Wednesday, June 30, 2021


United or Alone?

Friedrich Schiller, William Tell, lines 432-437 (from Act I, Scene 3; my translation):
We could do much if we stood together.
In a shipwreck the individual helps himself more easily.
So coldly do you abandon our common cause?
Everyone reckons only for sure on himself.
United even the weak become powerful.
The strong man is at his most powerful alone.

Wir könnten viel, wenn wir zusammen stünden.
Beim Schiffbruch hilft der Einzelne sich leichter.
So kalt verlaßt ihr die gemeine Sache?
Ein jeder zählt nur sicher auf sich selbst.
Verbunden werden auch die Schwachen mächtig.
Der Starke ist am mächtigsten allein.


Gladly Wolde He Lerne and Gladly Teche

Cicero, De Finibus 3.20.66 (tr. H. Rackham):
Hence it would be hard to discover anyone who will not impart to another any knowledge that he may himself possess; so strong is our propensity not only to learn but also to teach.

non facile est invenire qui, quod sciat ipse, non tradat alteri; ita non solum ad discendum propensi sumus, verum etiam ad docendum.


Advice from Aristophanes

Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae 571 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Stop abusing each other!

παύσασθε λοιδορούμεναι.
But λοιδορούμεναι is feminine. More general is Aristophanes, Clouds 934:
Stop your scrapping and name calling.

παύσασθε μάχης καὶ λοιδορίας.


Taking Notes

David Pryde, The Highways of Literature; or, What to Read and How to Read (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, [1883]), pp. 20-21:
Note-taking may thus be done in various ways, but done in some way it must be. Without it you cannot be intelligent readers. For how can you be intelligent without being discriminating; and how can you be discriminating without distinguishing between the good and the bad, the remarkable and the commonplace; and how can you distinguish between these without affixing some distinctive marks! You will find, too, that all great scholars have been great note-takers. They have proved themselves in their reading as well as in other things men of mark. Locke, Southey, Sir William Hamilton, never read without having their note-books and commonplace books beside them, into which they put, for future use, all the valuable facts and ideas upon which they alighted.
I owe the reference to H.J. Jackson, Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), p. 49, who cites a different edition with different pagination however.

Cf. Captain Cuttle in Dickens' Dombey and Son: "When found, make a note of."

Tuesday, June 29, 2021


One Book

Jules Michelet (1798-1874), The People, tr. C. Cocks (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1846), p. 45:
A single book read through and through, ruminated on and pondered over, is often more fruitful than a vast mass of indigested reading. I lived for whole years on a Virgil, and found myself well off.

Un livre unique qu'on lit et qu'on relit, qu'on rumine et digère, développe souvent mieux qu'une vaste lecture indigeste. J'ai vécu des années d'un Virgile, et m'en suis bien trouvé.
Related post: Multum Legendum, Non Multa.


An Obstacle to My Salvation

John Cassian, Conferences 14.12 (tr. Colm Luibhéid):
Leaving aside those things in general which imprison the soul, leaving aside the distractions which come battering from without against souls that are weak, I feel that a particular obstacle to my salvation is the very slight knowledge I seem to have of literature. The insistence of my teacher and my own urge for continuous reading have so softened me that at this point my mind is, as it were, infected by those poetic works, worthless stories, tales of war in which I was steeped from the beginning of my basic studies when I was very young. I think of them even when I am praying. When I am singing the psalms or else begging pardon for my sins the shameful memory of poems slips in or the image of warring heroes turns before my eyes. And the conjuring up of such fantasies makes such a sport of me that my mind is unable to aspire to the contemplation of heavenly things, and my daily tears are unable to drive them out.

quippe cui praeter illas generales animae captivitates, quibus non dubito infirmos quosque pulsari extrinsecus, speciale impedimentum salutis accedit per illam quam tenuiter videor attigisse notitia litterarum, in qua me ita vel instantia paedagogi vel continuae lectionis maceravit intentio, ut nunc mens mea poeticis velut infecta carminibus illas fabularum nugas historiasque bellorum, quibus a parvulo primis studiorum imbuta est rudimentis, orationis etiam tempore meditetur, psallentique vel pro peccatorum indulgentia supplicanti aut impudens poematum memoria suggeratur, aut quasi bellantium heroum ante oculos imago versetur, taliumque me phantasmatum imaginatio semper inludens ita mentem meam ad supernos intuitus aspirare non patitur, ut cotidianis fletibus non possit expelli.


Unreliability of Eyewitnesses

Polybius 12.24.6 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
...many men, although they may be present at an event, might just as well not be there, and likewise may be eye-witnesses yet actually see nothing; this fact arises from their ignorance and defective judgement...

...συμβαίνει διὰ τὴν ἀπειρίαν καὶ κακοκρισίαν πολλοὺς ἐνίοτε καθάπερ εἰ παρόντας τρόπον τινὰ μὴ παρεῖναι καὶ βλέποντας μὴ βλέπειν...
F.W. Walbank in his commentary compares Matthew 13.13 (here in the New International Version):
Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

βλέποντες οὐ βλέπουσιν καὶ ἀκούοντες οὐκ ἀκούουσιν οὐδὲ συνίουσιν.


A Relief

G.M. Trevelyan (1876-1952), An Autobiography & Other Essays (London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1949), p. 60:
It is a relief to escape from our own mechanical age into a world when the craftsman was more and the machine less, when imagination was more and science was less. Nor is this mere hedonistic escapism. It enlarges the mind and imagination, otherwise imprisoned in the present. We get glimpses of other worlds, human and faulty like ours, but different from our own, and suggesting many things, some of great value, that man has thought, experienced and forgotten. Indeed, I know of no greater triumph of the modern intellect than the truthful reconstruction of past states of society that have been long forgotten or misunderstood, recovered now by the patient work of archaeologists, antiquarians and historians. To discover in detail what the life of man on earth was like a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand years ago is just as great an achievement as to make ships sail under the sea or through the air.

How wonderful a thing it is to look back into the past as it actually was, to get a glimpse through the curtain of old night into some brilliantly lighted scene of living men and women, not mere creatures of fiction and imagination, but warm-blooded realities even as we are.


Forgiving One's Enemies

Scintillations from the Prose Works of Heinrich Heine, tr. Simon Adler Stern (New York: Holt & Williams, 1873), p. 83:
I have the most peaceable disposition. My desires are a modest cottage with thatched roof — but a good bed, good fare, fresh milk and butter, flowers by my window, and a few fine trees before the door. And if the Lord wished to fill my cup of happiness, he would grant me the pleasure of seeing some six or seven of my enemies hanged on those trees. With a heart moved to pity, I would, before their death, forgive the injury they had done me during their lives. Yes, we ought to forgive our enemies, — but not until they are hanged.
The German, from Heinrich Heine, "Gedanken und Einfälle," in his Gesammelte Werke, ed. Gustav Karpeles, 8. Bd., 2. Aufl., (Berlin: G. Grote, 1893), pp. 275-326 (at 275):
Ich habe die friedlichste Gesinnung. Meine Wünsche sind: eine bescheidene Hütte, ein Strohdach, aber ein gutes Bett, gutes Essen, Milch und Butter, sehr frisch, vor dem Fenster Blumen, vor der Thür einige schöne Bäume, und wenn der liebe Gott mich ganz glüdlich machen will, lässt er mich die Freude erleben, dass an diesen Bäumen etwa sechs bis sieben meiner Feinde aufgehängt werden. Mit gerührtem Herzen werde ich ihnen vor ihrem Tode alle Unbill verzeihen, die sie mir im Leben zugefügt — Ja, man muß seinen Feinden verzeihen, aber nicht früher, als bis sie gehenkt worden.
Hat tip: Paul Wood.

Monday, June 28, 2021


All We Can Do Right Now

Friedrich Schiller, William Tell, lines 417-420 (from Act I, Scene 3; my translation):
My heart is bursting to speak with you.
The heavy heart doesn't become light through words.
Yet words might lead us to deeds.
The only deed now is patience and silence.

Mir ist das Herz so voll, mit Euch zu reden.
Das schwere Herz wird nicht durch Worte leicht.
Doch könnten Worte uns zu Thaten führen.
Die einz'ge That ist jezt Geduld und Schweigen.


An Open Mind

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.21 (tr. Robin Waterfield):
If someone can prove me wrong and show me that something I thought or did was mistaken, I'll gladly change, because my goal is the truth and the truth has never harmed anyone. The man who's harmed is the one who persists in his own self-deception and ignorance.

εἴ τίς με ἐλέγξαι καὶ παραστῆσαί μοι, ὅτι οὐκ ὀρθῶς ὑπολαμβάνω ἢ πράσσω, δύναται, χαίρων μεταθήσομαι· ζητῶ γὰρ τὴν ἀλήθειαν, ὑφ᾿ ἧς οὐδεὶς πώποτε ἐβλάβη. βλάπτεται δὲ ὁ ἐπιμένων ἐπὶ τῆς ἑαυτοῦ ἀπάτης καὶ ἀγνοίας.
Christopher Gill ad loc.:
This chapter has strong Socratic echoes. These include the idea the need for continuing search ('I am looking for', zēteō) for knowledge of truth on which to base one's life. The echoes also include the idea that since people go wrong by mistake, it is advantageous 'if someone can prove me wrong (elenchein, a favourite Socratic term)', and that people are harmed not by truth but by persisting in ignorance. See e.g. Apol. 21b–22e (on Socrates' search for truth); 30b–30d (on what constitutes 'harm') and 38a (for the idea that 'the unexamined life is not worth living'); also Pl. Grg. 458a, 470c (on readiness to be corrected to avoid error). On the significance of Socratic ideas of this type for Epictetus, see Long 2002: ch. 3, also note on 2.1. On readiness to change one's mind if shown wrong, compare 4.12, also 6.30.



Edward E. Bowen (1836-1901), "Giants," Harrow Songs and Other Verses (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1886), pp. 19-21 (first and third stanzas only):
There were wonderful giants of old, you know,
    There were wonderful giants of old;
They grew more mightily, all of a row,
    Than ever was heard or told;
All of them stood their six feet four,
And they threw to a hundred yards or more,
And never were lame, or stiff, or sore;
And we, compared with the days of yore,
    Are cast in a pigmy mould.
        For all of we,
        Whoever we be,
    Come short of the giants of old, you see.


There were scholars of marvellous force, you know,
    There were scholars of marvellous force;
They never put μὴ when they should put οὺ,
    And the circle they squared, of course.
With Blayds and Merivale, Hope, Monro,
Ridley and Hawkins, years ago,—
And one that I rather think I know—
But we are heavy and dull and slow,
    And growing duller and worse;
        For all of we,
        Whoever we be,
    Come short of the giants of old, you see.
I think that Blayds is a misprint for Blaydes, i.e. Frederick Blaydes (1818-1908).



Hail to Dryasdust!

G.M. Trevelyan (1876-1952), An Autobiography & Other Essays (London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1949), p. 13:
More generally, I take delight in history, even its most prosaic details, because they become poetical as they recede into the past. The poetry of history lies in the quasi-miraculous fact that once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are to-day, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone, one generation vanishing after another, gone as utterly as we ourselves shall shortly be gone like ghost at cock-crow. This is the most familiar and certain fact about life, but it is also the most poetical, and the knowledge of it has never ceased to entrance me, and to throw a halo of poetry round the dustiest record that Dryasdust can bring to light. Hail to Dryasdust, the true purveyor of poetry!

Sunday, June 27, 2021


King of Fools

Plautus, Bacchides 1087-1089 (tr. Paul Nixon):
Of all the silly, stupid, fatuous, fungus-grown, doddering, drivelling dolts anywhere, past or future, I alone am far and away ahead of the whole lot of 'em in silliness and absurd behaviour!

quiquomque ubi sunt, qui fuerunt quique futuri sunt posthac
stulti, stolidi, fatui, fungi, bardi, blenni, buccones,
solus ego omnis longe antideo
stultitia et moribus indoctis.
J.L. Ussing ad loc. (with slightly different line numbering):
J. M'Cosh ad loc. (with slightly different line numbering):
I don't have access to John Barsby's commentary (1986).


Family Resemblance

Livy 26.41.24-25 (speech attributed to Publius Cornelius Scipio, later Africanus; tr. J.C. Yardley):
You now see in me a face and expression resembling those of my father and uncle, and you recognize in me their physical features. Soon I shall see to it that I exemplify and reflect also their character, loyalty, and valour, making every one of you say that Scipio, his general, has come back to life, or has been born again.

brevi faciam ut, quemadmodum nunc noscitatis in me patris patruique similitudinem oris voltusque et lineamenta corporis, ita ingenii fidei virtutisque effigiem vobis reddam ut revixisse aut renatum sibi quisque Scipionem imperatorem dicat.
Related posts:



Friedrich Schiller, William Tell, line 387 (from Act I, Scene 3; my translation):
What hands built, hands can overthrow.

Was Hände bauten, können Hände stürzen.
Thanks to Alan Crease for a correction.


Two Kinds of Falsehood

Polybius 12.12 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
I have also remarked, however, that there are two kinds of falsehood, the one being the result of ignorance and the other intentional, and that we should pardon those who depart from the truth through ignorance, but unreservedly condemn those who lie deliberately.

δύο μέντοι τρόπους ἔφαμεν εἶναι ψεύδους, ἕνα μὲν τὸν κατ᾿ ἄγνοιαν, ἕτερον δὲ τὸν κατὰ προαίρεσιν, καὶ τούτων δεῖν τοῖς μὲν κατ᾿ ἄγνοιαν παραπαίουσι τῆς ἀληθείας διδόναι συγγνώμην, τοῖς δὲ κατὰ προαίρεσιν ἀκαταλλάκτως ἔχειν.


You'll Get Like the Later Romans

G.M. Trevelyan (1876-1952), An Autobiography & Other Essays (London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1949), pp. 10-11:
My own house master was Edward Bowen himself, my father's old Trinity friend, author of the first and most famous group of Harrow songs, an eccentric genius with a gift for stirring up the latent spark of intellect in a boy by his own welling eagerness and fun. He was a great walker and battle-field hunter, and I owed my love of walking and of battle-fields, partly at least, to emulation of him. I remember his saying to me, 'O boy, you can never walk less than 25 miles on an off day!' He was the first of the very few who have walked the eighty miles from Cambridge to Oxford in the twenty-four hours. He was a bachelor of somewhat ascetic habits: he once said to me, some years after I had left the school, 'O boy, you oughn't to have a hot bath twice a week; you’ll get like the later Romans, boy.'
On Edward Bowen (1836-1901) see W.E. Bowen, Edward Bowen: A Memoir (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1902), and J.A. Mangan, "Philathlete Extraordinary: A Portrait of the Victorian Moralist Edward Bowen," Journal of Sport History 9.3 (Winter, 1982) 23-40.

Saturday, June 26, 2021


It's Just Interesting

"World-renowned linguist and expert in ancient Chinese script: Daniel Kane 1948-1921," Sydney Morning Herald (June 18, 2021):
Asked why study dead languages, Kane said they had different ways of seeing things but came back to: "It's just interesting."


An Act of Vandalism

Giusto Traina, 428 AD: An Ordinary Year at the End of the Roman Empire, tr. Allan Cameron (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009; rpt. 2011), pp. 22-23 with note on p. 146:
Meanwhile, the industrious Christians set about systematically destroying the pagan images of "false gods" or daímones. One of these zealots, called Demeas, commemorated her [sic, read his] act with an inscription in verse on a stone base that probably held up a cross:
Having destroyed the misguided image of Artemis the false goddess,
Demeas wished to dedicate this symbol of Truth,
Thus to honor God, who is the enemy of all idols,
And the Cross, which is Christ's immortal and triumphant symbol.25
Such events occurred with the blessings of bishops and the consent of the civil authorities. A little later, in 435, an edict was issued that condoned the destruction of pagan temples and images, and most significantly, it was signed by the two Roman emperors of the East and West (Code of Theodosius, 16, 10, 25).

25. M. Guarducci, Epigrafia Greca IV, Rome: Poligrafico dello Stato, 1978, pp. 401ff. [sic, read 400f.]
Margherita Guarducci, Epigrafia Greca, IV: Epigrafi Sacre Pagane e Cristiane (Rome: Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato, 1978), pp. 400-401:
Transcription of the Greek, without breaks:
[δαίμ]ονος Ἀρτέμιδος καθελὼν ἀπατήλιον εἶδος
   Δημέας ἀτρεκίης ἄνθετο σῆμα τόδε,
εἰδώλων ἐλατῆρα Θεὸν σταυρόν τε γερέρων,
   νικοφόρον Χριστοῦ σύνβολον ἀθάνατον.
Related posts:


A List of Evils

Hans Dieter Betz, ed., The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, Including the Demotic Spells, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), p. 316:
The text is found in Milan, Università Cattolica, P.Med. inv. 71.58. Here is the Greek, from Giovanni Geraci, "Un'actio magica contro afflizioni fisiche e morali," Aegyptus 59.1/2 (gennaio-dicembre 1979) 63-72 (at 65):
Bibliography here, to which add John G. Gager, ed., Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 236-237 (number 128).

On virtue and vice lists (Tugendkataloge, Lasterkataloge) see David E. Aune, "Catalogues of vices and virtues," The Westminster Dictionary of New Testament and Early Christian Literature and Rhetoric (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), pp. 89-91.

Friday, June 25, 2021



Friedrich Nietzsche, Unpublished Fragments from the Period of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Summer 1882-Winter 1883/84), tr. Paul S. Loeb and David F. Tinsley (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019 = The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, vol. 14), p. 201 (Notebook 5, number 30):
Sacrilege against the body is for me a sacrilege against the earth and against the meaning of the earth. Pity those unhappy people for whom the body seems evil and beauty diabolical!
Friedrich Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente 1882-1884, edd. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 2. Aufl. (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1988 = Kritische Studienausgabe, Bd. 10), p. 225:
Am Leibe zu freveln das gilt mir als ein Freveln an der Erde und am Sinn der Erde. Wehe dem Unseligen, dem der Leib böse und die Schönheit teuflisch scheint!


Man Makes the Land

Jules Michelet (1798-1874), The People, tr. C. Cocks (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1846), pp. 21-22:
In more than one province of France the cultivator has a right, which is certainly the first of all, that of having created the land. I speak not metaphorically. Behold those parched rocks, those arid hills in the south. I ask you where would the land be there without man? Property there is entirely in the proprietor. It lies in the indefatigable arm that breaks the flint-stones all day long, and mixes the dust with a little earth. It lies in the strong back of the vine-dresser, who, from the bottom of the hill, is ever banking up his field that is always wasting away. It lies in the docility, the patient ardour of the wife and child, who draw the plough with an ass. A painful sight! and Nature herself sympathises with them. The little vine takes root between the rocks: the chesnut—sober and courageous tree—flourishes without soil, by grasping the pure flint with its roots; it seems to live on air, and, like its master, to produce even fasting.

Yes, man makes the land: this may be said even of the least barren countries. Let us never forget this, if we wish to know how much and how passionately he loves it. Reflect that for centuries generations have devoted to it the sweat of their brow, the bones of the dead, their savings, and their food. That land, where man has so long deposited the best part of man, his sap and his substance, his efforts, and his virtue: that land he feels is human, and he loves it like a human being.

Il est plus d'un pays en France où le cultivateur a sur la terre un droit qui certes est le premier de tous, celui de l'avoir faite. Je parle sans figure. Voyez ces rocs brûlés, ces arides sommets du midi; là, je vous prie, où serait la terre sans l'homme? La propriété y est toute dans le propriétaire. Elle est dans le bras infatigable qui brise le caillou tout le jour, et mêle celte poussière d'un peu d'humus. Elle est dans la forte échine du vigneron qui, du bas de la côte, remonte toujours son champ qui s'écoule toujours. Elle est dans la docilité, dans l'ardeur patiente de la femme et de l'enfant qui tirent à la charrue avec un âne...Chose pénible à voir...Et la nature y compâtit elle-même. Entre le roc et le roc, s'accroche la petite vigne. Le châtaignier, sans terre, se tient en serrant le pur caillou de ses racines, sobre et courageux végétal; il semble vivre de l'air, et comme son maître, produire tout en jeûnant.

Oui l'homme fait la terre; on peut le dire, même des pays moins pauvres. Ne l'oublions jamais, si nous voulons comprendre combien il l'aime et de quelle passion. Songeons que, des siècles durant, les générations ont mis là la sueur des vivants, les os des morts, leur épargne, leur nourriture...Cette terre, où l'homme a si longtemps déposé le meilleur de l'homme, son suc et sa substance, son effort, sa vertu, il sent bien que c'est une terre humaine, et il l'aime comme une personne.


Everything That Happens

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4.44 (tr. Robin Hard):
Everything which happens is as familiar and well known as the rose in spring and the fruit in summer; for such is disease, and death, and calumny, and treachery, and whatever else delights fools or vexes them.

πᾶν τὸ συμβαῖνον οὕτως σύνηθες καὶ γνώριμον, ὡς τὸ ῥόδον ἐν τῷ ἔαρι καὶ ὀπώρα ἐν τῷ θέρει· τοιοῦτον γὰρ καὶ νόσος καὶ θάνατος καὶ βλασφημία καὶ ἐπιβουλὴ καὶ ὅσα τοὺς μωροὺς εὐφραίνει ἢ λυπεῖ.

Thursday, June 24, 2021


Our Last Removal

Epistolæ Ho-elianæ: The Familiar Letters of James Howell, ed. Joseph Jacobs (London: David Nutt, 1890), pp. 645-646 (from Book IV, Letter L, to T. Harris):
The Times continue still untoward and troublesome; therefore now, that you and I carry above a hundred years upon our backs, and that those few grains of Sand which remain in the brittle glasses of our lives are still running out, it is time, my dear Tom, for us to think on that which of all future things is the most certain, I mean our last removal, and emigration hence to another World: 'Tis time to think on that little hole of earth which shall hold us at last. The time was, that you and I had all the fair Continent of Europe before us to range in; we have been since confin'd to an Island, and now Lincoln holds you, and London me: We must expect the day that sickness will confine us to our Chambers, then to our Beds, and so to our Graves, the dark silent Grave, which will put a period to our pilgrimage in this World.


Two Types of Poetry

Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann, September 24, 1827 (tr. John Oxenford):
A well-known German poet had lately passed through Weimar, and shown Goethe his album.

"You cannot imagine what stuff it contains," said Goethe. "All the poets write as if they were ill, and the whole world were a lazaretto. They all speak of the woe and the misery of this earth, and of the joys of a hereafter; all are discontented, and one draws the other into a state of still greater discontent. This is a real abuse of poetry, which was given to us to hide the little discords of life, and to make man contented with the world and his condition. But the present generation is afraid of all such strength, and only feels poetical when it has weakness to deal with.

"I have hit on a good word," continued Goethe, "to tease these gentlemen. I will call their poetry 'Lazaretto-poetry,' and I will give the name of Tyrtæan-poetry to that which not only sings war-songs, but also arms men with courage to undergo the conflicts of life."

Ein bekannter deutscher Dichter war dieser Tage durch Weimar gegangen und hatte Goethen sein Stammbuch gegeben.

»Was darin für schwaches Zeug steht, glauben Sie nicht«, sagte Goethe. »Die Poeten schreiben alle, als wären sie krank und die ganze Welt ein Lazarett. Alle sprechen sie von dem Leiden und dem Jammer der Erde und von den Freuden des Jenseits und unzufrieden, wie schon alle sind, hetzt einer den andern in noch größere Unzufriedenheit hinein. Das ist ein wahrer Mißbrauch der Poesie, die uns doch eigentlich dazu gegeben ist, um die kleinen Zwiste des Lebens auszugleichen und den Menschen mit der Welt und seinem Zustand zufrieden zu machen. Aber die jetzige Generation fürchtet sich vor aller echten Kraft, und nur bei der Schwäche ist es ihr gemütlich und poetisch zu Sinne.

Ich habe ein gutes Wort gefunden,« fuhr Goethe fort, »um diese Herren zu ärgern. Ich will ihre Poesie die ›Lazarett-Poesie‹ nennen; dagegen die echt ›tyrtäische‹ diejenige, die nicht bloß Schlachtlieder singt, sondern auch den Menschen mit Mut ausrüstet, die Kämpfe des Lebens zu bestehen.«



Lucan, Pharsalia 7.404-405 (tr. J.D. Duff):
Rome is not peopled by her own citizens but swarms with the refuse of mankind.

                                 ...nulloque frequentem
cive suo Romam, sed mundi faece repletam...

Wednesday, June 23, 2021


Not a Single Clod of Earth That is Their Own

Plutarch, Life of Tiberius Gracchus 9.4-5 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
'The wild beasts that roam over Italy,' he would say, 'have every one of them a cave or lair to lurk in; but the men who fight and die for Italy enjoy the common air and light, indeed, but nothing else; houseless and homeless they wander about with their wives and children. And it is with lying lips that their imperators exhort the soldiers in their battles to defend sepulchres and shrines from the enemy; for not a man of them has an hereditary altar, not one of all these many Romans an ancestral tomb, but they fight and die to support others in wealth and luxury, and though they are styled masters of the world, they have not a single clod of earth that is their own.'

λέγοι περὶ τῶν πενήτων, ὡς τὰ μὲν θηρία τὰ τὴν Ἰταλίαν νεμόμενα καὶ φωλεὸν ἔχει καὶ κοιταῖόν ἐστιν αὐτῶν ἑκάστῳ καὶ καταδύσεις, τοῖς δὲ ὑπὲρ τῆς Ἰταλίας μαχομένοις καὶ ἀποθνῄσκουσιν ἀέρος καὶ φωτός, ἄλλου δὲ οὐδενὸς μέτεστιν, ἀλλ᾽ ἄοικοι καὶ ἀνίδρυτοι μετὰ τέκνων πλανῶνται καὶ γυναικῶν, οἱ δὲ αὐτοκράτορες ψεύδονται τοὺς στρατιώτας ἐν ταῖς μάχαις παρακαλοῦντες ὑπὲρ τάφων καὶ ἱερῶν ἀμύνεσθαι τοὺς πολεμίους· οὐδενὶ γάρ ἐστιν οὐ βωμὸς πατρῷος, οὐκ ἠρίον προγονικὸν τῶν τοσούτων Ῥωμαίων, ἀλλ᾽ ὑπὲρ ἀλλοτρίας τρυφῆς καὶ πλούτου πολεμοῦσι καὶ ἀποθνῄσκουσι, κύριοι τῆς οἰκουμένης εἶναι λεγόμενοι, μίαν δὲ βῶλον ἰδίαν οὐκ ἔχοντες.


The Oath of Rütli

Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), William Tell, Act II, Scene 2, lines 1448-1453 (my rough translation):
We want to be a single nation of brothers,
not to separate in any trouble or danger.
We want to be free as our ancestors were,
(we want) death rather than to live in slavery.
We want to trust in the most-high God,
and not to be afraid before the might of men.

Wir wollen sein ein einzig Volk von Brüdern,
in keiner Not uns trennen und Gefahr.
Wir wollen frei sein, wie die Väter waren,
eher den Tod, als in der Knechtschaft leben.
Wir wollen trauen auf den höchsten Gott
und uns nicht fürchten vor der Macht der Menschen.


Dinner with Vibius Virrius

Livy 26.13 (speech attributed to Vibius Virrius of Capua; tr. J.C. Yardley)
And so, for all those of you who intend to let death take them before they witness so many painful sights, a dinner has today been arranged and made ready at my house. When you have had your fill of wine and food, the cup that will have been given first to me will also pass around the company. That is a drink that will rescue your body from torment, your spirit from humiliation, your eyes and ears from all the painful and degrading sights and sounds that await the conquered. Men will be at hand to hurl our lifeless bodies on a pyre that will be lit in the courtyard of the house. This is the only path to death that is honourable and befitting a free man.
Id. 26.14:
Some twenty-seven senators went home with Vibius Virrius. They had dinner with him and, after doing their best to deaden their minds with wine to the prospect of the horror before them, they all took the poison. The banquet then broke up, and they clasped each other’s right hands and embraced for the last time, shedding tears for their own lot and that of their country. Some then stayed so they could be burned on the same pyre; others went home. The fact that their veins were replete with food and wine diminished the efficacy of the poison to bring on a swift death. The result was that most of them were in their death throes throughout the night and part of the next day; but they all breathed their last before the gates were opened to the enemy.
On this and similar occurrences see Jean Bayet, "Le Suicide mutuel dans la mentalité des Romains," L'Année sociologique sér. 3, t. 5 (1940/1948) 35-89.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021


Where Are You Rushing?

Giusto Traina, 428 AD: An Ordinary Year at the End of the Roman Empire, tr. Allan Cameron (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009; rpt. 2011), p. xvii with note on p. 135:
Thus the man who was buried in Apamea of Syria in a Christian sepulcher dated to the early fifth century must have requested the ancient pagan motto that appears on its threshold and no doubt expresses his fatalism: "Are you rushing?—I am. And where are you rushing?—To this place."16

16. "Inscriptions grecques et latines de Syrie," IV, 1439, in D. Feissel, “Notes d’épigraphie chrétienne” (X), Bulletin de correspondance hellénique, 119, 1995, pp. 386–89.
A fuller reference to the inscription is Louis Jalabert and René Mouterde, Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, t. 4: Laodicée, Apamène, Nos 1243-1997 (Paris: Librairie orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1955 = Bibliothèque archéologique et historique, 61), number 1439 (non vidi):
☩ τρέχις; τρέχω. αἵως ποῦ; αἵως ὧδαι. ☩
In normalized spelling:
τρέχεις; τρέχω. ἕως ποῦ; ἕως ὧδε.



Seneca, Oedipus 980-992 (tr. Frank Justus Miller):
By fate are we driven; yield ye to fate.
No anxious cares can
change the threads of its inevitable spindle.
Whate'er we mortals bear,
whate'er we do, comes from on high;
and Lachesis maintains the decrees of her distaff
which by no hand may be reversed.
All things move on in an appointed path,
and our first day fixed our last.
Those things God may not change
which speed on their way, close woven with their causes.
To each his established life goes on, unmovable by any prayer.

fatis agimur: cedite fatis.        980
non sollicitae possunt curae
mutare rati stamina fusi.
quicquid patimur mortale genus,
quicquid facimus venit ex alto,
servatque suae decreta colus        985
Lachesis nulla revoluta manu.
omnia secto tramite vadunt,
primusque dies dedit extremum.
non illa deo vertisse licet,
quae nexa suis currunt causis.        990
it cuique ratus prece non ulla
mobilis ordo.

986 nulla Leo: dura codd.

Monday, June 21, 2021


Universal Misery

Theognis 167-168 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
One man is wretched this way, another that, and no one of all whom the sun looks down upon is truly fortunate.

ἄλλ᾿ ἄλλῳ κακόν ἐστι, τὸ δ᾿ ἀτρεκὲς ὄλβιος οὐδεὶς
   ἀνθρώπων ὁπόσους ἠέλιος καθορᾷ.
B.A. van Groningen ad loc.:
Sophocles, fragment 681 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
If you go through them all, you will not find a single mortal who is fortunate in all things.

τὸν εὐτυχοῦντα πάντ' ἀριθμήσας βροτῶν
οὐκ ἔστιν ὄντως ὅντιν' εὑρήσεις ἕνα.


Attachment to Home

Herodotus 1.163-165 (tr. Robin Waterfield):
[163] The first Ionian town he [Harpagus] attacked was Phocaea. The Phocaeans were the earliest Greeks to make long voyages by sea; they opened up the Adriatic, Tyrrhenia, Iberia, and Tartessus. The ships they used for these voyages were penteconters rather than round-bodied ships. When they reached Tartessus they became friendly with the Tartessian king, whose name was Arganthonius. He had ruled Tartessus for eighty years, and lived to be 120 altogether. The Phocaeans got to be on such very good terms with him that he initially suggested that they leave Ionia and settle wherever they liked within his kingdom. The Phocaeans did not want to do that, however, so next—because they had told him about the growth of the Persian empire—he gave them money to build a wall around their town. The amount he gave was extremely generous, because the wall makes a circuit of quite a few stades, and all of it is constructed out of huge blocks of stone which fit closely together.

[164] That is how the Phocaeans' wall came to be built. Harpagus marched his army up to it and the siege of the town began. Harpagus let it be known that he would be satisfied if the Phocaeans were willing to tear down just one of the wall's bastions and consecrate just one building. The Phocaeans, however, could not abide the thought of being enslaved and they requested a single day to debate the matter, after which they would give him their reply; they also asked him to pull his army back from the wall while they were deliberating. Harpagus gave them permission to go ahead with their deliberations, despite the fact that he was, as he told them, well aware of what they intended to do. So while Harpagus led his army away from the wall, the Phocaeans launched their penteconters, put their womenfolk, children, and all their personal effects on board, along with the statues and other dedicatory offerings from their sanctuaries, except those which were made out of bronze or stone or were paintings—anyway, once everything else was on board they embarked themselves and sailed to Chios. So the Persians gained control of a Phocaea which was emptied of men.

[165] The Phocaeans offered to buy the islands known as the Oenussae from the Chians, but the Chians refused to sell them, because they were worried that if the islands became a trading-centre, their own island would consequently be denied access to trade. So the Phocaeans made Cyrnus their destination, because twenty years earlier, on the advice of an oracle, they had founded a community there called Alalia. Arganthonius was by then dead. In preparation for the voyage to Cyrnus they first put in at Phocaea and massacred the Persian contingent which Harpagus had left to guard the place; once that job was done, they next called down terrible curses on any of their number who stayed behind and did not take part in the expedition. They also sank a lump of iron in the sea and swore that they would not return to Phocaea until this iron reappeared. As they were fitting out their ships for the voyage to Cyrnus, however, over half of their fellow citizens were so overcome by longing and sorrow for the city and the customs of their native land that they broke their promises and sailed back to Phocaea. The ones who kept their promises, however, set sail from the Oenussae.
Aubrey de Sélincourt (1894-1962), The World of Herodotus (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1962), pp. 185-186:
There is much of Greek life and feeling in this story, which only Herodotus, of ancient historians, could, I think, have told—and he tells it quietly, passingly, and without emotion. What a vivid picture it brings of the scale of things in that ancient world: the little town, isolated by the mountains which run steeply down into the bay of Smyrna where it stood, independent and self-sufficient and all in all to its people—and those so few that in a single day they could reach amongst themselves their tremendous decision, and embark everything they possessed for a new life in a new world. No need for organisation—none of the formal and tedious processes of politics: simply one fiery dispute, and the decision was made. They packed up their traps, and were gone. Nothing, moreover, could more forcibly bring before us the frightful insecurity of life in those days, the perpetual menace of annihilation, the need to live in the constant acceptance of what the morrow might bring; and above all this story—Herodotus had no need to dwell upon its implications which were, to him, a matter of course—helps us who live in circumstances so different, to enter in imagination into one of the primary passions of Greek life—the attachment to home.
Related post: Patriotism.

Sunday, June 20, 2021


Don't Be a Blowhard

Theognis 159-160 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
Never talk big, Cyrnus, for no one knows
what a day or night will bring to pass for a man.

μήποτε, Κύρν᾿, ἀγορᾶσθαι ἔπος μέγα· οἶδε γὰρ οὐδεὶς
    ἀνθρώπων ὅ τι νὺξ χἠμέρη ἀνδρὶ τελεῖ.
B.A. van Groningen ad loc.:



Bertrand Russell, Sceptical Essays (1928; rpt. London: Routledge Classics, 2004), p. 16:
Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day.


The Death of Archimedes

Livy 25.31.9-10 (capture of Syracuse, 212 BC; tr. J.C. Yardley):
[9] There were many instances of atrocities committed from anger and from greed. Tradition has it that amidst the uproar, such as the fear reigning in a captured city might arouse, with soldiers running on the rampage everywhere, Archimedes was still concentrating intensely on some figures that he had drawn in the dust, and was killed by a soldier who did not know who he was. [10] Marcellus, it is said, was upset by this. He made careful arrangements for his funeral, and also conducted a search for Archimedes' relatives, who then received honour and protection, thanks to the man's reputation and memory.

[9] cum multa irae, multa avaritiae foeda exempla ederentur, Archimeden memoriae proditum est in tanto tumultu, quantum captae <terror> urbis in discursu diripientium militum ciere poterat, intentum formis quas in pulvere descripserat ab ignaro milite quis esset interfectum; [10] aegre id Marcellum tulisse sepulturaeque curam habitam, et propinquis etiam inquisitis honori praesidioque nomen ac memoriam eius fuisse.

9 terror add. Böttcher: pavor add. Weissenborn
Cicero, De Finibus 5.19.50 (tr. H. Rackham):
What an ardour for study, think you, possessed Archimedes, who was so absorbed in a diagram he was drawing in the dust that he was unaware even of the capture of his native city!

quem enim ardorem studi censetis fuisse in Archimede, qui dum in pulvere quaedam describit attentius, ne patriam quidem captam esse senserit!
Pliny, Natural History 7.37.125 (tr. H. Rackham):
Archimedes also received striking testimony to his knowledge of geometry and mechanics from Marcus Marcellus, who at the capture of Syracuse forbade violence to be done to him only—had not the ignorance of a soldier foiled the command.

grande et Archimedi geometricae ac machinalis scientiae testimonium M. Marcelli contigit interdicto cum Syracusae caperentur ne violaretur unus, nisi fefellisset imperium militaris imprudentia.
Plutarch, Life of Marcellus 19.4-6 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
[4] But what most of all afflicted Marcellus was the death of Archimedes. For it chanced that he was by himself, working out some problem with the aid of a diagram, and having fixed his thoughts and his eyes as well upon the matter of his study, he was not aware of the incursion of the Romans or of the capture of the city. Suddenly a soldier came upon him and ordered him to go with him to Marcellus. This Archimedes refused to do until he had worked out his problem and established his demonstration, whereupon the soldier flew into a passion, drew his sword, and dispatched him.

[5] Others, however, say that the Roman came upon him with drawn sword threatening to kill him at once, and that Archimedes, when he saw him, earnestly besought him to wait a little while, that he might not leave the result that he was seeking incomplete and without demonstration; but the soldier paid no heed to him and made an end of him.

[6] There is also a third story, that as Archimedes was carrying to Marcellus some of his mathematical instruments, such as sun-dials and spheres and quadrants, by means of which he made the magnitude of the sun appreciable to the eye, some soldiers fell in with him, and thinking that he was carrying gold in the box, slew him. However, it is generally agreed that Marcellus was afflicted at his death, and turned away from his slayer as from a polluted person, and sought out the kindred of Archimedes and paid them honour.

[4] μάλιστα δὲ τὸ Ἀρχιμήδους πάθος ἠνίασε Μάρκελλον. ἔτυχε μὲν γὰρ αὐτός τι καθ᾽ ἑαυτὸν ἀνασκοπῶν ἐπὶ διαγράμματος· καὶ τῇ θεωρίᾳ δεδωκὼς ἅμα τήν τε διάνοιαν καὶ τήν πρόσοψιν οὐ προῄσθετο τήν καταδρομὴν τῶν Ῥωμαίων οὐδὲ τήν ἅλωσιν τῆς πόλεως, ἄφνω δὲ ἐπιστάντος αὐτῷ στρατιώτου καὶ κελεύοντος ἀκολουθεῖν πρὸς Μάρκελλον οὐκ ἐβούλετο πρὶν ἢ τελέσαι τὸ πρόβλημα καὶ καταστῆσαι πρὸς τήν ἀπόδειξιν.

[5] ὁ δὲ ὀργισθεὶς καὶ σπασάμενος τὸ ξίφος ἀνεῖλεν αὐτόν. ἕτεροι μὲν οὖν λέγουσιν ἐπιστῆναι μὲν εὐθὺς ὡς ἀποκτενοῦντα ξιφήρη τὸν Ῥωμαῖον, ἐκεῖνον δ᾽ ἰδόντα δεῖσθαι καὶ ἀντιβολεῖν ἀναμεῖναι βραχὺν χρόνον, ὡς μὴ καταλίπῃ τὸ ζητούμενον ἀτελὲς καὶ ἀθεώρητον, τὸν δὲ οὐ φροντίσαντα διαχρήσασθαι.

[6] καὶ τρίτος ἐστὶ λόγος, ὡς κομίζοντι πρὸς Μάρκελλον αὐτῷ τῶν μαθηματικῶν ὀργάνων σκιόθηρα καὶ σφαίρας καὶ γωνίας, αἷς ἐναρμόττει τὸ τοῦ ἡλίου μέγεθος πρὸς τήν ὄψιν, στρατιῶται περιτυχόντες καὶ χρυσίον ἐν τῷ τεύχει δόξαντες φέρειν ἀπέκτειναν. ὅτι μέντοι Μάρκελλος ἤλγησε καὶ τὸν αὐτόχειρα τοῦ ἀνδρὸς ἀπεστράφη καθάπερ ἐναγῆ, τοὺς δὲ οἰκείους ἀνευρὼν ἐτίμησεν, ὁμολογεῖται.
Valerius Maximus 8.7.ext.7 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
I should say that Archimedes' diligence also bore fruit if it had not both given him life and taken it away. At the capture of Syracuse Marcellus had been aware that his victory had been held up much and long by Archimedes' machines. However, pleased with the man's exceptional skill, he gave out that his life was to be spared, putting almost as much glory in saving Archimedes as in crushing Syracuse. But as Archimedes was drawing diagrams with mind and eyes fixed on the ground, a soldier who had broken into the house in quest of loot with sword drawn over his head asked him who he was. Too much absorbed in tracking down his objective, Archimedes could not give his name but said, protecting the dust with his hands, "I beg you, don't disturb this," and was slaughtered as neglectful of the victor's command; with his blood he confused the lines of his art. So it fell out that he was first granted his life and then stripped of it by reason of the same pursuit.

Archimedis quoque fructuosam industriam fuisse dicerem, nisi eadem illi et dedisset vitam et abstulisset: captis enim Syracusis Marcellus <etsi> machinationibus eius multum ac diu victoriam suam inhibitam senserat, eximia tamen hominis prudentia delectatus ut capiti illius parceretur edixit, paene tantum gloriae in Archimede servato quantum in oppressis Syracusis reponens. at is, dum animo et oculis in terra defixis formas describit, militi, qui praedandi gratia <in> domum irruperat strictoque super caput gladio quisnam esset interrogabat, propter nimiam cupiditatem investigandi quod requirebat nomen suum indicare non potuit, sed protecto manibus pulvere 'noli' inquit, 'obsecro, istum disturbare,' ac perinde quasi neglegens imperii victoris obtruncatus sanguine suo artis suae liniamenta confudit. quo accidit ut propter idem studium modo donaretur vita, modo spoliaretur.

etsi add. Gertz
in add. Kempf
Silius Italicus 14.676-678 (tr. J.D. Duff):
Thou too, O famous man, defender of thy native city, didst win tears from the conqueror. Archimedes was calmly poring over a figure traced in the sand, when the great disaster came down upon him.

tu quoque ductoris lacrimas, memorande, tulisti,
defensor patriae, meditantem in pulvere formas
nec turbatum animi tanta feriente ruina.
See E.J. Dijksterhuis, Archimedes, tr. C. Dikshoorn (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), pp. 30-32, and Mary Jaeger, Archimedes and the Roman Imagination (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008), pp. 77-100.

Friday, June 18, 2021


Religious Knowledge

Herodotus 2.3.2 (tr. J. Enoch Powell):
Now the narratives which I heard concerning the gods I am not zealous to rehearse, excepting their names alone; for I hold that all men's knowledge of them is equal.

τὰ μέν νυν θεῖα τῶν ἀπηγημάτων οἷα ἤκουον οὐκ εἰμὶ πρόθυμος ἐξηγέεσθαι, ἔξω ἢ τὰ οὐνόματα αὐτῶν μοῦνον, νομίζων πάντας ἀνθρώπους ἴσον περὶ αὐτῶν ἐπίστασθαι.
Equal to zero, I thought when I read this, and I find that my thought was anticipated by David Asheri et al., A Commentary on Herodotus, Books I-IV (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 244:
i.e. all men have equal lack of knowledge of them.
Both occurrences of αὐτῶν are masculine plural, in the judgement of Alan B. Lloyd, Herodotus, Book II: Commentary 1-98, 2nd ed. (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 17, and Powell's "them" should be understood as gods, not names.


Always the Greeks

Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann, April 1, 1827 (Goethe speaking; tr. John Oxenford):
One should not study contemporaries and competitors, but the great men of antiquity, whose works have, for centuries, received equal homage and consideration. Indeed, a man of really superior endowments will feel the necessity of this, and it is just this need for an intercourse with great predecessors, which is the sign of a higher talent. Let us study Molière, let us study Shakspeare, but above all things, the old Greeks, and always the Greeks.

Man studiere nicht die Mitgeborenen und Mitstrebenden, sondern große Menschen der Vorzeit, deren Werke seit Jahrhunderte gleichen Wert und gleiches Ansehen behalten haben. Ein wirklich hochbegabter Mensch wird das Bedürfnis dazu ohnedies in sich fühlen, und gerade dieses Bedürfnis des Umgangs mit großen Vorgängern ist das Zeichen einer höheren Anlage. Man studiere Molière, man studiere Shakespeare, aber vor allen Dingen die alten Griechen und immer die Griechen.


The Preservation of the State

Polybius 6.46.7 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
Now every state relies for its preservation on two fundamental qualities, namely bravery in the face of the enemy, and harmony among its citizens...

δυεῖν γὰρ ὄντων, δι᾽ ὧν σῴζεται πολίτευμα πᾶν, τῆς πρὸς τοὺς πολεμίους ἀνδρείας καὶ τῆς πρὸς σφᾶς αὐτοὺς ὁμονοίας...

Thursday, June 17, 2021


Talent versus Training

Pindar, Olympian Odes 9.100-111 (for Epharmostos; tr. Anthony Verity):
Natural talents are the best in every way.
Many have taken lessons in prowess,
trying their utmost to achieve distinction;
but without a god's help every achievement
is best passed over in silence.
Some roads reach further than others,
and no single regime will develop us all.
All skills lie on a steep path; but when you give him this prize
raise a loud and confident shout that this man was with divine help
born with quick hands and agile legs, and with courage in his eyes.

τὸ δὲ φυᾷ κράτιστον ἅπαν· πολλοὶ δὲ διδακταῖς        100
ἀνθρώπων ἀρεταῖς κλέος
ὤρουσαν ἀρέσθαι·
ἄνευ δὲ θεοῦ σεσιγαμένον
οὐ σκαιότερον χρῆμ᾽ ἕκαστον· ἐντὶ γὰρ ἄλλαι
ὁδῶν ὁδοὶ περαίτεραι,        105
μία δ᾽ οὐχ ἅπαντας ἄμμε θρέψει
μελέτα· σοφίαι μὲν
αἰπειναί· τοῦτο δὲ προσφέρων ἄεθλον,
ὄρθιον ὤρυσαι
θαρσέων, τόνδ᾽ ἀνέρα δαιμονίᾳ γεγάμεν        110
εὔχειρα, δεξιόγυιον, ὁρῶντ᾽ ἀλκάν.
Basil L. Gildersleeve ad loc. (whose line numbering is 107-119):


Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Administrando Imperio. Greek Text Edited by Gy. Moravcsik, English Translation by R.J.H. Jenkins. New, Revised Edition (Washington: Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies, 1967; rpt. 1993), p. 75 (from chapter 13 of the treatise):
For each nation has different customs and divergent laws and institutions, and should consolidate those things that are proper to it, and should form and develop out of the same nation the associations for the fusion of its life. For just as each animal mates with its own tribe, so it is right that each nation should marry and cohabit not with those of other race and tongue but of the same tribe and speech. For hence arise naturally harmony of thought and intercourse among one another and friendly converse and living together; but alien customs and divergent laws are likely on the contrary to engender enmities and quarrels and hatreds and broils, which tend to beget not friendship and association but spite and division.
Greek text (id., p. 74):
Ἕκαστον γὰρ ἔθνος διάφορα ἔχον ἔθη καὶ διαλλάττοντας νόμους τε καὶ θεσμοὺς ὀφείλει τὰ οἰκεῖα κρατυνεῖν καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αὐτοῦ ἔθνους τὰς πρὸς ἀνάκρισιν βίου κοινωνίας ποιεῖσθαι καὶ ἐνεργεῖν. Ὥσπερ γὰρ ἕκαστον ζῷον μετὰ τῶν ὁμογενῶν τὰς μίξεις ἐργάζεται, οὕτω καὶ ἕκαστον ἔθνος οὐκ εξ ἀλλοφύλων καὶ ἀλλογλώσσων, ἀλλ’ ἐκ τῶν ὁμογενῶν τε καὶ ὁμοφώνων τὰ συνοικέσια τῶν γάμων ποιεῖσθαι καθέστηκε δίκαιον. Ἐντεῦθεν γὰρ καὶ ἡ πρὸς ἀλλήλους ὁμοφροσύνη καὶ συνομιλία καὶ προσφιλὴς συνδιατριβὴ και συμβίωσις περιγίνεσθαι πέφυκεν· τὰ δε ἀλλότρια ἔθη καὶ διαλλάττοντα νόμιμα ἀπεχθείας μᾶλλον καὶ προσκρούσεις καὶ μίση καὶ στάσεις εἴωθεν ἀπογεννᾶν, ἅπερ οὐ φιλίας καὶ κοινωνίας, ἀλλ’ ἔχθρας καὶ διαστάσεις φιλεῖ ἀπεργάζεσθαι.
Related post: Flocking Together.


Rally Round the Flag, Boys!

Livy 25.14.3-7 (tr. J.C. Yardley):
[3] Such was the commander's plan of campaign, but it was scattered to the winds, just as he was sounding the retreat, by the shouts of soldiers indignantly rejecting the spineless order. [4] The unit closest to the enemy happened to be a Paelignian cohort. Its prefect, Vibius Accaus, grabbed the cohort's banner and hurled it over the enemy rampart. [5] He then called down curses on himself and on the cohort if the enemy got their hands on the banner, and, forging ahead of the others over ditch and rampart, he burst into the Carthaginian camp.

[6] The Paeligni were now fighting within the enemy rampart while, on the other side of the camp, Valerius Flaccus, military tribune of the third legion, was severely reprimanding the Romans for their cowardice in ceding to allies the distinction of taking the camp. [7] Then Titus Pedanius, the first centurion of the principes, took the standard from the bearer and declared: 'This standard and this centurion are soon going to be inside the enemy rampart. Those who are going to prevent its capture by the enemy, follow me!' As he crossed the ditch, his comrades from his maniple were the first to follow him, and then the whole legion came after them.

[3] haec consilia ducis, cum iam receptui caneret, clamor militum aspernantium tam segne imperium disiecit. [4] proxima forte hostibus erat cohors Paeligna, cuius praefectus Vibius Accaus arreptum vexillum trans vallum hostium traiecit. [5] execratus inde seque et cohortem, si eius vexilli hostes potiti essent, princeps ipse per fossam vallumque in castra inrupit.

[6] iamque intra vallum Paeligni pugnabant, cum altera parte Valerio Flacco tribuno militum tertiae legionis exprobrante Romanis ignaviam, qui sociis captorum castrorum concederent decus, [7] T. Pedanius princeps primus centurio, cum signifero signum ademisset, 'iam hoc signum et hic centurio' inquit 'intra vallum hostium erit: sequantur qui capi signum ab hoste prohibituri sunt.' manipulares sui primum transcendentem fossam, dein legio tota secuta est.

4 forte hostibus Weissenborn: portae hostium codd.: forte [hostium] Madvig: forte hostium castris (vel f. c. h.) Luchs: ea parte hostibus Moritz Mueller: ea parte hosti Riemann
Related post: Standards.


Theirs is the Kingdom

Kenneth Fearing (1902-1961), "Conclusion," in his Selected Poems, ed. Robert Polito (New York: The Library of America, 2004 = American Poets Project, 8), pp. 30-31 (at 30):
In the flaring parks, in the speakeasies, in the hushed
        academies, your murmur will applaud the
        wisdom of a thousand quacks. For theirs is the

Wednesday, June 16, 2021


A Sacred Thing

Friedrich August Wolf (1759-1824), Prolegomena to Homer, Chapter XXVII (tr. Anthony Grafton):
...I deem historical truth a sacred thing even in the most trivial matters...

...quippe qui vel in minimis historicam veritatem sacram rem habere soleam...


Three-Letter Words

Bruno Roy, "L'Humour érotique au XVᵉ siècle," in L'Erotisme au moyen âge: Études présentées au Troisième colloque de l'Institut d'études médiévales (Montreal: Aurore, 1977), pp. 153-171 (at 157):
Dans la circonstance, je ne connais pas de meilleur euphémisme que le radicalisme; j'aurai donc recours à trois «radicaux» trilittères: vit pour le pénis, con pour le vagin et cul pour le derrière9. Nous pouvons dès maintenant apprécier l'humour d'une première devinette:
Quel est le mot le plus poilu du psautier?
9. Ce sont les mots employés par le traducteur de la Chirurgia d'HENRI de MONDEVILLE (éd. A. BOS, 1897), bien qu'à la même époque (déb. du XIVᵉ siècle) le vocabulaire médical ait déjà commencé à se dissocier du langage commun; cf. Placides et Timeo, ms. Paris, B. N. fr. 212, f. 60v («...laquelle verge comme dit est se nomme preape, et en commun laigaige franchois l'en dit vit»).
Psalms 55.2:
miserere mei Deus quoniam conculcavit me homo...
Related post: Quoniam.


An Easy Life

Friedrich Nietzsche, Unpublished Fragments from the Period of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Summer 1882-Winter 1883/84), tr. Paul S. Loeb and David F. Tinsley (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019 = The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, vol. 14), p. 92 (Notebook 4, number 38)
If you want to have an easy life, then always stay with the herd. Lose yourself in the herd! Love the shepherd and honor the fangs of his dog!
Friedrich Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente 1882-1884, edd. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 2. Aufl. (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1988 = Kritische Studienausgabe, Bd. 10), p. 119:
Willst du das Leben leicht haben, so bleibe immer bei der Heerde. Vergiß dich über der Heerde! Liebe den Hirten und ehre das Gebiß seines Hundes!


The First Thing to Go?

Seneca, Oedipus 818-819 (tr. John G. Fitch):
Old men's first weakness is their memory, tired and ebbing away in slow decay.

                  prima languescit senum
memoria, longo lassa sublabens situ.
But cf. the translation of Frank Justus Miller, which takes prima in a different sense:
An old man's early memory grows faint, failing through weakness and long disuse.
Emily Wilson's translation sidesteps the problem:
                               Old folks' minds
get tired and the memory grows dull.
I don't have access to the commentaries of Karlheinz Töchterle (Heidelberg: Winter, 1994) and A.J. Boyle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

Tuesday, June 15, 2021


Two Lessons

Thomas S. Kuhn (1922-1996), The Essential Tension (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977), p. xii (footnote omitted):
Briefly stated, those lessons are two. First, there are many ways to read a text, and the ones most accessible to a modern are often inappropriate when applied to the past. Second, that plasticity of texts does not place all ways of reading on a par, for some of them (ultimately, one hopes, only one) possess a plausibility and coherence absent from others. Trying to transmit such lessons to students, I offer them a maxim: When reading the works of an important thinker, look first for the apparent absurdities in the text and ask yourself how a sensible person could have written them. When you find an answer, I continue, when those passages make sense, then you may find that more central passages, ones you previously thought you understood, have changed their meaning.


An Expert at Ignoring Things

Rüdiger Safranski, Goethe: Life as a Work of Art, tr. David Dollenmayer (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2017), page number unknown (from the Preface):
Our times do not favor the creation of individuality. The price we pay for our universal interconnectedness is increased conformity. Although Goethe was intimately connected to the social and cultural life of his time, he also knew how to maintain his individuality. His principle was to take in only as much of the world as he could process. Whatever he could not respond to in a productive way he chose to disregard. In other words, he was an expert at ignoring things. Of course, he was also compelled to take an interest in much he would have preferred to be spared. But as far as possible, he was bent on determining the scope and direction of his own life.

Monday, June 14, 2021


A Great National Fact Crippled and Destroyed

Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann (Goethe speaking, October 15, 1825; tr. John Oxenford):
Till lately, I was always pleased with a great fact in the thirteenth century, when the Emperor Frederic the Second was at variance with the Pope, and the north of Germany was open to all sorts of hostile attacks. Asiatic hordes had actually penetrated as far as Silesia, when the Duke of Liegnitz terrified them by one great defeat. They then turned to Moravia, but were here defeated by Count Sternberg. These valiant men had on this account been living in my heart as the great saviours of the German nation. But now comes historical criticism, and says that these heroes sacrificed themselves quite uselessly, as the Asiatic army was already recalled, and would have returned of its own accord. Thus is a great national fact crippled and destroyed, which seems to me most abominable.

So hatte ich bisher immer meine Freude an einem großen Faktum des dreizehnten Jahrhunderts, wo Kaiser Friedrich der Zweite mit dem Papste zu tun hatte und das nördliche Deutschland allen feindlichen Einfällen offen stand. Asiatische Horden kamen auch wirklich herein und waren schon bis Schlesien vorgedrungen; aber der Herzog von Liegnitz setzte sie durch eine große Niederlage in Schrecken. Dann wendeten sie sich nach Mähren, aber hier wurden sie vom Grafen Sternberg geschlagen. Diese Tapfern lebten daher bis jetzt immer in mir als große Retter der deutschen Nation. Nun aber kommt die historische Kritik und sagt, daß jene Helden sich ganz unnütz aufgeopfert hätten, indem das asiatische Heer bereits zurückgerufen gewesen und von selbst zurückgegangen sein würde. Dadurch ist nun ein großes vaterländisches Faktum gelähmt und zernichtet, und es wird einem ganz abscheulich zumute.
Related post: Inspiring Stories.


Foreign Language Immersion

Michael J. Lewis, "The cooling of John le Carré," The New Criterion 39.10 (June, 2021):
Some time ago I chanced upon a German-language interview with le Carré from 1989, and I was impressed at how flawless and accent-free his German was. But I should not have been surprised. Only those who have grown up in an erratic and oppressive household know how liberating it is to immerse yourself completely in a foreign language and emerge out of it another person, an alternative version of yourself. That alternative version will exist along with the original, two halves of a divided self, each watching the other with wary amusement.


New Testament Greek

Friedrich Nietzsche, Unpublished Fragments from the Period of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Summer 1882-Winter 1883/84), tr. Paul S. Loeb and David F. Tinsley (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019 = The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, vol. 14), p. 92 (Notebook 3, number 445)
What a subtlety it is that God learned Greek when he wanted to become a writer; just as subtle, that he did not learn it better!
Friedrich Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente 1882-1884, edd. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 2. Aufl. (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1988 = Kritische Studienausgabe, Bd. 10), p. 101:
Es ist eine Feinheit, daß Gott griechisch lernte, als er Schriftsteller werden wollte, und ebenso dies, daß er es nicht besser lernte!
Reused in his Beyond Good and Evil IV.121.


The Tumor That Comes from Afar

Livy 25.12.8-10 ≈ Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.17.28 (on the prophecies of Marcius, 213 BC; tr. J.C. Yardley):
The second prophecy was then read out. This was not only more difficult to fathom because the future is less clear than the past, but was also more cryptic in the way it was written: 'Romans: If you wish to drive out the enemy, the tumour that comes from afar, my advice is to dedicate games to Apollo, annual games to be held with good cheer in Apollo's honour. When the people have given part from the public purse, then let private individuals contribute for themselves and their relatives. The praetor who will be dispensing supreme justice to the people and plebeians shall be in charge of the conduct of such games. The decemvirs should offer sacrifice after the Greek manner. If you do this correctly, you shall rejoice for ever, and your circumstances shall improve. For he will wipe out your enemies, that one of the gods who gently nourishes your fields.'

tum alterum carmen recitatum, non eo tantum obscurius quia incertiora futura praeteritis sunt sed perplexius etiam scripturae genere. 'hostis, Romani, si expellere voltis, vomicam quae gentium venit longe, Apollini vovendos censeo ludos, qui quotannis comiter Apollini fiant; cum populus dederit ex publico partem, privati uti conferant pro se atque suis; iis ludis faciendis praeerit praetor is quis ius populo plebeique dabit summum; decemviri Graeco ritu hostiis sacra faciant. hoc si recte facietis, gaudebitis semper fietque res vestra melior; nam is deum exstinguet perduellis vestros qui vestros campos pascit placide.'
Oxford Latin Dictionary, s.v. uomica:
a gathering of pus, an abscess, boil, etc.
Here the tumor is Hannibal and his army.

See Federico Russo, "I Carmina Marciana e le tradizioni sui Marcii," La Parola del Passato, vol. 60, no. 340 (2005) 5-32.


Seeds of Destruction

Polybius 6.10.3-5 (tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
[3] For just as rust eats away iron, and woodworms or ship-worms eat away timber, and these substances even if they escape any external damage are destroyed by the processes which are generated within themselves, [4] so each constitution possesses its own inherent and inseparable vice. Thus in kingship the inbred vice is despotism, in aristocracy it is oligarchy, [5] and in democracy the brutal rule of violence, and it is impossible to prevent each of these kinds of government, as I mentioned above, from degenerating into the debased form of itself.

[3] καθάπερ γὰρ σιδήρῳ μὲν ἰός, ξύλοις δὲ θρῖπες καὶ τερηδόνες συμφυεῖς εἰσι λῦμαι, δι᾽ ὧν, κἂν πάσας τὰς ἔξωθεν διαφύγωσι βλάβας, ὑπ᾽ αὐτῶν φθείρονται τῶν συγγενομένων, [4] τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον καὶ τῶν πολιτειῶν συγγεννᾶται κατὰ φύσιν ἑκάστῃ καὶ παρέπεταί τις κακία, βασιλείᾳ μὲν ὁ μοναρχικὸς λεγόμενος τρόπος, ἀριστοκρατίᾳ δ᾽ ὁ τῆς ὀλιγαρχίας, [5] δημοκρατίᾳ δ᾽ ὁ θηριώδης καὶ χειροκρατικός, εἰς οὓς οὐχ οἷόν τε μὴ οὐ πάντα τὰ προειρημένα σὺν χρόνῳ ποιεῖσθαι τὰς μεταστάσεις κατὰ τὸν ἄρτι λόγον.

Sunday, June 13, 2021


Worse Than Death

Carolyne Larrington, "Diet, Defecation and the Devil: Disgust and the Pagan Past," in Nicola McDonald, ed., Medieval Obscenities (2006; rpt. Suffolk: York Medieval Press, 2014), pp. 138-155 (at 146):
Excretion is not much referred to in Scandinavian texts; however, when the inhabitants of one farmhouse in northern Iceland in Laxdœla saga are prevented by an enemy from leaving the main building to use the external privy for three days, the outcome is regarded as both disgusting and shameful:
Kjartan lét þar taka dyrr allar á húsum ok bannaði öllum mönnum útgöngu ok dreitti þau inni þrjár nætr. . . . þeim Laugamönnum líkar illa ok þótti þetta miklu meiri svívirðing ok verri en þótt Kjartan hefði drepit mann eða tvá fyrir þeim.

Kjartan secured all the doors on the buildings and prevented everyone from going outside and they had to defecate inside for three nights. . . . The people at Laugar were very displeased and thought it was a much greater disgrace and worse than if Kjartan had killed one or two of them.32
32 Laxdœla saga, ed. E.Ó. Sveinsson, Íslenzk Fornrit 5 (Reykjavík, 1934), p. 145.




Carl H. Kraeling, "The Episode of the Roman Standards at Jerusalem," Harvard Theological Review 35.4 (October, 1942) 263-289 (at 269-270):
The word σημαία used by Josephus in his account of the episode of the standards is, like its Latin equivalent signum, a generic term and may apply to any or all of the standards borne by military units, though it is used also in a narrower sense for one particular type. Among the Roman standards the first to be mentioned are the aquila, a golden eagle mounted on a pole, and the imago or imagines, representations of animals or busts of the Emperor similarly mounted.13 Both types are essentially symbolic and religious in their significance. The aquila borne by the aquilifer is the palladium exclusively of the legion. Legions also have imagines borne by imaginiferi, but they share this type of standard with other troops, the urbaniciani, the vigiles, the alae and the auxiliarii. The theriomorphic imagines, comprising mainly zodiacal animals, have something to do with the dies natalis of the unit. The images of the Emperor, what ever else they may denote, have a religious and cultic significance also. While every established military unit could, and perhaps did, have its own theriomorphic imago, it is clear that some units did not have separate representations of the Emperor. What the criterion for the distribution of the imperial likenesses may be, is not yet entirely evident.

The next type of standard to be mentioned is that to which the word signum is applied in the narrower sense.14 More familiar than the others if for no other reason than because of representations in the school texts of Caesar's Gallic Wars, the signum consists of a spear decorated just below the spear-head with a cross-bar and fillets, and adorned along the shaft with a series of discs, or wreaths and discs, or wreaths and discs and mural crowns. So far as the discs (phalerae) are concerned the signa can be divided into two types, those that are aniconic and have smooth, polished surface, and those that are iconic, being embossed with a likeness of an emperor (or an image of a deity?). The signa, while also of religious significance, are basically the instruments of tactical procedure and hence essential to all troops engaged in tactical manoeuvres. Each military unit has as many signa as it has tactical elements, though in the case of a cohort the signum of the triarii maniple is simultaneously also the signum of the cohort as a whole.

The last type of standard to be mentioned is the vexillum, a cloth flag attached to a cross-bar hanging from the top of a pole or spear. It is used by temporary detachments from established military units, which are therefore known as vexillationes, and in cavalry alae. Under what conditions it served as an identifying medium and as a tactical instrument respectively, is not entirely clear.

13 On the general subject of standards cf. A.J. Reinach in Daremberg-Saglio, s.v. signa; A. v. Domaszewski, Die Fahnen im Römischen Heere, Abhandlungen des archäologisch-epigraphischen Seminares der Universität Wien, Vol. V, 1885; and Kromayer-Veith, op. cit., esp. pp. 402 ff., 520 ff.

14 To avoid confusion we shall use the term signum here wherever this particular type of standard is meant, keeping "standard" as the generic term throughout.


Saying Lessons

"Sheppard Sunderland Frere, Historian and Archaeologist," Britannia 46 (2015) 1-13 (at 2, from Roger Goodburn's "A Personal Memoir"):
He read Classics and Ancient History at Magdalene College, Cambridge. There, the Master, A.B. Ramsay, made his scholars do 'saying lessons', i.e. learning a Greek or Latin text, adding twenty lines more each week. Even in 1935 this was considered old-fashioned, but Sheppard never regretted his learning by heart. Even though Demosthenes evaporated over the years, he could to his latter days recite long pieces of the Aeneid and the writings of Tacitus.

Saturday, June 12, 2021


Abusive Language

Demosthenes 54.19 (Against Conon; tr. A.T. Murray):
The least of these evils, namely abusive language, has, I think, been provided for to prevent the last and most grievous, that murder may not ensue, and that men be not led on step by step from vilification to blows, from blows to wounds, and from wounds to murder...

τὸ φαυλότατον, οἶμαι, τὸ τῆς λοιδορίας, πρὸ τοῦ τελευταίου καὶ δεινοτάτου προεώραται, τοῦ μὴ φόνον γίγνεσθαι, μηδ᾿ ὑπάγεσθαι κατὰ μικρὸν ἐκ μὲν λοιδορίας εἰς πληγάς, ἐκ δὲ πληγῶν εἰς τραύματα, ἐκ δὲ τραυμάτων εἰς θάνατον...
This is a good example of the rhetorical device known as ladder or climax or gradatio. For other examples see:


Inspiring Stories

Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann (Goethe speaking, October 15, 1825; tr. John Oxenford):
"Deficiency of character in individual investigators and writers is," he said, "the source of all the evils of our newest literature.

In criticism, especially, this defect produces mischief to the world, for it either diffuses the false instead of the true, or by a pitiful truth deprives us of something great, that would be better.

Till lately, the world believed in the heroism of a Lucretia,—of a Mucius Scævola,—and suffered itself, by this belief, to be warmed and inspired. But now comes your historical criticism, and says that those persons never lived, but are to be regarded as fables and fictions, divined by the great mind of the Romans. What are we to do with so pitiful a truth? If the Romans were great enough to invent such stories, we should at least be great enough to believe them."

»Mangel an Charakter der einzelnen forschenden und schreibenden Individuen«, sagte er, »ist die Quelle alles Übels unserer neuesten Literatur.

Besonders in der Kritik zeigt dieser Mangel sich zum Nachteile der Welt, indem er entweder Falsches für Wahres verbreitet, oder durch ein ärmliches Wahres uns um etwas Großes bringt, das uns besser wäre.

Bisher glaubte die Welt an den Heldensinn einer Lucretia, eines Mucius Scävola, und ließ sich dadurch erwärmen und begeistern. Jetzt aber kommt die historische Kritik und sagt, daß jene Personen nie gelebt haben, sondern als Fiktionen und Fabeln anzusehen sind, die der große Sinn der Römer erdichtete. Was sollen wir aber mit einer so ärmlichen Wahrheit! Und wenn die Römer groß genug waren, so etwas zu erdichten, so sollten wir wenigstens groß genug sein, daran zu glauben.«



S. Douglas Olson, "Methodological Reflections on the Text and Action of Sophocles' Tereus (S. Fr. 583 + POxy. 5292)," Logeion: A Journal of Ancient Theatre 10 (2020) 168-186 (at 184-185):
— Analogy is a potentially useful form of argument when other, better evidence is lacking, but has significant limits due to the fact that it serves to seek commonalities between different objects. Put another way, analogy functions until it does not, and identifying the point at which "same" turns into "different" is a fundamentally subjective enterprise. Arguments that depend on a mix of literary analogy and psychological plausibility — what a character "might do" or "should do" in a particular situation — are particularly treacherous, because they are easily influenced by the modern reader's own sense of what is right and possible. This issue becomes particularly troubling in the case of fragmentary texts, for which context must be reconstructed (generally on the basis of a mix of analogy and other, even more subjective factors.

— Elaborate "house­-of-­cards" arguments are inherently dubious, and the more elaborate they become, the less likely they are to be correct. They are accordingly to be avoided on principle, the practical methodological difficulty here being that individual scholars may have a different sense of how many "cards" is one too many. As a corollary to this rule, further hypotheses based on such constructions by another scholar are even less likely to be correct than the original hypothesis.

— Ancient evidence must be carefully distinguished from modern constructions based on it. The former takes priority when the two come into conflict, and arguments that reject original sources in favor of modern hypotheses should be viewed with deep suspicion.
Related post: A House of Cards.

Friday, June 11, 2021


Thou Shalt

Friedrich Nietzsche, Unpublished Fragments from the Period of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Summer 1882-Winter 1883/84), tr. Paul S. Loeb and David F. Tinsley (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019 = The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, vol. 14), p. 87 (Notebook 3, number 397):
To make a "thou shalt" out of an "I feel like," to reshape habit into virtue, customs into ethics: this is a subtle old ancient form of second-rate counterfeiting — and I still see through it today.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente 1882-1884, edd. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 2. Aufl. (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1988 = Kritische Studienausgabe, Bd. 10), p. 101:
Aus einem „ich habe Lust“ ein „du sollst“ machen, die Gewohnheit zur Tugend, die Sitte zur Sittlichkeit umprägen: das ist eine feine alte uralte Falschmünzerei — und ich verstehe mich heute noch auf sie.
Umprägen can mean remint, which fits in with Falschmünzerei.



Homer, Iliad 6.488-489 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
But as for fate, I think that no man yet has escaped it
once it has taken its first form, neither brave man nor coward.

μοῖραν δ᾽ οὔ τινά φημι πεφυγμένον ἔμμεναι ἀνδρῶν,
οὐ κακὸν οὐδὲ μὲν ἐσθλόν, ἐπὴν τὰ πρῶτα γένηται.
G.S. Kirk ad loc. interprets ἐπὴν τὰ πρῶτα γένηται differently:

Thursday, June 10, 2021


One explanation that we can dismiss outright is that nerd is an acronym for Northern Electric Research and Development Laboratories in Ontario. There is a logical connection in that one would expect a lab to be full of nerds, but one should always be suspicious of proposed acronymic origins, and in this case Northern Electric (now Nortel) didn't establish their R&D labs until 1959, well after nerd was firmly ensconced in the slang lexicon.
I used to work at Bell-Northern Research (BNR), the research and development arm of Bell Canada and Northern Electric (later Northern Telecom, Nortel, etc.). A standing joke was that the acronym BNR stood for Big Nerd Reserve.

Another joke was that the company logo represented "Man reaching out for his paycheck":
At BNR I wrote software for the DMS telephone switch, a big hunk of metal that makes an appearance in the movie Robocop:


Seeking and Blundering

Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann (Goethe speaking, May 1, 1825; tr. John Oxenford):
But that is the advantage of a passionate liking for any pursuit, that it carries one to the very bottom of the subject. Besides, seeking and blundering are good, for it is by seeking and blundering that we learn. And, indeed, one learns not merely the thing itself, but everything connected with it.

Das ist aber immer der Vorteil irgendeiner leidenschaftlichen Richtung, daß sie uns in das Innere der Dinge treibt. Auch ist das Suchen und Irren gut, denn durch Suchen und Irren lernt man. Und zwar lernt man nicht blos die Sache, sondern den ganzen Umfang.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021



Friedrich Nietzsche, Unpublished Fragments from the Period of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Summer 1882-Winter 1883/84), tr. Paul S. Loeb and David F. Tinsley (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019 = The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, vol. 14), p. 59 (Notebook 3, number 159):
Insanity seldom occurs in individuals — but in groups, political parties, peoples, ages, it is the rule...
Friedrich Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente 1882-1884, edd. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 2. Aufl. (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1988 = Kritische Studienausgabe, Bd. 10), p. 72:
Der Irrsinn ist selten bei Einzelnen — aber bei Gruppen, Parteien, Völkern, Zeiten die Regel...
By 1889 Nietzsche was insane.


A Sound and Wholesome Rule?

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 8.5 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
Hold fast, then, to this sound and wholesome rule of life — that you indulge the body only so far as is needful for good health. The body should be treated more rigorously, that it may not be disobedient to the mind. Eat merely to relieve your hunger; drink merely to quench your thirst; dress merely to keep out the cold; house yourself merely as a protection against personal discomfort. It matters little whether the house be built of turf, or of variously coloured imported marble; understand that a man is sheltered just as well by a thatch as by a roof of gold. Despise everything that useless toil creates as an ornament and an object of beauty. And reflect that nothing except the soul is worthy of wonder; for to the soul, if it be great, naught is great.

hanc ergo sanam ac salubrem formam vitae tenete, ut corpori tantum indulgeatis quantum bonae valetudini satis est. durius tractandum est ne animo male pareat: cibus famem sedet, potio sitim exstinguat, vestis arceat frigus, domus munimentum sit adversus infesta temporis. hanc utrum caespes erexerit an varius lapis gentis alienae, nihil interest: scitote tam bene hominem culmo quam auro tegi. contemnite omnia quae supervacuus labor velut ornamentum ac decus ponit; cogitate nihil praeter animum esse mirabile, cui magno nihil magnum est.
This rule sucks all the enjoyment out of life. I'll try to do the opposite.


Other Times and Another World

Friedrich August Wolf (1759-1824), Prolegomena to Homer, Chapter XXII (tr. Anthony Grafton):
At this point, let us quite forget the bookcases and libraries that nowadays preserve our studies, and be transported to other times and another world, where many of the inventions which we think necessary for the good life were unknown to both wise men and fools.

Hic prorsus obliti scrinia nostra et bibliothecas, quibus nunc studiorum immortalitas constat, transvolemus hinc in alia tempora et in alium orbem rerum, ubi tot inventa, quae nobis videntur ad beate vivendum necessaria esse, a sapientibus omnibus et stultis ignorabantur.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021


Summum Bonum

Seneca, Thyestes 404-407 (tr. John G. Fitch):
At last I see the long-desired housetops of my homeland, the wealth of Argos, and what seems to miserable exiles the greatest and highest good—the reaches of my native soil and the gods of my fathers (if there really are gods)...

optata patriae tecta et Argolicas opes
miserisque summum ac maximum exulibus bonum,        405
tractum soli natalis et patrios deos
(si sunt tamen di) cerno...
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The Greatest Gift of the Gods

Polybius 5.104.1 (reporting a speech by Agelaus of Naupactus; tr. Ian Scott-Kilvert):
It would be best if the Greeks never went to war with one another, if they could regard it as the greatest gift of the gods for them all to speak with one voice, and could join hands like men who are crossing a river; in this way they could unite to repulse the incursions of the barbarians and to preserve themselves and their cities.

ὃς ἔφη δεῖν μάλιστα μὲν μηδέποτε πολεμεῖν τοὺς Ἕλληνας ἀλλήλοις, ἀλλὰ μεγάλην χάριν ἔχειν τοῖς θεοῖς, εἰ λέγοντες ἓν καὶ ταὐτὸ πάντες καὶ συμπλέκοντες τὰς χεῖρας, καθάπερ οἱ τοὺς ποταμοὺς διαβαίνοντες, δύναιντο τὰς τῶν βαρβάρων ἐφόδους ἀποτριβόμενοι συσσῴζειν σφᾶς αὐτοὺς καὶ τὰς πόλεις.



Livy 23.5.13 (tr. J.C. Yardley):
To permit Italy to be a Numidian and Moorish province—one only needs to be born in Italy to find this abhorrent.

Italiam Numidarum ac Maurorum pati provinciam esse, cui non, genito modo in Italia, detestabile sit?


No Friend to the Revolutionary Mob

Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann (Goethe speaking, April 27, 1825; tr. John Oxenford):
I do not know that I ever joined in any way against the people; but it is now settled, once for all, that I am no friend to the people. I am, indeed, no friend to the revolutionary mob, whose object is robbery, murder, and destruction, and who, behind the mask of public welfare, have their eyes only upon the meanest egotistical aims. I am no friend to such people, any more than I am a friend of a Louis XV. I hate every violent overthrow, because as much good is destroyed as is gained by it. I hate those who achieve it, as well as those who give cause for it.

Ich wüßte nicht, daß ich je etwas gegen das Volk gesündigt, aber ich soll nun ein für allemal kein Freund des Volkes sein. Freilich bin ich kein Freund des revolutionären Pöbels, der auf Raub, Mord und Brand ausgeht und hinter dem falschen Schilde des öffentlichen Wohles nur die gemeinsten egoistischen Zwecke im Auge hat. Ich bin kein Freund solcher Leute, ebensowenig als ich ein Freund eines Ludwigs des Funfzehnten bin. Ich hasse jeden gewaltsamen Umsturz, weil dabei ebensoviel Gutes vernichtet als gewonnen wird. Ich hasse die, welche ihn ausführen, wie die, welche dazu Ursache geben.

Monday, June 07, 2021


A Necessary Presupposition

Niccolò Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy I.3.1 (tr. Harvey C. Mansfield and Nathan Tarcov):
It is necessary to whoever disposes a republic and orders laws in it to presuppose that all men are bad, and that they always have to use the malignity of their spirit whenever they have a free opportunity for it.

È necessario a chi dispone una repubblica, ed ordina leggi in quella, presupporre tutti gli uomini essere cattivi, e che gli abbiano sempre ad usare la malignità dell'animo loro, qualunque volta ne abbiano libera occasione.


At My Age

Plato, Laches 189 C (tr. W.R.M. Lamb):
For I find that owing to my age I forget the questions I intend to put, and also the answers I receive; and if the discussion changes in the middle, my memory goes altogether.

ἐγὼ μὲν γὰρ καὶ ἐπιλανθάνομαι ἤδη τὰ πολλὰ διὰ τὴν ἡλικίαν ὧν ἂν διανοηθῶ ἐρέσθαι καὶ αὖ ἃ ἂν ἀκούσω· ἐὰν δὲ μεταξὺ ἄλλοι λόγοι γένωνται, οὐ πάνυ μέμνημαι.


A Band Concert

Bruce Catton (1899-1978), Mr. Lincoln's Army (New York: Doubleday, 1952), pp. 173-174:
It is recorded that during the long winter after the Battle of Fredericksburg, when the two rival armies were camped on opposite sides of the Rappahannock, with the boys on the opposing picket posts daily swapping coffee for tobacco and comparing notes on their generals, their rations, and other matters, and with each camp in full sight and hearing of the other, one evening massed Union bands came down to the river bank to play all of the old songs, plus the more rousing tunes like "John Brown's Body," "The Battle Cry of Freedom," and "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys Are Marching." Northerners and Southerners, the soldiers sang those songs or sat and listened to them, massed in their thousands on the hillsides, while the darkness came down to fill the river valley and the light of the campfires glinted off the black water. Finally the Southerners called across, "Now play some of ours," so without pause the Yankee bands swung into "Dixie" and "The Bonnie Blue Flag" and "Maryland, My Maryland," and then at last the massed bands played "Home, Sweet Home," and 150,000 fighting men tried to sing it and choked up and just sat there, silent, staring off into the darkness; and at last the music died away and the bandsmen put up their instruments and both armies went to bed. A few weeks later they were tearing each other apart in the lonely thickets around Chancellorsville.

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