Saturday, September 30, 2023



Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Sucesivos Escolios a un Texto Implicito (Bogotá: Villegas Editores, 2005), p. 75 (my translation):
Modern society surpasses past societies in only two respects: vulgarity and technology.

La sociedad moderna no aventaja las sociedades pretéritas sino en dos cosas: la vulgaridad y la técnica.


Past and Present

Augustine, Sermons 25.3 (Patrologia Latina, vol. XXXVIII, col. 168; tr. Edmund Hill):
Not only did our elders complain about their days, their grandparents too complained about their days. People have never been pleased with the days they lived in. But the days of the ancestors please their descendants, and they too were pleased with days they hadn't experienced—and that's precisely why they thought them pleasant. It's what's present that is sharply felt. I don't mean it comes nearer, but it touches the heart every day. Practically every year when we feel the cold we say "It's never been so cold." "It's never been so hot."

Et maiores nostri planxerunt dies suos, et avi eorum planxerunt dies suos. Nullis hominibus dies placuerunt quos vivendo egerunt. Sed posteris placent dies maiorum: et illis iterum illi dies placebant, quos ipsi non sentiebant, et ideo placebant. Quod enim praesens est, acrem habet sensum. Non dico, propius admovetur, sed cor tangit quotidie. Omni anno plerumque dicimus quando frigus sentimus: Numquam fecit tale frigus. Numquam fecit tales aestus.
Cf. Seneca, De Beneficiis 1.10.1 (tr. John W. Basore):
The complaint our ancestors made, the complaint we make, the complaint our posterity will make, is that morality is overturned, that wickedness holds sway, and that human affairs and every sin are tending toward the worse. Yet these things remain and will continue to remain in the same position, with only a slight movement now in this direction, now in that, like that of the waves, which a rising tide carries far inland, and a receding tide restrains within the limits of the shoreline.

hoc maiores nostri questi sunt, hoc nos querimur, hoc posteri nostri querentur: eversos mores, regnare nequitiam, in deterius res humanas et omne nefas labi. at ista eodem stant loco stabuntque, paulum dumtaxat ultra aut citra mota, ut fluctus, quos aestus accedens longius extulit, recedens interiore litorum vestigio tenuit.


Food Security

Trevor Dean and Daniel Waley, The Italian City-Republics, 5th ed. (London: Routledge, 2023), pp. 76-77:
Volterra ordered all men living in certain hilly areas to plant at least four fruit trees each year, whereas Pisa required all contadini to plant six a year, as well as insisting on cabbage patches and beans. Parma decreed that all sharecroppers plough at least four times before sowing and specifically forbade the export of almost all foodstuffs, including cheese, poultry, eggs and vegetables.

Friday, September 29, 2023


Blah Begins

Ezra Pound, "Our Contemporaries and Others," New Review 1.2 (June-July 1931) 150, quoted in A. David Moody, Ezra Pound, Poet: A Portrait of the Man and His Work, Vol. II: The Epic Years, 1921-1939 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 102:
Thought, dogblast you, thought is made up of particulars, and when those particulars cease to be vividly present to the consciousness in the general statement, thought ceases and blah begins.



Aeschylus, Persians 251-252 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
At a single stroke all your plenteous prosperity has been shattered...

ὡς ἐν μιᾷ πληγῇ κατέφθαρται πολὺς


The Sad Truth

Homer, Iliad 8.103 (Odysseus to Nestor; tr. Peter Green):
Your strength is not what it was, a harsh old age attends you.

σὴ δὲ βίη λέλυται, χαλεπὸν δέ σε γῆρας ὀπάζει.

Thursday, September 28, 2023


The Enemy Within

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Sucesivos Escolios a un Texto Implicito (Bogotá: Villegas Editores, 2005), p. 11 (my translation):
El enemigo de una civilización es menos el adversario externo que el interno desgaste.

The enemy of a civilization isn't so much the external adversary as the internal corrosion.
Hat tip: my dear departed friend Ian Jackson, who gave me a copy of Gómez Dávila's works.


An Empty Bag

Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack (New York: The Century Co., 1902), p. 99 (from the 1740 Almanack):
An empty bag cannot stand upright.
Cloth or leather bags—modern paper bags with their flat bases can stand upright when empty.


Free Men

Sophocles, fragment 927 a Radt, in Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, vol. 4, p. 584 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
Free men have free tongues!

ἐλευθέρα γὰρ γλῶσσα τῶν ἐλευθέρων.
Related post: Silenced.


Cruel or Kind?

Augustine, Sermons 21.8 (Patrologia Latina, vol. XXXVIII, col. 147; tr. Edmund Hill):
Now learn a lesson from your son. Your little son is crying before you to lift him onto a horse. Do you listen, do you let him have his way? Are you being cruel, or in fact kind? Tell me, what is it, what's your reason for refusing? Can anyone doubt that the reason of course is love? You are saving up your whole estate for him when he is big, and while he is a little boy crying you won't lift him up on a single horse. Everything you have, house and whatever's in it, piece of land and whatever's in it, you are saving for him. And yet this little boy's crying and you won't lift him up on a horse. Let him cry all he wants, let him cry all day, and you don't listen to him, and it's out of kindness you don't listen to him, and you would be cruel if you did.

Nunc similitudinem accipe de filio tuo. Plorat ante te filius tuus parvus, ut eum leves in equum tuum: numquid audis? numquid exaudis? Durus es, an potius misericors? Quid est, dic mihi, quo consilio facis? Certe hoc consilium est charitatis, quis dubitet? Cui grandi servas totam domum, parvulum plorantem non levas in equum. Omnia quae habes, et domum et quidquid in domo, et agrum et quidquid in agro, illi servas; et tamen in equum non levas parvulum plorantem. Ploret quantum vult, tota die ploret; non exaudis, et misericordia non exaudis, et si exaudires, crudelis esses.



Trevor Dean and Daniel Waley, The Italian City-Republics, 5th ed. (London: Routledge, 2023), pp. 5-6:
The sentiment within the city-state of sharing a common citizenship was not solely the result of having a common place of residence. When, in his fiction of a journey through the afterlife, the poet Dante meets the soul of the unhappy Pia dei Tolomei (Purgatorio V, 134), and she says that 'Siena made me' (Siena mi fe), she is doing more than announcing her place of birth. She is saying that the city-state of Siena provided the physical, social and political environment in which she grew up, that it moulded her outlook and personality. The modern citizen is shaped by varied forces, among which the monstrously powerful energy of the nation-state competes with international mass communications and with the generally diluted and disappearing strength of regional and local patriotism (resurgent though it is in some areas). The local newspaper demonstrates the survival of older loyalties, and in Italy itself the spirit of campanilismo, of the cherished and longed-for city tower, is not yet dead. But the citizen who fought alongside his neighbours against the citizens of the neighbouring cities knew through his way of life a now-vanished patriotism and campanilismo.
Id., p. 6:
And one must add the attachment that almost all people, and especially those of conventional and conservative temperaments, feel to what is familiar, the spectacle of the same daily surroundings and accustomed ways of speech. Only thus can one understand something of the intensity of that emotion which Dante conveys in a passage of the Purgatorio (VI, 70 ff) when Virgil utters the single word 'Mantua' and a figure replies:
'O Mantoano, io son Sordello
De la tua terra;' e l'un l'altro abbracciava.

('O Mantuan, I am Sordello from your town.' And they embraced.)
Related posts:



Wyndham Lewis, Time and Western Man (London: Chatto and Windus, 1927), p. 87:
So I like, respect, and, in a sense, reverence Ezra Pound; I have found him a true, disinterested and unspoilt individual. He has not effected this intimate entrance into everything that is noble and enchanting for nothing. He has really walked with Sophocles beside the Aegean; he has seen the Florence of Cavalcanti; there is almost nowhere in the Past that he has not visited; he has been a great time-trotter, as we could describe this new kind of tourist. And he is not unworthy, in himself, of these many privileges.

But where the Present is concerned it is a different matter. He is extremely untrustworthy where that is concerned. That is the penalty of his function, like that of the eunuch instanced above. When he tries to be up-to-date it is a very uncomfortable business. And because he is conventional, and so accepts counterfeit readily where no standard has been established, he is a danger as far as he exerts any contemporary influence. He should not be taken seriously as a living being at all. Life is not his true concern, his gifts are all turned in the other direction. 'In his chosen or fated field he bows to no one,' to use his words. But his field is purely that of the dead. As the nature mortist, or painter essentially of still-life, deals for preference with life-that-is-still, that has not much life, so Ezra for preference consorts with the dead, whose life is preserved for us in books and pictures. He has never loved anything living as he has loved the dead.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023


The Beginning of Evil

Dante, Paradiso XVI.67-69 (Cacciaguida speaking; tr. John D. Sinclair):
The mixture of peoples was ever
the beginning of the city's ills,
as food in excess is of the body's.

Sempre la confusion delle persone
principio fu del mal de la cittade,
come del vostro il cibo che s'appone.
Natalino Sapegno ad loc.:
[L]a contusione di stirpi diverse, l'immigrazione di gente nuova, fu sempre cagione di sovvertimento e rovina dello stato (cittade); come il cibo che si sovrappone, mescolandosi nello stomaco, ad altro non ancora digerito, è causa di malattia nell'uomo. Principio di dottrina comune nei giuristi e filosofi medievali, e derivato da Aristotele (Politica, III, 3; VI, 10, ecc).


Ouster of Unjust Rulers

Epigram preserved by Aeschines, Against Ctesiphon 190 = Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 62.50 (tr. Chris Carey):
These men for their virtue were honored with crowns by the ancient
people of Athens, because once when men with unjust
ordinances ruled the city, they were first to check them
and lead the way, accepting mortal danger.

·τούσδ᾽ ἀρετῆς ἕνεκα στεφάνοις ἐγέραιρε παλαίχθων
    δῆμος Ἀθηναίων, οἵ ποτε τοὺς ἀδίκοις
θεσμοῖς ἄρξαντας πόλιος πρῶτοι καταπαύειν
    ἦρξαν, κίνδυνον σώμασιν ἀράμενοι.
See Peter Liddel, Decrees of Fourth-Century Athens (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020), vol. I, pp. 105-113.


Still the Old Gods Reign

Excerpt from John Addington Symonds (1840-1893), "Southward Bound," Many Moods: A Volume of Verse (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1878), pp. 3-7 (at 3-4):
Great cities, greater in decay and death,
    Dream-like with immemorial repose,
Whose ruins like a shrine for ever sheathe
    The mighty names and memories of those
    Who lived and died to die no more, shall close
Your happy pilgrimage; and you shall learn,
Breathing their ancient air, the thoughts that burn

For ever in the hearts of after men:—
    Yea, from the very soil of silent Rome
You shall grow wise; and, walking, live again
    The lives of buried peoples, and become
    A child by right of that eternal home,
Cradle and grave of empires, on whose walls
The sun himself subdued to reverence falls.

O solemn aisles! O vast and sacred shade!
    Ruins on ruins heaped! Imperial state
With rubbish of wrecked centuries o'erlaid!
    There Christ in Phoebus' shrine is consecrate;
    Titles of pope and priest surmount the gate
Where Cæsar's legions trampled: yet in vain
Age strives with age; for still the old gods reign:

Pale gods in cere-cloths, ghosts of bye-gone Greece,
    Rule in their marble sepulchres: the halls,
Through which we pass, with dead divinities
    Are gleaming; and the voice of Hellas calls
    Clear from her grave: nought but the pedestals
Belong to Christ: the carven shapes above
Still breathe and smile with life of ancient Love.
Related posts:

Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Civil Discord

Publilius Syrus 680 (tr. J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff):
Discord mid citizens is the foeman's chance.

Seditio civium hostium est occasio.
Horace, Odes 3.6.13-14 (tr. Niall Rudd):
Occupied with internecine feuds, the capital has been almost destroyed by the Ethiopian and the Dacian.

paene occupatam seditionibus
delevit urbem Dacus et Aethiops.


No Escape

Homer, Iliad 11.451 (vaunt of Odysseus over the body of Sokos; tr. Peter Green):
The end of death overtook you, you couldn't escape it!

φθῆ σε τέλος θανάτοιο κιχήμενον, οὐδ᾽ ὑπάλυξας.
It could be a line from an epitaph.

Monday, September 25, 2023


Belching of John the Evangelist

Augustine, Sermons 20A.8 (Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, vol. 41, p. 272; tr. Edmund Hill, with his notes):
Which John? The one, brothers, whom the Lord loved more than the rest, who reclined on his breast,16 who drank from his breast what he himself belched forth17 in the gospel. It's the very John who said, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was made nothing (Jn 1:1-3). A great belching—but first there had been a great drinking! Do you enjoy what he belches out? See where he drank from. He was reclining on the Lord's breast. At that banquet he had drunk everything that he was to belch forth so felicitously in the gospel.

16. See Jn 13:23.
17. In English "belching" is not a nice word, and metaphorically only used of such things as chimneys belching forth smoke. But in the Latin of Augustine's time it was a nice word, possibly because belching after a meal was correct etiquette, as still today in certain Oriental cultures. I have to keep it here (though otherwise I would have translated it by something like "gushed forth"), because of his comment immediately after the quotation, where he quite obviously is presenting us with the image of a doughty pot-man belching.

Qui Ioannes? Ille, fratres, quem dominus prae ceteris diligebat, qui super pectus domini recumbebat, qui de pectore eius bibit quod in euangelio ructavit. Ipse est Ioannes qui dixit: In principio erat uerbum, et uerbum erat apud deum, et deus erat uerbum. Hoc erat in principio apud deum. Omnia per ipsum facta sunt, et sine ipso factum est nihil. Magna ructatio, sed prior erat magna potatio. Delectat quod ructat? Vide unde bibit. Super pectus domini discumbebat, in conuiuio illo haec omnia biberat quae in euangelio magna felicitate ructabat.

Sunday, September 24, 2023



Corpus Parisinum 196 (tr. Denis Searby):
Natural wealth is complete when you have bread and water and simple covering for the body. Superfluous wealth, however, contains a boundless agony of desire in its heart.

Ὁ κατὰ φύσιν πλοῦτος ἄρτῳ καὶ ὕδατι καὶ τῇ τυχούσῃ τοῦ σώµατος σκέπῃ συµπεπλήρωται· ὁ δὲ περιττὸς κατὰ ψυχὴν ἀπέραντον ἔχει καὶ τὴν τῆς ἐπιθυµίας βάσανον.
As I've said before, I would like my bread to be a freshly baked baguette and my water to be chilled San Pellegrino served in Waterford crystal, please.


Plautine Wordplay

Plautus, Stichus. Trinummus. Truculentus. Tale of a Travelling Bag. Fragments. Edited and translated by Wolfgang de Melo (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013 = Loeb Classical Library, 328), pp. 294-297 (Truculentus 262-264):
AST comprime sis eiram.
TRVC    eam quidem hercle tu, quae solita es, comprime,
impudens, quae per ridiculum rustico suades stuprum.
AST “eiram” dixi: ut decepisti! dempsisti unam litteram.

262 eam P, meam A, eram Spengel

AST Do keep your distress in check.
TRVC No, you, who are used to doing it, keep your mistress in check,10 you shameless creature! You jokingly advise a country lad to have sex.
AST I said “distress”: how you’ve tricked me! You’ve changed one letter.

10 The word ira, “anger, distress,” originally contained the diphthong ei in its first syllable; in Plautus’ day the diphthong was still written and possibly still pronounced, though it is more likely that in pronunciation it had already developed into a closed ē. Truculentus (probably deliberately) misunderstands the word as ĕra, “mistress,” which leads to a different interpretation of comprimere: Astaphium had intended the meaning “keep in check, control,” whereas Truculentus interprets it as “keep in check, rape.” In the Latin, Astaphium goes on to say that Truculentus removed one letter (eiraera); in the translation this is rendered as “changing one letter” (distressmistress).
In line 262, de Melo put the manuscript reading eam into his Latin text, but translated Spengel's conjecture eram. The conjecture, evidently approved by de Melo, belongs in the Latin text. I might also note in the critical apparatus that the spelling eiram (262, 264) is due to Geppert—the manuscripts have iram.


Saturday, September 23, 2023


A Joke

Augustine, Sermons 18.1 (Patrologia Latina, vol. XXXVIII, col. 129; tr. Edmund Hill):
Now, you see, when God's commandments are recited, they are treated by some people as a joke. Because what God has promised is not yet forthcoming, and what he threatens is not yet to be seen, what he commands is jeered at. Now, you see, what we call the good luck of this world is enjoyed by bad people too; and what we call this world's hard luck is suffered by good people too. People who only believe what they can see with their eyes and believe nothing about the future notice that the good things and bad things of this present age are indiscriminately the lot of good and bad people. If their desire is for riches, they see that both the worst of people and good people have riches. They also see, if they have a horror of poverty and the miseries of this life, that it is not only good people who are caught in the toils of these miseries but also bad people. And they say in their heart of hearts that God is neither interested in nor in control of human affairs, but has utterly abandoned us in this world as in some kind of rock-bottom dump to be the playthings of chance, and makes no provision for us whatever.

modo enim quando dicuntur praecepta Dei, quibusdam in risum veniunt. et quoniam quod promisit Deus modo non ostenditur, et quod minatur modo non videtur, quod praecipit irridetur. modo enim felicitatem quae dicitur mundi huius, habent et mali; infelicitatem quae dicitur mundi huius, habent et boni. attendunt homines qui credunt praesentia et non credunt futura, quoniam ista bona et mala praesentis saeculi promiscue habentur a bonis et malis. si divitias optant, vident habere divitias et pessimos homines et bonos homines. vident etiam, si exhorrent paupertatem et miserias huius saeculi, laborare in his miseriis non solum bonos, sed etiam malos. et dicunt in corde suo, quia res humanas Deus nec respicit nec regit, sed omnino in intimo quodam fundo mundi huius dimisit nos casibus volvi, nec aliquam providentiam exhibet nobis.


One Small Poor Dog

George Borrow, Lavengro, chapter XV:
So I studied French and Italian under the tuition of the banished priest, to whose house I went regularly every evening to receive instruction. I made considerable progress in the acquisition of the two languages. I found the French by far the most difficult, chiefly on account of the accent, which my master himself possessed in no great purity, being a Norman by birth. The Italian was my favourite.

"Vous serez un jour un grand philologue, mon cher," said the old man, on our arriving at the conclusion of Dante's Hell.

"I hope I shall be something better," said I, "before I die, or I shall have lived to little purpose."

"That's true, my dear! philologist—one small poor dog."


Not a Bit Funny?

Charles T. Murphy, "Popular Comedy in Aristophanes," American Journal of Philology 93.1 (January, 1972) 169-189 (at 171):
More prolonged and less palatable to modern taste is the easing-scene in Ecc., 311-71. Here Blepyrus, husband of Praxagora, the leader of the Greek Women's Liberation Movement, comes out of the house in his wife's clothes: she has sneaked out with his clothes to attend the Ecclesia, dressed as a man. He has had a violent attack of diarrhea, and proceeds to defecate on stage, and discusses his predicament with a friend for all of 60 lines. The scene, to be sure, introduces one of the leading characters and shows the straits to which he has been reduced by his wife. But it is intolerably long and vulgar, and not (to most modern tastes) a bit funny.
In this scene from Aristophanes' Women at the Assembly (Ecclesiazusae), Blepyrus suffers from constipation, not diarrhea.

To me, it's one of the funniest passages (pun intended, Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. passage, senses I.1.8 and IV.13) that I've ever read. I wish I could see it performed on stage. It ranks up there with Gargantua's search for the perfect arse-wipe and the episode in which Sancho Panza defecates in the dark right under Don Quixote's nose.

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Friday, September 22, 2023


A Comical Compound

Aristophanes, Clouds 332:
K.J. Dover ad loc.:
-αργο- (cf. 316 n.) and -κομήτας (cf. 14 n.) are plain enough. σφραγίς is 'seal' (commonly set in a ring), and ὄνυξ can mean the gem 'onyx'. This was used in signet-rings, as we see from IG ii2.1338.86 (cf. i2.282.128), and if that is the meaning here σφραγιδονυχαργοκομῆται are well-to-do, fashionable idlers who wear valuable rings. But they are keeping odd company, and we should consider the commoner meaning of ὄνυξ, 'fingernail'; the reference is then to unkempt creatures, like the Socratics, whose only 'seal' is the marks they can make on wax with their nails. Ar., I think, intends a pun, and Socrates can make the point clear by a gesture with his forefinger.
S. Douglas Olson ad loc.:
"seal-ring-fingernail-lazy-longhairs", i.e. wealthy people (cf. 14n.) who have possessions valuable enough to keep under seal and whose nails are unbroken because they do no hard physical labor.



Augustine, Sermons 17.1 (Patrologia Latina, vol. XXXVIII, col. 124; tr. Edmund Hill):
He's not silent. What we have to do is hear him—but with the ears of the heart, because it's easy to hear with these ones of gristle. We ought to hear with the kind of ears the master himself was looking for when he said Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear (Mt 13:9). When he said that, were there any standing in front of him without a pair of ears on their head? They all had ears, and only a few of them had ears. They didn't all have ears to hear, that is, to obey, to take to heart.

non silet. opus est ut nos audiamus, sed aure cordis, nam facile est audire carnis. illis auribus audire debemus, quas quaerebat magister ipse cum diceret: qui habet aures audiendi audiat (Matth. XIII, 9). quis enim ante illum, quando ista dicebat, sine auribus carnis stabat? omnes aures habebant, et pauci habebant. non omnes habebant aures audiendi, hoc est, obediendi.


Contrition Etc.

Edmund Hill, "Religious Translation," Blackfriars Vol. 37, No. 430 (January 1956) 19-25 (at 22):
Contrition is an example of those many words whose meaning, though accurate enough, is poor and colourless compared with what they signify in Latin. It is a technical word for sorrow for sin. Many people, perhaps, who could well manage to be really and truly sorry for their sins, find the complicated business of making a perfect act of contrition too much for them. The Latin word means literally crushing or grinding or bruising; but the English ear, taking the metaphorical sense for the proper one, misses the metaphor completely, and metaphor is the very sap of an effective religious language. 'Make a good act of contrition while I give you absolution'; what would be wrong, except that it would be unfamiliar, with saying, 'Try and bruise your heart for your sins' (or simply 'Be really sorry for your sins'), 'while I untie you from them'?
Id. (at 25):
There is a fetish here that needs exorcising, called Dignity of Language. By all means keep it where it is found in the original, as in St Leo's sermons for example, or the canon of the Mass. But not all, nor yet the greatest, religious works are written in dignified language. To impose elevated diction on St Augustine's sermons or even on the Gospels is to mistranslate them. 'Peace, be still' is a beautiful dignified phrase. But what our Lord actually said to the wind and the sea was literally 'Be gagged, be quiet'; much nearer the undignified but vigorous shut up of colloquial English. If street smells have invaded the original, do not drive them out with incense from the translation.
Mark 4:39:
σιώπα, πεφίμωσο
Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, rev. Frederick William Danker, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 1060, s.v. φιμόω:

Thursday, September 21, 2023


Belief in Progress

Edmund Hill, "Muddying the Waters or — A Book for Babel," New Blackfriars, Vol. 59, No. 692 (January 1978) 21-31 (at 22):
And so we get a naive, and really rather old-fashioned, belief in progress. "Before modern scriptural studies, theologians were unable to appreciate what a gospel is" (p. 158/9). 1900 years of Christianity without anyone knowing what a gospel is! For it appears that what the gospels are was forgotten almost as soon as they were written. Why didn't the evangelists tell anyone, for God's sake? The mind boggles at the ignorance of our ancestors in the faith, generation after generation of them. Thank heaven for being born in the 20th century, the age of water-closets, jet aeroplanes, and the appreciation of what a gospel is!
Hill's article is a review of Peter De Rosa, Jesus Who Became Christ (London: Collins, 1975).


Confidence in Novelty

Cassius Dio 6.24.1 (tr. Earnest Cary):
Human nature is for some reason accustomed in trouble to scorn what is familiar, even though it be divine, and to admire the untried. For, believing that they are not helped by the former in their present difficulty, men expect no benefit from it in the future either; but from what is strange they hope to accomplish whatever they may desire, by reason of its novelty.

φιλεῖ γάρ πως τὸ ἀνθρώπειον ἐν ταῖς συμφοραῖς τοῦ μὲν συνήθους, κἂν θεῖον ᾖ, καταφρονεῖν, τὸ δὲ ἀπείρατον θαυμάζειν. παρ᾽ ἐκείνου μὲν γὰρ ἅτε μηδὲν ἐς τὸ παρὸν ὠφελεῖσθαι νομίζοντες οὐδὲ ἐς τὸ ἔπειτα χρηστὸν οὐδὲν προσδέχονται, παρὰ δὲ δὴ τοῦ ξένου πᾶν ὅσον ἂν ἐθελήσωσιν ὑπὸ τῆς καινοτομίας ἐλπίζουσιν.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023


The Gift of Clear Sight

Homer, Iliad 5.127-128 (Athena to Diomedes; tr. A.T. Murray):
And the mist moreover have I taken from thine eyes that afore was upon them,
to the end that thou mayest well discern both god and man.

ἀχλὺν δ᾽ αὖ τοι ἀπ᾽ ὀφθαλμῶν ἕλον, ἣ πρὶν ἐπῆεν,
ὄφρ᾽ εὖ γιγνώσκῃς ἠμὲν θεὸν ἠδὲ καὶ ἄνδρα.
See Derek Collins, "The Magic of Homeric Verses," Classical Philology 103.3 (July 2008) 211-236 (passim).

Edgar Allan Poe quoted from line 127 in the second paragraph of his short story "The Man of the Crowd," but he seems to have thought that ἀχλύς was masculine (it's feminine):
For some months I had been ill in health, but was now convalescent, and, with returning strength, found myself in one of those happy moods which are so precisely the converse of ennui — moods of the keenest appetency, when the film from the mental vision departs — the αχλυς ος πριν επηεν — and the intellect, electrified, surpasses as greatly its every-day condition, as does the vivid yet candid reason of Leibnitz, the mad and flimsy rhetoric of Gorgias.


At War Against Facts

Epicurus, Letter to Pythocles (Diogenes Laertius 10.96; tr. Cyril Bailey):
For if one is in opposition to clear-seen facts, he can never have his part in true peace of mind.

ἣν γάρ τις ᾖ μαχόμενος τοῖς ἐναργήμασιν, οὐδέποτε μὴ δυνήσεται ἀταραξίας γνησίου μεταλαβεῖν.


Word Order

S. Douglas Olson, Aristophanes' Clouds: A Commentary (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2021), p. 100 (on line 258):
πάντας ταῦτα is a suggestion by the mid-18th-century German scholar Johann Jakob Reiske (primarily an Arabist) for the manuscripts’ flat πάντα ταῦτα (all witnesses but EK, which have πάντα ταῦτα, supporting the idea that that was the original word order).
For "flat πάντα ταῦτα" read "flat ταῦτα πάντα".


Tuesday, September 19, 2023


Summary of Vendryes' Book on Language (click once or twice to enlarge):
The book is Joseph Vendryes, Language: A Linguistic Introduction to History, tr. Paul Radin (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., 1925), and the summary on Google Books is:
Shows safety procedures to prevent injury when working with electricity. Stresses alertness, planning, removal of potential hazards and good housekeeping.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.



Think Differently

S. Douglas Olson, Aristophanes' Clouds: A Commentary (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2021), p. 95 (on line 215):
μετα-φροντίζετε (“think differently!”) is a conjecture by Richard Bentley, the great—and famously difficult—18th-century British classical scholar (cf. 1401 and 1418 for more of his emendations). The manuscripts have the clumsy πάνυ φροντίζετε (“really think!”; cf. 211-13n.), and Bentley’s suggestion is based on (1) the gloss μεταβουλεύεσθε in the scholia to R, the oldest manuscript of the play; (2) μέγα βουλεύεσθε (“think a big thought!”) in the quotation of the line in the Suda (an enormous 10th-century Byzantine dictionary incorporating much older material), where MEΓA seems to represent an error for META dating back to a period when the text was still written in capital letters. LSJ omits the verb (attested nowhere else), since it had not yet been generally accepted into the text of Aristophanes when the dictionary was compiled in the late 19th century.
I checked the J in LSJ (the 1940 supplement), just to make sure, and μεταφροντίζω isn't there. It's likewise absent from Franco Montanari, The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek (Leiden: Brill, 1995). It does appear in The Cambridge Greek Lexicon, Vol. II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021), p. 926, with the annotation "cj." N.G. Wilson adopts Bentley's conjecture in his Oxford Classical Text edition of Aristophanes (vol. I, p. 145), but doesn't discuss the line in his Aristophanea: Studies on the Text of Aristophanes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). K.J. Dover ad loc. thinks that Aristophanes coined the word. I don't know if anyone has noticed that μεταφροντίζεις appears in the ancient scholia to Aristophanes, Wealth 358: see M. Chantry, ed., Scholia Vetera in Aristophanis Plutum (Groningen: Egbert Forster, 1994), p. 77.


A Treasured Copy of Diogenes Laertius

From Alan Crease:

Your post on Diogenes Laertius reminded me of a little copy that I have treasured for nearly 50 years without ever having read it.

I wanted to show you it because its annotations are the reason that I must have bought it. I have made a short clip of me leafing through it and I have attached what I discovered about its previous owners. This is my little tribute to them as a laudator temporis acti. I doubt if the average undergraduate student today has heard of DL, let alone read him though with such dedication in a tiny copy with no apparent access to a translation. See the attachment for details of the two names mentioned on the cover.

My video clip


Unhealthy Interest in the Affairs of Other People

Norman Douglas (1868-1952), Experiments (New York: Robert M. McBride & Company, 1925), pp. 254-255:
Now this personality-mongering is a nuisance which has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished. It is not only bad literature but bad breeding. You can hardly pick up any volume by a member of this school without finding therein caricatures of some acquaintance—all unfavourably drawn and derided not with frank wit or invective or mockery or Rabelaisian laughter, but with that squeaky suburban chuckle which is characteristic of an age of eunuchs. And if they are momentarily at a loss for friends to distort, they indulge in airing their own private sensations—a mild form of exhibitionism—with a shamelessness that reminds one of nothing so much as a female dog. Questionable taste! It seems to me that even such a writing man should have some manners, some reserve, though his mentality be of the non-human order and his ethos immeasurably inferior to that of the butcher or grocer; that if he cannot respect his neighbours, he ought at least to respect himself. But he has forgotten what self-respect means; everything is grist to his mill—including himself; and it is no use appealing to his better nature, since he has no nature at all; he is a cloaca maxima for the discharge of objectionable personalities.

The ridiculous compilation known as "Who's Who" has done a good deal towards fostering this unhealthy interest in the affairs of other people. That Sir Edmund Gosse happens to write good books is no reason why the public should be informed how much he pays his scullery-maid; and what on earth does it matter to any one, save himself and his friends, what his favourite indoor amusements are—whether he prefers bridge to baccarat, or ping-pong to dominoes? Vastly offensive, this prying and rapacious meddlesomeness. But I fear we shall never have a revulsion of feeling against such snobbishly genteel hankerings. They are part of that universal levelling-down process for which the education-of-people-who-ought-never-to-be-educated is responsible.
Id., pp. 256-257:
Certainly it is an anomalous state of affairs that respectable folk should be at the mercy of a band of dirt-throwers who are coining money at their expense; it suggests that in such matters of literary ethics we might do worse than return to the more gentlemanlike standard of the Victorians, though we shall obviously never have real manners, either in literature or in society, until duelling becomes popular again. Duelling would soon put an end to these caddish arts and to several other inconveniences as well; there would be no more low-class allusions to living people in novels or newspapers or memoirs if their authors realised that by next morning they might have half a yard of cold steel in their gizzards.


Democritus on Friendship

Democritus, fragment 98 (tr. Kathleen Freeman):
The friendship of one intelligent man is better than that of all the unintelligent.

ἑνὸς φιλίη ξυνετοῦ κρέσσων ἀξυνέτων πάντων.
For parallels see M. Marcovich, Heraclitus: Greek Text with a Short Commentary. Editio Maior (Merida: The Los Andes University Press, 1967), pp. 515-518 (on Heraclitus, fragment 49).


Different Interpretations

Augustine, Sermons 7.3 (Patrologia Latina, vol. XXXVIII, cols. 63-64; tr. Edmund Hill):
There are two opinions which can be put forward about it, of which either may be true, since they both fit the faith. When I say that either may be true, I mean whichever of them was intended by the writer. When we are searching the scriptures, we may of course understand them in a way in which the writer perhaps did not; but what we should never do is understand them in a way which does not square with the rule of faith, with the rule of truth, with the rule of piety. So I am offering you both opinions. There may be yet a third which escapes me. Anyway, of these two propositions, choose whichever you like.

duae autem sunt sententiae, quae hinc proferri possunt, quarum quaelibet vera sit, ambae secundum fidem sunt. quod dixi, quaenam earum vera sit, hoc dixi, quidnam eorum senserit qui scripsit. nam quando nos inquirentes scripturas sentimus aliquid quod scriptor forte non sensit, non tamen hoc sentire debemus, quod abhorreat a regula fidei, a regula veritatis, a regula pietatis. ergo ambas sententias propono. sit fortassis et tertia quae me latet. ex his autem duabus propositis, eligite quam volueritis.

Monday, September 18, 2023



Ezra Pound, letter to W.H.D. Rouse (June 13, 1935):
The chief impression in reading Homer is freshness. Whether illusion or not, this is the classic quality. 3000 years old and still fresh.


Like Cattle in a Pen

Norman Douglas (1868-1952), Experiments (New York: Robert M. McBride & Company, 1925), p. 22:
Here we sit, huddled together like cattle in a pen, each one duly labelled as to his potential worth to the community, and controlled by a horde of guardians so increasingly large that the shepherds will presently outnumber the sheep. Blissful sight! What is everybody doing? A person who has tangled himself into so ignoble a knot as to think our present state of affairs a desirable, or respectable, or endurable one, who feels thoroughly at home among the malodorous crowd and bows the head to all its humiliating extortions and conventions—what shall be done to such a product of civilisation? Pitch him into the Empty Quarter! Deserts have their uses. The desert may yet make a man of him.


The Importance of Planning

Herodotus 8.60 (Themistocles speaking; tr. Robin Waterfield):
It is sound planning that invariably earns us the outcome we want; without it, even the gods are unlikely to look with favour on our designs.

οἰκότα μέν νυν βουλευομένοισι ἀνθρώποισι ὡς τὸ ἐπίπαν ἐθέλει γίνεσθαι· μὴ δὲ οἰκότα βουλευομένοισι οὐκ ἐθέλει οὐδὲ ὁ θεὸς προσχωρέειν πρὸς τὰς ἀνθρωπηίας γνώμας.
E.S. Shuckburgh ad loc.:
ὡς τὸ ἐπίπαν 'as a general rule'. The full sentence is οἰκότα βουλευομένοισι οἰκότα ἐθέλει γίνεσθαι ‘to reasonable plans reasonable success usually comes'. ἐθέλει 'is wont', cp. 7, 157 τῷ εὖ βουλευθέντι πρήγματι τελευτὴ ὡς τὸ ἐπίπαν χρηστὴ ἐθέλει ἐπιγίνεσθαι.

οὐδὲ ὁ θεὸς.....γνώμας 'but when men counsel ill heaven itself is not wont either to further human designs'.


Parchment or Paper?

Clare Watson, "We've Been Misreading a Major Law of Physics For The Past 300 Years," ScienceAlert (14 September 2023):
When Isaac Newton inscribed onto parchment his now-famed laws of motion in 1687, he could have only hoped we'd be discussing them three centuries later.

Writing in Latin, Newton outlined three universal principles describing how the motion of objects is governed in our Universe, which have been translated, transcribed, discussed and debated at length.

But according to a philosopher of language and mathematics, we might have been interpreting Newton's precise wording of his first law of motion slightly wrong all along.

Virginia Tech philosopher Daniel Hoek wanted to "set the record straight" after discovering what he describes as a "clumsy mistranslation" in the original 1729 English translation of Newton's Latin Principia.
Newton did on occasion make notes on parchment — see e.g. Richard S. Westfall, The Life of Isaac Newton (1993; rpt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 49. But the passage in question was written on paper, as can be seen at

Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who did all the work.


Sunday, September 17, 2023


More Deserts, Fewer Men

Norman Douglas (1868-1952), Experiments (New York: Robert M. McBride & Company, 1925), p. 16:
The world is growing too narrow; congested, and crammed with unpleasantness and deified "masses"; we gasp for fresh air; more deserts, fewer men.
Id., pp. 17-18:
Industrialism has been raised to a bad eminence. We do well to take note of certain venerable strains in our being that call for a different environment; our teachers should recognise the inspirational value of self-communion in lonely places. There is in most of us a lyric germ or nucleus which deserves respect; it bids a man ponder, or create; and in this dim corner of himself he can take refuge and find consolations which the society of his fellow-creatures does not provide. The obscure anti-social or disruptive instinct to be alone, which haunts us chiefly in youth, should not be thwarted as it is; for solitude has a refining and tonic influence; there we wrestle with our thoughts and set them in order; there we nurture the imagination and sow the seeds of character. A person who hears nothing of that "subtle harmony" because his ears are belaboured day and night by the clash of other men's voices will never attain to any remarkable depth or insight. Now those places where the spirit loves to dwell are made to minister to the wants of an ever-increasing humanity, the nymphs are driven from the woodlands, and deserts irrigated, and everything scientifically explored and exploited.


View at Lunch Today

Click once or twice to enlarge.
Hat tip: Mrs. Laudator, photographer.


Pythagoras Is Calling You

Lucian, Demonax 14 (tr. A.M. Harmon, with his notes):
When the Sidonian sophist1 was once showing his powers at Athens, and was voicing his own praise to the effect that he was acquainted with all philosophy—but I may as well cite his very words: "If Aristotle calls me to the Lyceum, I shall go with him; if Plato calls me to the Academy, I shall come; if Zeno calls, I shall spend my time in the Stoa; if Pythagoras calls, I shall hold my tongue."2 Well, Demonax arose in the midst of the audience and said: "Ho" (addressing him by name), "Pythagoras is calling you!"

1Otherwise unknown.
2 Alluding to the Pythagorean vow of silence.

Τοῦ δὲ Σιδωνίου ποτὲ σοφιστοῦ Ἀθήνησιν εὐδοκιμοῦντος καὶ λέγοντος ὑπὲρ αὑτοῦ ἔπαινόν τινα τοιοῦτον, ὅτι πάσης φιλοσοφίας πεπείραται—οὐ χεῖρον δὲ αὐτὰ εἰπεῖν ἃ ἔλεγεν· Ἐὰν Ἀριστοτέλης με καλῇ ἐπὶ τὸ Λύκειον, ἕψομαι· ἂν Πλάτων ἐπὶ τὴν Ἀκαδημίαν, ἀφίξομαι· ἂν Ζήνων, ἐν τῇ Ποικίλῃ διατρίψω· ἂν Πυθαγόρας καλῇ, σιωπήσομαι. ἀναστὰς οὖν ἐκ μέσων τῶν ἀκροωμένων, Οὗτος, ἔφη προσειπὼν τὸ ὄνομα, καλεῖ σε Πυθαγόρας.
For some reason this reminds me of Pliny, Letters 6.15.2 (tr. Betty Radice):
[Passennius] Paulus was giving a public reading and began by saying "You bid me, Priscus———" at which Javolenus Priscus, who was present as a great friend of Paulus, exclaimed "Indeed I don't!" You can imagine the laughter and witticisms which greeted this remark.

Is cum recitaret, ita coepit dicere: 'Prisce, iubes…'. Ad hoc Iavolenus Priscus (aderat enim ut Paulo amicissimus): 'Ego vero non iubeo.' Cogita qui risus hominum, qui ioci.


Happy Farts?

Aristophanes, Wealth 176 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
And isn't he the source of Agyrrhius' happy farts?

Ἀγύρριος δ᾿ οὐχὶ διὰ τοῦτον πέρδεται;
There is no "happy" in the Greek. Literally the line means, "And doesn't Agyrrhius fart because of him (sc. Wealth)?"

It's true that a character in Aristophanes can fart out of cheerful exuberance, as at Peace 335 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein): "I'm glad, I'm happy, I fart, I laugh" (ἥδομαι γὰρ καὶ γέγηθα καὶ πέπορδα καὶ γελῶ), but to introduce the notion of happiness into Wealth 176 is to mislead the Greekless reader, however slightly.

The ancient scholia explain the farting thus: a wealthy person is able to eat his full, and someone who eats to repletion is prone to fart. See M. Chantry, ed., Scholia Vetera in Aristophanis Plutum (Groningen: Egbert Forster, 1994), p. 39.

On Agyrrhius, who may have been in the audience, see Sommerstein ad loc.:


Saturday, September 16, 2023


A Common Trick

Basil L. Gildersleeve, review of Hermann Usener, Epicurea (Leipzig: Teubner, 1887), in American Journal of Philology 9.2 (1888) 229-231 (at 229-230):
Why, those who have called Diogenes [Laertius] a miserable compiler or an unqualified ass have done him too much honor. D. did not rise even to the dignity of being a copyist; he merely hired other people to copy for him, and on the strength of this literary activity took to himself the glory of authorship. In those days a man bought books as one buys wines, and decanted them as one decants wines, not without mixing vintages and blending manufactures. It was a common trick of the times to take what we should call text-books or manuals, add, cut out, change, and then publish them again under new titles as new books. Galen complains of it as Tertullian complains of it, and how justifiable these complaints were is shown by specimens of this doctoring process taken from the Laertian life of Plato, and from that part of book X which forms the setting of the Third Moral Epistle of Epicurus. In the latter case our friend, whom we will continue to call Laertius, sent to the shop a lot of 'copy,' consisting of a number of 'books' on the history of philosophy. This work belonged to a much earlier period, say to the time of Nero or the Flavii, and was addressed to some Neronian blue-stocking like Pamphila or to some of the concumbentes Graece of Juvenal. Together with this work were sent four compositions by Epicurus himself, and also a scholarly epitome of the Duties of the Sage according to Epicurus. The wild medley that ensued is what we have in our texts. But let us forgive Diogenes for the sake of the precious letters of Epicurus, without which we should be debarred from access to the esoteric discipline of the school.
"Concumbentes Graece of Juvenal" is a reference to Juvenal 6.191 (concumbunt Graece)..


Follow the Phenomena

Epicurus, Letter to Pythocles (Diogenes Laertius 10.86-87; tr. Cyril Bailey):
For we must not conduct scientific investigation by means of empty assumptions and arbitrary principles, but follow the lead of phenomena: for our life has not now any place for irrational belief and groundless imaginings, but we must live free from trouble.

οὐ γὰρ κατὰ ἀξιώματα κενὰ καὶ νομοθεσίας φυσιολογητέον, ἀλλ ̓ ὡς τὰ φαινόμενα ἐκκαλεῖται· οὐ γὰρ ἤδη ἀλογίας καὶ κενῆς δόξης ὁ βίος ἡμῶν ἔχει χρείαν, ἀλλὰ τοῦ ἀθορύβως ἡμᾶς ζῆν.


The Tragedian of Modernity

Ezra Pound, "Paris Letter: August, 1922," The Dial 73 (July-December, 1922) 332-337 (at 332-333):
If a reader cannot understand a masterpiece solely by looking at it or reading it or hearing it, no amount of philology or of biographical data will help him. There is a legitimate art of biography, and were it not for the unfortunate occurrence of Ste-Beuves and their followers this art might be kept properly in its own territory. Second-rate minds of this type cannot endure the idea of any one's having a more interesting mentality than their own; they must be for ever proving that the "great author" had wash lists, tonsilitis, and carpet-slippers. The actual production of the work of art is usually the one thing which distinguishes its maker from let us say six dozen other old gentlemen with checquered waistcoats, and the only possible means for proving his temperamental and cerebral difference. But the work itself may give the skilled reader a fairly good idea of the author, and one is not in the least surprised to find that Flaubert when over fifty, impoverished himself to save a nephew-in-law from bankruptcy. It is the kind of thing a man who wrote as Flaubert wrote, would do, and René Descharmes in his Autour de Bouvard et Pécuchet (Librairie de France; 99, Bd. Raspail) has treated a subject of both literary and biographic interest, without falling into the Ste-Beuvian slough. Flaubert's last book is unfinished, and such knowledge as can be gathered regarding his state of mind while at work on it, aids in the more or less useless but by no means uninteresting conjecture as to how he would have completed it. Descharmes shows that the actions ascribed to the protagonists would have filled up at least thirty years, and this gives us the measure of how little Flaubert had revised or pulled together his separate chapters. He presumably intended his old chaps to remain at some more uniform age. Descharmes has examined their alleged reading, Amoros' gymnastics, Feinaigle's mnemotechnic, et cetera, and shows that Flaubert in no way exaggerated the probable effects of the diet.

Perhaps the chief use of such a book as Descharmes' is that it sends one back to the text, that series of island paragraphs marvellously clear and condensed. More and more we come to consider Flaubert as the great tragic writer, not the vaunted and perfect stylist. I mean that he is the tragedian of democracy, of modernity. We are not, most of us, faced with the problem of whether or no we should kill General Pershing in his bath; at most an undignified puerile desire to kick Lloyd or Woodrow dans le derrière, follows the morning editorial. More than Dostoevsky, Flaubert presents the inevitable and quotidian. A tragedy that can be avoided by a single flash of common sense, or by a momentary outbreak of the Dickensian Christmas spirit, is good only for one reading. Flaubert with his "generalization," his avoidance of the anecdotal, and accidental, has in each of his four works on temporary subjects given everyman; nothing that any character will do will alter his case; the whole thing is there and stays as long as human limitations are human limitations.

I doubt if this impression is strengthened by reading the biography of the ten years after 1870, the years during which Bouvard was written. Civilization, as Flaubert had known it, appeared to be foundering; Gautier died, as Flaubert wrote, "suffocated by modern stupidity," and Flaubert thinking of Gautier feels "as if a tide of filth" were rising around him and submerging him. This tide of immondices must be considered as messy thought, general muddle. "We pay for the long deceit in which we have lived, everything was false, false army, false politics, and false credit." "The present is abominable, and the future ferocious." So run the phrases of his correspondence.

Friday, September 15, 2023


Democritus on Self-Praise

Democritus, fragment 114 (tr. Kathleen Freeman):
It is better to be praised by another than by oneself.

βέλτερον ὑφ᾿ ἑτέρου ἢ ὑφ᾿ ἑαυτοῦ ἐπαινέεσθαι.
In other words, don't go around saying "I know more than most people know" or "I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do" or "I'm, like, a really smart person."

Related posts:



Plautus, Captivi 768-771 (the parasite Ergasilus speaking; tr. Wolfgang de Melo):
Great Jupiter, you save me, prosper my property,
and bring me huge and lavish prosperity,
praise, profit, pleasure, laughter, liveliness, and leisure,
a parade of dishes, provisions, parties for drinking, fullness, joy.

Iuppiter supreme, servas me measque auges opes,
maximas opimitates opiparasque offers mihi,
laudem, lucrum, ludum, iocum, festivitatem, ferias,
pompam, penum, potationes. saturitatem, gaudium.
The same, tr. Erich Segal, Roman Laughter: The Comedy of Plautus, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 207:
Jupiter Supreme, you are my guardian and prosperer,
You have blessed me with superbly super sumptuosities,
Praise and profit, jokes and fun — a festival of feasting full,
Pastry on parade, potations — all the joys of partying.

Thursday, September 14, 2023


For the Benefit of Humanity

Katharina Mommsen, Goethe's Art of Living, tr. John Crosetto et al. (Victoria: Katharina Mommsen Press, 2003), p. 29:
Faced with restrictions and obstacles to his good intentions he encountered at court and in political circles, Goethe sighed over the discrepancy between wishing and achieving in his letter of March 6, 1780 to his Weimar friend, Carl F. von Knebel: "In youth one is confident that one can build palaces for humanity and when it comes to it, one has one's hands full to clear out their dung."
The recipient of the letter wasn't von Knebel—it was Johann Kaspar Lavater. Here is the German:
In der Jugend traut man sich zu daß man den Menschen Palläste bauen könne und wenn's um und an kömmt so hat man alle Hände voll zu thun um ihren Mist beiseite bringen zu können.



God Is Not That

Augustine, Sermons 4.5 (Patrologia Latina, vol. XXXVIII, col. 35; tr. Edmund Hill):
Don't picture to yourself some great big beautiful person. God is not confined in human shape. He is not contained in a place, he is not bounded by space. Don't picture God to yourself as made of gold. God is not that. God himself made the gold you want to make God of, and feeble stuff it is, being on earth. Don't put it to yourself that God is anything like what you see in the sky, whether sun or moon or stars or anything that shines and glitters in the sky. God is not that.

Non tibi facias hominem aliquem grandem et pulchrum: non circumscribitur humana forma Deus; non continetur loco, non tenetur spatio. Non tibi facias quasi aureum Deum: non hoc est Deus. Nam aurum, unde tibi vis facere Deum, Deus ipse fecit; et hoc infirmum, quia in terra. Non tibi proponas, quia aliquid tale est Deus, quale vides in coelo, vel lunam, vel solem, vel sidera vel quidquid fulget et splendet in coelo: non hoc est Deus.
Related post: Questions and Answers.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023


Cause of Death

Galen, Avoiding Distress 7 (tr. Vivian Nutton):
... Philistides the grammarian wasted away and died of depression and distress at the loss of his books in the fire ...

... Φιλι<στ>ίδης μὲν ὁ γραμματικός, ἀπολομένων αὐτῷ τῶν βιβλίων κατὰ <τὴν> πυρκαϊάν, ἀπὸ δυσθυμίας καὶ λύπης διεφθάρη συντακείς ...


Civic Duty

Goethe, "Bürgerpflicht," Zahme Xenien (6. März 1832; my translation):
Let each one sweep in front of his own door,
And clean is each quarter of the city.
Let each one con his own lesson,
So will it stand well in the town council.

Ein jeder kehre vor seiner Thür,
Und rein ist jedes Stadtquartier.
Ein jeder übe sein' Lektion,
So wird es gut im Rate stohn.
stohn = stehen.

Cf. Dichtung und Wahrheit, Buch XII:
... im Frieden der Patriotismus eigentlich nur darin besteht, daß jeder vor seiner Thüre kehre, seines Amtes warte, auch seine Lection lerne, damit es wohl im Hause stehe ...



Democritus, fragment 223 (tr. Kathleen Freeman):
The things needed by the body are available to all without toil and trouble. But the things which require toil and trouble and which make life disagreeable are not desired by the body but by the ill-constitution of the mind.

ὧν τὸ σκῆνος χρῄζει, πᾶσι πάρεστιν εὐμαρέως ἄτερ μόχθου καὶ ταλαιπωρίης· ὁκόσα δὲ μόχθου καὶ ταλαιπωρίης χρῄζει καὶ βίον ἀλγύνει, τούτων οὐκ ἱμείρεται τὸ σκῆνος, ἀλλ᾿ ἡ τῆς γνώμης κακοθιγίη.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023


Changes Are Dangerous

Cassius Dio 3.12.1 (tr. Earnest Cary):
All changes are very dangerous, and especially do those in governments work the greatest and most numerous evils to both individuals and states. Sensible men, therefore, choose to remain under the same forms continually, even if they be not the best, rather than by changing, now to one, now to another, to be continually unsettled.

πᾶσαι μὲν γὰρ μεταβολαὶ σφαλερώταταί εἰσι, μάλιστα δὲ αἱ ἐν ταῖς πολιτείαις πλεῖστα δὴ καὶ μέγιστα καὶ ἰδιώτας καὶ πόλεις βλάπτουσι. διὸ οἱ νοῦν ἔχοντες ἐν τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἀεί, κἂν μὴ βέλτιστα ᾖ, ἀξιοῦσιν ἐμμένειν ἢ μεταλαμβάνοντες ἄλλοτε ἄλλα ἀεὶ πλανᾶσθαι.


From Gods to God

A.H.M. Jones, "The Social Background of the Struggle between Paganism and Christianity," in Arnaldo Momigliano, ed., The Conflict Between Paganism and Christianity in the Fourth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963; rpt. 1964), pp. 17-37 (at 24):
But by and large there must have been very few Christians in the army when Constan­tine decided to paint the ☧ monogram on the shields of his soldiers before the battle of the Milvian Bridge. The barbarians were still pagan, and so were the bulk of the peasantry, especially in the favourite recruiting grounds of the army, Gaul and Illyricum. We have, in fact, a little piece of evidence that the army which two years later, under the protection of the labarum, fought and won the war against Licinius, which was in Con­stantine’s propaganda a crusade against a pagan tyrant, was still pagan. A curious law in the Theodosian Code has preserved the acclamations of the veterans discharged after the victory. ‘Auguste Constantine, dei te nobis servent’ is what they shouted, and the offensive words were not emended to ‘Deus te nobis servet’ until Justinian re-edited the law for insertion in his Code.2

2 Cod. Theod. VII.xx.2 ( = Cod. Just. XII.xlvi.1); for the date see Seeck, Regesten, p. 176.

Monday, September 11, 2023


A Proper Education

Carmina Anacreontea 52 West (tr. David A. Campbell):
Why do you teach me the rules and laws of the rhetoricians? What good to me are all these useless speeches? Teach me rather how to drink the gentle draught of Lyaeus, how to play with golden Aphrodite.

    τί με τοὺς νόμους διδάσκεις
καὶ ῥητόρων ἀνάγκας;
τί δέ μοι λόγων τοσούτων
τῶν μηδὲν ὠφελούντων;
    μᾶλλον δίδασκε πίνειν        5
ἁπαλὸν πῶμα Λυαίου,
μᾶλλον δίδασκε παίζειν
μετὰ χρυσῆς Ἀφροδίτης.
A free rendering by Thomas Bourne:
Why prate to me of critic rules,
And jargon of the jangling schools?
Your learned dogmas, prithee, spare,
They're useless all—not worth my care.
I'll hear thee gladly, canst thou tell
The happy art of living well;
How best to mix the sparkling wine,
To make the mellow draught divine;
How best to please the lovely fair,
For this indeed is worth my care.
See Alexander Müller, Die Carmina Anacreontea und Anakreon: ein literarisches Generationenverhältnis (Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 2010 = Classica Monacensia, 38), pp. 186-189.
Jean-Bernard Restout (1732-1797), The Pleasures of Anacreon

Sunday, September 10, 2023


Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

Cassius Dio 2.8 (tr. Earnest Cary):
[1] Marcius came to realize that it is not enough for men who desire peace to refrain from injuring others, and that inoffensiveness without aggressiveness is not a means of safety, but the more one strives after peace the more vulnerable does one become to the mass of mankind; and he accordingly changed his policy. He saw that the desire for quiet is not effective as a safeguard unless accompanied by equipment for war; he perceived also that the satisfactions of a policy of inoffensiveness very quickly and easily ruin those who carry it too far. [2] For this reason he concluded that war afforded at once a more honourable and secure guaranty of peace, both materially and morally; and so whatever he was unable to obtain from the Latins with their consent, and without injuring them, he took away against their will by force of arms.

[1] ὅτι συνεὶς ὁ Μάρκιος ὡς τοῖς βουλομένοις εἰρηνεῖν οὐκ ἐξαρκεῖ τὸ μηδὲν ἀδικεῖν, οὐδέ ἐστι τὸ ἄπραγμον ἄνευ τοῦ δραστηρίου σωτήριον, ἀλλ᾽ ὅσῳ τις αὐτοῦ ὀριγνᾶται, εὐεπιθετώτερος τοῖς πολλοῖς γίγνεται, μετεβάλετο: οὔτε γὰρ τὸ ἐπιθυμοῦν ἡσυχίας ἰσχυρὸν πρὸς φυλακὴν ἄνευ τῶν πρὸς τὸν πόλεμον παρασκευῶν ἑώρα ὄν, καὶ τὸ τῆς ἀπραγμοσύνης τάχιστα καὶ ῥᾷστα τοῖς πέρα τοῦ καιροῦ σπουδάζουσιν αὐτὴν ἀπολλύμενον ᾐσθάνετο. [2] καὶ διὰ ταῦτα καὶ καλλίω καὶ ἀσφαλεστέραν καὶ παρασκευὴν καὶ φροντίδα τῆς εἰρήνης τὸν πόλεμον νομίσας εἶναι, πάνθ᾽ ὅσα παρ᾽ ἑκόντων τῶν Λατίνων μηδέν σφας ἀδικῶν οὐκ ἠδυνήθη κομίσασθαι, παρὰ ἀκόντων στρατεύσας ἀπέλαβεν.
Related post: War and Peace


It's Imperative

Xenophon, Anabasis 3.1.35 (tr. Carleton L. Brownson):
It is for us, then, in my opinion, to make every effort that we may never fall into the power of the barbarians, but that, if we can accomplish it, they may rather fall into our power.

ἡμῖν δέ γε οἶμαι πάντα ποιητέα ὡς μήποτε ἐπὶ τοῖς βαρβάροις γενώμεθα, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον ἢν δυνώμεθα ἐκεῖνοι ἐφ᾿ ἡμῖν.

Saturday, September 09, 2023


A Non-Existent Word

Homer, Odyssey I. Edited with an Introduction, Translation, Commentary, and Glossary by Simon Pulleyn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), p. 161:
194 μιν We might at first hearing take this to refer to Laertes, the last person mentioned. But its true referent, which is also that of the adj. ἐμπιδήμιον in agreement, is deliberately held over until the next line (see 195 n.).
For ἐμπιδήμιον read ἐπιδήμιον.




Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 841-843 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
Forward this way, forward, forward, men of the place!
The city, my city, is being destroyed by violence!
Forward this way, I beg!

πρόβαθ᾽ ὧδε, βᾶτε βᾶτ᾽, ἔντοποι·
πόλις ἐναίρεται, πόλις ἐμά, σθένει·
πρόβαθ᾽ ὧδέ μοι.
Line 841 is an example of compound-simplex verbal iteration, where the simplex verb has the meaning of the preceding compound verb, on which see e.g.: Related post: Cries for Help.

Friday, September 08, 2023


Mutual Torment

Goethe, Sorrows of Young Werther, Book 1, July 1 (tr. Catherine Hutter):
Now there is nothing that irritates me more than when people torment each other, especially when young people in the prime of their lives, who should be open to all joys, spoil the few good days they have with a dour mien and only find out too late that they have wasted something irretrievable.

Nun verdrießt mich nichts mehr, als wenn die Menschen einander plagen, am meisten, wenn junge Leute in der Blüte des Lebens, da sie am offensten für alle Freuden sein könnten, einander die paar guten Tage mit Fratzen verderben, und nur erst zu spät das Unersetzliche ihrer Verschwendung einsehen.


Epicurus, Fragment 437 Usener

Hermann Usener, Epicurea (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1887), p. 287 (fragment 437):
Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah 11.38 (tr. Thomas P. Scheck):
This is why the thought of Epicurus is foolish, who claims that the recalling of former goods mitigates present evils.

unde stulta Epicuri sententia est, qui asserit recordatione praeteritorum bonorum mala praesentia mitigari.
Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah 18.65 (tr. Thomas P. Scheck):
For when we are beset by distresses, we do not experience in our spirit the former pleasures in accordance with the error of Epicurus.

eo quod in angustiis constituti nequaquam uoluptatibus pristinis iuxta errorem Epicuri animo perfruantur.
References to a more modern edition of Jerome's Commentary on Isaiah: Augustine, Sermon 348.3, in Patrologia Latina vol. XXXIX, col. 1528 (tr. Edmund Hill):
Yes, and these too boast of being utterly brave, and say that they are afraid of absolutely nothing. That's because they consider that God doesn't care a snap of the fingers for human affairs, and think that there is no life to come later on, once this one is finished with. And if any adversity overtakes them in this life, they think they are fortified against it in this way, that while they cannot hold onto the pleasures of the body in the body itself, they can, all the same, think about them with the mind, and by gratifying themselves with such thoughts can preserve the bliss of bodily pleasure even against the assaults of bodily pain. Isn't love casting out fear with them too? But it's the love of the most sordid pleasure, or rather the love of the most shameful unsubstantially; because when the irruption of pain has excluded pleasure itself from the members of the body, it will remain in the mind through the deceptive and unsubstantial image of itself. And this unsubstantiality is loved so intensely, that when the unsubstantial man embraces it with all the energy of his heart, even the sharpest pain is soothed.

nam et hi fortissimos se iactant et nihil omnino timere se dicunt, quia nec quidquam deum res humanas curare arbitrantur et consumpta ista uita nullam postea credunt futuram, et si quid eis aduersitatis in hac ipsa contingit, eo se munitos existimant, quia corporis uoluptatem, cum eam in ipso corpore tenere non possunt, possunt tamen animo cogitare et ea cogitatione sese oblectando corporalis uoluptatis beatitudinem etiam contra corporalis doloris impetum custodire. numquid non et apud istos dilectio foras mittit timorem? sed dilectio sordidissimae uoluptatis, immo dilectio turpissimae uanitatis. nam cum ipsam uoluptatem de membris corporis irruens dolor excluserit, per falsam eius imaginem in animo uanitas remanebit. quae uanitas tantum amatur, ut cum eam uanus homo totis uiribus cordis amplectitur, etiam doloris saeuitia mitigetur.
I don't see this fragment in Graziano Arrighetti, ed., Epicuro, Opere (Turin: Giulio Einaudi Editore, 1960).

Fabio Tutrone, Healing Grief: A Commentary on Seneca's Consolatio ad Marciam (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2023), p. 93 (on 5.4):
The pleasant recollection of the past is a traditional Epicurean technique of achieving contentment (Epic. Ep. Men. 122; Sent. Vat. 35, 55, 75; frs. 213, 436, 437 Usener), whose practical usefulness is overtly acknowledged by Seneca at Ben. 3.4.


Small Town

Galen, On Prognosis 4.17 (Kühn XIV, 624; my translation):
I will depart from this large and populous city to a sparsely inhabited and small one, in which we all know each other, and who our parents are, and what sort of upbringing and property and character and way of life we have.

ἀπαλλάξομαι τῆς μεγάλης τῆσδε καὶ πολυανθρώπου πόλεως εἰς τὴν ὀλιγάνθρωπόν τε καὶ σμικρὰν, ἐν ᾖ πάντες ἴσμεν ἀλλήλους ἐκ τίνων τε γεγόναμεν ὅπως τε παιδείας ἔχομεν καὶ κτήσεως καὶ τρόπου καὶ βίου.
Vivian Nutton, ed. and tr., Galen, On Prognosis (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1979 = Corpus Medicorum Graecorum, vol. 8, pt. 1), p. 93:
I shall leave this great and populous city for that small town where we all know one another, our parentage, our education, wealth and way of life.

Thursday, September 07, 2023


A Universal Law

Thucydides 3.56.2 (tr. Martin Hammond; they = the Thebans, our city = Plataea):
They attempted to take our city not only in the time of truce but also at a sacrosanct festival season. We were within our rights to take our vengeance on them, in accordance with the universally accepted law that there is no impiety in defending against an enemy who attacks...

πόλιν γὰρ αὐτοὺς τὴν ἡμετέραν καταλαμβάνοντας ἐν σπονδαῖς καὶ προσέτι ἱερομηνίᾳ ὀρθῶς τε ἐτιμωρησάμεθα κατὰ τὸν πᾶσι νόμον καθεστῶτα, τὸν ἐπιόντα πολέμιον ὅσιον εἶναι ἀμύνεσθαι...

Wednesday, September 06, 2023


Delusions of Grandeur

Publilius Syrus 597 (tr. J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff):
The self-praiser soon finds a mocker.

qui se ipse laudat cito derisorem invenit.
Related posts:


A Grotesque Fault

Arnaldo Momigliano, quoted in Peter Brown, "Arnaldo Dante Momigliano, 1908-1987," Proceedings of the British Academy 74 (1988) 405-442 (at 418):
It is one of the grotesque faults of our specialised culture that one is disgraced if one ignores the latest German dissertation, but can easily get away without knowledge of St. Augustine or Machiavelli.

Tuesday, September 05, 2023


I Hear a Different Drummer

Aeschylus, Agamemnon 757-758 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
But I hold my own mind and think apart from other men.

δίχα δ᾽ ἄλλων μονόφρων εἰ-
μονόφρων is a hapax legomenon, defined as "one who has his own judgment, who has personal opinions" in Franco Montanari, The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek (Leiden: Brill, 1995), p. 1362.

Monday, September 04, 2023



Publilius Syrus 667 (tr. J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff):
Silly to grumble about misfortune when the fault's your own.

stultum est queri de adversis, ubi culpa est tua.


Fit of Rage

Peter Brown, Journeys of the Mind: A Life in History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2023), p. 621:
Furthermore, [Pierre] Hadot's standards for public comportment were as unflinching as were those of any late antique man. He had been present when the future Pope John XXIII was papal nuncio in Paris and was solemnly entertained at Saint-Sulpice. A pious layman who was serving at table poured the nuncio's wine from the wrong side. The nuncio exploded at the gaffe. Looking back to this fit of rage, Hadot concluded that John XXIII, though now beatified, may not have been a saint by ancient standards.10

10. Hadot, La philosophie comme manière de vivre, 188.
Id. (June, 1982; he = Hadot):
After a long and happy lunch, he turned to me and said, "You know, Professor Brown, the more I study the ancient philosophers, the less Christianity means to me."


Hate and Love

Homer, Odyssey 4.692 (tr. A.T. Murray; they = kings):
One man they hate and another they love.

ἄλλον κ᾽ ἐχθαίρῃσι βροτῶν, ἄλλον κε φιλοίη.
Stephanie West ad loc.:

Sunday, September 03, 2023


A Spiritual Exercise

Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault, tr. Michael Chase (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995; rpt. 1999), p. 109:
And yet we have forgotten how to read: how to pause, liberate ourselves from our worries, return into ourselves, and leave aside our search for subtlety and originality, in order to meditate calmly, ruminate, and let the texts speak to us. This, too, is a spiritual exercise, and one of the most difficult.

Saturday, September 02, 2023


What Manner of Men Are These?

Herodotus 8.26 (tr. J. Enoch Powell):
[1] And there came into them some few deserters out of Arcadia, men that lacked sustenance and would be employed. And the Persians brought them into the king's presence, and enquired concerning the Greeks, to know what they did. And there was one Persian before all the rest who so demanded of them.

[2] And they told him that the Greeks kept the festival at Olympia and beheld contests of strong men and of horses. And he asked what the prize was for which they contended; and they told him of the crown which is given from the olive-tree. Then Tritantæchmes the son of Artabanus spake a most noble judgement, yet was esteemed base in the king's sight;

[1] for when he heard that the prize was a crown and not money, he could not endure to hold his peace but said openly: Alas, Mardonius, what manner of men hast thou brought us to fight against, who contend not for money, but for honour.

[1] ἧκον δέ σφι αὐτόμολοι ἄνδρες ἀπ᾽ Ἀρκαδίης ὀλίγοι τινές, βίου τε δεόμενοι καὶ ἐνεργοὶ βουλόμενοι εἶναι. ἄγοντες δὲ τούτους ἐς ὄψιν τὴν βασιλέος ἐπυνθάνοντο οἱ Πέρσαι περὶ τῶν Ἑλλήνων τί ποιέοιεν· εἷς δέ τις πρὸ πάντων ἦν ὁ εἰρωτῶν αὐτοὺς ταῦτα.

[2] οἳ δέ σφι ἔλεγον ὡς Ὀλύμπια ἄγουσι καὶ θεωρέοιεν ἀγῶνα γυμνικὸν καὶ ἱππικόν. ὁ δὲ ἐπείρετο ὅ τι τὸ ἄεθλον εἴη σφι κείμενον περὶ ὅτευ ἀγωνίζονται· οἳ δ᾽ εἶπον τῆς ἐλαίης τὸν διδόμενον στέφανον. ἐνθαῦτα εἴπας γνώμην γενναιοτάτην Τριτανταίχμης ὁ Ἀρταβάνου δειλίην ὦφλε πρὸς βασιλέος.

[3] πυνθανόμενος γὰρ τὸ ἄεθλον ἐὸν στέφανον ἀλλ᾽ οὐ χρήματα, οὔτε ἠνέσχετο σιγῶν εἶπέ τε ἐς πάντας τάδε· 'παπαῖ Μαρδόνιε, κοίους ἐπ᾽ ἄνδρας ἤγαγες μαχησομένους ἡμέας, οἳ οὐ περὶ χρημάτων τὸν ἀγῶνα ποιεῦνται ἀλλὰ περὶ ἀρετῆς.'
Powell's "contests of strong men" is literally "gymnastic contests".

A.M. Bowie's commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006; rpt. 2014), pp. 117-119, is excellent here.


Ties That Bind

Xenophon, Hellenica 2.4.20-21 (Cleocritus speaking; tr. Rex Warner):
[20] Fellow-citizens, why are you driving us out of the city? Why do you want to kill us? We have never done you any harm. We have shared with you in the most holy religious services, in sacrifices and in splendid festivals; we have joined in dances with you, gone to school with you and fought in the army with you, braving together with you the dangers of land and sea in defence of our common safety and freedom.

[21] In the name of the gods of our fathers and mothers, of the bonds of kinship and marriage and friendship, which are shared by so many of us on both sides, I beg you to feel some shame in front of gods and men and to give up this sin against your fatherland.

[20] ἄνδρες πολῖται, τί ἡμᾶς ἐξελαύνετε; τί ἀποκτεῖναι βούλεσθε; ἡμεῖς γὰρ ὑμᾶς κακὸν μὲν οὐδὲν πώποτε ἐποιήσαμεν, μετεσχήκαμεν δὲ ὑμῖν καὶ ἱερῶν τῶν σεμνοτάτων καὶ θυσιῶν καὶ ἑορτῶν τῶν καλλίστων, καὶ συγχορευταὶ καὶ συμφοιτηταὶ γεγενήμεθα καὶ συστρατιῶται, καὶ πολλὰ μεθ᾽ ὑμῶν κεκινδυνεύκαμεν καὶ κατὰ γῆν καὶ κατὰ θάλατταν ὑπὲρ τῆς κοινῆς ἀμφοτέρων ἡμῶν σωτηρίας τε καὶ ἐλευθερίας.

[21] πρὸς θεῶν πατρῴων καὶ μητρῴων καὶ συγγενείας καὶ κηδεστίας καὶ ἑταιρίας, πάντων γὰρ τούτων πολλοὶ κοινωνοῦμεν ἀλλήλοις, αἰδούμενοι καὶ θεοὺς καὶ ἀνθρώπους παύσασθε ἁμαρτάνοντες εἰς τὴν πατρίδα.
See Nicole Loraux, The Divided City: On Memory and Forgetting in Ancient Athens, tr. Corinne Pache (New York: Zone Books, 2006), pp. 29-30.

Related post: Cultural Cohesion.


Our Lot

Euripides, Hippolytus 176 (my translation):
Oh, the troubles of mortals, and the hated diseases.

ὦ κακὰ θνητῶν στυγεραί τε νόσοι.

Friday, September 01, 2023


The Lucky Man

W.H. Auden, "Archaeology," lines 1-12:
The archaeologist's spade
delves into dwellings
vacancied long ago,

unearthing evidence
of life-ways no one
would dream of leading now,

concerning which he has not much
to say that he can prove:—
the lucky man!

Knowledge may have its purposes,
but guessing is always
more fun than knowing.



Publilius Syrus 724 (tr. J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff):
Where freedom has fallen, none dare freely speak.

ubi libertas cecidit, audet libere nemo loqui.

cecidit Haupt: cadit T

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