces.
The Greek:
Καφισίων ὑδάτων
λαχοῖσαι, αἵτε ναίετε καλλίπωλον ἕδραν,
ὦ λιπαρᾶς ἀοίδιμοι βασίλειαι
Χάριτες Ὀρχομενοῦ, παλαιγόνων Μινυᾶν ἐπίσκοποι,
κλῦτ᾽, ἐπεὶ εὔχομαι. σὺν γὰρ ὔμμιν τὰ τερπνὰ καὶ
τὰ γλυκέ᾽ ἄνεται πάντα βροτοῖς,
εἰ σοφός, εἰ καλός, εἴ τις ἀγλαὸς ἀνήρ.
οὐδὲ γὰρ θεοὶ σεμνᾶν Χαρίτων ἄτερ
κοιρανέοισιν χοροὺς οὔτε δαῖτας.

Friday, April 16, 2021


The Best Part of a Man

I once worked in a warehouse, loading and unloading trucks. Two co-workers got in a row, and one called the other a prick. The reply: "You think that's an insult? A prick's the best part of a man." I remembered this incident when I read Raymond B. Waddington, Aretino's Satyr: Sexuality, Satire, and Self-Projection in Sixteenth-Century Literature and Art (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), p. 3 (material in square brackets added by me):
In a famous letter [to Battista Zatti, December 11, 1537] to which we shall return more than once, Aretino .... advances a radical paradox: a praise of the penis as the most worthy part of the (male) body. Not only does it perpetuate the human race, it creates the best in life — notably, artists and writers — and everything beautiful, true, or holy. Aretino argues that the hands ought to be hidden 'because they wager money, sign false testimony, lend usuriously, gesture obscenely, rend, destroy, strike blows, wound, and kill. And what do you think of the mouth, which blasphemes, spits in your face, gorges, boozes, and vomits?' [perché quelle giuocano i danari, giurano il falso, prestano a usura, ti fan le fica, stracciano, tirano, dan de le pugna, feriscono e amazzano. Che vi par de la bocca, che bestemmia, sputa nel viso, divora, imbriaca e rece?] By this neat logical reversal, if the mouth and hands are the real shameful parts, the true pudenda (literally, that of which one ought to be ashamed), then it follows that the phallus deserves to be displayed 'as a medal in one's hat' [ne la beretta per medaglia] or 'worn as a pendant round one's neck' [portare al collo come pendente]. The hat badge, along with syphilis, was a fashion brought to Italy in 1494 by the French army, and still current in the 1520s and thirties; the phallic pendant, however, was a custom not realized until the late twentieth century. Aretino once again switches from signifier to signified: 'we should allocate to it its own ferial-days and consecrate special vigils and feast-days in its honour, and not enclose it in a scrap of cloth or silk' [Onde se gli doverebbe ordinar ferie e sacrar vigilie e feste, e non rinchiuderlo in un poco di panno o di seta].



J.H. Plumb (1911-2001), The Italian Renaissance (1961; rpt. New York: Harper & Row, 1965), p. 120:
Barbarity was shown in a man's deportment, in his attitude to women, in his pleasures, and, of course, in his possessions. Some things were easier to eradicate than others. Giovanni della Casa thought no perfect gentleman would thrust stinking fish under the noses of his friends, or closely examine the contents of his handkerchief, or sit so that the more intimate parts of his person were revealed, or pick his nose, or spit, or break wind.

Thursday, April 15, 2021



Pindar, Pythian Odes 8.44-45 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
The heritage of valor from their fathers shines
through in the sons' blood.

φυᾷ τὸ γενναῖον ἐπιπρέπει
ἐκ πατέρων παισὶ λῆμα.
William J. Slater, Lexicon to Pindar, s.v. ἐπιπρέπω: be conspicuous

Id. s.v. λῆμα: will, purposefulness



Cicero, De Finibus 1.8.27-28 (tr. H. Rackham):
"You must not find fault with members of opposing schools for criticizing each other's opinions; though I always feel that insult and abuse, or ill-tempered wrangling and bitter, obstinate controversy are beneath the dignity of philosophy."

"I am quite of your mind,” said Torquatus; "it is impossible to debate without criticizing, but it is equally impossible to debate properly with ill-temper or obstinacy."

"quamobrem dissentientium inter se reprehensiones non sunt vituperandae; maledicta, contumeliae, tum iracundae contentiones concertationesque in disputando pertinaces indignae philosophia mihi videri solent."

tum Torquatus: "prorsus," inquit, "assentior; neque enim disputari sine reprehensione, nec cum iracundia aut pertinacia recte disputari potest."


Take This Book Back Again

The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard. A Selection Edited and Translated by Alexander Dru (1938; rpt. London: Fontana Books, 1958), pp. 244-245 (from 1854):
And all this tom-foolery with Bible societies distributing New Testaments by the million, is supposed to be Christianity.

No, I am tempted to make a different proposal to Christendom. Let us collect all the New Testaments there are in existence, let us carry them out to an open place or up upon a mountain, and then, while we all kneel down, let someone address God in this fashion: Take this book back again; we men, such as we are now, are no good at dealing with a thing like this, it only makes us unhappy. My proposal is that like the inhabitants of Gadara we beseech Christ to "depart out of our coasts." That is an honest and human way of talking, quite different from that disgusting, hypocritical, mealy-mouthed trash about life being of no value to us apart from the inestimable blessing of Christianity.


From Page to Page, from Book to Book

Goethe, Faust, Part I, lines 1102-1109 (Wagner speaking; tr. Walter Kaufman):
One soon grows sick of forest, field, and brook,
And I shall never envy birds their wings.
Far greater are the joys the spirit brings—
From page to page, from book to book.
Thus winter nights grow fair and warm the soul;
Yes, blissful life suffuses every limb,
And when one opens up an ancient parchment scroll,
The very heavens will descend on him.

Man sieht sich leicht an Wald und Feldern satt,
Des Vogels Fittich werd' ich nie beneiden.
Wie anders tragen uns die Geistesfreuden
Von Buch zu Buch, von Blatt zu Blatt!        1105
Da werden Winternächte hold und schön,
Ein selig Leben wärmet alle Glieder,
Und ach! entrollst du gar ein würdig pergamen,
So steigt der ganze Himmel zu dir nieder.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021


An Avid Reader

Cicero, De Finibus 3.2.7 (tr. H. Rackham):
On my arrival, seated in the library I found Marcus Cato; I had not known he was there. He was surrounded by piles of books on Stoicism; for he possessed, as you are aware, a voracious appetite for reading, and could never have enough of it; indeed it was often his practice actually to brave the idle censure of the mob by reading in the senate-house itself, while waiting for the senate to assemble,—he did not steal any attention from public business. So it may well be believed that when I found him taking a complete holiday, with a vast supply of books at command, he had the air of indulging in a literary debauch, if the term may be applied to so honourable an occupation.

quo cum venissem, M. Catonem quem ibi esse nescieram vidi in bibliotheca sedentem, multis circumfusum Stoicorum libris. erat enim ut scis in eo aviditas legendi, nec satiari poterat; quippe qui ne reprensionem quidem vulgi inanem reformidans in ipsa curia soleret legere saepe dum senatus cogeretur, nihil operae rei publicae detrahens; quo magis tum in summo otio maximaque copia quasi helluari libris, si hoc verbo in tam clara re utendum est, videbatur.
See Stephanie Ann Frampton, "What to Do with Books in the De finibus," Transactions of the American Philological Association 146.1 (Spring, 2016) 117-147.


They Pursued Physical Beauty Like a Drug

J.H. Plumb (1911-2001), The Italian Renaissance (1961; rpt. New York: Harper & Row, 1965), pp. 42-44:
By the High Renaissance, art had come to pervade all aspects of life. From the arrangement of sweetmeats to the construction of fortifications — all were matters of moment upon which an artist's opinion might be needed or offered. And most of the great artists, too, regarded themselves as Jacks-of-all-trades. Leonardo did not think it beneath his dignity to design the costumes for the masques that his patrons loved or to fix the heating for a duchess' bath. And most of the great figures of the Renaissance displayed exceptional versatility. Michelangelo felt himself to be a man wholly dedicated to sculpture, yet after his reluctance had been overcome, he could paint the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. And, of course, he could, and did, turn to architecture with equal facility and, when the mood was upon him, express his deepest feelings in poetry. The versatility of a Leonardo or a Michelangelo was far from unusual. Princes and patrons wished their lives to be embellished richly, ostentatiously, beautifully, and they were willing to pour out their ducats and florins on all the arts and crafts that adorn the life of man. They pursued physical beauty like a drug. Their heightened sensibilities, due to the sudden turns of chance that threaded their days with light and shadow, lusted for color, richness, wanton display. This aristocratic spirit at large in a world of bourgeois delights had no use for pewter dishes, sober costume, modest feasting, or chaste jewelry. It reveled in gold, in silver, in bronze, in gaudy dishes of majolica, and in silks, in satins, and in damasks, in cunningly wrought pearls, in sapphires, in rubies, and in emeralds. And the pageantry, the masquerades, the feasts, the dancing, and the music provided the background to this peacock world. This pride, this ostentation could find expression in the intellectual world as well as in the senses, and collections of antique bronzes, marble statues, splendidly illuminated manuscripts, beautifully bound books from the new presses, ancient rings and seals, became a prince as much as his palace or his pictures. The mania for collecting, as a reflection of social grandeur, emerges during the Renaissance. This delight in the eye, this desire to impress, created a constant demand for the services of the great masters, even for the most trivial and most ephemeral commissions — the molding of pastry, the decoration of a table, the casting of a candlestick, the cutting of an intaglio, the design of a dagger — almost all of which have disappeared into limbo. The works of a few craftsmen of genius — the terra-cottas of della Robbia, the metalwork of Cellini, the bronzes of Riccio — survive. Those of nameless craftsmen who achieved high excellence are more plentiful. Their ornate cassoni, their haunting bronzes, their brightly patterned majolicas, and, above all, their exquisite jewelry, scattered about the museums of America and Western Europe, give a glimpse of the sumptuous world for which they worked.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021


Come Unto Me, All Ye That Labour and Are Heavy Laden

Terracotta figurine, in Paris, Musée du Louvre, Département des Antiquités grecques, étrusques et romaines (Numéro catalogue: Myr 332, Numéro de collection: Myrina 379; 1st century AD):


Ancient Satire

Emily Gowers, The Loaded Table: Representations of Food in Roman Literature (1993; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), pp. 109-110:
Any ancient satire is, by virtue of its name, its author's own black and putrid offering, stuffed for the table with an acrid and dubious blend of spices, giving a sour or salty kind of pleasure to its recipients.


Truth on Earth Instead of in Heaven

J.H. Plumb (1911-2001), The Italian Renaissance (1961; rpt. New York: Harper &  Row, 1965), pp. 13-14:
It is a sobering thought that the great Italian achievements in almost every sphere of intellectual and artistic activity took place in a world of violence and war. Cities were torn by feud and vendetta: Milan warred against Venice, Florence against Pisa, Rome against Florence, Naples against Milan. Alliances were forged only to be broken, the countryside was constantly scarred by pillage, rapine, and battle, and in this maelstrom, the old bonds of society were broken and new ones forged. After a brief period of peace, in the second half of the fifteenth century, the confusion and carnage grew worse through the great French invasions of Charles VIII, Louis XII, and Francis I, a time of agony that did not end till the dreadful sack of Rome in 1527 by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Yet this violence worked like yeast in the thought of men, and profoundly influenced the way they were to regard problems of power and government for hundreds of years. They ceased to look for answers to the fate of man in the dogmas of the Church. They searched the histories of antiquity for precedents that might guide them to the truth, but they also sought to explain, as Machiavelli did, the world in which they lived by what they knew to be the nature of man. Indeed, it was during the Renaissance in Italy that many men came to feel that truth was elusive, a mood afterward strengthened by the discovery of the world beyond Europe. The old dogmatic certainties did not vanish at once, and the habit of trying to nail truth down by argument from fundamental principles was not lightly cast aside. Some of the most original minds, however, particularly Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci, sought truth not in argument but in observation. Machiavelli brooded on men and events, on the effects of political action and on the consequence of chance; Leonardo grew preoccupied with the flow of water, the flight of birds, the formation of rocks. The growth of ideas and the development of mental attitudes are difficult to pinpoint in the course of history, but this, at least, can be said: the men of the Renaissance, by the range of their inquiries, by the freshness of their skepticism, and by the sharpness of their observation, gave impetus to, and helped to acquire intellectual acceptance for, the search for truth on earth instead of in heaven.


Hypocrisy of a Laudator Temporis Acti

Horace, Satires 2.7.22-24 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
You praise the fortune and manners of the men of old; and yet, if on a sudden some god were for taking you back to those days, you would refuse every time...

fortunam et mores antiquae plebis, et idem,
si quis ad illa deus subito te agat, usque recuses...

Monday, April 12, 2021


The Prime Motivator

Aristophanes, Wealth 181-183 (Chremylus to Wealth; tr. Benjamin Bickley Rogers):
Aye, everything that's done is done for thee.
Thou art alone, thyself alone, the source
Of all our fortunes, good and bad alike.

τὰ δὲ πράγματ᾿ οὐχὶ διὰ σὲ πάντα πράττεται;
μονώτατος γὰρ εἶ σὺ πάντων αἴτιος
καὶ τῶν κακῶν καὶ τῶν ἀγαθῶν, εὖ ἴσθ᾿ ὅτι.


Truth Overpowered

Sophocles, fragment 86, line 3 (tr. Hugh-Lloyd-Jones):
What people believe prevails over the truth.

τό τοι νομισθὲν τῆς ἀληθείας κρατεῖ.
A.C. Pearson ad loc.:

Sunday, April 11, 2021


Treasure Trove

Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829), Athenaeum Fragments, no. 151 (tr. Peter Firchow):
Up to now everyone has managed to find in the ancients what he needed or wished for: especially himself.

Jeder hat noch in den Alten gefunden, was er brauchte oder wünschte, vorzüglich sich selbst.



Sophocles, fragment 84 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
I do not know what I can say in reply to this, when good men are conquered by ignoble men. What city could put up with this?

κοὐκ οἶδ᾿ ὅτι χρὴ πρὸς ταῦτα λέγειν,
ὅταν οἵ γ᾿ ἀγαθοὶ πρὸς τῶν ἀγενῶν
ποία πόλις ἂν τάδ᾿ ἐνέγκοι;

3 κατανικῶνται codd.: πολὐ νικῶνται Blaydes, μέγα νικῶνται Herwerden
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. κατανικάω:
strengthd. for νικάω, ὅταν οἵ γ᾽ ἀγαθοὶ πρὸς τῶν ἀγενῶν -νικῶνται S. Fr. 84, cf. J. AJ 3.2.2, PFlor. 338.11 (iii A. D.); ὑπὸ τῆς φθοροποιοῦ δυνάμεως Philum. Ven. 4.3.


Silence Has Many Beauties

Dear Mike,

Thanks for Silence (Wednesday 7/04), a subject dear to me — τι βαθὺ καὶ μυστηριῶδες ἡ σιγὴ saith Plutarch, in whose otherwise garrulous essay on prattlers appears the pleasingly succinct phrase: οὐδεὶς γὰρ οὕτω λόγος ὠφέλησε ῥηθεὶς ὡς πολλοὶ σιωπηθέντες (505F).

Here's another piece of Pindar:

Pindar, Nemean Odes 5.16-19 (tr. William H. Race):
I will halt, for not every exact truth
is better for showing its face,
and silence is often the wisest thing for a man to observe.

στάσομαι· οὔ τοι ἅπασα κερδίων
φαίνοισα πρόσωπον ἀλάθει᾿ ἀτρεκής·
καὶ τὸ σιγᾶν πολλάκις ἐστὶ σοφώτατον ἀνθρώπῳ νοῆσαι.
and a shard each from Aesch., Eur. and Soph.:

Aeschylus, fragment 188 (tr. A.H. Sommerstein):
For to many mortals silence is advantageous.

πολλοῖς γάρ ἐστι κέρδος ἡ σιγὴ βροτῶν.

Scholia (M B D) to Aelius Aristeides, Oration 3.97 (p. 190 Frommel; p. 501.17–18 Dindorf) (Αἰσχύλος . . . ἐν Προμηθεῖ δεσμώτῃ)
Euripides, fragment 219 (from Antiope; tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
Silence is an ornament, a crown for a man without vice;
while chattering of this kind fastens upon pleasure,
and makes bad company, and is a weakness too for a city.

κόσμος δὲ σιγή, στέφανος ἀνδρὸς οὐ κακοῦ·
τὸ δ᾿ ἐκλαλοῦν τοῦθ᾿ ἡδονῆς μὲν ἅπτεται,
κακὸν δ᾿ ὁμίλημ᾿, ἀσθενὲς δὲ καὶ πόλει.

1 σιγή, στέφανος Ellis: σιγῆς στέφανος Stobaeus 3.36.10
Sophocles, fragment 81 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
My son, be silent! Silence has many beauties.

ὦ παῖ, σιώπα· πόλλ᾿ ἔχει σιγὴ καλά.

Stobaeus, Anthology 3, 33, 3 (3, 678, 10 Hense); Plutarch, Talkativeness 502E; Arsenius, Violarium, p. 488 Walz = Apostol. 18, 62a (CPG 2, 737, 9)

Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]

Saturday, April 10, 2021


Books on Books

From a friend's collection (click once or twice to enlarge):
But for "on" meaning "on top of" see this photograph of another section of his flat:

Friday, April 09, 2021


Love Ye Therefore the Stranger, For Ye Were Strangers

Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 562-568 (Theseus to Oedipus; tr. E.F. Watling):
I do not forget my own upbringing in exile,
like yours, and how many times I battled, alone,
with dangers to my life, in foreign lands.
I could not turn from any fellow-man,
coming as you come, or deny him help,
I know that I am man; in the day to come
my portion will be as yours, no more, no less.

... οἶδα γ᾽ αὐτὸς ὡς ἐπαιδεύθην ξένος,
ὥσπερ σύ, χὢς εἷς πλεῖστ᾽ ἀνὴρ ἐπὶ ξένης
ἤθλησα κινδυνεύματ᾽ ἐν τὠμῷ κάρᾳ·
ὥστε ξένον γ᾽ ἂν οὐδέν᾽ ὄνθ᾽, ὥσπερ σὺ νῦν,        565
ὑπεκτραποίμην μὴ οὐ συνεκσῴζειν· ἐπεὶ
ἔξοιδ᾽ ἀνὴρ ὢν χὤτι τῆς εἰς αὔριον
οὐδὲν πλέον μοι σοῦ μέτεστιν ἡμέρας.


Gods of the Hills

Guy Davenport (1927-2005), "Finding," The Geography of the Imagination (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1981), pp. 359-367 (at 364):
Some slackness of ritual, we are told, that hurt the feelings of the dii montes, the gnomes of the hills, allowed Rome to fall to the barbarians.
The phrase dii montes, two nominative plural nouns in apposition, looks odd to me. Did Davenport mean to write dii montium, as in 1 Kings 20.23?
dii montium sunt dii eorum. (Vulgate)

Their gods are gods of the hills. (KJV)
Or perhaps dii montani?

On the other hand cf. Lactantius, De mortibus persecutorum 11, which is ambiguous:
erat mater eius deorum montium cultrix.
Update from Eric Thomson:
Another possibility, a little closer to Davenport's 'montes' (if it is his and not a kind of haplographic misprint), would be 'montenses', as in ILS 3051, discussed in Robert E.A. Palmer, "Jupiter Blaze, Gods of the Hills, and the Roman Topography of CIL VI 377," American Journal of Archaeology 80.1 (Winter, 1976) 43-56.


You Can't Stand to Be Alone with Yourself

Horace, Satires 2.7.111-115 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
And again, you cannot yourself bear to be in your own company, you cannot employ your leisure aright, you shun yourself, a runaway and vagabond, seeking now with wine, and now with sleep, to baffle Care. In vain: that black consort dogs and follows your flight.

                                         adde, quod idem
non horam tecum esse potes, non otia recte
ponere, teque ipsum vitas fugitivus et erro,
iam vino quaerens, iam somno fallere Curam;
frustra: nam comes atra premit sequiturque fugacem.
The translation omits horam — for an hour.

Quintus Horatius Flaccus, Satiren. Erklärt von Adolf Kiessling. 5. Auflage erneuert von Richard Heinze (Berlin: Weidmann, 1921), pp. 333-334:
111. adde quod idem: der Gipfel ist, daß er, der unter der Herrschaft fremder Menschen und Dinge leidet, nicht einmal mit sich selbst im Einvernehmen ist, sondern sich zu entfhehen sucht wie der Sklave dem harten Herrn. — ponere anwenden, häufig von Zeitbegriffen, wie tempus meridianum in . . . cogitatione ponere Cic. de orat. III 17, totum diem in consideranda causa Brut. 87; übertragen vom Kapital, das zinstragend angelegt wird, ponitur ep. 2, 70; a. p. 421. — teque ipsum vitas: hoc se quisque modo fugitat, quem scilicet ut fit effugere haud potis est Lucr. III 1066. — fugitivus et erro, Bezeichnung des Sklaven: erronem sic definimus, qui non quidem fugit, sed frequenter sine causa vagatur et temporibus in res nugatorias consumptis serius domum redit Ulpian Dig. XXI 1, 17, 14: dagegen quid sit fugitivus Ofilius sie definit: fugitivus est qui extra domini domum fugae causa quo se a domino celaret mansit ebd. 1. — premit sequiturque: sie heftet sich dir an die Seite als leidiger Weggenosse und folgt dir, wenn du ihr zu entfliehen versuchst. Der Gedanke ist das Motiv zu od. III I, 37 fg. und hat dem berühmten post equitem sedet atra cura seine Farbe geliehen.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, IV: Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, § 5 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
Alone with themselves! — the idea of this makes modern souls quake, it is their kind of terror and fear of ghosts.

Mit sich selber! — dieser Gedanke schüttelt die modernen Seelen, das ist ihre Angst und Gespensterfurcht.

Thursday, April 08, 2021


A Flood of Noise

Guy Davenport (1927-2005), "Jonathan Williams," The Geography of the Imagination (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1981), pp. 180-189 (at 189):
Anything worth knowing passes from one person to another. The book is still a viable way of communicating, provided one has taught oneself to find the book one needs to read. It isn't easy. All the electronic media are a flood of noise.



Richard F. Thomas, "Past and Future in Classical Philology," Comparative Literature Studies 27.1 (1990) 66-74 (at 69, note omitted):
How then do we define philology? Perhaps we can do no more than define it by paraphrase of its constituent parts, that by philology is meant the conducting of a φιλία (philia) relationship (that is, in a relationship of "affection," "respect," and "close proximity") to the λόγος (logos) (that is, the "word," or the "text"). The end or goal of this relationship may be seen as the following: philology believes, or philologists believe, that there are historical, objective truths about language and literature, and that, however great the obstacles, these truths may be reached, or at least approached, through a wide variety of methods.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021



Pindar, fragment 180 (tr. John Sandys):
Blurt not out unto all the word that is needless.
There are times when the path of silence is the safest,
while the word that is overbearing is a spur unto strife.

μὴ πρὸς ἅπαντας ἀναρρῆξαι τὸν ἀχρεῖον λόγον·
ἔσθ᾿ ὅτε πιστόταται σιγᾶς ὁδοί·
κέντρον δὲ μάχας ὁ κρατιστεύων λόγος.



Horace, Carmen Saeculare 45-48 (tr. W.S. Marris):
Give righteousness to docile Youth
    And Age with peace and quiet bless,
Ye Gods! and grant the Nation growth
    And wealth and every happiness!

di, probos mores docili iuventae,
di, senectuti placidae quietem,
Romulae genti date remque prolemque
    et decus omne.
Quintus Horatius Flaccus, Oden und Epoden. Erklärt von Adolf Kiessling. 7. Auflage besorgt von Richard Heinze (Berlin: Weidmann, 1930), p. 479:
Die Periode ist kunstvoll gegliedert: wie die iuniores (45) und seniores (46) zusammen die Romula gens (47) bilden, so sind auch formell die beiden ersten Wünsche der Unterbau für den dritten: jene enthalten die Anrede di . . di, die auch beim dritten zu ergänzen ist, dieser das allen dreien gemeinsame Verbum date. — Das Gebet um probi mores der Jugend stellt H. voran: in ihnen die Grundlage des öffentlichen Wohles zu sehen, entsprach sowohl den Anschauungen des Augustus, die auch seine Gesetzgebung des Jahres 18 beherrschten (s. zu epp. II 1,1 cum . . res Italas . . moribus ornes, legibus emendes), wie der früher mehrfach von H. selbst gepredigten Lehre. Aber Sittlichkeit von den Göttern zu erflehen, widerspricht altrömischem, auch durch das stoische Dogma bekräftigten Empfinden: virtutem nemo umquam acceptam deo rettulit . . num quis, quod bonus vir esset, gratias dis egit umquam? Cic. nat. deor. III 86fg. Auch griechische Gebete um εὐνομία der Stadt oder καλοκἀγαθία der Bürger stehen nicht ganz auf gleicher Stufe. — Des Alters höchstes Glück ist die quies, deren Voraussetzung, Frieden und Eintracht im Lande, die Götter spenden mögen. — remque prolemque nimmt die Bitten des ersten Teils wieder auf, aber nun tritt als Drittes, gleich Wichtiges, decus hinzu: was damit gemeint ist, besagt die folgende Strophentrias.


A Solitary Man

Goethe, Torquato Tasso, Scene 1, Act 2, lines 243-249 (tr. Michael Hamburger):
It's an old fault in him that he seeks out
Solitude rather than society.
I pardon him for fleeing motley crowds,
Preferring to converse with his own mind
Freely in private, but I can not approve
When he avoids the circle of his friends.

Es ist ein alter Fehler daß er mehr
Die Einsamkeit als die Gesellschaft sucht.
Verzeih' ich ihm, wenn er den bunten Schwarm
Der Menschen flieht, und lieber frei im Stillen
Mit seinem Geist sich unterhalten mag;
So kann ich doch nicht loben, daß er selbst
Den Kreis vermeidet den die Freunde schließen.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021


Ludi Saeculares

Zosimus, New History. A Translation with Commentary by Ronald T. Ridley (Canberra: Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, 1982 = Byzantina Australiensia, 2), pp. 26-28 (2.5-7):
5. This is how we are told the festival was celebrated. Heralds go about summoning everyone to attend a spectacle they have never seen before and will never see again. In summer, a few days before it begins,the Quindecemviri sit in the Capitol and in the Palatine temple11 on a tribunal and distribute purifying agents, such as torches, brimstone and pitch, to the people; slaves do not participate in this, only freemen. (2) When all the people assemble in the above-mentioned places and in the temple of Diana on the Aventine, each one bringing wheat, barley and beans, they keep the all-night vigils to the Fates with great solemnity for nights. Then when the time arrives for the festival, which is celebrated for three days and three nights in the Campus Martius, the victims are dedicated on the bank of the Tiber at Tarentum. They sacrifice to Jupiter, Juno, Apollo, Latona, Diana, and also to the Fates, Lucina, Ceres, Dis and Proserpine. (3) On the first night of the spectacle, at the second hour, the emperor with the Quindecemviri sacrifices three lambs on three altars on the river bank, and sprinkling the altars with blood, he offers up the victims burnt whole. After preparing a stage like that in a theatre, they light torches and a fire, sing a newly composed song, and present sacred spectacles. (4) Those who participate are rewarded with the first fruits of the wheat, barley and beans, for they are distributed to all the people, as I said. The next day they go up to the Capitol where they offer the usual sacrifices, and thence to the theatre where games to Apollo and Diana are celebrated. On the second day noble ladies, gathering at the Capitol at the place specified by the oracle, pray to and sing the praises of the goddess, as is right. (5) On the third day in the temple of Apollo on the Palatine, twenty seven outstanding boys and as many girls, all of whom have two living parents, sing hymns and victory songs in both Greek and Latin for the preservation of the Roman empire.

There were other celebrations as well, in accordance with the gods' direction, and as long as they were all observed, the Roman empire remained intact. To convince us of the truth in these matters, I will add the Sibyl's oracle although others before me12 have already referred to it.

6. "When the longest span of human life has elapsed,
And the cycle of years comes round to one hundred and ten,
Remember Romans, especially if you are forgetful,
Remember all this, to the immortal gods
Sacrifice in the plain by the Tiber's boundless stream,
Where it is narrowest, when night comes over the earth,
And the sun hides its light. Sacrifice
To the all-engendering Fates, lambs and black she-goats.
Conciliate the Eleithuiai, who bring
Children to birth, at altars smoking with incense, as is proper.
To Earth sacrifice a pregnant black sow,
But let milky-white bulls be brought to Zeus' altar
By day, not at night. For to the heavenly deities
The way to sacrifice is in the day-time.
A young heifer with unblemished skin
Let Hera's temple receive from you. And Phoebus Apollo,
Also called Helios, should receive the same sacrifices,
Being Leta's son. Let Latin paeans
Sung by boys and girls fill the temple
Of the gods. Let the girls have their own separate chorus
And the boys stand apart, and each
Must have two living parents.
Let women subject to the bonds of marriage on that day
Kneel at the famous altar of Hera
And pray to the goddess. Purification will be given to all,
Both men and women, but especially to women.
Let everyone bring from their homes whatever is fit
To be brought by mortals offering first fruits
As propitiation to the infernal gods and the blessed gods
In heaven. Let everything be heaped up there,
In order that to provide for the men and women
Seated there you may be mindful. In the days
And nights that follow let the seats of the gods
Be thronged with people, and seriousness be mixed with laughter.
Remember these things, keep them always in mind,
And the whole land of Italy and the whole of Latium
Will wear a yoke fitting their necks beneath your sceptre."

7. Therefore, as the oracle truly says, while all this was observed according to direction, the Roman empire was safe and Rome remained in control of virtually all the inhabited world,13 but once this festival was neglected after Diocletian's abdication, the empire gradually collapsed and was imperceptibly barbarised.
Id., pp. 149-150:
1. This long digression on the ludi saeculares was apparently occasioned by Maximianus' plan to hold them in 303 (note history resumes in 305 in 8.1). It is commonly assumed that Zosimus' source here was someone like Phlegon who wrote a work in three books on Roman festivals — the oracle (chap. 6) appears in his Macrobioi (v. O. Keller, Rerum natural. script. gr. min., 1877, 57f) — or Verrius Flaccus through Phlegon. Sources for the secular games are the Augustan and Severan acta (CIL 6 32323, 32326-36), Horace, Carmen Saeculare, coins of Domitian (RIC 2.153), Censorinus, de die natali 17, Phlegon, Peri Makrobion (Jacoby FGH 2.257).


11. In the temples of the Capitoline triad and of Apollo, respectively.

12. v. note 1.

13. The oracle promises Rome rule only in Italy, but Zos. extends it to the whole world.

Monday, April 05, 2021


A Burden on the Community?

Sally Green, Prehistorian: A Biography of V. Gordon Childe (Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire: Moonraker Press, 1981), pp. 152-154 (footnotes omitted):
The manner of Gordon Childe's death caused speculation at the time and is still the subject of dispute among those who knew him. One of his last actions at Katoomba was to post to Professor W. F. Grimes, his successor at the Institute, a statement of his beliefs on old age—his own and other people's. He requested that it should not be opened until January 1968, explaining in an accompanying letter to Grimes that it contained 'matter that may in time be of historical interest to the Institute. But now it may cause pain and even provoke libel actions. After ten years it will be less inflammable.' In fact the statement was published for the first time in March 1980 in an editorial of the journal Antiquity. It seems to clarify both that Childe did indeed commit suicide, and some of his reasons for doing so. The statement is more than an expression of personal beliefs: it is also a thoughtful essay on the problem of old age; but it is the unusual revelation of his own feelings which make it a moving and even disturbing document:

The progress of medical science has burdened society with a horde of parasites—rentiers, pensioners and other retired persons whom society has to support and even to nurse. They exploit the youth which is expected to produce for them and even to tend them. While many are physically fit to work and some do, others are incapable of looking after themselves and have literally to be kept alive by the exertions of younger attendants who might be more profitably employed otherwise. And in so far as they do work, they block the way to promotion against younger and more efficient successors. For all in all persons over 65—there are of course numerous exceptions—are physically less capable than their juniors and psychologically far less alert and adaptable. Their reactions are slowed down; they can only gradually and reluctantly, if at all, adopt new habits and still more rarely assimilate fresh ideas. I am doubtful whether they can ever produce new ideas. Compulsory retirement from academic and judicial posts and from the civil services has of course done something to open the rewards of seniority to younger men, and has rescued students and subordinates from inefficient teachers and incompetent administrative chiefs. In British universities the survival of the old system during my lifetime has provided cautionary examples of distinguished professors mumbling lectures ten years out of date and wasting departmental funds on obsolete equipment. These instances probably outweigh better publicized cases of scientists and scholars who in their colleagues' opinion are 'forced to retire at the height of their powers'. But even when retired, their prestige may be such that they can hinder the spread of progressive ideas and blast the careers of innovators who tactlessly challenge theories and procedures that ten or fifteen years previously had been original and fruitful (I am thinking for instance of Arthur Evans).

In fact if the over-age put 'their knowledge, experience and skill at the service of society' as honorary officers or counsellors of learned societies, public bodies, charitable institutions or political parties, they are liable to become a gerontocracy—the worst possible form of leadership. In a changing world their wisdom and maturity of judgement do not compensate for their engrained prejudices and stereotyped routines of behaviour. No doubt the over 65s are competent to carry out routine investigations and undertake compilations of information, and may be helped therein by their accumulated knowledge. Yet after 65 memory begins to fail, and even well systematized information begins to leak away. My personal experience is confirmed by observations on senior colleagues. And new ideas, original combinations of old knowledge, come rarely if at all. Generally old authors go on repeating the same old theses, not always in better chosen language.

I have always considered that a sane society would disembarrass itself of such parasites by offering euthanasia as a crowning honour or even imposing it in bad cases, but certainly not condemning them to misery and starvation by inflation.

For myself I don't believe I can make further useful contributions to prehistory. I am beginning to forget what I laboriously learned—forget not only details (for these I never relied on memory), but even that there is something relevant to look up in my note-book. New ideas very rarely come my way. I see no prospect of settling the problems that interest me most—such as that of the 'Aryan cradle'—on the available data. In a few instances I actually fear that the balance of evidence is against theories that I have espoused or even in favour of those against which I am strongly biased. Yet at the same time I suspect this fear may be due to an equally irrational desire to overcome my own prejudices. (In history one has to make decisions on inadequate evidence, and, whenever I am faced with this necessity, I am conscious of such opposing tendencies.) I have no wish to hang on the fringe of learned societies or university institutions as a venerable counsellor whose authority may slow down progress. I have become too dependent on a lot of creature comforts—even luxuries—to carry through some kinds of work for which I may still be fitted; I just lack the will-power to face the discomforts and anxieties of travel in the USSR or China. And, in fact, though I have never felt in better health, I do get seriously ill absurdly easily; every little cold in the head turns to bronchitis unless I take elaborate precautions and then I am just a burden on the community. I have never saved any money, and, if I had, inflation would have consumed my savings. On my pension I certainly could not maintain the standard without which life would seem to be intolerable and which may be really necessary to prevent me becoming a worse burden on society as an invalid. I have always intended to cease living before that happens.

The British prejudice against suicide is utterly irrational. To end his life deliberately is in fact something that distinguishes Homo sapiens from other animals even better than ceremonial burial of the dead. But I don't intend to hurt my friends by flouting that prejudice. An accident may easily and naturally befall me on a mountain cliff. I have revisited my native land and found I like Australian society much less than European without believing I can do anything to better it; for I have lost faith in all my old ideals. But I have enormously enjoyed revisiting the haunts of my boyhood, above all the Blue Mountains. I have answered to my own satisfaction questions that intrigued me then. Now I have seen the Australian spring; I have smelt the boronia, watched snakes and lizards, listened to the 'locusts'. There is nothing more I want to do here; nothing I feel I ought and could do. I hate the prospect of the summer, but I hate still more the fogs and snows of a British winter. Life ends best when one is happy and strong.
Early in the morning of 19 October Gordon Childe set off walking near the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls, and fell 1,000 feet to his death below Govett's Leap at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains. He had gone to the Leap by taxi at eight o’clock, and told his regular driver, a Mr Harry Newstead, that he was walking along the cliff top to study the ranges and would be going back to the Carrington for lunch. Mr Newstead became concerned about noon when the professor had not returned, and started a search for him. A Sydney visitor to the Leap eventually found Childe's compass, mackintosh, pipe and spectacles at the top of the cliff and notified Blackheath police. The coroner's verdict was that he had died as a result of injuries 'accidentally received when he fell from a cliff top', and it was generally believed that he had missed his footing whilst studying the ranges and rock formations of the Blue Mountains.
Cf. Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 747-751 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
What good does life do me? Why do I not straight away
throw myself from this rugged rock,
so that I can crash to the ground and be rid of all my troubles?
It is better to die once and for all
than to suffer terribly all the days of my life.

τί δῆτ᾿ ἐμοὶ ζῆν κέρδος, ἀλλ᾿ οὐκ ἐν τάχει
ἔρριψ᾿ ἐμαυτὸν τῆσδ᾿ ἀπὸ στύφλου πέτρας,
ὅπως πέδοι σκήψασα τῶν πάντων πόνων
ἀπηλλάγην; κρεῖσσον γὰρ εἰσάπαξ θανεῖν
ἢ τὰς ἁπάσας ἡμέρας πάσχειν κακῶς.
Hat tip: A friend.

Related posts:



Aeschylus, Persians 293-294 (r. Herbert Weir Smyth):
Nevertheless mortals must endure affliction when it is heaven-sent.

ὅμως δ᾽ ἀνάγκη πημονὰς βροτοῖς φέρειν
θεῶν διδόντων.

Sunday, April 04, 2021


Boxer at Rest

Bronze statue of a boxer, from the Baths of Constantine (Museo Nazionale Romano-Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, inv. no. 1055):
See Amelia Arenas, "The Boxer," Arion 7.1 (Spring-Summer, 1999) 120-126. I don't have access to Wilfred Geominy and Stefan Lehmann, "Zum Bronzebild des sitzenden Faustkämpfers im Museo Nazionale Romano," Stadion. Internationale Zeitschrift für Geschichte des Sports 15 (1989) 139-175, or Paul Zanker, "Der Boxer," in Luca Giuliani, ed., Meisterwerke der antiken Kunst (Munich: C.H. Beck, 2005), pp. 28-49.

Saturday, April 03, 2021



Goethe, Faust, Part II, line 6949 (tr. David Luke):
My ancient history collegues are so boring.

Mich widern schon antikische Collegen.
The same (tr. Stuart Atkins):
I know I'll find my ancient colleagues odious.
K.J. Schröer ad loc.:
antikisch ist eine Neubildung; nicht als antik, d. h. dem griechisch-römischen Alterthum angehörend, sondern als antikisch: an Antikes mahnend, antik thuend, bezeichnet er die in einer classischen Walpurgisnacht zu erwartenden Gespenster.


Montaigne's Gyrations

Dear Mike,

I'm reading Montaigne aux champs (Ann-Marie Cocula and Alain Legros, Éditions Sud Ouest, 2011) — from which the photographed plates — and at the same time the Essays bk II.

It struck me, in the 'On the inconstancy of our actions' (II.1), that there is an extended metaphor, variously captured in the English translations, that might have come rather easily to an author with a circumferential library ensconced in a cylinder.

Toutes les contrarietez s'y trouvent selon quelque tour et en quelque façon. Honteux, insolent; chaste, luxurieux; bavard, taciturne; laborieux, delicat; ingenieux, hebeté; chagrin, debonaire; menteur, veritable; sçavant, ignorant, et liberal, et avare, et prodigue, tout cela, je le vois en moy aucunement, selon que je me vire; et quiconque s'estudie bien attentifvement trouve en soy, voire et en son jugement mesme, cette volubilité et discordance. (my italics)

selon quelque tour et en quelque façon

'according to some turn or removing' (John Florio)
'according to some twist or attribute' (Donald Frame)
'depending upon some twist or attribute' (M.A. Screech)

selon que je me vire

'according as I stirre or turne myself' Fl.
'according to how I turn' Fr.
'depending on how I gyrate' S.

cette volubilité et discordance

'this volubility and discordance' Fl.
'this gyration and discord' Fr.
'this whirring about and this discordancy' S.

Florio's use of ‘volubility' would fit nicely among the early citations:

OED s.v. volubility 2a. The capacity of revolving, rolling, or turning round; aptness to rotate about an axis or centre.
1593 R. Hooker Of Lawes Eccl. Politie i. iii. 53 If celestiall spheres should forget their wonted motions and by irregular volubilitie, turne themselues any way as it might happen.
1601 P. Holland tr. Pliny Hist. World I. 31 The world with continuall volubilitie and turning about it, driveth the..globe thereof into the forme of a round ball.
1656 T. Stanley Hist. Philos. II. viii. 26 He who thrust the Cylinder, gave it the beginning of motion, but did not give it volubility.

I wonder if it was equidistance that gave Montaigne equanimity?

Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]



Walt Whitman, "By Blue Ontario's Shore," § 4:
Beware what precedes the decay of the ruggedness of states and men.

Friday, April 02, 2021


The Simple Truth

William Pitt Fessenden (1806-1869), quoted in Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative, Vol. 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville (1958; rpt. New York: Vintage Books, 1986), p. 524:
The simple truth is, there was never such a shambling half-and-half set of incapables collected in one government since the world began.


Truth and Falsehood

Montaigne, Essays 1.9 (On Liars; tr. Donald M. Frame):
If falsehood, like truth, had only one face, we would be in better shape. For we would take as certain the opposite of what the liar said. But the reverse of truth has a hundred thousand shapes and a limitless field. The Pythagoreans make out the good to be certain and finite, evil infinite and uncertain. A thousand paths miss the target, one goes to it.

Si, comme la vérité, le mensonge n'avait qu'un visage, nous serions en meilleurs termes. Car nous prendrions pour certain l'opposé de ce que dirait le menteur. Mais le revers de la vérité a cent mille figures et un champ indéfini. Les Pythagoriciens font le bien certain et fini, le mal infini et incertain. Mille routes dévoient du blanc, une y va.



Aeschylus, Persians 715 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
How did it happen? Did some stroke of pestilence or factional strife come upon the State?

τίνι τρόπῳ; λοιμοῦ τις ἦλθε σκηπτὸς ἢ στάσις πόλει;
A.F. Garvie ad loc.:


Diagnosis of Insanity

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 1054-1057 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
That decision, and those words,
sound as though they came from a lunatic.
In what way do this fellow's boasts
fall short of insanity and mental derangement?

τοιάδε μέντοι τῶν φρενοπλήκτων
βουλεύματ᾿ ἔπη τ᾿ ἐστὶν ἀκοῦσαι.        1055
τί γὰρ ἐλλείπει μὴ <οὐ> παραπαίειν
ἡ τοῦδ᾿ εὐχή; τί χαλᾷ μανιῶν;

1056 οὐ suppl. Wecklein
1057 ἡ τοῦδ᾿ εὐχή C. Winckelmann, G.C.W. Schneider: ἢ τοῦδ᾿ εὐτυχῆ vel sim. codd.

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