Monday, May 31, 2021


Reading the Iliad

Encounters & Reflections: Conversations with Seth Benardete. With Robert Berman, Ronna Berger, and Michael Davis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), p. 67:
Seth: I sat in the room and read Homer from cover to cover, all the time. And I had all these notes, but nothing made any sense. So I said to myself, I better read it through as fast as possible.

Ronna: To get an overall impression?

Seth: Yes. So I read it in three days.

Ronna: In Greek?

Seth: Yes. Three days, eight books at a time.
Related post: Reading at One Sitting.


Rhubarb Pie

Made by my brother's wife, with rhubarb from their garden:


Freedom of the Mind

Allan Bloom (1930-1992), The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), p. 249:
Freedom of the mind requires not only, or not even especially, the absence of legal constraints but the presence of alternative thoughts. The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside.
Hat tip: Rod Dreher.


The Spirit of Fraternity

William McKinley, speech before the Georgia Legislature (Atlanta, December 14, 1898), in his Speeches and Addresses (New York: Doubleday and McClure Co., 1900), pp. 158-159 (at 159):
What an army of silent sentinels we have, and with what loving care their graves are kept! Every soldier's grave made during our unfortunate Civil War is a tribute to American valor. And while, when those graves were made, we differed widely about the future of this government, those differences were long ago settled by the arbitrament of arms; and the time has now come, in the evolution of sentiment and feeling under the providence of God, when in the spirit of fraternity we should share with you in the care of the graves of the Confederate soldiers.


Do Not Mock Me

William Shakespeare, King Lear 4.6.56-60:
                  Pray do not mock me:
I am a very foolish, fond old man,
Fourscore and upward,
not an hour more nor less; and, to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.



Simonides (?), fragment 46 = Greek Anthology 7.258 (tr. David Sider):
These men, fighting with the spear on foot and on board swift ships, lost their glorious youth at the Eurymedon, fighting the front rank of Persian archers, but with their death they left behind the noblest monument of their bravery.

οἵδε παρ᾿ Εὐρυμέδοντά ποτ᾿ ἀγλαὸν ὤλεσαν ἥβην
   μαρνάμενοι Μήδων τοξοφόρων προμάχοις
αἰχμηταί, πεζοί τε καὶ ὠκυπόρων ἐπὶ νηῶν,
   κάλλιστον δ᾿ ἀρετῆς μνῆμ᾿ ἔλιπον φθίμενοι.
See D.L. Page, Further Greek Epigrams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 268-272.


You Must Change Your Life

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), "Archaic Torso of Apollo" (tr. Stephen Mitchell):
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.
German original ("Archaïscher Torso Apollos"):
Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,
darin die Augenäpfel reiften. Aber
sein Torso glüht noch wie ein Kandelaber,
in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,

sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug
der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen
der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen
zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.

Sonst stünde dieser Stein entstellt und kurz
unter der Schultern durchsichtigem Sturz
und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle

und bräche nicht aus allen seinen Rändern
aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,
die dich nicht sieht. Du mußt dein Leben ändern.
Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv. MA 2792:
Gisela M.A. Richter, Kouroi: Archaic Greek Youth, 3rd ed. (London: Phaidon, 1970), pp. 149-150 (number 192):
PARIS, Louvre, no. MND 2792. From Miletos.

Torso of a colossal statue, from below neck to above left knee.
Island marble (Parian?).
Height 1.32 m.
Found in the theatre of Miletos during excavations by O. Rayet and A. Thomas and given to the Louvre in 1873 by Gustave and Edmond de Rothschild. Perhaps came from the sanctuary of Apollo that was destroyed by the Persians in 494 B.C.
Rayet and Thomas, Milet et le golf lamique [sic, read latmique], pl. 20, r.
L. Curtius, Brunn-Bruckmann, Denkmäler, text to pls. 601-4, pp. 12 ff.
Charbonneaux, Mon. Piot, XIV, 1951, pp. 47 ff., pl. VI.
Catalogue des marbres antiques, Musée du Louvre, p. 151, no. 2792.
Kunze and Schleif, III. Olympia Bericht, 1938/39, p. 130.

GENERAL STRUCTURE. Seen in profile, greatest protrusion of back level with that of chest. Vertebral column forms S-shaped curve.
Powerfully modelled. Clavicles, trapezium, serratus magnus, thorax, rectus abdominis, flanks, lower boundary of abdomen, shoulder-blades, spinal furrow, erector spinae, depression over great trochanter all modelled in naturalistic manner. Right flank and buttock higher than left. Navel represented as a knob inside a depression, with a fold of skin above it. Pubes rendered as a raised, stylized plane, with upper edge rising to a central point.
I don't have access to Andreas Linfert, "Der Torso von Milet," Antike Plastik 12 (1973) 81–90, fig. 7–12, pl. 21-26.

Sunday, May 30, 2021



Tacitus, Agricola 2.3 (tr. Maurice Hutton, with his note):
Assuredly we have furnished a signal proof of our submissiveness; and even as former generations witnessed the utmost excesses of liberty, so have we the extremes of slavery; wherein our "Inquisitors"2 have deprived us even of the give and take of conversation. We should have lost memory itself as well as voice, had forgetfulness been as easy as silence.

2 The delatores, informers, who reported to Domitian all slighting references real or imagined.

dedimus profecto grande patientiae documentum; et sicut vetus aetas vidit quid ultimum in libertate esset, ita nos quid in servitute, adempto per inquisitiones etiam loquendi audiendique commercio, memoriam quoque ipsam cum voce perdidissemus, si tam in nostra potestate esset oblivisci quam tacere.
The same, tr. Harold Mattingly (rev. J.B. Rives):
We have indeed left an impressive example of subservience. Just as Rome of old explored the limits of freedom, so have we plumbed the depths of slavery, robbed by informers even of the interchange of speech. We would have lost our memories as well as our tongues had it been as easy to forget as to be silent.
A.D. Leeman, "Structure and meaning in the prologues of Tacitus," in Thomas Cole and David Ross, edd., Studies in Latin Language and Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973 = Yale Classical Studies, 23), pp. 169-208 (at 202-203):
Dedimus profecto grande patientiae documentum has a very effective double meaning, patientia having a negative sense of slavish meekness, but also, especially in a Stoic philosophical context as here, the more heroic sense of endurance, καρτερία. The latter would be more in the spirit of the forty-second chapter (obsequium ac modestiam, but with industria ac vigor). Ultimum in libertate during the Republic (licentia quam stulti libertatem vocant says Maternus in a boutade, Dial. XL.2) and ultimum in servitute, extreme dominatio under the Empire, are again contrasted; and in the attached ablative absolute, loquendi audiendique take up the vox theme again, continued in the paroxysm of the last sententia. Under Domitian, people were stunned into lethargy; not only was their vox silenced, but they even wished to lose the faculty of memory.


Noted Classicist Visits City

Many years ago, when I visited my friend Tim Nagler (R.I.P.), he wrote the following parody of a newspaper article:
Noted classicist visits city;
Roman banquet slated

MONTGOMERY, Dec. 30 — Michael Gilleland, the noted classical scholar, made a surprise stop in Montgomery today en route to the University of Virginia, where he holds the Colker-Stocker Chair of Classical Studies. Local Latinists seized the occasion to announce that they would hold a banquet — one local official promised "an orgy" — in his honor.

"Are the classics dead? No way!" said Mr. Gilleland to a throng of admirers as he stepped off a Trailways bus this afternoon. "If you don't believe me, discipuli, come to the party they're planning."

Homer Cicero, president of the Montgomery chapter of the American Classical Studies Society, was on hand to welcome Mr. Gilleland to the city. "For me this is the most exciting moment of my life," Mr. Cicero said, as he gazed at the crowd surrounding Mr. Gilleland. "He puts (Richard) Bentley to shame," Mr. Cicero added. Bentley, he explained, was the most famous English classicist of the Eighteenth Century.

The local chapter has booked every room of the Montgomery Civic Center for the banquet tomorrow night. "You would not believe the menu," said Maistro deGustibus, the food manager for the Civic Center. Mr. deGustibus hinted, however, that there would be at least 17 courses, each accompanied with a separate vintage wine.

According to Mr. Cicero, the toastmaster and principal speaker for the banquet will be John E. Robertson, sometime banker and financier and lifetime president of the Chicago Classical Society. Mr. Robertson's address is to be titled "The Open Pit Mine in the Time of Homer," but Mr. Cicero said no one should be deterred. "Let's put it this way — Robertson has some experience hoisting a glass," Mr. Cicero said with a smile.


Classics at Princeton

Carlett Spike, "Curriculum Changed to Add Flexibility, Race and Identity Track," Princeton Alumni Weekly (May 2021):
The Princeton faculty approved curriculum changes in the departments of politics, religion, and classics in April. Politics added a track in race and identity, while religion and classics increased flexibility for concentrators, including eliminating the requirement for classics majors to take Greek or Latin.


In classics, two major changes were made. The "classics" track, which required an intermediate proficiency in Greek or Latin to enter the concentration, was eliminated, as was the requirement for students to take Greek or Latin. Students still are encouraged to take either language if it is relevant to their interests in the department. The breadth of offerings remains the same, said Josh Billings, director of undergraduate studies and professor of classics. The changes ultimately give students more opportunities to major in classics.

The discussions about these changes predate Eisgruber's call to address systemic racism at the University, Billings said, but were given new urgency by this and the events around race that occurred last summer. "We think that having new perspectives in the field will make the field better," he said. "Having people who come in who might not have studied classics in high school and might not have had a previous exposure to Greek and Latin, we think that having those students in the department will make it a more vibrant intellectual community."
Hat tip: Dave Lull.


Flee From Grandeur

Horace, Epistles 1.10.32-33 (tr. Colin Macleod):
             Flee from grandeur: in a cottage
you can outrun, out-live kings and courtiers.

     fuge magna; licet sub paupere tecto
reges et regum vita praecurrere amicos.



Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann (January 18, 1825; tr. John Oxenford):
"The world," said Goethe, "remains always the same; situations are repeated; one people lives, loves, and feels like another; why should not one poet write like another? The situations of life are alike; why, then, should those of poems be unlike?"

"This very similarity in life and sensation," said Riemer, "makes us all able to appreciate the poetry of other nations. If this were not the case, we should never know what foreign poems were about."

"I am, therefore," said I, "always surprised at the learned, who seem to suppose that poetizing proceeds not from life to the poem, but from the book to the poem. They are always saying, 'He got this here; he got that there.' If, for instance, they find passages in Shakspeare which are also to be found in the ancients, they say he must have taken them from the ancients. Thus there is a situation in Shakspeare, where, on the sight of a beautiful girl, the parents are congratulated who call her daughter, and the youth who will lead her home as his bride. And because the same thing occurs in Homer, Shakspeare, forsooth, has taken it from Homer. How odd! As if one had to go so far for such things, and did not have them before one's eyes, feel them and utter them every day."

"Ah, yes," said Goethe, "it is very ridiculous."

»Die Welt bleibt immer dieselben sagte Goethe, »die Zustände wiederholen sich, das eine Volk lebt, liebt und empfindet wie das andere: warum sollte denn der eine Poet nicht wie der andere dichten? Die Situationen des Lebens sind sich gleich: warum sollten denn die Situationen der Gedichte sich nicht gleich sein?«

»Und eben diese Gleichheit des Lebens und der Empfindungen«, sagte Riemer, »macht es ja, daß wir imstande sind, die Poesie anderer Völker zu verstehen. Wäre dieses nicht, so würden wir ja bei ausländischen Gedichten nie wissen, wovon die Rede ist.«

»Mir sind daher«, nahm ich das Wort, »immer die Gelehrten höchst seltsam vorgekommen, welche die Meinung zu haben scheinen, das Dichten geschehe nicht vom Leben zum Gedicht, sondern vom Buche zum Gedicht. Sie sagen immer: das hat er dort her, und das dort! Finden sie z. B. beim Shakespeare Stellen, die bei den Alten auch vorkommen, so soll er es auch von den Alten haben! So gibt es unter andern beim Shakespeare ein Situation, wo man beim Anblick eines schönen Mädchens die Eltern glücklich preiset, die sie Tochter nennen, und den Jüngling glücklich, der sie als Braut heimführen wird. Und weil nun beim Homer dasselbige vorkommt, so soll es der Shakespeare auch vom Homer haben! – Wie wunderlich! Als ob man nach solchen Dingen so weit zu gehen brauchte, und als ob man dergleichen nicht täglich vor Augen hätte und empfände und ausspräche!«

»Ach ja,« sagte Goethe, »das ist höchst lächerlich!«
Related posts:



Niccolò Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy I.6 (tr. Harvey C. Mansfield and Nathan Tarcov):
In all human things he who examines well sees this: that one inconvenience can never be suppressed without another's cropping up.... And so, in every decision of ours, we should consider where are the fewer inconveniences and take that for the best policy, because nothing entirely clean and entirely without suspicion is ever found.

Ed in tutte le cose umane si vede questo, chi le esaminerà bene: che non si può mai cancellare uno inconveniente, che non ne surga un altro....E però, in ogni nostra deliberazione si debbe considerare dove sono meno inconvenienti, e pigliare quello per migliore partito: perchè tutto netto, tutto senza sospetto non si trova mai.

Saturday, May 29, 2021



Cicero, Philippics 9.5 (tr. Walter C.A. Ker):
For the life of the dead is set in the memory of the living.

vita enim mortuorum in memoria est posita vivorum.


Time in Its Fullness

Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 930-931 (tr. E.F. Watling):
                      It's evident your lengthening days
Have given you age and robbed you of discretion.

                        καί σ᾽ ὁ πληθύων χρόνος
γέρονθ᾽ ὁμοῦ τίθησι καὶ τοῦ νοῦ κενόν.
J.C. Kamerbeek ad loc.:
ὁ πληθύων χρόνος: 'the increasing time', 'your increasing age'.

τοῦ νοῦ κενόν: 'bereft of your wit', whereas normally wisdom is supposed to be the result of age. The same idea underlies Ant. 281 μὴ 'φευρεθῇς ἄνους τε καὶ γέρων ἅμα, and cf. Eur. Bacch. 251,2 (Pentheus) ἀναίνομαι, πάτερ, / τὸ γῆρας ὑμῶν εἰσορῶν νοῦν οὐκ ἔχον.


History and Tragedy

Polybius 2.56.10-12 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
It is not a historian's business to startle his readers with sensational descriptions, nor should he try, as the tragic poets do, to represent speeches which might have been delivered, or to enumerate all the possible consequences of the events under consideration; it is his task first and foremost to record with fidelity what actually happened and was said, however commonplace this may be.

For the aim of tragedy is by no means the same as that of history, but rather the opposite. The tragic poet seeks to thrill and charm his audience for the moment by expressing through his characters the most plausible words possible, but the historian's task is to instruct and persuade serious students by means of the truth of the words and actions he presents, and this effect must be permanent, not temporary.

Thus in the first case the supreme aim is probability, even if what is said is untrue, the purpose being to beguile the spectator, but in the second it is truth, the purpose being to benefit the reader.

Friday, May 28, 2021


Wart Removal

Friedrich August Wolf (1759-1824), Prolegomena to Homer, Chapter I (tr. Anthony Grafton):
Take someone, even someone poorly equipped with the best aids, who gives us a writer restored to a more correct form, either by conjecture or by the use of a few manuscripts; even if he removes just thirty warts, and leaves a hundred, no one will deny that he has rendered service to literature.

Nam qui optimis subsidiis vel minime instructus, scriptorem nobis emendatiorem reddit, sive ingenio suo, sive paucorum librorum usu; quamvis vix triginta naevos sustulerit, centum relinquat, eum tamen nemo de bonis litteris bene mereri neget.

Thursday, May 27, 2021


Lucius Thorius Balbus

Cicero, De Finibus 2.20.63-65 (tr. H. Rackham):
Well, there was a certain Lucius Thorius of Lanuvium, whom you cannot remember; he lived on the principle of enjoying in the fullest measure all the most exquisite pleasures that could possibly be found. His appetite for pleasures was only equalled by his taste and ingenuity in devising them. He was so devoid of superstition as to scoff at all the sacrifices and shrines for which his native place is famous; and so free from fear of death that he died in battle for his country.

Epicurus's classification of the desires meant nothing to him; he knew no limit but satiety. At the same time he was careful of his health: took sufficient exercise to come hungry and thirsty to table; ate what was at once most appetizing and most digestible; drank enough wine for pleasure and not too much for health. Nor did he forgo those other indulgences in the absence of which Epicurus declares that he cannot understand what Good is. Pain he never experienced at all; had it come to him, he would have borne it with fortitude, vet would have called in a doctor sooner than a philosopher. He had excellent health and a sound constitution. He was extremely popular. In short, his life was replete with pleasure of every variety.

Your school pronounces him a happy man, at least your theory requires you to do so. But I place above him—I do not venture to say whom: Virtue herself shall speak for me, and she will not hesitate to rank Marcus Regulus higher than this typically happy man, as you would call him. Regulus, of his own free will and under no compulsion except that of a promise given to an enemy, returned from his native land to Carthage; yet Virtue proclaims that when he had done so he was happier while tormented with sleeplessness and hunger than Thorius carousing on his couch of roses.

Lucius Thorius Balbus fuit, Lanuvinus, quem meminisse tu non potes. is ita vivebat, ut nulla tam exquisita posset inveniri voluptas, qua non abundaret. erat et cupidus voluptatum et eius generis intellegens et copiosus, ita non superstitiosus, ut illa plurima in sua patria sacrificia et fana contemneret, ita non timidus ad mortem, ut in acie sit ob rem publicam interfectus.

cupiditates non Epicuri divisione finiebat, sed sua satietate. habebat tamen rationem1 valitudinis: utebatur iis exercitationibus, ut ad cenam et sitiens et esuriens veniret, eo cibo, qui et suavissimus esset et idem facillimus ad concoquendum, vino et ad voluptatem et ne noceret. cetera illa adhibebat, quibus demptis negat se Epicurus intellegere quid sit bonum. aberat omnis dolor, qui si adesset, nec molliter ferret et tamen medicis plus quam philosophis uteretur. color egregius, integra valitudo, summa gratia, vita denique conferta voluptatum omnium varietate.

hunc vos beatum; ratio quidem vestra sic cogit. at ego quem huic anteponam non audeo dicere; dicet pro me ipsa virtus nec dubitabit isti vestro beato M. Regulum anteponere, quem quidem, cum sua voluntate, nulla vi coactus praeter fidem, quam dederat hosti, ex patria Karthaginem revertisset, tum ipsum, cum vigiliis et fame cruciaretur, clamat virtus beatiorem fuisse quam potantem in rosa Thorium.
Rackham's translation omits the cognomen Balbus.

F. Münzer in Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, VI A 1 (1936), cols. 345-346:


Wednesday, May 26, 2021


Understanding versus Speaking a Foreign Language

Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann (January 10, 1825; tr. John Oxenford):
"It is remarkable,” said Goethe, "that the ear, and generally the understanding, gets the start of speaking; so that a man may very soon comprehend all he hears, but by no means express it all."

"I experience daily," said Mr. H., "the truth of that remark. I understand very well whatever I hear or read; I even feel when an incorrect expression is made use of in German. But when I speak, nothing will flow, and I cannot express myself as I wish. In light conversation at court, jests with the ladies, a chat at balls, and the like, I succeed pretty well. But, if I try to express an opinion on any important topic, to say anything peculiar or luminous, I cannot get on."

"Be not discouraged by that," said Goethe, "since it is hard enough to express such uncommon matters in one's own mother tongue."

»Es ist merkwürdig,« erwiderte Goethe, »daß das Ohr und überhaupt das Vermögen des Verstehens dem des Sprechens voraufeilt, so daß einer bald sehr gut alles verstehen, aber keineswegs alles ausdrücken kann.«

»Ich finde täglich,« entgegenete Herr H., »daß diese Bemerkung sehr wahr ist; denn ich verstehe sehr gut alles, was gesprochen wird, auch sehr gut alles, was ich lese, ja ich fühle sogar, wenn einer im Deutschen sich nicht richtig ausdrücket. Allein wenn ich spreche, so stockt es, und ich weiß nicht recht zu sagen, was ich möchte. Eine leichte Konversation bei Hofe, ein Spaß mit den Damen, eine Unterhaltung beim Tanz und dergleichen gelingt mir schon. Will ich aber im Deutschen über einen höheren Gegenstand meine Meinung hervorbringen, will ich etwas Eigentümliches und Geistreiches sagen, so stockt es, und ich kann nicht fort.«

»Da trösten und beruhigen Sie sich nur,« erwiderte Goethe; »denn dergleichen Ungewöhnliches auszudrücken wird uns wohl in unserer eigenen Muttersprache schwer.«


Kill Him

Plutarch, Life of Brutus 33.3 and Life of Pompey 77.4 (quoting Theodotus of Chios on Pompey; tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
A dead man does not bite.

νεκρὸς οὐ δάκνει.
Cf. Erasmus, Adages III vi 41 (mortui non mordent), who gives the Greek as οἱ τεθνηκότες οὐ δάκνουσιν.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021



Edward Young (1683-1765), Love of Fame, Satire VII (To Sir Robert Walpole), lines 97-98:
How commentators each dark passage shun
And hold their farthing candle to the sun.


Resistance to Barbarian Incursions

Polybius 2.35.5-9 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
For I believe that it is the proper function of history to hand down to posterity such episodes in the drama of Fortune, so that our successors may not through sheer ignorance of the facts be overcome by terror at these sudden and unexpected incursions of the barbarians, but should understand how short-lived and easily extinguished such movements may prove to be. If they are fortified with this knowledge they can face the invader and try their prospects of safety to the very limit before they yield an inch of their most vital interests.

Indeed I consider that those writers who recorded and handed down to us the story of the invasion of Greece by the Persians and the attack by the Gauls on Delphi made a great contribution to the Greek peoples' fight to preserve their common liberty. For there is no reason why the enemy's superiority in numbers or in weapons or supplies need terrify a man into abandoning his ultimate hope — that is to fight to the last for his native land — so long as he keeps steadily in view the knowledge of how great a part the unexpected has often played in these campaigns, and remembers how many myriads of troops, what immense armaments and what overweening confidence have been defeated by the resolution and the ability of men who faced the danger with intelligence and cool calculation.


All Change Is For the Worse

Ronald Syme, Tacitus, Vol. II (1958; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 563-564:
Tone and language may be deceptive. The writer has wrapped himself in his subject. None of the Roman historians can refuse an allegiance to tradition. Conformity does not prove them narrow and conservative. Tacitus allows the eminent lawyer Cassius Longinus to expound an impressive defence of old Roman practices—Cassius is convinced that all change is for the worse.1 The personality of Cassius (but not perhaps his argument in this instance) commanded the esteem of the historian. Jurists under the Principate were often the servants of expedience or power. Cassius, like the famous Antistius Labeo, was Republican by family and sentiment.

1 [Annals] XIV.43.1: 'melius atque rectius olim provisum et quae converterentur <in> deterius mutari.'
In Cynthia Damon's translation:
Often, senators, have I been in this company when novel senatorial decrees contrary to our ancestors' institutions and laws have been demanded. I did not oppose them, not because I doubted that in every matter former provisions were better and truer and that changes were for the worse, but lest I seem, with excessive love of ancient custom, to be promoting my own calling.

saepe numero, patres conscripti, in hoc ordine interfui, cum contra instituta et leges maiorum nova senatus decreta postularentur; neque sum adversatus, non quia dubitarem, super omnibus negotiis melius atque rectius olim provisum et quae converterentur <in> deterius mutari, sed ne nimio amore antiqui moris studium meum extollere viderer.


Foreign Innovation

Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann (January 4, 1824; tr. John Oxenford):
And, furthermore, nothing is good for a nation but that which arises from its own core and its own general wants, without apish imitation of another; since what to one race of people, of a certain age, is a wholesome nutriment, may perhaps prove a poison for another. All endeavours to introduce any foreign innovation, the necessity for which is not rooted in the core of the nation itself, are therefore foolish; and all premeditated revolutions of the kind are unsuccessful, for they are without God, who keeps aloof from such bungling.

Und wiederum ist für eine Nation nur das gut, was aus ihrem eigenen Kern und ihrem eigenen allgemeinen Bedürfnis hervorgegangen, ohne Nachäffung einer anderen. Denn was dem einen Volk auf einer gewissen Altersstufe eine wohltätige Nahrung sein kann, erweist sich vielleicht für ein anderes als ein Gift. Alle Versuche, irgendeine ausländische Neuerung einzuführen, wozu das Bedürfnis nicht im tiefen Kern der eigenen Nation wurzelt, sind daher töricht und alle beabsichtigten Revolutionen solcher Art ohne Erfolg; denn sie sind ohne Gott, der sich von solchen Pfuschereien zurückhält.
Id. (February 22, 1824):
Really that state is alone suitable to man, in which, and for which, he was born. He who is not led abroad by great objects is far happier at home.

Denn im Grunde ist dem Menschen nur der Zustand gemaß, worin und wofür er geboren worden. Wen nicht große Zwecke in die Fremde treiben, der bleibt weit glücklicher zu Hause.



Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, "A World Split Apart" (speech delivered at Harvard University, June 8, 1978):
The press can both simulate public opinion and miseducate it. Thus, we may see terrorists described as heroes, or secret matters pertaining to one's nation's defense publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusion on the privacy of well-known people under the slogan: "Everyone is entitled to know everything." But this is a false slogan, characteristic of a false era. People also have the right not to know and it's a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls [stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk.] A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need this excessive burdening flow of information.


Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day. There is no open violence such as in the East; however, a selection dictated by fashion and the need to match mass standards frequently prevent independent-minded people giving their contribution to public life. There is a dangerous tendency to flock together and shut off successful development.


There are meaningful warnings which history gives a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, the decadence of art, or a lack of great statesmen. There are open and evident warnings, too. The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin, then, the social system quite unstable and unhealthy.

Monday, May 24, 2021


Facing Death

Saga of the Jomsvikings, tr. N.F. Blake (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1962), p. 41 recto (§ 36; "asked him," i.e. what he thought about dying):
Then the ninth man was released and Þorkell asked him as usual. He said: 'I am well content to die as are all our comrades. But I will not let myself be slaughtered like a sheep: I would rather face the blow. Strike straight at my face and watch carefully if I pale at all, as we have often spoken about that.' He was allowed to face the blow and Þorkell approached him from the front and hewed into his face. He did not pale, but his eyes closed as death overtook him.


Lack of Judgement

Polybius 2.7.1-3 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
Now, human nature is always fallible, and to meet with some unpredictable mishap is not the fault of the victim, but rather of ill-fortune, or of those who have inflicted it on him. But when we err with our eyes open and involve ourselves in great tribulations through sheer lack of judgement, then everyone agrees that we have nobody to blame but ourselves. It follows therefore that if a people's failures are due to ill-fortune, they will be granted pity, pardon and assistance, but if to their own folly, then all men of sense will blame and reproach them.

τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἀνθρώπους ὄντας παραλόγως περιπεσεῖν τινι τῶν δεινῶν οὐ τῶν παθόντων, τῆς τύχης δὲ καὶ τῶν πραξάντων ἐστὶν ἔγκλημα, τὸ δ᾿ ἀκρίτως καὶ προφανῶς περιβαλεῖν αὑτοὺς ταῖς μεγίσταις συμφοραῖς ὁμολογούμενόν ἐστι τῶν πασχόντων ἁμάρτημα. διὸ καὶ τοῖς μὲν ἐκ τύχης πταίουσιν ἔλεος ἕπεται μετὰ συγγνώμης κἀπικουρία, τοῖς δὲ διὰ τὴν αὑτῶν ἀβουλίαν ὄνειδος κἀπιτίμησις συνεξακολουθεῖ παρὰ τοῖς εὖ φρονοῦσιν.

Sunday, May 23, 2021


Finding a Way Out

Livy 22.5.1-2 (about Flaminius; tr. J.C. Yardley):
Wherever he could go, and wherever he could make himself heard, he encouraged them and told them to stand and fight. They needed force and courage to get out of there, he said, not prayers and petitions to the gods.

quacumque adire audirique potest, adhortatur ac stare ac pugnare iubet: nec enim inde votis aut imploratione deum sed vi ac virtute evadendum esse.


Standing Up

Plutarch, Life of Brutus 4.5-6 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
It was then, they say, that Pompey was so filled with delight and admiration that he rose from his seat as Brutus approached, and in the sight of all embraced him as a superior.

ὅτε καί φασι Πομπήϊον ἡσθέντα καὶ θαυμάσαντα προσιόντος αὐτοῦ καθεζόμενον ἐξαναστῆναι καὶ περιβαλεῖν ὡς κρείττονα πάντων ὁρώντων.
Servius on Vergil, Aeneid 11.500:
For there were four things among the Romans that were related to showing respect: to dismount from your horse, to bare your head, to move out of the way, and to stand up. Even the heralds who preceded magistrates were said to shout these instructions.

quattuor namque erant apud Romanos quae ad honorificentiam pertinebant: equo desilire, caput aperire, via decedere, adsurgere. hoc etiam praecones praeeuntes magistratus clamare dicebantur.


The Problem of the Day

The Conflict Between Paganism and Christianity. Essays Edited by Arnaldo Momigliano (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), p. 12 (from Momigliano's Introduction):
Next to Satan, the barbarians were the problem of the day. Like the devils, the barbarians could be found everywhere, but unlike the devils no simple formula could chase them away.


Tame and Weak

Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann (January 2, 1824; tr. John Oxenford):
"And then how tame and weak has life itself become during the last two shabby centuries. Where do we now meet an original nature? and where is the man who has the strength to be true, and to show himself as he is?"

»Und dann, wie zahm und schwach ist seit den lumpigen paar hundert Jahren nicht das Leben selber geworden! Wo kommt uns noch eine originelle Natur unverhüllt entgegen! Und wo hat einer die Kraft, wahr zu sein und sich zu zeigen, wie er ist!«


Benedict Einarson

Encounters & Reflections: Conversations with Seth Benardete. With Robert Berman, Ronna Berger, and Michael Davis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), pp. 23-25:
Ronna: Did you study with anyone in those first years on the Committee who impressed you?

Seth: Well, there was Einarson, the great Einarson, in the classics department.22

Michael: Why do you call him "the great" Einarson?

Seth: He looked like the Michelin tire ad, do you remember?, the man made of tires. He had this very funny shape—totally rotund, as though he were blown up out of a balloon—a round head, with no hair, large glasses that were totally circular. He looked exactly like the Michelin tire man.

Ronna: What was his field?

Seth: His field was Greek, and he knew more than anybody else. Absolutely amazing knowledge. But everything he said was punctuated by a laugh. He was a student of Paul Shorey, and became a junior fellow on the recommendation of Quine.23 Quine was in the first batch of junior fellows, and he said to the senior fellows, "Now here's an interesting guy." So Einarson became a junior fellow. Einarson had his three years at Harvard and then was asked to teach. And the story goes—this was the story I heard, I have no idea if it's true—that the student evaluation of the teachers came out the next year and Einarson, who had given a course on elementary Greek, got the worst evaluation that any teacher ever got. Apparently he went bonkers and ended up in a loony bin in Western Massachusetts for two years. When he came out he couldn't stop laughing.

Ronna: The laughing cure.

Seth: Someone said he had a very rare disease called "gelotophilia." It's so rare it's not in the dictionary; so rare that no one has ever heard of it. He couldn't stop laughing. What happened was, from that moment—this is the etiology of it—Einarson had finally worked out a universe in which it turned out that in fact everything was funny. So he got it right, you see. It worked perfectly.

Ronna: Did he ever write anything?

Seth: He did the text and the translation of Theophrastus, "On the Causes of Plants," and he did almost all the emendations in Festugière’s edition of Hermes Trismegistus. He was highly respected, in this very odd way.

Ronna: Did you learn anything from him?

Seth: He was very reluctant to teach anything, because he despised everybody for not knowing anything. So he had about a dozen things to say, which he would always trot out.

Robert: Always punctuated with a laugh.

Seth: Always. And he never allowed anybody to pause. If you wanted to translate, you had to translate at lightning speed, otherwise he would interrupt if you stopped. He would say, "yes," and then he would go on, absolutely flawlessly. So if you wanted to get through, you had to learn how to do it very rapidly. I remember one day I was coming down the steps of the library of the classics department, which used to be on the second and third floor of one of the buildings. Einarson was coming up the steps at the same time, carrying in two columns in his hands a pile of books. Each one was ten books high, and he was laughing his head o¤ as he carried the books up the steps. When he got to the top I said, "Why are you laughing so hard?" And he said, "Well, this is a complete set of Hazlitt which I just bought, but then I discovered that I already had a complete set."

Ronna: He didn’t offer them to you?

Seth: No, he gave them to Bruère.24 Bruère had a very high giggle. So when the two of them got together it was absolute chaos. Did I tell you the Bloom story about Einarson? Bloom once came in to talk to Einarson and sat down on a chair. When the conversation was finished, he got up, and as he got up his pants ripped from the top to bottom. He looked back at the chair and there were these huge spikes sticking out of it, going up the chair. And Einarson was laughing his head off saying, "That was old Professor Shorey's chair."

22. Benedict Seneca Einarson, professor in the department of classics at the University of Chicago and translator of Theophrastus and Plutarch.

Laurence Berns, now a tutor at St. John's College in Annapolis, recalls attending Einarson's classes at Chicago. His favorite occupation seemed to be to find strange and rare Greek forms, then go to learned German, Dutch, or French specialized commentaries on them, which he translated in class. Finally the coup: "Ho, ho, ho, he forgot the exceptions," which then followed. A rare form came up at one point in a course on Xenophon's Anabasis: "Ho, ho, ho, I learned Hawaian over the weekend, and they have a form just like this." In one class the word hegoumai came up, and Berns remarked that, though clearly it had to be translated as "I think" or "I believe," in this case the speaker was also suggesting the other meaning of the word, "I lead." Einarson broke into a low chuckle and said, "Ho, ho, ho, you have to watch out for that sort of thing. I once had a student named Benardete, and he used to make remarks like that."

23. Paul Shorey (1857–1934), head of the Classics department at the University of Chicago until 1927, was a Plato scholar and editor-in-chief of Classical Philology from 1906 to 1934. Willard Van Orman Quine (1908–2000) was professor of philosophy at Harvard from 1936 to 1978 and made important contributions to logic and philosophy of language.

24. Richard Bruère, a Latinist who taught in the classics department of the University of Chicago until 1973, was a long-time editor of Classical Philology.
For a more sympathetic account of Einarson see the obituary by William M. Calder III in Gnomon 51.2 (April, 1979) 207-208. There is no entry for Einarson in Brill's History of Classical Scholarship: A Biographical Dictionary (Leiden: Brill, 2014).

Benedict Einarson as a young man:
Benedict Einarson as an old man:
Hat tip: Kevin Muse.

Saturday, May 22, 2021


To Your Health

Goethe, Faust, Part I, lines 985-990 (tr. Walter Kaufman):
So please accept the finest mug;
With a good drink it has been filled,
I offer it and wish aloud:
Not only may your thirst be stilled;
As many drops as it conveys
Ought to be added to your days.

So nehmet auch den schönsten Krug,
Den wir mit frischem Trunk gefüllt,
Ich bring' ihn zu und wünsche laut,
Daß er nicht nur den Durst Euch stillt:
Die Zahl der Tropfen, die er hegt,
Sei Euren Tagen zugelegt.

Friday, May 21, 2021


Learning from the Mistakes of Others

Polybius 1.35.6-10 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
[6] I have recorded these events in the hope that the readers of this history may profit from them, [7] for there are two ways by which all men may reform themselves, either by learning from their own errors or from those of others; the former makes a more striking demonstration, the latter a less painful one. For this reason we should never, if we can avoid it, choose the first, [8] since it involves great dangers as well as great pain, but always the second, since it reveals the best course without causing us harm. [9] From this I conclude that the best education for the situations of actual life consists of the experience we acquire from the study of serious history. [10] For it is history alone which without causing us harm enables us to judge what is the best course in any situation or circumstance.

[6] ἐγὼ δὲ τούτων ἐπεμνήσθην χάριν τῆς τῶν ἐντυγχανόντων τοῖς ὑπομνήμασι διορθώσεως. [7] δυεῖν γὰρ ὄντων τρόπων πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις τῆς ἐπὶ τὸ βέλτιον μεταθέσεως, τοῦ τε διὰ τῶν ἰδίων συμπτωμάτων καὶ τοῦ διὰ τῶν ἀλλοτρίων, ἐναργέστερον μὲν εἶναι συμβαίνει τὸν διὰ τῶν οἰκείων περιπετειῶν, ἀβλαβέστερον δὲ τὸν διὰ τῶν ἀλλοτρίων. διὸ τὸν μὲν οὐδέποθ᾽ ἑκουσίως αἱρετέον, [8] ἐπεὶ μετὰ μεγάλων πόνων καὶ κινδύνων ποιεῖ τὴν διόρθωσιν, τὸν δ᾽ ἀεὶ θηρευτέον, ἐπεὶ χωρὶς βλάβης ἔστιν συνιδεῖν ἐν αὐτῷ τὸ βέλτιον. [9] ἐξ ὧν συνιδόντι καλλίστην παιδείαν ἡγητέον πρὸς ἀληθινὸν βίον τὴν ἐκ τῆς πραγματικῆς ἱστορίας περιγινομένην ἐμπειρίαν· [10] μόνη γὰρ αὕτη χωρὶς βλάβης ἐπὶ παντὸς καιροῦ καὶ περιστάσεως κριτὰς ἀληθινοὺς ἀποτελεῖ τοῦ βελτίονος.


Like a Tower

Dante, Purgatorio 5.10-15 (tr. Jean and Robert Hollander):
'Is your mind so distracted,’ asked the master,
'that you have slowed your pace?
Why do you care what they are whispering?

Just follow me and let the people talk.
Be more like a sturdy tower
that does not tremble in the fiercest wind...'

"Perché l'animo tuo tanto s'impiglia,"
disse 'l maestro, "che l'andare allenti?
che ti fa ciò che quivi si pispiglia?

Vien dietro a me, e lascia dir le genti:
sta come torre ferma, che non crolla
già mai la cima per soffiar di venti..."
The same, tr. Clive James:
"Why," said my Guide, "so tangled in the mind?
How can you be concerned by what they might
Be murmuring there? Stay with me close behind
And let them talk. Stand like a tower, staunch,
Unshaken at its top by gusts of wind..."
Charles S. Singleton ad loc.:
12. che ti fa ciò che quivi si pispiglia? The souls are now talking among themselves about the discovery of Dante's shadow. "Pispiglia," however, is already leading to "lascia dir le genti," in vs. 13, a moral injunction that would apply to Dante in this life and as such may be compared with the moral injunctions in Inf. XXIV, 46-51, and XXX, 145-48.

14-15. sta come torre ... venti: For the background of the metaphor, cf. Virgil, Aen. VII, 586, and X, 693-96—though there the figure is of a cliff rather than a tower.


Exposure to the Good and the Bad

Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann (October 14, 1823; tr. John Oxenford):
"He is as much a child about a theatre as you, Ottilie!" said he; and we exchanged congratulations upon this taste which we had in common. "My daughter," continued he, "never misses an evening."

"That is all very well," said I, "as long as they give good lively pieces; but when the pieces are bad, they try the patience."

"But," said Goethe, "it is a good thing that you cannot leave, but are forced to hear and see even what is bad. By this means, you are penetrated with the hatred for the bad, and come to a clearer insight into the good. In reading, it is not so,—you throw aside the book, if it displeases you; but at the theatre you must endure." I gave my assent, and thought how the old gentleman always said something opportune.

»Das ist auch so ein Theaterkind wie du, Ottilie«, sagte er dann, und wir freuten uns miteinander über unsere beiderseitige Neigung. »Meine Tochter«, fügte er hinzu, »versäumt keinen Abend.«

»Solange gute heitere Stücke gegeben werden,« erwiderte ich, »lasse ich es gelten, allein bei schlechten Stücken muß man auch etwas aushalten.«

»Das ist eben recht,« erwiderte Goethe, »daß man nicht fort kann und gezwungen ist auch das Schlechte zu hören und zu sehen. Da wird man recht von Haß gegen das Schlechte durchdrungen und kommt dadurch zu einer desto besseren Einsicht des Guten. Beim Lesen ist das nicht so, da wirft man das Buch aus den Händen, wenn es einem nicht gefällt, aber im Theater muß man aushalten.« Ich gab ihm recht und dachte, der Alte sagt auch gelegentlich immer etwas Gutes.

Thursday, May 20, 2021


Evening Amusements

Evening Amusements, a woodcut (c. 1820), reproduced in Jane C. Nylander, Our Own Snug Fireside: Images of the New England Home 1760-1860 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 220:



Polybius 1.14 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
There was also another reason, no less influential than those I have already mentioned, which persuaded me to pay especial attention to this war, namely the fact that Philinus and Fabius, the historians who are reputed to be the most expert authorities on it, have failed, in my opinion, to report the truth as they should have done.

Now, if we may judge by the lives and principles of these men, I do not suggest that they deliberately set out to mislead their readers; on the other hand both seem to me to have behaved in the way that men do when they are in love.

Thus because of his partisan zeal and his persistent devotion to the one side Philinus insists that the Carthaginians acted with wisdom, virtue and courage on every occasion and that the Romans behaved in the contrary fashion, while Fabius gives us a diametrically opposite version.

Now in other spheres of human life we should perhaps not rule out such partiality. A good man ought to love his friends and his country, and should share both their hatreds and their loyalties.

But once a man takes up the role of the historian he must discard all considerations of this kind. He will often have to speak well of his enemies and even award them the highest praise should their actions demand this, and on the other hand criticize and find fault with his friends, however close they may be, if their errors of conduct show that this is his duty.

For just as a living creature, if it is deprived of its eyesight, is rendered completely helpless, so if history is deprived of the truth, we are left with nothing but an idle, unprofitable tale.

We must therefore not shrink from accusing our friends or praising our enemies, nor need we be afraid of praising or blaming the same people at different times, since it is impossible that men who are engaged in public affairs should always be in the right, and unlikely that they should always be in the wrong.

We must therefore detach ourselves from the actors in our story, and apply to them only such statements and judgements as their conduct deserves.



Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Act I (tr. Peter Branscombe):
If you wish to measure according to rules
something which does not agree with your rules,
forget your own ways,
and first seek its rules!

Wollt ihr nach Regeln messen,
was nicht nach euren Regeln Lauf,
der eignen Spur vergessen,
sucht davon erst die Regeln auf!


A Real Eccentric

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008), The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 2 (New York: Harper & Row, n.d.), pp. 485-486 (Part III, Chapter 18, "The Muses in Gulag," tr. Thomas P. Whitney):
Take Aristid Ivanovich Dovatur—a real eccentric for you. A native of St. Petersburg, of French and Rumanian extraction, a classical philologist, for all the past and future a bachelor and a solitary. He was torn away from Herodotus and Caesar, like a cat from meat, and imprisoned in a camp. His heart was still full of unexpounded texts. And in camp he acted as if he were in a dream. He would have been finished off in the first week, but the doctors provided him with protection and set him up in the enviable position of medical statistician; and in addition, not without benefit to the freshly recruited camp medical assistants, Dovatur was instructed to give lectures twice a month! This was in camp—and they were in Latin! Aristid Ivanovich stood at a small blackboard—and glowed, just as in his best university years! He wrote down strange columns of conjugations which had never ever loomed before the eyes of the natives, and at the sound of the crumbling chalk his heart beat voluptuously. His life was so quiet and so well set up! But disaster crashed on his head too: the camp chief considered him a rarity—an honest person! And he named him . . . manager of the bakery—the most lucrative of all camp positions! The man in charge of bread was in charge of men's lives! The road to this position was paved with the bodies and the souls of camp inmates—but few got there. And then and there this position fell from the heavens—to Dovatur, who was crushed by it. For one week he went about like a person condemned to death, even before taking over the bakery. He begged the camp chief to have mercy on him and to allow him to live, to keep his Latin conjugations and an unconfined spirit. And pardon came: a routine crook was named manager of the bakery.
Hat tip: Joel Eidsath.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021


The Simple Life

Tacitus, Germania 46.3 (tr. A.R. Birley):
The Fenni are remarkably savage and wretchedly poor. They have no weapons, no horses, and no homes. They feed on wild plants, wear skins, and sleep on the ground. Their only hope is their arrows, which for lack of iron they tip with bone. Men and women alike live by hunting. The women accompany the men everywhere and insist on taking a share in the spoils. Their only way of protecting infants against wild beasts or rain is a shelter made from interwoven branches. This is what the young men come back to and where the old men take refuge. Yet they think this is a happier lot than to groan over the tillage of the fields, toiling over house-building, or speculating between hope and fear with their own and other people's money. Having nothing to fear at the hands of men or gods, they have reached a state that is very difficult to attain: they do not even need to pray for anything.

Fennis mira feritas, foeda paupertas: non arma, non equi, non penates; victui herba, vestitui pelles, cubile humus: solae in sagittis spes, quas inopia ferri ossibus asperant. idemque venatus viros pariter ac feminas alit; passim enim comitantur partemque praedae petunt. nec aliud infantibus ferarum imbriumque suffugium quam ut in aliquo ramorum nexu contegantur: huc redeunt iuvenes, hoc senum receptaculum. sed beatius arbitrantur quam ingemere agris, inlaborare domibus, suas alienasque fortunas spe metuque versare: securi adversus homines, securi adversus deos rem difficillimam adsecuti sunt, ut illis ne voto quidem opus esset.
An excerpt from J.B. Rives' excellent commentary ad loc.:
Unlike the Germani, who are merely barbaric, the Fenni represent the absolute antithesis of civilization. Like nomads, they lack settled homes; but unlike nomads, they lack even horses and wagons: they are ignorant not only of agriculture, but even of pastoralism. From the Roman perspective they are virtually the same as animals. Ovid describes primitive humanity in very similar terms: 'for houses they knew boughs, for food they knew herbs' (Fast. 2.293; cf. Ars 2.475). Tacitus carefully develops this image of the Fenni as people living almost totally in a state of nature, and caps it with a philosophical reflection: since possessions bring concerns, the complete lack of possessions leads to a life free from all concerns. In the same way, Seneca had earlier argued that nature provides for all human needs: 'are not the skins of beasts and other animals a sufficient, even abundant, defence against cold? ... Those whom some dense grove shielded from the sun, who against the severity of winter and rain lived safely under a bough as a cheap retreat, would pass peaceful nights without sighs' (Ep. 90.16 and 41). It is with this philosophical commonplace that Tacitus is here most concerned. Even the striking sententia with which he concludes is not entirely original: Seneca again provides a precedent in his assertion that philosophy brings 'perpetual freedom, fear of neither man nor god' (Ep. 17.6).


A Hoax

Plutarch, Life of Dion 34-35 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
Now, there was a certain Sosis, a man whose baseness and impudence gave him renown in Syracuse, where it was thought that abundance of liberty could only be shown by such license of speech as his. This man, with hostile designs upon Dion, first rose in an assembly and roundly abused the Syracusans for not comprehending that they had merely exchanged a stupid and drunken tyrant for a watchful and sober master; and having thus declared himself an open enemy of Dion, he left the assembly. Next, on the following day he was seen running through the city naked, his head and face covered with blood, as though he were trying to escape pursuit. In this condition he dashed into the assembly and told the people there that he had been set upon by Dion's mercenaries, and showed them his head with its wounds. He found many to share his resentment and take sides with him against Dion, who, they said, was committing dire acts of tyranny, if by murder and peril of life he sought to rob the citizens of their free speech. However, although the assembly had become confused and tumultuous, Dion came forward and showed in his own defence that Sosis was a brother of one of the body-guards of Dionysius, and had been induced by him to raise confusion and faction among the citizens, since there was no safety for Dionysius except in their mutual distrust and dissension. At the same time, too, the physicians examined the wound of Sosis and discovered that it had been made by razure rather than by a downright blow. For the blows of a sword, by reason of its weight, make wounds that are deepest in the middle, but that of Sosis was shallow all along, and intermittent, as would be natural if he stopped his work on account of pain, and then began it again. Besides, certain well known persons brought a razor to the assembly, and stated that as they were walking along the street, Sosis met them, all bloody, and declaring that he was running away from Dion's mercenaries, by whom he had just been wounded; at once, then, they ran after them, and found no one, but saw a razor lying under a hollow rock in the quarter from which Sosis had been seen to come.

Well, then, the case of Sosis was already desperate; but when, in addition to these proofs, his servants testified that while it was still night he had left the house alone and carrying the razor, Dion's accusers withdrew, and the people, after condemning Sosis to death, were reconciled with Dion.
Related post: Impostors.


Like Father, Like Son

Livy 21.4.1-2 (tr. J.C. Yardley):
Hannibal was sent to Spain where he won the hearts of the entire army immediately upon his arrival. The older soldiers thought that a young Hamilcar had been brought back to them; they saw that same dynamism in his expression, the same forcefulness in his eyes, the same facial expression and features.

missus Hannibal in Hispaniam primo statim adventu omnem exercitum in se convertit; Hamilcarem iuvenem redditum sibi veteres milites credere; eundem vigorem in voltu vimque in oculis, habitum oris lineamentaque intueri.
Related post: Children Who Resemble Their Fathers.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021



Prudentius, Liber Cathemerinon, no. 2 (Hymnus Matutinus), lines 105-112 (tr. H.J. Thomson):
There is One that stands by watching from above, who each day views us and our doings from dawn of light till evening.

He is witness, He is judge; He looks on every thought the mind of man conceives, and this judge none can dupe.

speculator adstat desuper,        105
qui nos diebus omnibus
actusque nostros prospicit
a luce prima in vesperum.

hic testis, hic est arbiter,
hic intuetur quidquid est        110
humana quod mens concipit;
hunc nemo fallit iudicem.
Related post: Surveillance by Big Brother.

Monday, May 17, 2021


Athenians versus Persians

Simonides, fragment 18 = Greek Anthology 7.257 (tr. W.R. Paton, commas added):
The sons of the Athenians, utterly destroying the army of the Persians,
repelled sore slavery from their country.

παῖδες Ἀθηναίων Περσῶν στρατὸν ἐξολέσαντες
   ἤρκεσαν ἀργαλέην πατρίδι δουλοσύνην.


Battle Cry

Tacitus, Annals 1.59.6 (reporting a speech by Arminius; tr. Cynthia Damon):
If you prefer country, parents and ancient ways to masters and new settlements, follow Arminius to glory and freedom, not Segestes to shameful enslavement.

si patriam parentes antiqua mallent quam dominos et colonias novas, Arminium potius gloriae ac libertatis quam Segestem flagitiosae servitutis ducem sequerentur.
Patria, parentes, antiqua — that would make a good battle cry.

Related post: Things to Remember.


Life or Death

Euripides, Orestes 1509 (tr. E.P. Coleridge):
Everywhere, the wise find life sweeter than death.

πανταχοῦ ζῆν ἡδὺ μᾶλλον ἢ θανεῖν τοῖς σώφροσιν.
Said by a slave.

Sunday, May 16, 2021


Fate of the Tattle-Tales

Plutarch, Life of Dion 28.1-2 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
As for the Syracusans in the city, the men of note and cultivation, in fresh apparel, went to meet them at the gates, while the multitude set upon the tyrant's friends and seized those called tale-bearers, wicked men whom the gods hated, who went up and down in the city busily mingling with the Syracusans and reporting to the tyrant the sentiments and utterances of every one. These, then, were the first to suffer retribution, being beaten to death by those who came upon them...

τῶν δ᾽ ἐν τῇ πόλει Συρακουσίων οἱ μὲν γνώριμοι καὶ χαρίεντες ἐσθῆτα καθαρὰν ἔχοντες ἀπήντων ἐπὶ τάς πύλας, οἱ δὲ πολλοὶ τοῖς τυράννου φίλοις ἐπετίθεντο καὶ συνήρπαζον τοὺς καλουμένους προσαγωγίδας, ἀνθρώπους ἀνοσίους καὶ θεοῖς ἐχθρούς, οἳ περιενόστουν ἐν τῇ πόλει καταμεμιγμένοι τοῖς Συρακουσίοις πολυπραγμονοῦντες καὶ διαγγέλλοντες τῷ τυράννῳ τάς τε διανοίας καὶ τάς φωνὰς ἑκάστων. οὗτοι μὲν οὖν πρῶτοι δίκην ἐδίδοσαν ὑπὸ τῶν προστυγχανόντων ἀποτυμπανιζόμενοι...


On Reflection

Tacitus, Annals 3.18.4 (tr. Cynthia Damon):
But the more I reflect on events recent and past, the more I am struck by the element of the absurd in everything humans do.

mihi, quanto plura recentium seu veterum revolvo, tanto magis ludibria rerum mortalium cunctis in negotiis obversantur.

Saturday, May 15, 2021


Coin in My Pouch

Poem by Robert Burns:
Contented wi' little, and cantie wi' mair,
Whene'er I forgather wi' Sorrow and Care,
I gie them a skelp as they're creeping alang,
Wi' a cog o' gude swats and an auld Scottish sang.

I whiles claw the elbow o' troublesome thought;        5
But Man is a soger, and Life is a faught;
My mirth and gude humour are coin in my pouch,
And my Freedom's my Lairdship nae monarch dare touch.

A towmond o' trouble, should that be my fa',
A night o' gude fellowship sowthers it a':        10
When at the blythe end o' our journey at last,
Wha the deil ever thinks o' the road he has past?

Blind Chance, let her snapper and stoyte on her way;
Be't to me, be't frae me, e'en let the jade gae:
Come Ease, or come Travail, come Pleasure or Pain,        15
My warst word is: "Welcome, and welcome again!"
Glosses borrowed from The Northern Muse: An Anthology of Scots Vernacular Poetry, ed. John Buchan (1924; rpt. London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, Ltd., 1947), p. 208:
1 cantie: jolly
3 skelp: whack
4 cog o' gude swats: a pot of good new ale
5 claw: scratch
6 soger: soldier; faught: fight
9 towmond: twelvemonth; fa': lot
10 sowthers: solders [or rather mitigates, alleviates?]
13 snapper and stoyte: stumble and stagger


The Lure of the Forbidden

Tacitus, Annals 13.12.2 (tr. John Jackson):
The illicit is stronger than the licit.

praevalent inlicita.
The same, tr. J.C. Yardley:
The illicit is always more appealing.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 7.20-21 (tr. Frank Justus Miller):
                               I see the better and approve it,
but I follow the worse.

                             video meliora proboque,
deteriora sequor.

Friday, May 14, 2021



Euripides, Electra 367-372 (tr. E.P. Coleridge):
There is no exact way to test a man's worth;
for human nature has confusion in it.
I have seen before now the son of a noble father
worth nothing, and good children from evil parents;
famine in a rich man's spirit,
and a mighty soul in a poor man's body.

οὐκ ἔστ' ἀκριβὲς οὐδὲν εἰς εὐανδρίαν·
ἔχουσι γὰρ ταραγμὸν αἱ φύσεις βροτῶν.
ἤδη γὰρ εἶδον ἄνδρα γενναίου πατρὸς
τὸ μηδὲν ὄντα, χρηστά τ' ἐκ κακῶν τέκνα,
λιμόν τ' ἐν ἀνδρὸς πλουσίου φρονήματι,
γνώμην τε μεγάλην ἐν πένητι σώματι.

Thursday, May 13, 2021


Teaching Caesar's Gallic War

Bijan Omrani, Caesar's Footprints. A Cultural Excursion to Ancient France: Journeys Through Roman Gaul (New York: Pegasus Books, 2017), pp. 3-5 (footnote omitted):
It was a Wednesday morning deep in the winter term, period two. I was conducting a Latin language session with a bright but not especially motivated lower sixth. The unfortunate fodder for this exercise was the fifth book of Julius Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War, describing his conquest of Gaul between 58 and 50 BC.

There was something almost ritualized about the pupils' misery during these sessions. The use of Caesar as fodder for teenage children to take their first steps in translating 'real' Latin, after leaving behind the safety of language textbooks, is an ancient tradition. Say 'Caesar' to anyone who has been subjected to an education containing a classical component, and there are two likely reactions. One the one hand, a cheerful reminiscence of how good Caesar was for them: how wonderfully hard his writing worked their brain, as if his dialogues were specifically designed — like some formidable fibre-laced breakfast cereal — to improve their cerebral motions. On the other, a cross-eyed stab of agony, like thinking back to a mental version of the Somme, where all was muddy quagmire and barbed-wire entanglements formed of indirect statements enmeshed with ablative absolutes and gerundives of obligation. My lower sixth form class was very much in the latter camp.

I hated it that, for generations of schoolchildren, this was the miserable end to which Caesar's account of the Gallic Wars was put. During that lesson, as someone, floundering in a particularly long and vicious stretch of oratio obliqua, paused and expressed his total disgust for Caesar, The Gallic Wars and the whole exercise, I felt compelled to pause and make a defence, if not of using Caesar for grammar bashing, then at least of Caesar's writing. It was, I pleaded, rather more than a random tale of legions being marched and legates being dispatched. The text stood as an extraordinary account of the very foundation of modern Europe: for it was by taking the heartlands of Gaul under their control that the Romans introduced the culture of the Latin Mediterranean to the European north. Without this conquest — which was not a historical inevitability, and which was undertaken on the spur of the moment because of Caesar's own political circumstances and all-consuming ambition — the Roman empire would likely never have had the reach or staying power that it attained. The modern languages of Europe would probably have been more Celtic than Latinate in nature. The literary classics of Virgil, Cicero and Ovid, and the masterpieces of ancient Greek literature that influenced them, might not have had such a profound impact on the Western tradition. The same is the case for classical ideas of philosophy, law, rhetoric, music and architecture. Christianity likewise would perhaps never have penetrated Europe as deeply as would prove to be the case. Without Caesar's conquest of Gaul, the map of modern Europe would look entirely different. There would have been no European neurosis springing from the memory of the barbarian invasions across the Rhine in the fifth century AD; no Charlemagne; no modern state of France; no Renaissance in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries — and very little likelihood that we would have been sitting in that classroom reading a classic work of Latin literature on a cold Wednesday morning.

I expressed myself largely and eloquently. My class essentially told me to sod off.


Earning a Living

Tacitus, Germania 14.4 (tr. Anthony R. Birley):
You cannot so easily persuade them to plough the soil or to wait for the harvest as to challenge an enemy and earn wounds as a reward. Indeed, they think it tame and spiritless to accumulate slowly by sweat what they can get quickly by losing some blood.

nec arare terram aut exspectare annum tam facile persuaseris quam vocare hostem et vulnera mereri. pigrum quin immo et iners videtur sudore adquirere quod possis sanguine parare.
Slowly and quickly don't appear in the Latin.

J.B. Rives ad loc.:
This may have been a commonplace in descriptions of northern barbarians: five hundred years earlier Herodotus (5.6.2) had observed that the Thracians regarded agricultural work as dishonourable, and considered plunder and war the most onourable sources of livelihood. For Tacitus this observation serves as a contrast with the Roman ideal of the farmer-soldier, who embodied the Roman military values of steadfastness, discipline, and hard work. Virgil, for example, describes how the hardy youth of ancient times could both tame the earth with hoes and storm citadels in war (Aen. 9.607– 8); Vegetius (Mil. 1.3) says that in the past the same men were both warriors and farmers, changing only their type of arms; the elder Cato could still assert that 'the bravest men and most energetic soldiers are made from farmers' (Agr. praef. 4). Roman tradition emphasized that many of the city's early heroes were both farmers and soldiers, like Cincinnatus who was summoned from his plough to lead the army (Cic. Sen. 56, Livy 3.13.36, Colum. Rust. praef. 13–14).
Some commentators also compare Caesar, Gallic War 6.23.6 (tr. James J. O'Donnell):
Brigandage beyond the boundary of a nation is not disreputable, indeed they commend it as training the young and suppressing laziness.

latrocinia nullam habent infamiam, quae extra fines cuiusque civitatis fiunt, atque ea iuventutis exercendae ac desidiae minuendae causa fieri praedicant.


Faithful to Our Native Land

Pierre-Jean de Béranger (1780-1857), "Le Bon Français," 1st stanza, tr. William Young, Songs of Béranger Done Into English Verse (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1878), p. 42:
I like a Russian to be Russian;
   The Englishman should English be;
And if in Prussia men are Prussian,
   Frenchmen in France be we!
Whilst here our hearts are gushing o'er,
And can but count "one Frenchman more,"
Friends, friends, oh, faithful let us stand;
Aye faithful to our native land!
The French, from his Chansons, t. I (Paris: Perrotin, 1829), p. 108:
J'aime qu'un Russe soit Russe,
Et qu'un Anglais soit Anglais.
Si l'on est Prussien en Prusse,
En France, soyons Français.
Lorsqu'ici nos coeurs émus
Comptent des Français de plus,
Mes amis, mes amis,
Soyons de notre pays,
Oui, soyons de notre pays.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021


A Rumor Debunked

Tacitus, Annals 4.11.3 (on the rumor that Tiberius killed Drusus; tr. Michael Grant):
My own motive in mentioning and refuting the rumour has been to illustrate by one conspicuous instance the falsity of hearsay gossip, and to urge those who read this book not to prefer incredible tales — however widely current and readily accepted — to the truth unblemished by marvels.

mihi tradendi arguendique rumoris causa fuit, ut claro sub exemplo falsas auditiones depellerem peteremque ab iis, quorum in manus cura nostra venerit, <ne> divulgata atque incredibilia avide accepta veris neque in miraculum corruptis antehabeant.

ne suppl. Rhenanus


Be Merry

Menander, The Shield 247-249 (tr. W.G. Arnott):
Approaching here, I see—some men, quite drunk.
You're sensible. What fortune brings is all
Uncertain. Take your pleasure while you can!

ὄχλον ἄλλον ἀνθρώπων προσιόντα τουτονὶ
ὁρῶ μεθυόντων. νοῦν ἔχετε· τὸ τῆς τύχης
ἄδηλον· εὐφραίνεσθ᾿ ὃν ἔξεστιν χρόνον.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021


The Hour of Rest

Prudentius, Liber Cathemerinon, no. 6 (Hymnus ante Somnum), lines 9-20 (tr. H.J. Thomson):
The day's toil is past and the hour of rest comes again; caressing slumber in its turn relaxes our tired limbs.

The mind storm-tossed and careworn drinks deep the cup of forgetfulness.

Oblivion steals over all the body and lets no sense of soreness abide with the afflicted.

fluxit labor diei,
redit et quietis hora,        10
blandus sopor vicissim
fessos relaxat artus.

mens aestuans procellis,
curisque sauciata,
totis bibit medullis        15
obliviale poclum.

serpit per omne corpus
Lethaea vis, nec ullum
miseris doloris aegri
patitur manere sensum.        20
See Willy Evenepoel, Explanatory and Literary Notes on Prudentius' Hymnus ante somnum," Revue belge de Philologie et d'Histoire 56.1 (1978) 55-70 (at 57-58, 64).

Related posts:


Shepherds and Yokels

Alfred Zimmern, The Greek Commonwealth, 5th ed. (1931; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 230:
It is not our cloistered Hellenists and city-dwellers but our shepherds and yokels who, in their daily occupations and habits of housekeeping, touch most nearly the ancient Greek — not merely the Greek of the unsettled early days and of the quiet Middle Ages, but the alert and enterprising citizen of fifth-century Athens.
Id., translating from Henri Francotte, L'industrie dans la Grèce ancienne, t. II (Brussels: Société belge de librairie, 1901), p. 53:
'Go today into the recesses of the Ardennes and you will still find some of these children of the soil. You will meet the old-fashioned peasant, systematically ignorant of everything connected with commerce and industry, an aristocrat and a conservative in his own peculiar way, protesting against every novelty, and adding year by year to his ancestral store. An Athenian of two thousand years ago would have understood him: today he is but the last survivor of a vanishing race.'


A Faithful Friend

Euripides, Orestes 727-728 (tr. E.P. Coleridge):
A man who can be trusted in troubles is a better sight than a calm to sailors.

                                πιστὸς ἐν κακοῖς ἀνὴρ
κρείσσων γαλήνης ναυτίλοισιν εἰσορᾶν.

Monday, May 10, 2021


How to Become a General

Polybius 11.8.1-3 (tr. W.R. Paton):
There are three ways in which those who aim at acquiring the art of generalship may reasonably hope to do so, first by studying histories and availing themselves of the lessons contained in them, secondly by following the systematic instruction of experienced men, and thirdly by the habit and experience acquired in actual practice, and in all three the present Achaean strategi were absolutely unversed.

Ὅτι τριῶν ὄντων τρόπων, καθ᾿ οὓς ἐφίενται πάντες στρατηγίας οἱ κατὰ λόγον αὐτῇ προσιόντες, πρώτου μὲν διὰ τῶν ὑπομνημάτων καὶ τῆς ἐκ τούτων κατασκευῆς, ἑτέρου δὲ τοῦ μεθοδικοῦ καὶ τῆς παρὰ τῶν ἐμπείρων ἀνδρῶν παραδόσεως, τρίτου δὲ τοῦ διὰ τῆς ἐπ᾿ αὐτῶν τῶν πραγμάτων ἕξεως καὶ τριβῆς, πάντων ἦσαν τούτων ἀνεννόητοι οἱ τῶν Ἀχαιῶν στρατηγοὶ ἁπλῶς.
This passage is cited by W. Kendrick Pritchett, "Greek Military Training," The Greek State at War, Part II (1974; rpt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), pp. 208-231 (at 212, n. 17).



Clive James (1939-2019), "Georg Christoph Lichtenberg," Cultural Amnesia (2007; rpt. London: Picador, 2012), pp. 379-405 (at 381):
Competent writers always examine what they have put down. Better than competent writers — good writers — examine their effects before they put them down: they think that way all the time. Bad writers never examine anything. Their inattentiveness to the detail of their prose is part and parcel of their inattentiveness to the detail of the outside world.


To Little Purpose and With Small Profit

Robert Burton (1577-1640), "Democritus Junior to the Reader," Anatomy of Melancholy:
I have read many books, but to little purpose, for want of good method, I have confusedly tumbled over divers authors in our Libraries, with small profit for want of art, order, memory, judgement.

Sunday, May 09, 2021


Tit for Tat

Jerome, Against Rufinus 3.42 (tr. John N. Hritzu):
You shall hear nothing more on this subject except a proverb borrowed from the streets: 'When you say what you want to say, you shall hear what you do not want to hear.'

nihilque super hoc amplius audies nisi illud de trivio: cum dixeris quod vis, audies quod non vis.
Cf. Terence, Andria 920 (tr. John Sargeaunt):
If he persists in saying just what he likes, he shall hear what he won't like.

si mihi perget quae volt dicere, ea quae non volt audiet.
For more parallels see Erasmus, Adages I i 1 to I v 100, translated by Margaret Mann Phillips, annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988), pp. 74-76 (I i 27: Qui quae vult dicit, quae non vult audiet).


Cui Bono?

Cameron Hilditch, "How Critical Race Theory Works," National Review (May 8, 2021):
The most important question to the critical theorist is therefore Cicero's famous "Cui bono?" — "Who benefits?"
Cicero himself attributed the phrase to Cassius Longinus. See Robert Ogilvie, Horae Latinae: Studies in Synonyms and Syntax (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1901), p. 76:
"Cui bono?" is the well-known test of Cassius Longinus (Consul, B.C. 127) for discovering the author of a secret crime, — to whom is it for a benefit? who is the gainer by it? cui being the person, and bono the thing. The phrase is often misquoted, as if cui agreed with bono — to what good end? what purpose does it serve?

Rosc. A. 30 L. Cassius ille identidem in causis quaerere solebat, cui bono fuisset.
Rosc. A. 5 accusant ii quibus occidi patrem Sex. Rosci bono fuit.
Rosc. A. is Cicero's speech Pro Roscio Amerino. Cf. also his speech Pro Milone 32.3 (... illud Cassianum 'cui bono fuerit?' ...)

On the double dative see Charles E. Bennett, A Latin Grammar, rev. ed. (1908; rpt. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1913), p. 133 (§ 191, 2, a):
The Dative of Purpose or Tendency designates the end toward which an action is directed or the direction in which it tends. It is used—


    Much more frequently in connection with another Dative of the person:—

      Especially with some form of esse; as,—

        fortunae tuae mihi curae sunt, your fortunes are a care to me (lit. for a care);

        nobis sunt odio, they are an object of hatred to us;

        cui bono? to whom is it of advantage?

Saturday, May 08, 2021


The Ancient Greek Landscape

Oliver Rackham, "Landscape," in Graham Speake, ed., Encyclopedia of Greece and the Hellenic Tradition, Vol. 2 (London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 2000), pp. 919-920 (at 919):
The best description of what the ancient Greek landscape looked like is the vision of the 12 mountains of Arcadia in the early Christian prophecy of Hermas, an Arcadian shepherd.
Shepherd of Hermas 78.4-10 (tr. Michael W. Holmes):
4 And he led me away to Arcadia, to a certain rounded mountain, and seated me οn top of the mountain, and showed me a great plain, and around the plain twelve mountains, and each mountain had a different appearance. 5 The first was black as soot, and the second was bare, without any vegetation, and the third was full of thorns and briars. 6 The fourth had half-withered vegetation; the tops of the plants were green, but the part by the roots was dry. And some of the plants were withering when the sun scorched them. 7 The fifth mountain had green grass and was very rugged, and the sixth mountain was all full of ravines, some small and some large, and the raνines had vegetation, but the vegetation was not very flourishing, but looked rather withered. 8 The seventh mountain had blooming vegetation, and the whole mountain was thriving, and cattle and birds of every kind were feeding οn the mountain; and the more the cattle and the birds ate, the more and more the vegetation of that mountain flourished. The eighth mountain was full of springs, and every species of the Lord's creation drank from the springs οη that mountain. 9 The ninth mountain had nο water at all, and was completely desolate; it had wild beasts and deadly reptiles that destroyed people. The tenth mountain had very large trees and was completely shaded, and beneath the shade sheep lay resting and chewing their cud. 10 The eleventh mountain was thickly wooded all over, and these trees were very productive, each adorned with various kinds of fruit, so that anyone who saw them wanted to eat of their fruit. And the twelfth mountain was completely white, and its appearance was very bright, and the mountain in and of itself was extraordinarily beautiful.


Götter im Wald

Maynard Solomon, "The Quest for Faith," Beethoven Essays (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988; rpt. 1996), pp. 216-229 (at 219, notes omitted):
There seems little doubt that Beethoven's worship of nature had deeply religious overtones. This worship went far beyond the conventional pastoral and arcadian evocations characteristic of the followers of Rousseau and Schiller to border upon religious fervor: "Every tree in the countryside said to me: 'Holy! Holy!' In the forest, enchantment! Who can express it all?" Even more explicit is the passage on a leaf of sketches: "Almighty in the forest! I am happy, blissful in the forest: every tree speaks through you, O God! What splendor! In such a woodland scene, on the heights there is calm, calm in which to serve Him."
Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 41.3 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
If ever you have come upon a grove that is full of ancient trees which have grown to an unusual height, shutting out a view of the sky by a veil of pleached and intertwining branches, then the loftiness of the forest, the seclusion of the spot, and your marvel at the thick unbroken shade in the midst of the open spaces, will prove to you the presence of deity.

si tibi occurrerit vetustis arboribus et solitam altitudinem egressis frequens lucus et conspectum caeli densitate ramorum aliorum alios protegentium summovens, illa proceritas silvae et secretum loci et admiratio umbrae in aperto tam densae atque continuae fidem tibi numinis faciet.
John Milton, Elegy 5.131-134 (tr. Walter MacKellar):
The gods themselves are not slow to prefer the forests of earth to heaven,
and every grove has its own deity.
Long let each grove have its deity!
Leave not, O gods, your homes amid the trees.

Dii quoque non dubitant caelo praeponere silvas,
   Et sua quisque sibi numina lucus habet.
Et sua quisque diu sibi numina lucus habeto,
   Nec vos arborea, dii, precor, ite domo.
Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), Waldinneres bei Mondschein
(Berlin, Alte Nationalgalerie, accession number NG 12/92)

Thursday, May 06, 2021



Cicero, De Finibus 1.10.33 (tr. H. Rackham):
In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammelled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided.

nam libero tempore, cum soluta nobis est eligendi optio cumque nihil impedit quo minus id quod maxime placeat facere possimus, omnis voluptas assumenda est, omnis dolor repellendus.

Thomas Couture (1815-1879), Romains de la décadence
(Paris, Musée d'Orsay, inv. 3451)


Germany and Greece

A sonnet by August von Platen (1796-1835), tr. Reginald B. Cooke:
What have you by your Rhine and Ister here
That may enthrone you with the ancient Greek?
The newspaper, the journal, the critique,
Ministers of police — tobacco — beer!

You who have never known those sisters dear,
Freedom and Art, who, girdled, there would seek
To place upon their heads crowns which bespeak
Perfection — would you pedants Greeks appear?

Nay, all your efforts are but mockeries.
For Greece knew how to spread th' eternal sheen
Of beauty over everything. What is

The art of which your boasts have ever been?
In a great ocean of absurdities
A few ingenious swimmers may be seen!

Was habt ihr denn an euerm Rhein und Ister,
Um neben dem Hellenenvolk zu thronen?
Journale, Zeitungsblätter, Rezensionen,
Tabak und Bier und Polizeiminister!

Die nie ihr kanntet jene zwei Geschwister,
Freiheit und Kunst, die dort in schönern Zonen
Auf's Haupt sich setzen der Vollendung Kronen,
Ihr haltet euch für Griechen, ihr Philister?

Gestümpert habt ihr bloß nach vielen Seiten,
Da Griechenland der Schönheit ewigen Schimmer
Auf alles Seiende gewußt zu breiten.

Was ist die Kunst, mit der ihr prahlet immer?
In einem Ozean von Albernheiten
Erscheinen einige geniale Schwimmer!
My knowledge of German is meager but I wonder about "girdled" as a rendering of "in schönern Zonen". Zonen here seems to mean not belts or girdles but rather areas or regions. Could the poet mean that the Greek landscape, where the sisters Freedom and Art live, is more beautiful than the landscape by the Rhine and Danube rivers in Germany?


Afraid of Flies

Aristotle, Politics 7.1.4 (1323a; tr. C.D.C. Reeve):
For no one would call a person blessedly happy who has no shred of courage, temperance, justice, or practical wisdom, but is afraid of the flies buzzing around him, stops at nothing to gratify his appetite for food or drink, betrays his dearest friends for a pittance, and has a mind as foolish and prone to error as a child's or a madman's.

οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἂν φαίη μακάριον τὸν μηθὲν μόριον ἔχοντα ἀνδρείας μηδὲ σωφροσύνης μηδὲ δικαιοσύνης μηδὲ φρονήσεως, ἀλλὰ δεδιότα μὲν τὰς παραπετομένας μυίας, ἀπεχόμενον δὲ μηθενός, ἂν ἐπιθυμήσῃ τοῦ φαγεῖν ἢ πιεῖν, τῶν ἐσχάτων, ἕνεκα δὲ τεταρτημορίου διαφθείροντα τοὺς φιλτάτους φίλους, ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ τὰ περὶ τὴν διάνοιαν οὕτως ἄφρονα καὶ διεψευσμένον ὥσπερ τι παιδίον ἢ μαινόμενον.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021


A Misprint

W.J. Watts, "Race Prejudice in the Satires of Juvenal," Acta Classica 19 (1976) 83-104 (at 84):
The satirist undoubtedly grouped mankind into three categories:
                                                    ad hoc se
Romanus Gaiusque et barbarus induperator
erexit.                                           (X 137-9)
For Gaiusque read Graiusque.



The Drudgery of the Pedagogue

H.T. Riley, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Quotations, Proverbs, Maxims, and Mottos (London: George Bell & Sons, 1891), p. 543:
Οἱ αὐτοὶ περὶ τῶν αὐτῶν αὐτοῖς τὰ αὐτά.—"The same persons saying the same things to the same persons, about the same things." A proverbial saying quoted by Grangaeus, a commentator on Juvenal, illustrative of the drudgery of the pedagogue. Observe the declension of αὐτός in the Nominative, Genitive, Dative, and Accusative cases.
I don't have access to Grangaeus' commentary on Juvenal (Paris, 1614), but see Isaac Casaubon, ed., D. Iunii Iuvenalis Aquinatis Satyrae... (Leiden: Apud Petrum Vander, 1695), p. 208 (on Juvenal 7.153 eadem cantabit versibus isdem), where this Greek sentence is quoted out of Grangaeus.


Delicta Maiorum Immeritus Lues, Guglielme

Robert Tombs, "The daftest lecture in wokery yet: Iconic Prime Minister William Gladstone loathed slavery. But because his father once owned them, Liverpool University has replaced his name on a building with a communist activist," Daily Mail (May 4, 2021).

Cf. Horace, Odes 3.6.1 (tr. Niall Rudd):
Though guiltless, you will continue to pay for the sins of your forefathers...

Delicta maiorum immeritus lues...
Or, in Gladstone's own translation:
Thy father's crimes, though guiltless, thou shalt rue...
Hat tip: A friend.

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