Tuesday, November 30, 2021


Gone to Pot

John Jay Chapman, letter to Robert and Nora Nichols (December 23, 1925), in "A Sampling of Letters and Obiter Dicta," Arion 2.2/3 (Spring, 1992 - Fall, 1993) 33-65 (at 43):
It looks on all the surfaces as if the intellect of this country had gone to pot through the operation of the natural laws of wealth and prosperity — (and one sees no end or limit to them). I read Horace all the time and see much likeness between the luxury, riot, and folly that went on in the proconsular era, and our own epoch, but nothing of the blaze of intellect that accompanied the breakdown of the old Roman institutions and left behind it a shelf of books.
Hat tip: Isaac Waisberg.



Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow, The Story of French (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2006), pp. 65-66:
Malherbe was quite possibly the biggest and most brazen language snob the world has ever seen. Biographers describe him as a fretful fault-finder who spent his life attacking, both verbally and in writing, every mistake—or what he regarded as mistakes—he could find and anyone who made one. He wanted to banish the word vent (wind) because it was a synonym for fart, and pouls (pulse) because it sounded like pou (louse). He feared no one, and even reproached King Henri's son, the future Louis XIII, for signing his name as "Loys" rather than "Louys," an inconsistency that many courtiers would not have dared point out had they noticed it. Malherbe hated regionalisms to the point that, when asked whether the best word for "spent" was dépensé or dépendu, he replied that the former was more French, because pendu (which also means "hanged") sounded like Gascon, a dialect of southern France. Malherbe once refused to be treated by a certain Doctor Guénebeau because "his name sounded like a dog's name." On his deathbed he was still correcting the language of the woman who was looking after him.
Id., p. 81:
Although the French Academy is almost always presented as Richelieu's brainchild, Conrart and his friends actually drafted its charter on their own. True to the spirit of Malherbe, they defined its purpose as "nettoyer la langue des ordures qu'elle avait contractées, ou dans la bouche du peuple, ou dans la foule du palais et dans les impuretés de la chicane, ou par le mauvais usage des courtisans" ("to clean the language of all the filth it has caught, either from the mouth of the people or in the crowd of the court and tribunal or in the bad speech of ignorant courtiers").

Monday, November 29, 2021


Sympathy for the Dead

Adam Smith (1723-1790), The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. Knud Haakonssen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 16:
We sympathize even with the dead, and overlooking what is of real importance in their situation, that awful futurity which awaits them, we are chiefly affected by those circumstances which strike our senses, but can have no influence upon their happiness. It is miserable, we think, to be deprived of the light of the sun; to be shut out from life and conversation; to be laid in the cold grave, a prey to corruption and the reptiles of the earth; to be no more thought of in this world, but to be obliterated, in a little time, from the affections, and almost from the memory, of their dearest friends and relations. Surely, we imagine, we can never feel too much for those who have suffered so dreadful a calamity. The tribute of our fellow-feeling seems doubly due to them now, when they are in danger of being forgot by every body; and, by the vain honours which we pay to their memory, we endeavour, for our own misery, artificially to keep alive our melancholy remembrance of their misfortune. That our sympathy can afford them no consolation seems to be an addition to their calamity; and to think that all we can do is unavailing, and that, what alleviates all other distress, the regret, the love, and the lamentations of their friends, can yield no comfort to them, serves only to exasperate our sense of their misery.



Cicero, In Defence of Cluentius 14.41 (tr. H. Grose Hodge):
No one thought that it was decent to call upon him, to meet him in society, to converse with him, or to ask him to dinner. Everyone shrank from him, everyone loathed him, everyone avoided him as a savage and dangerous brute, a very scourge.

nemo illum aditu, nemo congressione, nemo sermone, nemo convivio dignum iudicabat; omnes aspernabantur, omnes abhorrebant, omnes ut aliquam immanem ac perniciosam bestiam pestemque fugiebant.

Sunday, November 28, 2021



Robert A. Kaster, The Appian Way: Ghost Road, Queen of Roads (2012; rpt. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), pp. 37-38:
The first Licinius to be called Crassus was evidently chubby, for that is what crassus means: like so many of the nicknames that the Romans liked to hang on each other—and keep!—it picks out an unflattering physical trait.
Related posts:


Vowel Man

Hans Dieter Betz, ed., The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), p. 18 (III.170-174):


The Ultimate in False Values

Bryan Magee (1930-2019), The Tristan Chord: Wagner and Philosophy (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2000), p. 357:
No one who experiences Wagner's art as some of the very greatest that there is could possibly choose to dissociate himself from it on the ground that its creator was a social bigot. Only someone to whom the art itself did not mean all that much could react in such a way — the sort of people who deny Rudyard Kipling's genius because he was an old-fashioned imperialist, or who deny the transcendent quality of Evelyn Waugh's prose because he was a snob, or who refuse to attend superb performances of great operas in places like Salzburg and Glyndebourne because they have strong feelings of class prejudice against other members of the audience. Such people often congratulate themselves on their social awareness, but their attitude represents the ultimate in false values.



Homer, Iliad 18.115-116 = 22.365-366 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
Then I will accept my own death, at whatever
time Zeus wishes to bring it about, and the other immortals.

         κῆρα δ᾽ ἐγὼ τότε δέξομαι ὁππότε κεν δὴ
Ζεὺς ἐθέλῃ τελέσαι ἠδ᾽ ἀθάνατοι θεοὶ ἄλλοι.

Saturday, November 27, 2021


Mountebanks, Quacksalvers, Empiricks

Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, Part. 2, Sect. 1, Memb. IV, Subsect. I:
It is not therefore to be doubted, that if we seek a physician as we ought, we may be eased of our infirmities — such a one, I mean, as is sufficient, and worthily so called; for there be many mountebanks, quacksalvers, empiricks, in every street almost, and in every village, that take upon them this name, make this noble and profitable art to be evil spoken of and contemned, by reason of these base and illiterate artificers: but such a physician I speak of, as is approved, learned, skilful, honest...


A Bad Mind and a Bad Death

Sarah Veale, "Defixiones and the Temple Locus: The Power of Place in the Curse Tablets at Mainz," Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft 12.3 (Winter 2017) 279-313 (at 288, translation of Defixionum Tabellae Mogontiacenses #5):
Blessed and good lord Attis, be present, come angrily to Liberalus. I ask you through all things, lord, by your [gods] Castor and Pollux, by the innermost boxes, that you give him a bad mind and a bad death. As long as his life may exist, may he see himself die in his entire body before his eyes. // Let him not be able to redeem himself with any money, nor any deed, nor by you, nor by another god unless he dies badly. Do this, I ask you by your power.
Liberalus in Veale's translation is a mistake for Liberalis. Thanks to Kenneth Haynes for pointing this out.

Cf. the translation by Stuart McKie in his PhD thesis The Social Significance of Curse Tablets in the North-Western Provinces of the Roman Empire (The Open University, 2017), p. 554:
Good holy Att(h)is, Lord, help (me), come to Liberalis in anger. I ask you by everything, Lord, by your Castor (and) Pollux, by the boxes of the sanctuary, give him a bad mind, a bad death, so long as he lives, so he may see himself dying all over his body, except the eyes // and that he cannot redeem himself with money or anything else, neither from you nor from some other god, except with a bad death. Grant this, I ask you by your majesty.
The Latin (Veale, p. 310, simplified by the omission of line breaks and numbers):
Bone sancte Atthis Tyranne, adsi(s), aduenias Liberali iratus. Per omnia te rogo, domine, per tuum Castorem, Pollucem, per cistas penetrales, des ei malam mentem, malum exitum, quandius uita uixerit, ut omni corpore uideat se emori praeter oculos // neque se possit redimere nulla pe{r}cunia nullaque re neq(ue) abs te neque ab ullo deo nisi ut exitum malum. Hoc praesta, rogo te per maiestatem tuam.
quandius = quamdiu.

On this curse tablet see Jürgen Blänsdorf, "The Defixiones from the Sanctuary of Isis and Magna Mater in Mainz," in Richard L. Gordon and Francisco Marco Simón, edd., Magical Practice in the Latin West: Papers from the International Conference held at the University of Zaragoza, 30 Sept.-1 Oct. 2005 (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. 141–189 (at 147-150, 166-168).



Rancid Oil

Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human II and Unpublished Fragments from the Period of Human, All Too Human II (Spring 1878-Fall 1879), tr. Gary Handwerk (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013), p. 397 (Notebook 41[32], July 1879):
The comforting remedies of Christianity will soon be an antiquity; an oil that has begun to stink. Then the comforting remedies of classical philosophy step forth once again, newly shining — and our new kind of comforting remedies is added, the historical kind.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente 1875-1879, edd. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1988 = Kritische Studienausgabe, Bd. 8), p. 588:
Die Trostmittel des Christenthums sind bald eine Antiquität; ein Oel, das sich verrochen hat. Dann treten die Trostmittel der antiken Philosophie wieder hervor, in neuem Glanze — und unsere neue Trostmittelgattung kommt hinzu, die historische.

Friday, November 26, 2021


Agriculture, Mother and Nurse of the Other Arts

Xenophon, Oeconomicus 5.1-17 (tr. E.C. Marchant):
[1] "Now I tell you this," continued Socrates, "because even the wealthiest cannot hold aloof from husbandry. For the pursuit of it is in some sense a luxury as well as a means of increasing one's estate and of training the body in all that a free man should be able to do. [2] For, in the first place, the earth yields to cultivators the food by which men live; she yields besides the luxuries they enjoy. [3] Secondly, she supplies all the things with which they decorate altars and statues and themselves, along with most pleasant sights and scents. Thirdly, she produces or feeds the ingredients of many delicate dishes; for the art of breeding stock is closely linked with husbandry; so that men have victims for propitiating the gods with sacrifice and cattle for their own use. [4] And though she supplies good things in abundance, she suffers them not to be won without toil, but accustoms men to endure winter's cold and summer's heat. She gives increased strength through exercise to the men that labour with their own hands, and hardens the overseers of the work by rousing them early and forcing them to move about briskly. For on a farm no less than in a town the most important operations have their fixed times. [5] Again, if a man wants to serve in the cavalry, farming is his most efficient partner in furnishing keep for his horse; if on foot, it makes his body brisk. And the land helps in some measure to arouse a liking for the toil of hunting, since it affords facilities for keeping hounds and at the same time supplies food for the wild game thay preys on the land. [6] And if husbandry benefits horses and hounds, they benefit the farm no less, the horses by carrying the overseer early to the scene of his duties and enabling him to leave it late, the hounds by keeping the wild animals from injuring crops and sheep, and by helping to give safety to solitude. [7] The land also stimulates armed protection of the country on the part of the husbandmen, by nourishing her crops in the open for the strongest to take. [8] And what art produces better runners, throwers and jumpers than husbandry? What art rewards the labourer more generously? What art welcomes her follower more gladly, inviting him to come and take whatever he wants? What art entertains strangers more generously? [9] Where is there greater facility for passing the winter comforted by generous fire and warm baths, than on a farm? Where is it pleasanter to spend the summer enjoying the cool waters and breezes and shade, than in the country? [10] What other art yields more seemly first-fruits for the gods, or gives occasion for more crowded festivals? What art is dearer to servants, or pleasanter to a wife, or more delightful to children, or more agreeable to friends? [11] To me indeed it seems strange, if any free man has come by a possession pleasanter than this, or has found out an occupation pleasanter than this or more useful for winning a livelihood.

[12] "Yet again, the earth willingly teaches righteousness to those who can learn; for the better she is served, the more good things she gives in return. [13] And if haply those who are occupied in farming, and 13 are receiving a rigorous and manly teaching, are forced at any time to quit their lands by great armies, they, as men well-found in mind and in body, can enter the country of those who hinder them, and take sufficient for their support. Often in time of war it is safer to go armed in search of food than to gather it with farming implements.

[14] Moreover, husbandry helps to train men for corporate effort. For men are essential to an expedition against an enemy, and the cultivation of the soil demands the aid of men. [15] Therefore nobody can be a good farmer unless he makes his labourers both eager and obedient; and the captain who leads men against an enemy must contrive to secure the same results by rewarding those who act as brave men should act and punishing the disobedient. [16] And it is no less necessary for a farmer to encourage his labourers often, than for a general to encourage his men. And slaves need the stimulus of good hopes no less, nay, even more than free men, to make them steadfast. [17] It has been nobly said that husbandry is the mother and nurse of the other arts. For when husbandry flourishes, all the other arts are in good fettle; but whenever the land is compelled to lie waste, the other arts of landsmen and mariners alike well-nigh perish."

[1] ταῦτα δέ, ὦ Κριτόβουλε, ἐγὼ διηγοῦμαι, ἔφη ὁ Σωκράτης, ὅτι τῆς γεωργίας οὐδ᾿ οἱ πάνυ μακάριοι δύνανται ἀπέχεσθαι. ἔοικε γὰρ ἡ ἐπιμέλεια αὐτῆς εἶναι ἅμα τε ἡδυπάθειά τις καὶ οἴκου αὔξησις καὶ σωμάτων ἄσκησις εἰς τὸ δύνασθαι ὅσα ἀνδρὶ ἐλευθέρῳ προσήκει. [2] πρῶτον μὲν γὰρ ἀφ᾿ ὧν ζώσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι, ταῦτα ἡ γῆ φέρει ἐργαζομένοις, καὶ ἀφ᾿ ὧν τοίνυν ἡδυπαθοῦσι προσεπιφέρει· [3] ἔπειτα δὲ ὅσοις κοσμοῦσι βωμοὺς καὶ ἀγάλματα καὶ οἷς αὐτοὶ κοσμοῦνται, καὶ ταῦτα μετὰ ἡδίστων ὀσμῶν καὶ θεαμάτων παρέχει· ἔπειτα δὲ ὄψα πολλὰ τὰ μὲν φύει, τὰ δὲ τρέφει· καὶ γὰρ ἡ προβατευτικὴ τέχνη συνῆπται τῇ γεωργίᾳ, ὥστε ἔχειν καὶ θεοὺς ἐξαρέσκεσθαι θύοντας καὶ αὐτοὺς χρῆσθαι. [4] παρέχουσα δ᾿ ἀφθονώτατα τἀγαθὰ οὐκ ἐᾷ ταῦτα μετὰ μαλακίας λαμβάνειν, ἀλλὰ ψύχη τε χειμῶνος καὶ θάλπη θέρους ἐθίζει καρτερεῖν. καὶ τοὺς μὲν αὐτουργοὺς διὰ τῶν χειρῶν γυμνάζουσα ἰσχὺν αὐτοῖς προστίθησι, τοῦς δὲ τῇ ἐπιμελείᾳ γεωργοῦντας ἀνδρίζει πρωί τε ἐγείρουσα καὶ πορεύεσθαι σφοδρῶς ἀναγκάζουσα. καὶ γὰρ ἐν τῷ χώρῳ καὶ ἐν τῷ ἄστει ἀεὶ ἐν ὥρᾳ αἱ ἐπικαιριώταται πράξεις εἰσίν. [5] ἔπειτα ἤν τε σὺν ἵππῳ ἀρήγειν τις τῇ πόλει βούληται, τὸν ἵππον ἱκανωτάτη ἡ γεωργία συντρέφειν, ἤν τε πεζῇ, σφοδρὸν τὸ σῶμα παρέχει· θήραις τε ἐπιφιλοπονεῖσθαι συνεπαίρει τι ἡ γῆ καὶ κυσὶν εὐπέτειαν τροφῆς παρέχουσα καὶ θηρία συμπαρατρέφουσα. [6] ὠφελούμενοι δὲ καὶ οἱ ἵπποι καὶ αἱ κύνες ἀπὸ τῆς γεωργίας ἀντωφελοῦσι τὸν χῶρον, ὁ μὲν ἵππος πρωί τε κομίζων τὸν κηδόμενον εἰς τὴν ἐπιμέλειαν καὶ ἐξουσίαν παρέχων ὀψὲ ἀπιέναι, αἰ δὲ κύνες τά τε θηρία ἀπερύκουσαι ἀπὸ λύμης καρπῶν καὶ προβάτων καὶ τῇ ἐρημίᾳ τὴν ἀσφάλειαν συμπαρέχουσαι. [7] παρορμᾷ δέ τι καὶ εἰς τὸ ἀρήγειν σὺν ὅπλοις τῇ χώρᾳ καὶ ἡ γῆ τοὺς γεωργοὺς ἐν τῷ μέσῳ τοὺς καρποὺς τρέφουσα τῷ κρατοῦντι λαμβάνειν. [8] καὶ δραμεῖν δὲ καὶ βαλεῖν καὶ πηδῆσαι τίς ἱκανωτέρους τέχνη γεωργίας παρέχεται; τίς δὲ τοῖς ἐργαζομένοις πλείω τέχνη ἀντιχαρίζεται; τίς δὲ ἥδιον τὸν ἐπιμελόμενον δέχεται, προτείνουσα προσιόντι λαβεῖν ὅ τι χρῄζει; τίς δὲ ξένους ἀφθονώτερον δέχεται; [9] χειμάσαι δὲ πυρὶ ἀφθόνῳ καὶ θερμοῖς λουτροῖς ποῦ πλείων εὐμάρεια ἢ ἐν χώρῳ τῳ; ποῦ δὲ ἥδιον θερίσαι ὕδασί τε καὶ πνεύμασι καὶ σκιαῖς ἢ κατ᾿ ἀγρόν; [10] τίς δὲ ἄλλη θεοῖς ἀπαρχὰς πρεπωδεστέρας παρέχει ἢ ἑορτὰς πληρεστέρας ἀποδεικνύει; τίς δὲ οἰκέταις προσφιλεστέρα ἢ γυναικὶ ἡδίων ἢ τέκνοις ποθεινοτέρα ἢ φίλοις εὐχαριστοτέρα; [11] ἐμοὶ μὲν θαυμαστὸν δοκεῖ εἶναι, εἴ τις ἐλεύθερος ἄνθρωπος ἢ κτῆμά τι τούτου ἥδιον κέκτηται ἢ ἐπιμέλειαν ἡδίω τινὰ ταύτης εὕρηκεν ἢ ὠφελιμωτέραν εἰς τὸν βίον.

[12] ἔτι δὲ ἡ γῆ θεὸς οὖσα τοὺς δυναμένους καταμανθάνειν καὶ δικαιοσύνην διδάσκει· τοὺς γὰρ ἄριστα θεραπεύοντας αὐτὴν πλεῖστα ἀγαθὰ ἀντιποιεῖ. [13] ἐὰν δ᾿ ἄρα καὶ ὑπὸ πλήθους ποτὲ στρατευμάτων τῶν ἔργων στερηθῶσιν οἱ ἐν τῇ γεωργίᾳ ἀναστρεφόμενοι καὶ σφοδρῶς καὶ ἀνδρικῶς παιδευόμενοι, οὗτοι εὖ παρεσκευασμένοι καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς καὶ τὰ σώματα, ἢν μὴ θεὸς ἀποκωλύῃ, δύνανται ἰόντες εἰς τὰς τῶν ἀποκωλυόντων λαμβάνειν ἀφ᾿ ὧν θρέψονται. πολλάκις δ᾿ ἐν τῷ πολέμῳ καὶ ἀσφαλέστερόν ἐστι σὺν τοῖς ὅπλοις τὴν τροφὴν μαστεύειν ἢ σὺν τοῖς γεωργικοῖς ὀργάνοις.

[14] συμπαιδεύει δὲ καὶ εἰς τὸ ἐπαρκεῖν ἀλλήλοις ἡ γεωργία. ἐπί τε γὰρ τοὺς πολεμίους σὺν ἀνθρώποις δεῖ ἰέναι τῆς τε γῆς σὺν ἀνθρώποις ἐστὶν ἡ ἐργασία. [15] τὸν οὖν μέλλοντα εὖ γεωργήσειν δεῖ τοὺς ἐργαστῆρας καὶ προθύμους παρασκευάζειν καὶ πείθεσθαι θέλοντας· τὸν δὲ ἐπὶ πολεμίους ἄγοντα ταὐτὰ δεῖ μηχανᾶσθαι δωρούμενόν τε τοῖς ποιοῦσιν ἃ δεῖ ποιεῖν τοὺς ἀγαθοὺς καὶ κολάζοντα τοὺς ἀτακτοῦντας. [16] καὶ παρακελεύεσθαι δὲ πολλάκις οὐδὲν ἧττον δεῖ τοῖς ἐργάταις τὸν γεωργὸν ἢ τὸν στρατηγὸν τοῖς στρατιώταις· καὶ ἐλπίδων δὲ ἀγαθῶν οὐδὲν ἧττον οἱ δοῦλοι τῶν ἐλευθέρων δέονται, ἀλλὰ καὶ μᾶλλον, ὅπως μένειν ἐθέλωσι. [17] καλῶς δὲ κἀκεῖνος εἶπεν, ὃς ἔφη τὴν γεωργίαν τῶν ἄλλων τεχνῶν μητέρα καὶ τροφὸν εἶναι. εὖ μὲν γὰρ φερομένης τῆς γεωργίας ἔρρωνται καὶ αἱ ἄλλαι τέχναι ἅπασαι, ὅπου δ᾿ ἂν ἀναγκασθῇ ἡ γῆ χερσεύειν, ἀποσβέννυνται καὶ αἱ ἄλλαι τέχναι σχεδόν τι καὶ κατὰ γῆν καὶ κατὰ θάλατταν.
Marchant didn't translate the vocative ὦ Κριτόβουλε in section 1.

Sarah B. Pomeroy ad loc.:
Because agriculture was fundamental to Greek life, it is often mentioned in poetry and is the focus of Hesiod's Works and Days. However, it appears that c. v is the earliest extensive eulogy of rural life in Greek prose. Xenophon's perspective on farming differs from Hesiod's pessimistic view: in the Works and Days the earth does not easily relinquish her produce and the farmer must warily watch the celestial signs lest all his work be destroyed. Furthermore, human justice does not flourish in the country any more than it does in an urban environment. Only in the Golden Age (WD 116-20) before the introduction of agricultural labour was the earth generous with her gifts. In contrast, Xenophon's view is that of an aristocrat who, like the Persian king in c. iv, works only when he so chooses, and who expects to reap a reward from the land and to enjoy himself while doing so. Xenophon was not alone in considering farming as the basis of the economy and the source of virtue for men.120 In c. v agriculture is praised for providing pleasure, profit, opportunities for piety, and a proper training for free men. The images of domestic comfort and happiness in c. v prefigure the description of the household of Ischomachus and his wife in cc. vii-x.

The abundance and generosity of nature is reflected in the richness of Xenophon's prose. The rhetorical structure is Gorgianic, employed so lavishly as to create a 'purple patch'. (For another see on viii. 8 and see further Ch. 2.) For example, note the parallel arrangement and rhyme in § 1 αὔξησις ... ἄσκησις; isocola in § 6; personification of Earth, and the series of rhetorical questions, in §§ 8-11. Many of Xenophon's statements became topoi in later adaptations of the theme.121 Xenophon sets forth the subjects of the eulogy principally in dualities that are sometimes repeated:
pleasure and utility (1, 2, 11)
sight and smell (3)
gods and men (3, 10)
nature and nurture (4)
animal husbandry and agriculture (3, 6)
winter and summer (4, 9)
country and city (4)
war and peace (5).
Within this conventional thought-pattern expressed in traditional rhetorical language reiterating the pleasures of country life, Xenophon intrudes references to war (5, 7, 13-16) that shatter the idyll. The family farm must be defended: the value of the land and its products makes it attractive to the enemy.

120 See further Ch. 5 and K.J. Dover, Greek Popular Morality, 114.

121 For rural encomia, most of which were written in Latin, see H. Kier, De Laudibus Vitae Rusticae ( diss. Marburg, 1933).

Thursday, November 25, 2021


Orderliness and Its Opposite

Hesiod, Works and Days 471-472 (tr. M.L. West):
Good order is best for mortal men, and bad order is worst.

                                          ἐυθημοσύνη γὰρ ἀρίστη
θνητοῖς ἀνθρώποις, κακοθημοσύνη δὲ κακίστη.
κακοθημοσύνη is a hapax legomenon. Homer has ὑποθημοσύνη = advice, counsel, warning. The nouns all come from τίθημι.



Plutarch, Sayings of Kings and Commanders: Hegesippus (Moralia 187 E; tr. Frank Cole Babbitt, with his note):
Hegesippus, nicknamed 'Topknot,'c in a public address was inciting the Athenians against Philip, when someone in the Assembly commented audibly, "You are bringing on war." "Yes, by Heaven, I am," said he, "and black clothes and public funerals and orations over the graves of the dead, if we intend to live as free men, and not to do what is enjoined upon us by the Macedonians."

c Because of his affectation in wearing his hair in a knot on the top of his head, in the very old-fashioned manner. Aeschines the orator regularly uses this name in speaking of him. For the "crobylus" see F. Studniczka, in the Appendix to Classen's edition of Thucydides, i. 6. 3.

Ἡγησίππου τοῦ Κρωβύλου προσαγορευομένου παροξύνοντος τοὺς Ἀθηναίους ἐπὶ Φίλιππον, ὑπεφώνησέ τις ἐκ τῆς ἐκκλησίας, "πόλεμον εἰσηγῇ;" "ναὶ μὰ Δία," εἶπε, "καὶ μέλανα ἱμάτια καὶ δημοσίας ἐκφορὰς καὶ λόγους ἐπιταφίους, εἰ μέλλομεν ἐλεύθεροι βιώσεσθαι καὶ μὴ ποιήσειν τὸ προσταττόμενον Μακεδόσι."
Babbitt's reference is to Franz Studniczka, "Die altattische Haartracht," in Thukydides erklärt von J. Classen. Erster Band. Einleitung. Erstes Buch. Vierte Auflage bearbeitet von J. Steup (Berlin: Weidmann, 1897), pp. 330-340. See also Franz Studniczka, "Krobylos und Tettiges: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der altgriechischen Tracht," Jahrbuch des Kaiserlich Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 11 (1896) 248-291.

Hegesippus was a war hawk, an acerrimus belli concitator (Tacitus, Histories 3.2, of Antonius Primus).

Tuesday, November 23, 2021


An Anecdote About Alcibiades

Plutarch, Sayings of Kings and Commanders: Alcibiades 3 (Moralia 186 E; tr. Frank Cole Babbitt):
Coming upon a schoolroom, he asked for a book of the Iliad, and when the teacher said that he had nothing of Homer's, Alcibiades hit him a blow with his fist and passed on.

προσελθὼν δὲ διδασκαλείῳ ῥαψῳδίαν Ἰλιάδος ᾔτει· τοῦ δὲ διδασκάλου μηδὲν ἔχειν Ὁμήρου φήσαντος, ἐντρίψας αὐτῷ κόνδυλον παρῆλθεν.
Plutarch, Life of Alcibiades 7.1 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
Once, as he was getting on past boyhood, he accosted a school-teacher, and asked him for a book of Homer. The teacher replied that he had nothing of Homer's, whereupon Alcibiades fetched him a blow with his fist, and went his way.

τὴν δὲ παιδικὴν ἡλικίαν παραλλάσσων ἐπέστη γραμματοδιδασκάλῳ καὶ βιβλίον ᾔτησεν Ὁμηρικόν. εἰπόντος δὲ τοῦ διδασκάλου μηδὲν ἔχειν Ὁμήρου, κονδύλῳ καθικόμενος αὐτοῦ παρῆλθεν.
Aelian, Historical Miscellany 13.38 (tr. N.G. Wilson):
Alcibiades was a great admirer of Homer. One day he went into a school and asked for a book of the Iliad. When the master told him he had nothing of Homer's, he punched the man violently and walked off, demonstrating that the teacher was uneducated and was producing pupils of the same kind.

ἰσχυρῶς Ὅμηρον ἐθαύμαζεν Ἀλκιβιάδης, καί ποτε διδασκαλείῳ παίδων προσελθὼν ῥαψῳδίαν Ἰλιάδος ᾔτει. τοῦ δὲ διδασκάλου μηδὲν ἔχειν Ὁμήρου φήσαντος ἐντρίψας αὐτῷ κόνδυλον εὖ μάλα στερεὸν παρῆλθεν, ἐνδειξάμενος ὅτι ἐκεῖνος ἀπαίδευτός ἐστι καὶ τοιούτους ἀποφαίνει τοὺς παῖδας.


A Counter-Revolutionary

Bryan Magee (1930-2019), The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, rev. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002), p. 19:
Schopenhauer was a counter-revolutionary, reactionary in the strict sense of that word — once, on the occasion of a political riot, he invited the soldiery into his home to shoot at the mob from the vantage point of his windows; and when he died he left his money to a fund for the maintenance of soldiers disabled in the suppression of the 1848 revolution, and for the widows and orphans of those killed.


These People Built for Eternity

Goethe, Italian Journey (November 11, 1786; tr. W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer):
Today I visited the Nymph Egeria, the Circus of Caracalla, the ruined tombs along the Via Appia and the tomb of Metella, which made me realize for the first time what solid masonry means. These people built for eternity; they omitted nothing from their calculations except the insane fury of the destroyers to whom nothing was sacred.

Heut' hab' ich die Nymphe Egeria besucht, dann die Rennbahn des Caracalla, die zerstörten Grabstätten längs der Via Appia und das Grab der Metella, das einem erst einen Begriff von solidem Mauerwerk gibt. Diese Menschen arbeiteten für die Ewigkeit: es war auf alles kalkuliert, nur auf den Unsinn der Verwüster nicht, dem alles weichen mußte.

Monday, November 22, 2021


The Master of My Fate

Pseudo-Sallust, Oratio ad Caesarem de Re Publica 1.1.2 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
But experience has shown that to be true which Appius says in his verses, that every man is the architect of his own fortune.

sed res docuit id verum esse, quod in carminibus Appius ait, fabrum esse suae quemque fortunae.
Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), #96, pp. 112-113:



Bryan Magee (1930-2019), The Tristan Chord: Wagner and Philosophy (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2000), p. 368:
There are a number of other reasons for the egregious awfulness of these writings. Perhaps the most understandable intellectually is the projection backwards in time of attitudes that we ourselves hold very strongly today but which did not characterize the nineteenth century. We judge people of the past by standards that had not been formed at the time when they lived.

Sunday, November 21, 2021



Hesiod, Works and Days 410-413 (tr. M.L. West):
Do not put things off till tomorrow and the next day. A man of ineffectual labour, a postponer, does not fill his granary: it is application that promotes your cultivation, whereas a postponer of labour is constantly wrestling with Blights.

μηδ᾽ ἀναβάλλεσθαι ἔς τ᾽ αὔριον ἔς τε ἔνηφιν·
οὐ γὰρ ἐτωσιοεργὸς ἀνὴρ πίμπλησι καλιὴν
οὐδ᾽ ἀναβαλλόμενος· μελέτη δέ τοι ἔργον ὀφέλλει·
αἰεὶ δ᾽ ἀμβολιεργὸς ἀνὴρ Ἄτῃσι παλαίει.



Plutarch, To Apollonius 30 (Moralia 117 A; tr. Frank Cole Babbitt):
Most people grumble about everything, and have a feeling that everything which happens to them contrary to their expectations is brought about through the spite of Fortune and the divine powers. Therefore they wail at everything, and groan, and curse their luck.

οἱ δὲ πολλοὶ πάντα καταμέμφονται καὶ πάντα τὰ παρὰ τὰς ἐλπίδας αὐτοῖς συμβεβηκότα ἐξ ἐπηρείας τύχης καὶ δαιμόνων γενέσθαι νομίζουσι. διὸ καὶ ἐπὶ πᾶσιν ὀδύρονται, στένοντες καὶ τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀτυχίαν αἰτιώμενοι.


When Someone Says Something Stupid

Homer, Iliad 14.95 = 17.173 (tr. A.T. Murray):
But now have I altogether scorn of thy wits, that thou speakest thus.

νῦν δέ σευ ὠνοσάμην πάγχυ φρένας οἷον ἔειπες.

Saturday, November 20, 2021


Optimism and Pessimism

Bryan Magee (1930-2019), The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, rev. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002), p. 14:
I remember as a child having the difference between optimism and pessimism explained to me in a way that illustrates perfectly their separability from fact and their inseparability from vision. Two men who are drinking together shoot simultaneous glances at the bottle they are sharing, and one thinks to himself: 'Ah good, it's still half full' while at the same moment the other thinks: 'Oh dear, it's half empty already.' The point is, of course, that they would have no argument about how much wine there is in the bottle, or about the accuracy of any measurement, photograph or drawing, and yet the same fact is being not only seen but responded to in two all-pervadingly different ways. This all-pervadingness makes the whole world of the optimist different from that of the pessimist, and our two men would describe differently almost everything that there is — in significantly different language, that is to say, albeit with the same factual content. (This is the import of Wittgenstein's 'The world of the happy man is a different one from that of the unhappy man'.)5

5 Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6. 43.


The Uncertainty and Inconstancy of Fortune

Plutarch, To Apollonius 5 (Moralia 103 E-F; tr. Frank Cole Babbitt):
But, in spite of this condition of affairs, some persons, through their foolishness, are so silly and conceited, that, when only a little exalted, either because of abundance of money, or importance of office, or petty political preferments, or because of position and repute, they threaten and insult those in lower station, not bearing in mind the uncertainty and inconstancy of fortune, nor yet the fact that the lofty is easily brought low and the humble in turn is exalted, transposed by the swift-moving changes of fortune.

ἀλλ᾽ ὅμως τοιούτων ὄντων τῶν πραγμάτων ἔνιοι διὰ τὴν ἀφροσύνην οὕτως εἰσὶν ἀβέλτεροι καὶ κεναυχεῖς, ὥστε μικρὸν ἐπαρθέντες ἢ διὰ χρημάτων περιουσίαν ἄφθονον ἢ διὰ μέγεθος ἀρχῆς ἢ διά τινας προεδρίας πολιτικὰς ἢ διὰ τιμὰς καὶ δόξας ἐπαπειλεῖν τοῖς ἥττοσι καὶ ἐξυβρίζειν, οὐκ ἐνθυμούμενοι τὸ τῆς τύχης ἄστατον καὶ ἀβέβαιον, οὐδ᾽ ὅτι ῥᾳδίως τὰ ὑψηλὰ γίγνεται ταπεινὰ καὶ τὰ χθαμαλὰ πάλιν ὑψοῦται ταῖς ὀξυρρόποις μεθιστάμενα τῆς τύχης μεταβολαῖς.
I would modify this slightly and translate χρημάτων περιουσίαν ἄφθονον as "plentiful abundance of money." The Greek is redundant and the English should be, too.

Related post: Powerful and Rich, Lowly and Hungry.

Friday, November 19, 2021



Robert A. Kaster, The Appian Way: Ghost Road, Queen of Roads (2012; rpt. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), pp. 7-8:
The Appian Way was, after all, the regina viarum, "queen of roads": so said the poet Statius, who would have used the road numberless times as he shuttled between Rome and his birthplace, Naples. As the first great road of Europe, the Appia in essence defined what a fully built road should be, and it remained for centuries a model of the engineering that was among the Romans' greatest achievements. As the longest of the roads in Italy, when it reached its full extent, it was central to the network that bound together the peninsula, and in time the Empire, and so fostered the formation of a unified culture. Ultimately, the Empire's system of public roads extended an astonishing 75,000 miles: in 2006, the United States had only a bit more than 46,000 miles of interstate highways, serving a population roughly five times as large.


A Fine Government

Ezra Pound, radio broadcast on February 26, 1942:
And the Americans, the U.S.'ers, have started a fine government in 1776. Couldn't keep it a century and have now plum forgotten it ever existed.


A Latin Inscription from Alcántara

Roman bridge and temple at Alcántara, Spain (photographs by Eric Thomson):
Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum II 761 = Emil Hübner, ed., Inscriptiones Hispaniae Latinae, Vol. I (Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1869), pp. 92-96 (text here adapted from https://db.edcs.eu/epigr/epi.php?s_sprache=en, search term litaturo):
Imp(eratori) Nervae Traiano Caesari Augusto Germanico Dacico sacrum

Templum in rupe Tagi superis et Caesare plenum,
    ars ubi materia vincitur ipsa sua,
quis quali dederit voto fortasse requiret
    cura viatorum, quos nova fama iuvat.
Ingentem vasta pontem qui mole peregit       5
    sacra litaturo fecit honore Lacer.
Qui pontem fecit Lacer et nova templa dicavit,
    scilicet et superis munera sola litan(t).
Pontem perpetui mansurum in saecula mundi
    fecit divina nobilis arte Lacer.       10
Idem Romuleis templum cum Caesare divis
    constituit felix utraque causa sacri.

C(aius) Iulius Lacer d(e) d(ecurionum) s(ententia) f(ecit) et dedicavit amico Curio Lacone Igeditano

7-12 post 4 transposuit Buecheler
The translation of the inscription at Wikipedia (Roman temple of Alcántara) is an incomprehensible mess:
To Emperor Nerva, Trajan, Caesar Augustus, Germanicus, Dacic, is enshrined

this temple, the live rock of the Tagus, occupied by the Divine and the Caesar,
art where Nature overcome itself.
Perhaps the curiosity of the travelers, whom the celebrity of the new it like,
inquire whom and under what vote, offered this temple.
Who built the great bridge of huge factory was Lacer,
to offer with great solemnity the sacrifices.
Who made the bridge, Lacer, also dedicated the new temples:
in that are met his votes, in this devote his offerings.
The illustrious Lacer, with divine art, made the bridge
to last forever in the ages of the perpetual world.
The same man set up the temple
devoted to the Roman gods along with Caesar, happy for each sacred construction.

Gaius Julius Lacer made this temple and dedicated it with his friend Curius Laco Igaeditanus (from the town of Idanha-a-Velha).
Screen capture of the Wikipedia translation (November 19, 2021):
The translation by Edmund Thomas, Monumentality and the Roman Empire: Architecture in the Antonine Age (Oxford: OUP, 2007), p. 203, is somewhat more intelligible but still leaves a lot to be desired:
A temple on Tagus' cliff full of gods and Caesar,
    Where art itself is surpassed by its own material.
Interested travellers enjoying its new fame perhaps
    May ask who gave it and with what prayer.
The man who did the bridge, vast in great bulk,
    Lacer built the shrine with sanctifying honour.
A bridge to stay for ages in the eternal world,
    Was built by Lacer, ennobled by his divine art.
Lacer who made the bridge also dedicated new temples,
    (men have only gifts to offer even to the gods),
He also founded a temple to Roman gods including
    Caesar: fortunate in each cause of sacredness.
Here is a German translation by B. Keller:
Ein Tempel, voll mit Statuen der Götter und des Kaisers, auf der Schlucht des Tajo, wo die Kunst selbst durch ihr eigenes Material besiegt wird.

Wer mit welchem Gelübde <diesen Tempel> gestiftet hat, wird vielleicht das Interesse der Wanderer erfragen, die <diese> neue Berühmtheit erfreut:

Lacer, der die gewaltige Brücke mit riesigem Ausmaß vollendet hat, hat die Opfer dargebracht, wobei die Ehrung guten Ausgang versprechen sollte.

Lacer, der die Brücke errichtet hat, hat auch neue Tempel geweiht — natürlich versprechen auch diese den Göttern dargebrachten Geschenke allein einen guten Ausgang –,

Diese Brücke, die für alle Zeiten der ewig dauernden Welt Bestand haben wird, hat Lacer, berühmt durch seine göttliche Kunst, erbaut.

Derselbe hat auch den vergöttlichten Kaisern, den Abkömmlingen des Romulus, zusammen mit dem regierenden Kaiser einen Tempel errichtet. Beide Anlässe für das Opfer waren glückverheißend.
Hübner's commentary (op. cit., p. 96):
Apparet duplicem dedicationis causam sex distichis poetam ita persecutum esse, ut prioribus tribus ab altera parte positis illud fere dicatur, templum eundem fecisse, qui pontem, reliquis tribus illud pontem fecisse qui et templum fecerit; quod tautologia quidem est re vera, sed non aliena ab hoc argumento. In singulis poeta utitur sermone contorto interdum et subobscuro; nec tamen Scriverio obtemperandum censeo, qui epigrammata duo (v. 1—6. 7—12) hic coaluisse iudicavit. Nam sacello, non aliis operis partibus, totum epigramma destinatum esse e vv. 1–4 elucet; neque video, unde dedicatio praeposita orta sit, nec quibus in partibus varia epigrammata apposita fuisse apte conieceris, nec quomodo, si revera ita disposita fuerunt, iam in exemplis antiquis casu ita coalescere potuerint, ut unum efficerent epigramma meo quidem sensu bene cohaerens.

2 Hunc versum imitari Ovidianum illud notissimum 'materiam superabat opus' (metam. 2, 5) diu est quod observaverunt editores, ut Iohannes Alphonsus Franco eumque secutus Morales; sed quemadmodum intellegendus sit non assecuti sunt. Etenim in regia Solis illa Ovidiana materiam valvarum per se pretiosissimam superabat etiam artis Mulciberi praestantia; verum hic, ubi de sacello agitur ex lapide vili facto, quomodo materia ipsa artem architecti vincat, quaeritur. Morales, qui Alcántaram ipse nunquam adiit, ut difficultatem hanc explicaret, totum sacellum praeter portam, quam tribus lapidibus praegrandibus constare ait (quod secus est) et tectum ex ipsa rupe excavatum esse sibi persuasit: 'las tres paredes, que forman el templo son cavadas en la peña viva, siendo solas portadas y cubiertas postizas; con esto tuvo mucha razon el artifice de llamarlo templo en la roca de Tajo, .... tambien con mucha razon diro al reves de Ovidio, que la materia vencia al arte, por ser natural la fabrica de las paredes y las piedras postizas ser tan grandes, que causan espanto y maravilla, sin averla en la lavor, pues es toda lisa. Lo mucho es el ser las piedras y las paredes tamañas por su natural, siendo muy poco lo que les añadio el arte en cavarlas y alisarlas.' Moralem sequitur Quintanadueñas. At minime ex ipsa rupe sacellum factum est, verum constat eisdem lapidibus quadratis, quam pons. Sed ut ponamus etiam ita fuisse, ut Morales voluit, tamen langueret sententia; quis enim illud in opere laudabit, quod materia rupis, rudis indigestaque moles, sola magnitudine artificium humanum superet? Male hoc modo famae suae consuluisset architectus, qui, ut Morales. bene observavit, ter nomen suum duodecim versibus repeti curavit ('asi honraban entonces á los profesores de las bellas artes' Cean p. 399 exclamat, et ipse architectus). Immo vero materia intellegenda est, ut sensit Franco neque vero plene exposuit, felix utraque causa sacri: ars exigua est, ut modeste confitetur artifex, sed vincit eam maiestas eius rei, cui impenditur, i. e. numini Caesaris reliquorumque divorum celebrando. Verum est materiam vocabulum non saepe hac significatione reperiri; sed Cicero ipse haec ait (de invent. 1, 5, 7): 'materiam artis eam dicimus, in qua omnis ars et ea facultas, quae conficitur ex arte, versatur; ut si medicinae materiam dicamus morbos ac vulnera, quod in his omnis medicina versetur, item, quibus in rebus versatur ars et facultas oratoria, eas res materiam artis rhetoricae nominamus.' Itaque ab aevi Traiani poeta non ex optimis gloriam imperatoris materiam operis tectonici dici non mirabimur.

5—10 Transpositiones horum versuum ortae videntur ex ipso ordine, quo disticha singula iuxta posita fuerunt in lapide. Contra antiquiorum testium consensum, qui 9.10 ante 7.8 posuerunt, quod vix ferri potest, acquievi in recentiorum ordine, qui a sententia magis probatur. Antiquiorum enim testium auctorem non semel peccasse documento est titulus fornicis (n. 760) foede ab eo corruptus.

5. 6. Explicat hoc distichon, si quid video, quis et quali voto templum dederit: idem, qui et pontem fecit, sacra haec fecit, i. e. templum dedicavit, et honore litaturo dedicavit, i. e. eo voto fecit, ut honos ille imperatori quasi munus oblatus ei litaturus sit, i. e. gratus acceptusque foret.

6 Laceri nomen pro C. Iulii Laceri artis historiae enchiridiis restituendum est; cf. Brunn Künstlergesch. 2, 337.

10 Sic intellego: divis Romuleis quoque, ut Caesari, munera sola litant, non preces promissave, itaque ut Caesari pontem, ita divis et Caesari aedem dedicavi.

12 Utraque causa sacri huius, i. e. templi a me dedicati, Caesaris et reliquorum divorum honor est; itaque iure utraque felix dicitur.

Thursday, November 18, 2021


They Entertained Themselves

Aldous Huxley, "Pleasures," On the Margin: Notes & Essays (1923; rpt. London: Chatto and Windus, 1928), pp. 45-52 (at 47-49):
In Elizabethan times every lady and gentleman of ordinary culture could be relied upon, at demand, to take his or her part in a madrigal or a motet. Those who know the enormous complexity and subtlety of sixteenth-century music will realize what this means. To indulge in their favourite pastime our ancestors had to exert their minds to an uncommon degree. Even the uneducated vulgar delighted in pleasures requiring the exercise of a certain intelligence, individuality and personal initiative. They listened, for example, to Othello, King Lear, and Hamlet — apparently with enjoyment and comprehension. They sang and made much music. And far away, in the remote country, the peasants, year by year, went through the traditional rites — the dances of spring and summer, the winter mummings, the ceremonies of harvest home — appropriate to each successive season. Their pleasures were intelligent and alive, and it was they who, by their own efforts, entertained themselves.

We have changed all that. In place of the old pleasures demanding intelligence and personal initiative, we have vast organizations that provide us with ready-made distractions — distractions which demand from pleasure-seekers no personal participation and no intellectual effort of any sort. To the interminable democracies of the world a million cinemas bring the same stale balderdash. There have always been fourth-rate writers and dramatists; but their works, in the past, quickly died without getting beyond the boundaries of the city or the country in which they appeared. To-day, the inventions of the scenario-writer go out from Los Angeles across the whole world. Countless audiences soak passively in the tepid bath of nonsense. No mental effort is demanded of them, no participation; they need only sit and keep their eyes open.



Plutarch, On Having Many Friends 8 (Moralia 96 D-E; tr. Frank Cole Babbitt):
Indeed, if even the brute beasts are made to mate with others unlike themselves only by forcible compulsion, and crouch aside, and show resentment as they try to escape from each other, while with animals of their own race and kind they consort with mutual satisfaction, and welcome the participation with a ready goodwill, how then is it possible for friendship to be engendered in differing characters, unlike feelings, and lives which hold to other principles?

ὅπου γὰρ καὶ τὰ ἄψυχα τὰς μίξεις πρὸς τὰ ἀνόμοια ποιεῖται μετὰ βίας ἀναγκαζόμενα καὶ ὀκλάζει καὶ ἀγανακτεῖ φεύγοντα ἀπ᾽ ἀλλήλων, τοῖς δὲ συγγενέσι καὶ οἰκείοις ὁμοπαθεῖ κεραννύμενα καὶ προσίεται τὴν κοινωνίαν λείως καὶ μετ᾽ εὐμενείας, πῶς οἷόν τε φιλίαν ἤθεσι διαφόροις ἐγγενέσθαι καὶ πάθεσιν ἀνομοίοις καὶ βίοις ἑτέρας προαιρέσεις ἔχουσιν;

ἄψυχα codd.: ἄλογα Wyttenbach
ὁμοπαθεῖ codd.: ὁμοιοπαθεῖ Wyttenbach
Related posts:

Wednesday, November 17, 2021


Was, Is, and Shall Be

A chant quoted by Pausanias 10.12.10 (on Dodona; tr. W.H.S. Jones):
Zeus was, Zeus is, Zeus shall be; O mighty Zeus.
Earth sends up the harvest, therefore sing the praise of earth as Mother.

Ζεὺς ἦν, Ζεὺς ἐστίν, Ζεὺς ἔσσεται· ὦ μεγάλε Ζεῦ.
Γᾶ καρποὺς ἀνίει, διὸ κλῄζετε Ματέρα γαῖαν.



Griffin, in Olympia, Archaeological Museum (B145), 7th century B.C., from Carol C. Mattusch, "A Trio of Griffins from Olympia," Hesperia 59.3 (July-September, 1990) 549-560 (plate 92):
These are three views of one of the three separate griffins discussed by Mattusch.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021


To Be Modern

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Escolios a un Texto Implicito, II (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, 1977), p. 208 (my translation):
To be modern is not to have overcome the problems of yesterday, it is to think that you have.

Ser moderno no es haber superado los problemas de ayer, es creer haberlos superado.


Leaving Home

Sophocles, Philoctetes 969-970 (Neoptolemus speaking; tr. Richard C. Jebb):
Ah me, what shall I do? Would I had never left
Scyros!—so grievous is my plight.

οἴμοι, τί δράσω; μή ποτ᾽ ὤφελον λιπεῖν
τὴν Σκῦρον· οὕτω τοῖς παροῦσιν ἄχθομαι.
On the day after I graduated from high school I left the small town where I grew up. I often wonder if I made a mistake, if I would have been happier just staying put, not going to college, etc.


First Snow

Hat tip: My brother, in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.


Its Own Reward

Harry Levin, "Portrait of a Homeric Scholar," Classical Journal 32.5 (February, 1937) 259-266 (at 259):
Professors of the classics have reached a point where they spend their time apologizing for their subject. They are apt to promise those who follow their dwindling courses a unique opportunity to undergo a moral discipline, to attain the marks of caste, or at least to assure themselves a comfortable academic career. Milman Parry disdained such inducements himself and refused to offer them to others. The study of Greek, he had found, is its own reward, and he never attempted to justify it on any but a personal and aesthetic plane. He once recruited a cast for the production of a tragedy by holding before them the privilege of memorizing several hundred lines of Sophocles. It delighted him to think that a single year of declensions and conjugations was all that stood between the ordinary individual and the grandest of poems.
Id. (at 261):
The scholar's mind was not, so far as Parry was concerned, a warehouse to be stocked up with job lots of assorted erudition and prefabricated opinions. It was an instrument to be kept sharp and bright by constant and skilful use.
Id. (at 264):
Despite his deftness in argument, philosophy and anything he labelled "critical theory" made him restless; frequently he would cut the knot of abstract discussion by appealing to "reality." In speech he shunned foreign phrases and Latinate words, seeking the simplest and most concrete English. His writing reveals sensibility of judgment, catholicity of taste, a rigorous method, an historical point of view — all the valuable qualities of the modern intellectual, including a distrust of the intellect.

Monday, November 15, 2021


Marginal Notes

Bryan Magee (1930-2019), The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, rev. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002), p. 9:
He remained a passionate student for the rest of his life, chiefly of philosophy, but to an important degree of the sciences too, and also of literature in seven languages — Latin, Greek, French, English, German, Italian and Spanish. (I have browsed through his library in the Schopenhauer archive in Frankfurt and found that it was his custom to make marginal notes, often extensive, in the same language as the book he was reading. These notes, unfailingly penetrating, are sometimes written with such vehemence that the pencil has almost pierced the paper.)


Absence Makes the Heart Grow More Fearful

Ovid, Heroides 19.109-110 (Hero to Leander; tr. Grant Showerman):
I fear everything — for who that loved was ever free from care?
The fears of the absent, too, are multiplied by distance.

omnia sed vereor. quis enim securus amavit?
    cogit et absentes plura timere locus.

Sunday, November 14, 2021


Unmuscular Christianity

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), An Autobiography (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1913), p. 49:
I do not like to see young Christians with shoulders that slope like a champagne bottle.


Mixed Marriages

Codex Theodosianus 3.14.1 (tr. Clyde Pharr, with his note):
Emperors Valentinian and Valens Augustuses to Theodosius, Master of the Horse. No provincial, of whatever rank or class he may be, shall marry a barbarian wife, nor shall a provincial woman be united with any foreigner. But if there should be any alliances between provincials and foreigners through such marriages and if anything should be disclosed as suspect or criminal among them, it shall be expiated by capital punishment.

Given on the fifth day before the kalends of January in the year of the consulship of Valentinian and Valens Augustuses.—December 28, 370 or 373; May 28, 368.3

INTERPRETATION: No Roman shall presume to have a barbarian wife of any nation whatever, nor shall any Roman woman be united in marriage with a barbarian. But if they should do this, they shall know that they are subject to capital punishment.

3 Since Theodosius became Master of the Horse in 369, M[ommsen] assigns this constitution to 370; Ammianus Marcellinus 28, 3. 9.

IMPP. VALENT(INIANVS) ET VAL(ENS) AA. AD THEODOSIVM MAG(ISTRVM) EQVITVM. Nulli provincialium, cuiuscumque ordinis aut loci fuerit, cum barbara sit uxore coniugium, nec ulli gentilium provincialis femina copuletur. Quod si quae inter provinciales atque gentiles affinitates ex huiusmodi nuptiis exstiterint, quod in iis suspectum vel noxium detegitur, capitaliter expietur. DAT. V KAL. IVN. VALENT(INIANO) ET VALENTE AA. CONSS.

INTERPRETATIO. Nullus Romanorum barbaram cuiuslibet gentis uxorem habere praesumat, neque barbarorum coniugiis mulieres Romanae in matrimonio coniungantur. Quod si fecerint, noverint se capitali sententiae subiacere.
Text and apparatus from Mommsen's edition:
See Ralph Mathisen, "Provinciales, Gentiles, and Marriages between Romans and Barbarians in the Late Roman Empire," Journal of Roman Studies 99 (2009) 140–155.


The Way Things Are

Bryan Magee (1930-2019), The Tristan Chord: Wagner and Philosophy (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2000), p. 166:
There have been other writers who would have assented to the validity of Schopenhauer's tragic vision, but none who insisted on it so relentlessly. His view of the way things are is totally bleak, without comfort; and he gives expression to it in passages of unforgettable vividness and power. Existence in itself he saw as a miserable business: it would be better for each of us, he believed, if we had never been born. He was also a great misanthropist: he regarded human beings, by and large, as selfish, cruel, greedy, stupid, aggressive and heartless in most of their dealings with one another, and bloodthirsty in their attitudes to the animal kingdom. The world seemed to him an appalling place, teeming with violence, crime, poverty, political oppression, economic exploitation, every little town having its own torture chambers in its hospital and its prison, and every individual life ending in the inescapable smash-up of death. The world of Nature was no better: literally in every instant thousands of screaming animals are being torn to pieces alive. The only thing to do in these circumstances, he said, is turn our backs on the whole thing, refuse to be involved, have nothing whatever to do with it.
Id., p. 186 (He = Wagner):
He realized now that it was simply not the case, and never had been, that society was getting better all the time: tyranny and the abuse of power were perennial, as were cruelty, selfishness, greed, stupidity, and the failure of compassion, together with lovelessness and betrayal. These were not merely a part of the current order of things, about to be swept away, they were permanent features of life on this planet, and were reproduced over and again in every age. The belief that this was going to change radically to a new order of things in which love, happiness and self-fulfilment were the order of the day was just a pathetic illusion.

Saturday, November 13, 2021


Heroes of Plutarch

Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations 2.6 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
Satiate your soul with Plutarch and when you believe in his heroes dare at the same time to believe in yourself. With a hundred such men — raised in this unmodern way, that is to say become mature and accustomed to the heroic — the whole noisy sham-culture of our age could now be silenced for ever.

Sättigt eure Seelen an Plutarch und wagt es, an euch selbst zu glauben, indem ihr an seine Helden glaubt. Mit einem Hundert solcher unmodern erzogener, das heißt reif gewordener und an das Heroische gewöhnter Menschen ist jetzt die ganze lärmende Afterbildung dieser Zeit zum ewigen Schweigen zu bringen.



Refrain at the end of every strophe of Philodamus' paean to Dionysus (tr. William D. Furley and Jan Maarten Bremer):
Ie Paian, come o Saviour,
and kindly keep this city
in happy prosperity.

Ἰὲ Παιάν, ἴθι σωτήρ
εὔφρων τάνδε πόλιν φύλασσ'
εὐαίωνι σὺν ὄλβῳ.


Modern Use of a Curse Tablet

Daniel Seres and István Czeti, "'I Try to Publish Whatever Turns up.' Interview with Roger S. O. Tomlin," in Litterae Magicae: Studies in Honour of Roger S. O. Tomlin (Zaragoza: Libros Pórtico, 2019), pp. 19–28 (at 23):
Q: We have heard a rumour, that you are not only an expert of the curse tablets, but you have used this magical practice at least once.

A: I'm afraid that's true. I was once asked by a South Wales schoolteacher to write a silencing curse against one of her colleagues who was being unkind, gossiping and backbiting. So I wrote a very elaborate pseudo-Christianised curse to silence her, which I gave to the schoolteacher. Meanwhile I destroyed my workings, to prevent them coming back to me. And I told her to throw the curse into the sea off Swansea, which she did — and later I was told it had worked! I don't know if it really did, though.

Friday, November 12, 2021


Why Everything Is Tawdry

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Escolios a un Texto Implicito, II (Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, 1977), p. 206 (my translation):
Opinions, customs, institutions, cities, everything has become tawdry, since we gave up on mending the old in order to buy each day the flashy novelty.

Opiniones, costumbres, instituciones, ciudades, todo se volvió chabacano, desde que renunciamos a remendar lo viejo para comprar diariamente la novedad chillona.



Bronze statuette of Zeus wielding a thunderbolt, from Dodona, ca. 470 BC (Athens, National Archaeological Museum, no. 16546):
Probably an eagle was perched on his left hand originally, as on this coin from Olosson in Thessaly (first half of 4th century BC):


The Contentment of the Tree in its Roots

Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations 2.3 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
But this antiquarian sense of veneration of the past is of the greatest value when it spreads a simple feeling of pleasure and contentment over the modest, rude, even wretched conditions in which a man or a nation lives; Niebuhr, for example, admits with honourable candour that on moor and heathland, among free peasants who possess a history, he can live contented and never feel the want of art. How could history serve life better than when it makes the less favoured generations and peoples contented with their own homeland and its customs, and restrains them from roving abroad in search of something they think more worth having and engaging in battles for it? Sometimes this clinging to one's own environment and companions, one's own toilsome customs, one's own bare mountainside, looks like obstinacy and ignorance — yet it is a very salutary ignorance and one most calculated to further the interests of the community: a fact of which anyone must be aware who knows the dreadful consequences of the desire for expeditions and adventures, especially when it seizes whole hordes of nations, and who has seen from close up the condition a nation gets into when it has ceased to be faithful to its own origins and is given over to a restless, cosmopolitan hunting after new and ever newer things. The feeling antithetical to this, the contentment of the tree in its roots, the happiness of knowing that one is not wholly accidental and arbitrary but grown out of a past as its heir, flower and fruit, and that one's existence is thus excused and, indeed, justified — it is this which is today usually designated as the real sense of history.

Den höchsten Werth hat aber jener historisch-antiquarische Verehrungssinn, wo er über bescheidne, rauhe, selbst kümmerliche Zustände, in denen ein Mensch oder ein Volk lebt, ein einfaches rührendes Lust- und Zufriedenheits- Gefühl verbreitet; wie zum Beispiel Niebuhr mit ehrlicher Treuherzigkeit eingesteht, in Moor und Haide unter freien Bauern, die eine Geschichte haben, vergnügt zu leben und keine Kunst zu vermissen. Wie könnte die Historie dem Leben besser dienen, als dadurch, dass sie auch die minder begünstigten Geschlechter und Bevölkerungen an ihre Heimat und Heimatsitte anknüpft, sesshaft macht und sie abhält, nach dem Besseren in der Fremde herum zu schweifen und um dasselbe wetteifernd zu kämpfen? Mitunter sieht es wie Eigensinn und Unverstand aus, was den Einzelnen an diese Gesellen und Umgebungen, an diese mühselige Gewohnheit, an diesen kahlen Bergrücken gleichsam festschraubt — aber es ist der heilsamste und der Gesammtheit förderlichste Unverstand; wie Jeder weiss, der sich die furchtbaren Wirkungen abenteuernder Auswanderungslust, etwa gar bei ganzen Völkerschwärmen, deutlich gemacht hat, oder der den Zustand eines Volkes in der Nähe sieht, das die Treue gegen seine Vorzeit verloren hat und einem rastlosen kosmopolitischen Wählen und Suchen nach Neuem und immer Neuem preisgegeben ist. Die entgegengesetzte Empfindung, das Wohlgefühl des Baumes an seinen Wurzeln, das Glück sich nicht ganz willkürlich und zufällig zu wissen, sondern aus einer Vergangenheit als Erbe, Blüthe und Frucht herauszuwachsen und dadurch in seiner Existenz entschuldigt, ja gerechtfertigt zu werden — dies ist es, was man jetzt mit Vorliebe als den eigentlich historischen Sinn bezeichnet.
See Barthold Georg Niebuhr, letter to Friedrich Carl von Savigny (February 16, 1817; tr. Susanna Winkworth):
I am well aware that I go into the opposite extreme; that my politico-historical turn of mind can find full satisfaction in things for which Goethe has no taste, and that I could live contentedly without feeling the want of art, not only amidst the glorious scenery of the Tyrol, but on moor or heath, where I was surrounded by a free peasantry, who had a history.

Ich weiß sehr wohl, daß ich in das andre Extrem gehe, daß mein politisch-historischer Sinn sich schon ganz mit dem befriedigt fühlt, wofür Goethe keinen Sinn hat, und daß ich nicht allein im göttlichen Tyrol, sondern in Moor und Haide unter freien Bauern, die eine Geschichte haben, vergnügt lebe und keine Kunst vermisse.


Old Age Reproached

Caecilius, quoted by Cicero, On Old Age 8.25 (tr. E.H. Warmington):
Ah! By heaven, Old Age, if there's no other mischief
which you bring with you when you come—well—this one's quite enough—
that a man by living long sees many things he doesn't want.

edepol, Senectus, si nihil quicquam aliud viti
apportes tecum cum advenis, unum id sat est,
quod diu vivendo multa quae non volt videt.
J.G.F. Powell ad loc.:
This recalls Solon's speech to Croesus in Hdt. 1.32.1 [sic, read 1.32.2]: ἐν γὰρ τῷ μακρῷ χρόνῳ πολλὰ μὲν ἐστὶ ἰδεῖν τὰ μή τις ἐθέλει. The idea in general is commonplace: Eur. Oenomaus fr. 575 N.2 μακρὸς γὰρ αἰὼν μυρίους τίκτει πόνους (another similar line is attributed to Euripides in Stob. 4.50b.35); Men. fr. 555 K., ὀχληρὸς ὁ χρόνος ὁ πολύς; Publil. sent. 212, heu quam multa paenitenda incurrunt vivendo diu; Plaut. Men. 759-60 (of old age) nam res plurimas pessimas, cum advenit, adfert; Favorinus, Περὶ γήρως fr. 9 Barigazzi πολύς τοι μόχθος ἐν μακρῷ χρόνῳ; Hor. AP 169; Xen. Apol. 8; Antiphanes frr. 240b and 255 K.; Bion fr. 62 K.; [Plato], Axiochus 367b; Soph. fr. 863 Ν.2.

Thursday, November 11, 2021


A Desire for Escape

Arthur Darby Nock, "The Milieu of Gnosticism," Essays on Religion and the Ancient World, Vol. I (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972), pp. 444-451 (at 444-445):
Learning never has been and never can be wholly detached from the conditions of life and the general trends of thought, and all attitudes towards investigation involve an element of emotion. Those of us who cling hardest to the older ways may have to admit that our struggle for such approximation to objectivity as is possible is reinforced by a desire for escape.


Manly Pursuits

Ovid, Heroides 19.9-14 (Hero to Leander; tr. Grant Showerman):
You men, now in the chase, and now husbanding the genial acres of the country,
consume long hours in the varied tasks that keep you.
Either the market-place holds you, or the sports of the supple wrestling-ground,
or you turn with bit the neck of the responsive steed;
now you take the bird with the snare, now the fish with the hook;
and the later hours you while away with the wine before you.

vos modo venando, modo rus geniale colendo
    ponitis in varia tempora longa mora.        10
aut fora vos retinent aut unctae dona palaestrae,
    flectitis aut freno colla sequacis equi;
nunc volucrem laqueo, nunc piscem ducitis hamo;
    diluitur posito serior hora mero.

11 dona codd.: lucta Heinsius: mane Bentley
Arthur Palmer ad loc.:
9-14. A passage of some grace, and Euripidean in its simplicity and sentiment. 9. rus geniale, 'the kindly, the delightful country': genialis is used much as in invitat genialis hiems Virg. Georg. 1.302 of what is cheering to the genius of a man. 10. Ponitis .. tempora: ponere is often used of spending time. Commentators give a large number of instances from Cicero, De Orat. 3.5.17; Att. 6. 2. 6. So with diem or dies, Brut. 22.87; Att. 11.22.2; Fam. 5.21.1. Cicero is the only writer quoted for this usage. [Dr. Reid quotes Pont. 1.5.36 Tempus et adsueta ponere in arte iuvat; Ib. 48 Quo ponam vigilans tempora longa modo?] The sense is something the same as that of 'investing,' which is common with ponere. mora, 'pastime': Prop. 4.8.4 Hic ubi tam rarae non perit hora morae. 11. unctae: cf. nitidae 16.151. dona palaestrae, 'the joys of the glittering palaestra': Hor. Carm. 3.8.27 dona praesentis cape laetus horae; Grat. Cyneg. 252 dumque manebunt Silvarum dotes atque arma Diania terris. [There is thus no need to read lucta with Heinsius.] For the sentiment, cf. A.A. 3.385 Nec vos Campus habet, nec vos gelidissima Virgo, Nec Tuscus placida devenit amnis aqua. [12. sequacis,'tractable,' obedient': cf. Plin. Paneg. 45 flexibiles quamcunque in partem ducimur a principe atque ut ita dicam sequaces sumus; Paneg. Vet. 12.15 sequaces discipuli, but this is a doubtful passage. The reading fugacis, if properly supported, would give a better sense; cf. 4.46 torquentem frenis ora fugacis equi and note there. Dr. Reid thinks that sequacis here may mean the horse which chases the quarry or the foe, like flammis sequacibus Virg. Aen. 8.432, and many similar words. Ταχινοῦ of Planudes will fit either sequacis in this sense or fugacis.] 13. laqueo, 'with the springe' [cp. Hor. Ep. 1.16.51; Epod. 2.35]. 14. Diluitur posito serior hora mero, 'you make your later hours glide away with the wine cup': [diluere is generally applied in this connexion to 'cares,' not to time; cf. Prop. 3.17.6 Tu vitium ex animo dilue, Bacche, meo; Ov. A.A. 1.238 Cura fugit multo diluiturque mero].


Global Warming

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), p. 170 (Notebook 5 [1] 38):
Evil should be preserved, just as forests should be preserved. It is true that the earth became warmer when the forests were thinned out and cleared — —
Friedrich Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente 1882-1884, edd. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, 2. Aufl. (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1988 = Kritische Studienausgabe, Bd. 10), p. 191:
Man soll das Böse schonen, wie man den Wald schonen soll. Es ist wahr, daß durch das Lichten und Ausroden des Waldes die Erde wärmer wurde — —

Wednesday, November 10, 2021


Consider the Cattle

Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations 2.1 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
Consider the cattle, grazing as they pass you by: they do not know what is meant by yesterday or today, they leap about, eat, rest, digest, leap about again, and so from morn till night and from day to day, fettered to the moment and its pleasure or displeasure, and thus neither melancholy nor bored. This is a hard sight for man to see; for, though he thinks himself better than the animals because he is human, he cannot help envying them their happiness — what they have, a life neither bored nor painful, is precisely what he wants, yet he cannot have it because he refuses to be like an animal.

Betrachte die Heerde, die an dir vorüberweidet: sie weiss nicht was Gestern, was Heute ist, springt umher, frisst, ruht, verdaut, springt wieder, und so vom Morgen bis zur Nacht und von Tage zu Tage, kurz angebunden mit ihrer Lust und Unlust, nämlich an den Pflock des Augenblickes und deshalb weder schwermüthig noch überdrüssig. Dies zu sehen geht dem Menschen hart ein, weil er seines Menschenthums sich vor dem Thiere brüstet und doch nach seinem Glücke eifersüchtig hinblickt — denn das will er allein, gleich dem Thiere weder überdrüssig noch unter Schmerzen leben, und will es doch vergebens, weil er es nicht will wie das Thier.



Sophocles, Philoctetes 927-929 (Philoctetes to Neoptolemus; tr. Richard C. Jebb):
Thou fire, thou utter monster, thou hateful masterpiece of subtle villainy,—how hast thou dealt with me,—how hast thou deceived me!

ὦ πῦρ σὺ καὶ πᾶν δεῖμα καὶ πανουργίας
δεινῆς τέχνημ᾽ ἔχθιστον, οἷά μ᾽ εἰργάσω,
οἷ᾽ ἠπάτηκας...
Cpmmentators (Kamerbeek, Manuwald) note the tricolon crescendo.


A Peek

Ovid, Heroides 16.249-254 (Paris to Helen; tr. Grant Showerman):
Your bosom once, I remember, was betrayed by your robe; it was loose,
and left your charms bare to my gaze —
breasts whiter than pure snows, or milk,
or Jove when he embraced your mother.
While I sat in ecstasy at the sight — I chanced to have my goblet in hand —
the twisted handle fell from my fingers.

prodita sunt, memini, tunica tua pectora laxa
    atque oculis aditum nuda dedere meis
pectora vel puris nivibus vel lacte tuamque
    complexo matrem candidiora Iove.
dum stupeo visis — nam pocula forte tenebam —
    tortilis a digitis excidit ansa meis.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021



Bryan Magee, The Tristan Chord: Wagner and Philosophy (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2000), p. 96:
Perhaps the most revealing story we have about Wagner in this connection comes not from his autobiography but from that of the painter Friedrich Pecht, published after Wagner's death. Writing of their days together in Dresden, Pecht tells us how: 'One day when I called on him I found him burning with passion for Hegel's Phenomenology, which he was just studying, and which, he told me with typical extravagance, was the best book ever published. To prove it he read me a passage which had particularly impressed him. Since I did not entirely follow it, I asked him to read it again, upon which neither of us could understand it. He read it a third time and a fourth, until in the end we both looked at one another and burst out laughing. And that was the end of phenomenology.'
Portrait of Richard Wagner by Friedrich Pecht
(Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)


The Homestead

Ezra Pound, radio broadcast on February 10, 1942:
East Europe and North America believe in the homestead, from A to Z, and from bedrock to rooftree the American people believe in the homestead.

The members of the floating population, to which the top crust has been REDUCED, are beliefless, they got no belief, they want this, that or tother, tinsel and limelight.


The WHOLE and total best of civilization, Chinese or Western, is based on the homestead. It is not based on nomadic tribes, and destructions.


When their hair begins to lose its adolescent hue, a few men begin to think of a SYSTEM, a working system, a base and BASIS for human living together. And the answer comes out the same, a house GOOD enough for the ordinary folk to go on livin' in from one generation to the fourth and fifth generation.
Cf. David Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics (London: Hurst & Company, 2017), p. 3:
The old distinctions of class and economic interest have not disappeared but are increasingly over-laid by a larger and looser one — between the people who see the world from Anywhere and the people who see it from Somewhere.

Anywheres dominate our culture and society. They tend to do well at school — Vernon Bogdanor calls them the 'exam-passing classes' — then usually move from home to a residential university in their late teens and on to a career in the professions that might take them to London or even abroad for a year or two. Such people have portable 'achieved' identities, based on educational and career success which makes them generally comfortable and confident with new places and people.

Somewheres are more rooted and usually have 'ascribed' identities — Scottish farmer, working class Geordie, Cornish housewife — based on group belonging and particular places, which is why they often find rapid change more unsettling.



Ovid, Heroides 16.183-184 (Paris to Helen; tr. Grant Showerman):
Why tell you of our thronging multitudes of men?
Scarce does that land sustain the dwellers in it.

quid tibi de turba narrem numeroque virorum?
    vix populum tellus sustinet illa suum.


Perhaps Literal Translations Do Have Their Uses

Malcolm Davies, The Epic Cycle (Bristol: Bristol Classical Press, 1989), p. iv:
Why, for instance, publish literal translations of those tiny portions of confessedly second-rate epics that happen to have survived? Partly, I suppose, because less literal translations that hide their originals' shortcomings can themselves be misleading. To take one example: Iona and Peter Opie, at the start of their fascinating book The Singing Game (Oxford 1985), observe (p. 4): 'Another ancient circular dance was that in which a leader stood in the centre of the ring and sang the verse, and the ring acted as chorus. This seems to be described in the Titanomachy.' The warrant for this important inference is Higham's over-enthusiastic rendering of F 5 in the Oxford Book of Greek Verse in Translation, p. 180:
Himself, the sire of men, of gods the sire,
The centre took, and led the dancing quire.
Unfortunately, as a brisk look at my own literal translation (p. 16) of the one-line fragment will confirm, practically the whole of the second verse of Higham's translation is of his own devising. And even more unfortunately, it is on this portion of the translation that the Opies' picture of a leader in the centre of the ring, singing to an accompanying chorus, is based. Perhaps literal translations do have their uses.
Id., p. 16:
F 5 preserves a single hexameter from the Titanomachy:
And in their midst danced the father of men and gods.
The Greek:
μέσσοισιν δ' ὠρχεῖτο πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε.

Monday, November 08, 2021


Bitterness of Elderly People

Bryan Magee, The Tristan Chord: Wagner and Philosophy (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2000), pp. 2-3:
The unforgiving bitterness of the disappointed left-winger is quite a different phenomenon psychologically from the curmudgeonliness of the reactionary, even if in elderly people the two often show the same symptoms. One is bitterness at the loss of the past, the other bitterness at the loss of a future. What they have in common is dislike of the present, but in one case this is based on traditional values and in the other on the pain of having relinquished hopes for a radically different future.



Homer, Iliad 12.243 (tr. Peter Green):
One omen is best, to fight in defense of your country!

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος, ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ πάτρης.
Bryan Hainsworth ad loc.:
This famous verse is ejected by Lohmann, Reden 219, as upsetting the parallelism of Pouludamas' speech and Hektor's response. ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ πάτρης is formular, cf. 15.496, 24.500. At 15.497-8 defending the πάτρη is justified as defending ἄλοχος, παῖδες, οἶκος, and κλῆρος [wife, children, house, and estate], but that is Hektor exhorting lesser Trojans, and generals must appeal to the self-interest of their men not only to an altruistic sense of social obligation. Effectively Hektor's οἶκος is Troy. The well-rounded heroic character, pace Finley, World 116, acknowledges the claims of the community (cf. 310-28), but even in Hektor's own case those claims rank lower than his sense of honour and shame (cf. 22.99-130).
Testimonialapparat in M.L. West's Teubner edition:
243 Metagenes fr. 19 K.-A. (parod.); Arist. Rh. 1395al3; Diod. 15.52.4 (Epaminondas loqu.); Cic. Att. 2.3.3; Plin. Ep. 1.18.4; Plut. Pyrrh. 29.4; [Plut.] Hom. 2.39.2,186.1; Alex. in Top. CAG ii(2).225.21; w5; Apthon. Progymn. 4; Nicol. Progymn. p.28.6 F.; Stob. 3.39.18; Zon. Fig. iii.167.7Sp.; sch Eur. Pho. 781; Choer. in Thd. ii.2.19, 8.35, 256.13; (-ἀμύν.) sch Aesch. Sept. 1011; 243a Plut. Mor. 333c; [Luc.] Dial. 58.5; sch Eur. Pho. 902



Ovid, Fasti 1.73-74 (January 1; tr. Anne and Peter Wiseman):
Let ears be free from lawsuits, let mad disputes forthwith be absent. Malicious tongue, put off your business!

lite vacent aures, insanaque protinus absint
    iurgia; differ opus, livida lingua, tuum!

74 lingua : turba AMω

Sunday, November 07, 2021


Sunday Sermon

James Joyce, Ulysses, Episode 14:
Elijah is coming washed in the Blood of the Lamb. Come on, you winefizzling ginsizzling booseguzzling existences! Come on, you dog-gone, bullnecked, beetlebrowed, hogjowled, peanutbrained, weaseleyed fourflushers, false alarms and excess baggage! Come on, you triple extract of infamy! Alexander J. Christ Dowie, that's yanked to glory most half this planet from 'Frisco Beach to Vladivostok. The Deity ain't no nickel dime bumshow. I put it to you that he's on the square and a corking fine business proposition. He's the grandest thing yet and don't you forget it. Shout salvation in king Jesus. You'll need to rise precious early, you sinner there, if you want to diddle the Almighty God. Pflaaaap! Not half. He's got a coughmixture with a punch in it for you, my friend, in his backpocket. Just you try it on.
John Alexander Dowie (1847-1907) was a preacher and temperance advocate who claimed to be "Elijah III". See

Saturday, November 06, 2021


The Place of Truth

Gerald Brenan (1894-1987), South from Granada (1957; rpt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), p. 112:
The cemetery was known as the tierra de la verdad or place of truth. When only the other day I questioned my housekeeper about this, she replied with great feeling: 'Why, that's the only truth there is. One is buried and that's the end. All our life is an illusion.' Rosario is a cheerful and pagan-minded woman with few cares in the world, yet, when asked, she gave the eternal Spanish answer: 'Life is an illusion, because it ends.'


Death the Healer

Diphilus, fragment 88 Kassel-Austin (tr. William Wilson):
There is no life which has not its own ills,
Pains, cares, thefts, and anxieties, disease;
And Death, as a physician, coming, gives
Rest to their victims in his quiet sleep.

οὐκ ἔστι βίος ὃς οὐχὶ κέκτηται κακά,
λύπας, μερίμνας, ἁρπαγάς, στρέβλας, νόσους·
τούτων ὁ θάνατος καθάπερ ἰατρὸς φανεὶς
ἀνέπαυσε τοὺς ἔχοντας ἀναπαύσας ὕπνῳ.

1 οὐχὶ Sylburg: οὐ codd.
2 ἁρπαγάς codd.: ἀγχόνας Herwerden
4 ἀνέπαυσεν codd.: ἀπέλυσε Valcknaer
Related post: Doctor Death.


A Poet's Right

Eduard Fraenkel, Aeschylus, Agamemnon. Edited with a Commentary, Vol. II: Commentary on 1-1055 (1950; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962), p. 90, n. 1 (on line 149 ἐχενῇδας):
In all periods poets have the right to restore to a word its 'original' meaning, which in daily usage it has entirely or almost entirely lost. Horace, Odes 1.36.20 lascivis hederis ambitiosior provides a good example. The peculiar use in Horace, Odes 4.4.65 of evenit, to which several critics have objected, belongs to the same category; Baiter ad loc. rightly says 'Horatius saepius ad propriam vocabulorum vim redire ausus est'.

Friday, November 05, 2021


Unnatural Demands

Heinrich Heine, The Romantic School, Book I (tr. Howard Pollack-Milgate):
I am speaking of that religion whose first dogmas include the damnation of all flesh; which not only grants to the spirit superiority over the flesh, but also seeks to mortify the flesh in order to glorify the spirit. I am speaking of that religion whose unnatural demands themselves were the true origin of sin and hypocrisy, for it was precisely the damnation of the flesh that made the most innocent pleasures of the senses into sins, and it was the impossibility of being wholly spirit which necessitated the development of hypocrisy. I am speaking of that religion which also became the most reliable support of despotism by preaching the reprehensible nature of all earthly goods and by enjoining dog-like humility and angelic patience. People have by now recognized the essence of this religion. They are no longer happy being nourished on references to heaven. They know that matter also has its good side and is not entirely the devil's. And they now lay claim to the enjoyments of the earth, this beautiful divine garden, our inalienable inheritance.

Ich spreche von jener Religion, in deren ersten Dogmen eine Verdammnis alles Fleisches enthalten ist und die dem Geiste nicht bloß eine Obermacht über das Fleisch zugesteht, sondern auch dieses abtöten will, um den Geist zu verherrlichen; ich spreche von jener Religion, durch deren unnatürliche Aufgabe ganz eigentlich die Sünde und die Hypokrisie in die Welt gekommen, indem eben durch die Verdammnis des Fleisches die unschuldigsten Sinnenfreuden eine Sünde geworden und durch die Unmöglichkeit, ganz Geist zu sein, die Hypokrisie sich ausbilden mußte; ich spreche von jener Religion, die ebenfalls durch die Lehre von der Verwerflichkeit aller irdischen Güter, von der auferlegten Hundedemut und Engelsgeduld die erprobteste Stütze des Despotismus geworden. Die Menschen haben jetzt das Wesen dieser Religion erkannt, sie lassen sich nicht mehr mit Anweisungen auf den Himmel abspeisen, sie wissen, daß auch die Materie ihr Gutes hat und nicht ganz des Teufels ist, und sie vindizieren jetzt die Genüsse der Erde, dieses schönen Gottesgartens, unseres unveräußerlichen Erbteils.



Walther von der Vogelweide, Gedichte 124 Lachmann, lines 7-17 (tr. Philip Wilson):
The people and the land I knew when I was young
have all become as strange as if it were undone.
Children I played with are weary and old.
The woods are cut down and the fields are burned.
Only the river flows where it used to flow
and this fact alone helps me bear my sorrow.
Many men who knew me can now scarcely greet me
and the whole wide world seems to lack charity.
When I think back to many wondrous days,
they have gone like the ripple of a stone in the lake.
Alas for evermore.

liut unde lant, dâ ich von kinde bin erzogen,
die sint mir frömde worden, reht als ez sî gelogen.
die mîne gespilen wâren, die sint traege unt alt:
verreitet ist daz velt, verhouwen ist der walt.
wan daz daz wazzer vliuzet als ez wîlent flôz,
für wâr ich wânde mîn ungelücke wurde grôz.
mich grüezet maneger trâge, der mich bekande ê wol.
diu welt ist allenthalben ungenâden vol.
als ich gedenke an manigen wünneclîchen tac
die mir sint enpfallen gar als in daz mer ein slac,
iemer mêre owê.


Identification by Mother's Name

John. G. Gager, Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992; rpt. 1999), p. 14, with notes on p. 36:
Another unusual characteristic in the treatment of names was the practice, from the second century C.E. onward, of identifying personal names by matrilineal descent ("I curse X, whose mother is Y").70 Even in Jewish spells this was the custom, so much so that a noted rabbi, Abaye (ca. 325 C.E.), once reported the following: "Mother told me, 'All incantations which are repeated several times must contain the name of the patient's mother.'"71 Various explanations have been advanced for this unusual custom: because precise identification was necessary, only the mother could be known for certain; influence may have come from Babylonia or Egypt, where matrilineal lineage appears in early spells; the practice was taken over from the world of slaves, who were regularly identified by matrilineal descent; and in Egypt, Jewish and Christian funerary monuments sometimes identify the deceased by descent from the mother.72 Although several signs point in the direction of Egyptian influence, we must suppose that other forces were also at work, arising from social and psychological dynamics peculiar to the ancient Mediterranean. In the end, however, the practice must also be related to the countercultural and subversive character of the defixiones themselves.

70. For a full discussion see D.R. Jordan, "CIL VIII 19525 (B).2 QPVULVA = Q(UEM) P(EPERIT) VULVA," Philologus 120 (1976): 127-32.

71. Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 66b.

72. On this issue, see the brief discussions in M. Guarducci, Epigrafia greca IV: Epigrafi sacre pagane e cristiane (Rome, 1978) p. 245, n.l, and Alan Cameron, Porphyrius The Charioteer (Oxford, 1973), pp. 157-58.
Alan Cameron, Porphyrius the Charioteer (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973; rpt. 1999), p. 157:
We may perhaps explain by analogy a puzzling feature of a series of curse tablets directed at charioteers from Rome in the late fourth or early fifth century. Each charioteer is identified, not merely by a sobriquet (p. 171), but by the addition of his mother's name.4 Why mother's rather than father's? Wuensch sees a trace here of the Egyptian origin of the rite.5 More relevant, probably (since it was the correct identification of the charioteer that mattered) was the principle mater certa, pater incertus.

4 See the index of 'Männer- und Frauennamen' to R. Wuensch's Sethianische Verfluchungstafeln (1891), 119.

5 Op. cit. 64.

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