Thursday, May 13, 2021


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.

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