Sunday, December 31, 2023


Cherubic Boy Band

In the ruins of the chapel of Santo Domingo, Antigua, Guatemala:
Hat tip: A friend.


Critical History

Dieter Wuttke, "Erwin Panofsky," in Colum Hourihane, ed., The Routledge Companion to Medieval Iconography (London: Routledge, 2017), pp. 105-122 (p. 107, with note on p. 120):
The historian Joachim Fest observed, "Was sich kritische Geschichte nennt, offenbart häufig weniger Kraft zur Unterscheidung, als zur Verdammung, und kein Respekt vor dem Stummsein der Toten macht den Anklägern die Schuldsprüche schwer." (That which is called critical history often discloses not so much the power to discern than the wish to condemn, and the accusers having no respect for the silence of the dead are ready with their verdict.)10

10 J. Fest, Wege zur Geschichte (Zurich, 1992), 127-28.


Delight in Stories

Homer, Odyssey 4.597-598 (Telemachus to Menelaus; tr. A.T. Murray):
For wondrous is the pleasure I take in listening to thy tales and thy speech.

αἰνῶς γὰρ μύθοισιν ἔπεσσί τε σοῖσιν ἀκούων

Saturday, December 30, 2023


The Emblem of Root and Place

Robert Hughes, Barcelona (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), pp. 28-29:
The earliest names for the two rivers that bordered the medieval city of Barcelona were the Merdança (shit stream) and the Cagallel (turd bearer), whose waters were totally unfit to drink by the fourteenth century and have remained so ever since. The first item in the invaluable collection of Versos Bruts (Coarse Poems, edited by Empar Pérez-Cors) was written in the early thirteenth century and takes the form of a discussion between two nobles, Arnaut Catalan and Ramon Berenguer V, count of Provence and Cerdanya, concerning a hundred noble ladies who went to sea in a boat and, becalmed, got back to shore by farting in chorus into its sails. One of the durable favorites of Catalan verse was Vicent Garcia (c. 1580-1623), rector of Vallfogona, a village in the Pyrenean foothills, who wrote sonnets in imitation of Luis de Góngora and Francisco Gómez de Quevedo, but whose real popularity depended on his burlesques, banned by the Inquisition. They included such works as To a Monumental Latrine, Constructed by the Author in the Garden of his Rectory and On a Delicate Matter, which roundly asserts that no person, however low, not even a Portuguese, could have anything bad to say about shit. Excrement, Garcia wrote in a Dalí-like transport of enthusiasm, is beneficial, the sign of our true nature, a kind of philosophers' stone that "the pharmacists of Sarrià / contemplate night and day." In doing so he evoked the peasant origins of the cult: shit as the great fertilizer, the farmer's friend, the emblem of root and place.




Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury, 3rd ed., Vol. IV (London: Methuen & Co., 1908), pp. 468-469 (chapter XLIV):
It is the first care of a reformer to prevent any future reformation.

Friday, December 29, 2023



Homer, Odyssey 4.195-198 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
                                           Yet I can have no objection
to tears for any mortal who dies and goes to his destiny.
And this is the only consolation we wretched mortals
can give, to cut our hair and let the tears roll down our faces.

                                         νεμεσσῶμαί γε μὲν οὐδὲν
κλαίειν ὅς κε θάνῃσι βροτῶν καὶ πότμον ἐπίσπῃ.
τοῦτό νυ καὶ γέρας οἶον ὀϊζυροῖσι βροτοῖσιν,
κείρασθαί τε κόμην βαλέειν τ ̓ ἀπὸ δάκρυ παρειῶν.


Gagged with the Gospel

Augustine, Sermons 72A.5 (Miscellanea Agostiniana, vol. 1, p. 160; tr. Edmund Hill):
You fool, you stubborn, argumentative, rightly hated mule!


I know what he's going to say: "I will take the book, open the gospel, recite his words, written in the holy gospel." Fine, fine; I will grab you with the gospel, I will tie you up with the gospel. I will gag you with the gospel.

O stulte, o contentiose, o merito odiose!


Novi quod dicturus est: "Codicem sumam, Evangelium aperiam, verba eius recitabo scripta in sancto Evangelio". Bene, bene: ipso Evangelio tenebo te, cum ipso Evangelio alligabo te, de ipso Evangelio suffocabo te.
Related posts:

Wednesday, December 27, 2023


The Archetypal Task of Giving Back to the Soil

Robert Hughes, Barcelona (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), pp. 26-27:
The pleasures of a good crap are considered in Catalunya on a level with those of a good meal; "Menjar be i cagar fort / I no tingues por de la mort," goes the folk saying: "Eat well, shit strongly, and you will have no fear of death."

The image of shit has a festive quality unknown in the rest of Europe. On the Feast of the Kings, January 6, children who have been good the previous year are given pretty sweetmeats; the bad ones get caca i carbo, "shit and coal," emblems of the hell that awaits them if they do not mend their childish ways. These days the coal is left out and the gift consists of brown-marzipan turds made by confectioners, some elaborately embellished with spun-sugar flies. Then there is the tio, or "uncle," a cross between the French bûche de Noël and the Mexican piñata. This artificial log, filled with candy and trinkets, is produced amid great excitement at Christmas; the children whack it with sticks, exclaiming, "Caga, tiet, caga!" ("Shit, Uncle, shit!") until it breaks and disgorges its treasures.

If you find yourself in Barcelona just before Christmas, go to the Cathedral and browse the stalls that have been set up in front of its facade, where figures for the crèche are sold. They are what you expect: the shepherds, the Magi, Mary, Baby Jesus, the sheep, the oxen. But there is one who is a complete anomaly, met with nowhere else in the iconography of Christendom. A red Catalan cap, or barretina, flopping over his head, the fellow squats, breeches down, with a small brown cone of excrement connecting his bare buttocks to the earth. He is the immemorial fecundator, whom nature calls even as the Messiah arrives. Nothing can distract him from the archetypal task of giving back to the soil the nourishment that it supplied to him. He is known as the caganer, the "shitter," and he exists in scores of versions: some pop-eyed with effort, others rapt in calm meditation, but most with no expression at all; big papier-mâché ones three feet tall, minuscule terra-cotta ones with caca pyramids no bigger than mouse turds, and all sizes in between. During Christmas 1989, the Museum of Figueras held an exhibition of some five hundred caganers, borrowed from private collections all over Catalunya. (There are, of course, collectors who specialize in them.) It was solemnly and equably reviewed in the Barcelona papers, with close-up photos of one or two of the figures, just as one might wish to reproduce a David Smith totem or a nude by Josep Llimona. The origins of the caganer are veiled in antiquity and await the attentions of scholarship. Sixteenth-century sculptures of him exist, but he seems to be curiously absent from medieval painting. He is, essentially, a folk-art personage rather than a high-art one. His place is outside the manger, not inside the altarpiece. Yet he makes an unmistakable entrance into twentieth-century art in the work of that great and shit-obsessed son of Catalunya, Joan Miró. If you look closely at The Farm, Montroig, you will see a pale infant squatting in front of the cistern where his mother is doing the washing. This boy is none other than the caganer of Miró's childhood Christmases; it may also be Miró himself, the future painter of Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement (1935).
In my house right now there is a manger scene with a caganer, which provides great amusement to a frequent four year-old visitor.

Related posts:



Nothing New

Ecclesiastes 1:10 (KJV):
Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.


Holy Scriptures

Augustine, Sermons 71.11 (Patrologia Latina, vol. 38, col. 450 = Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, vol. XLI A, p. 405; tr. Edmund Hill):
Actually in the whole wide field of the holy scriptures we are nourished by the passages that are clear, exercised by those that are obscure; the first kind relieve us from hunger, the second save us from boredom.

In omni quippe copia Scripturarum sanctarum pascimur apertis, exercemur obscuris; illic fames pellitur, hic fastidium.


Their Lives

Zosimus, New History 5.40.3-4 (p. 269 Mendelssohn; tr. Ronald T. Ridley):
When Alaric heard that the people were trained and ready to fight, he said that thicker grass was easier to mow than thinner and laughed broadly at the ambassadors, but when they turned to discuss peace, he used expressions excessive even for an arrogant barbarian: he declared that he would not give up the siege unless he got all the gold and silver in the city, as well as all movable property and the barbarian slaves. When one of the ambassadors asked what he would leave for the citizens if he took these, he replied: 'Their lives'.

ὧν ̓Αλλάριχος ἀκούσας, καὶ ὅτι μεταχειριζόμενος ὁ δῆμος ὅπλα παρεσκεύασται πολεμεῖν, 'δασύτερος ὢν ὁ χόρτος' ἔφη 'τέμνεσθαι ῥᾴων ἢ ἀραιότερος', καὶ τοῦτο φθεγξάμενος πλατὺν τῶν πρέσβεων κατέχεε γέλωτα. ἐπειδὴ δὲ εἰς τοὺς περὶ τῆς εἰρήνης ἐληλύθασι λόγους, ἐχρῆτο ῥήμασιν ἐπέκεινα πάσης ἀλαζονείας βαρβαρικῆς· ἔλεγε γὰρ οὐκ ἄλλως ἀποστήσεσθαι τῆς πολιορκίας, εἰ μὴ τὸν χρυσὸν ἅπαντα, ὅσον ἡ πόλις ἔχει, καὶ τὸν ἄργυρον λάβοι, καὶ πρὸς τούτοις ὅσα ἐν ἐπίπλοις εὕροι κατὰ τὴν πόλιν καὶ ἔτι τοὺς βαρβάρους οἰκέτας. εἰπόντος δὲ τῶν πρέσβεων ἑνὸς 'εἰ ταῦτα λάβοις, τί λοιπὸν ἔτι τοῖς ἐν τῇ πόλει καταλιμπάνεις'; 'τὰς ψυχὰς' ἀπεκρίνατο.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023


Secret Thoughts

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), Leviathan, Chapter VIII:
The secret thoughts of a man run over all things, holy, profane, clean, obscene, grave and light, without shame, or blame; which verbal discourse cannot do, farther than the judgment shall approve of the time, place, and persons.


The Sad and Gloomy House

The Life of Lazarillo De Tormes, tr. W.S. Merwin (1962; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2005), p. 77 (from chapter 3):
I flattened myself against the wall to get out of their way, and as the body went past there was a woman following just behind the litter, who I suppose must have been the wife of the dead man. She was in deep mourning, and there were a lot of other women with her. And as she went along she was sobbing out loud and saying:

"My husband and my lord, where are they taking you? To the sad and gloomy house, to the dark and dreary house, to the house where they neither eat nor drink!"

Arriméme a la pared por darles lugar, y, desque el cuerpo pasó, venía luego a par del lecho una que debía ser su mujer del difunto, cargada de luto, y con ella otras muchas mujeres; la cual iba llorando a grandes voces y diciendo:

—Marido y señor mío, ¿adónde os me llevan? ¡A la casa triste y desdichada, a la casa lóbrega y oscura, a la casa donde nunca comen ni beben!
See Antonio Vilanova, "Reminiscencias del Asno de Oro en « la casa donde nunca comen ni beben » del Lazarillo," Bulletin hispanique 92.1 (1990) 627-653.


Consider Your Origin

Dante, Inferno 26.118 (tr. Charles S. Singleton):
Consider your origin...

Considerate la vostra semenza...
The same (tr. Clive James):
Remember now your pedigree...

Monday, December 25, 2023


To Avert Evil

Strabo 10.2.9 (tr. Horace Leonard Jones):
It was an ancestral custom among the Leucadians, every year at the sacrifice performed in honor of Apollo, for some criminal to be flung from this rocky look-out for the sake of averting evil, wings and birds of all kinds being fastened to him, since by their fluttering they could lighten the leap, and also for a number of men, stationed all round below the rock in small fishing-boats, to take the victim in, and, when he had been taken on board, to do all in their power to get him safely outside their borders.

ἦν δὲ καὶ πάτριον τοῖς Λευκαδίοις κατ᾿ ἐνιαυτὸν ἐν τῇ θυσίᾳ τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος ἀπὸ τῆς σκοπῆς ῥιπτεῖσθαί τινα τῶν ἐν αἰτίαις ὄντων ἀποτροπῆς χάριν, ἐξαπτομένων ἐξ αὐτοῦ παντοδαπῶν πτερῶν καὶ ὀρνέων ἀνακουφίζειν δυναμένων τῇ πτήσει τὸ ἅλμα, ὑποδέχεσθαι δὲ κάτω μικραῖς ἁλιάσι κύκλῳ περιεστῶτας πολλοὺς καὶ περισώζειν εἰς δύναμιν τῶν ὅρων ἔξω τὸν ἀναληφθέντα.



Florus, Epitome 1.6(12).11 (tr. Edward Seymour Forster):
Such was Veii in those days. Who now ever remembers its former existence? What remains or traces of it are left? Our trust in our annals has a difficult task to make us believe that Veii ever existed.

hoc tunc Vei fuere. nunc fuisse quis meminit? quae reliquiae? quodve vestigium? laborat annalium fides, ut Veios fuisse credamus.
Related post: Then and Now.

Sunday, December 24, 2023


Like Father, Like Son

Homer, Odyssey 4.141-150 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
'For I think I never saw such a likeness, neither
in man nor woman, and wonder takes me as I look on him,
as this man has a likeness to the son of great-hearted Odysseus,
Telemachos, who was left behind in his house, a young child
by that man when, for the sake of shameless me, the Achaians
went beneath Troy, their hearts intent upon reckless warfare.'
Then in answer fair-haired Menelaos said to her:
'I also see it thus, my wife, the way you compare them,
for Odysseus' feet were like this man's, his hands were like this,
and the glances of his eyes and his head and the hair growing.'

οὐ γάρ πώ τινά φημι ἐοικότα ὧδε ἰδέσθαι
οὔτ᾽ ἄνδρ᾽ οὔτε γυναῖκα, σέβας μ᾽ ἔχει εἰσορόωσαν,
ὡς ὅδ᾽ Ὀδυσσῆος μεγαλήτορος υἷι ἔοικε,
Τηλεμάχῳ, τὸν ἔλειπε νέον γεγαῶτ᾽ ἐνὶ οἴκῳ
κεῖνος ἀνήρ, ὅτ᾽ ἐμεῖο κυνώπιδος εἵνεκ᾽ Ἀχαιοὶ        145
ἤλθεθ᾽ ὑπὸ Τροίην πόλεμον θρασὺν ὁρμαίνοντες.
τὴν δ᾽ ἀπαμειβόμενος προσέφη ξανθὸς Μενέλαος·
‘οὕτω νῦν καὶ ἐγὼ νοέω, γύναι, ὡς σὺ ἐίσκεις·
κείνου γὰρ τοιοίδε πόδες τοιαίδε τε χεῖρες
ὀφθαλμῶν τε βολαὶ κεφαλή τ᾽ ἐφύπερθέ τε χαῖται.        150


St. Jerome Reading

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682), San Jerónimo leyendo (Madrid, Museo del Prado, inv. P00988):


Wisdom and Folly

Paul, Letter to the Romans 1:22 (KJV):
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools...

φάσκοντες εἶναι σοφοὶ ἐμωράνθησαν...
Karl Barth ad loc. (tr. Edwyn Hoskyns):
Vanity of mind and blindness of heart inevitably bring into being corrupt conduct. The more the unbroken man marches along his road secure of himself, the more surely does he make a fool of himself, the more certainly do that morality and that manner of life which are built up upon a forgetting of the abyss, upon a forgetting of men's true home, turn out to be a lie.

Saturday, December 23, 2023


A Big Book

Augustine, Sermons 68.6 (126.6 in Angelo Mai, ed., Patrum Nova Bibliotheca, vol. I, p. 292; tr. Edmund Hill):
Others, in order to find God, will read a book. Well, as a matter of fact there is a certain great big book, the book of created nature. Look carefully at it top and bottom, observe it, read it. God did not make letters of ink for you to recognize him in; he set before your eyes all these things he has made. Why look for a louder voice? Heaven and earth cries out to you, "God made me."

Alius, ut inveniat Deum, librum legit. Est quidam magnus liber ipsa species creaturae: superiorem et inferiorem contuere, attende, lege. Non Deus, unde eum cognosceres, de atramento litteras fecit: ante oculos tuos posuit haec ipsa quae fecit. Quid quaeris maiorem vocem? Clamat ad te caelum et terra: Deus me fecit.


Indifference to Public Opinion

Mimnermus, fragment 7, tr. C.M. Bowra, with his note, in Early Greek Elegists (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938), p. 33:
Make glad your own heart. Of your pitiless townsmen
    One will speak with ill words, one with good.

σὴν αὐτοῦ φρένα τέρπε· δυσηλεγέων δὲ πολιτέων
    ἄλλος τίς σε κακῶς, ἄλλος ἄμεινον ἐρεῖ.

We may contrast this independence with Pindar's horror of slander or with Solon's prayer to have a good report.

Friday, December 22, 2023


Growing Weary of Modern Civilization

Selections Autobiographical and Imaginative from the Works of George Gissing, with Biographical and Critical Notes by His Son (London: Jonathan Cape, 1929), pp. 244-245:
My father was growing weary of modern civilization with all its problems and was inclined to dwell more and more upon the thought of ancient Rome, which had always taken first place in his imagination...



Euripides, Orestes 397 (tr. David Kovacs):
Clarity is the wise thing, not unclarity.

σοφόν τοι τὸ σαφές, οὐ τὸ μὴ σαφές.
C.W. Willink on οὐ τὸ μὴ σαφές:
the 'pleonastic negative converse' (a common idiom for emphasis, cf. 613-14*; Bruhn 118-19) became something of a mannerism in late E., cf. IA 93, 916.


Of Good Stock

Homer, Odyssey 4.62-64 (Menelaus to Odysseus' son Telemachus and Nestor's son Peisistratus; tr. A.T. Murray):
For in you two the breed of your sires is not lost, but ye are of the breed of men that are sceptred kings, fostered of Zeus; for base churls could not beget such sons as you.

           οὐ γὰρ σφῷν γε γένος ἀπόλωλε τοκήων,
ἀλλ᾽ ἀνδρῶν γένος ἐστὲ διοτρεφέων βασιλήων
σκηπτούχων, ἐπεὶ οὔ κε κακοὶ τοιούσδε τέκοιεν.
R.G.M. Nisbet and Margaret Hubbard on Horace, Odes 2.4.20:
For the idea that fine people must have fine parents cf. Hom. Od. 4. 64, 611 αἵματός εἰς ἀγαθοῖο, φίλον τέκος, οἷ᾽ ἀγορεύεις, h. Aphr. 132, Virg. Aen. 1.606, M. Marcovich, GRBS 16, 1975, 8, Dover 91 f.
Marcovich = Miroslav Marcovich, "A New Poem of Archilochus: P. Colon. inv. 7511," Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 16 (1975) 5-14 (at 8):
Dover = K.J. Dover, Greek Popular Morality in the Time of Plato and Aristotle (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1974), pp. 91-92 (here an excerpt from p. 91, footnotes omitted):
People who breed animals select for breeding on the principle that good parents are more likely than bad parents to produce good offspring. On this analogy, it might be expected that good human parents will produce the best children, and Greeks sometimes asserted that this was so.
Eur. fr. 166: The folly that was his father's sickness is in him; just so, bad men are wont to spring from bad.

Eur. fr. 333: A good man cannot be begotten by a bad father.
Cf. Eur. frr. 215, 1068.
Cf. also Plato, Alcibiades I 16 (120d-e; tr. W.R.M. Lamb):
SOC. Is it probable that noble races should produce better natures, or not?
ALC. Clearly, noble races would.

ΣΩ. πότερον εἰκὸς ἀμείνους γίγνεσθαι φύσεις ἐν γενναίοις γένεσιν ἢ μή;
ΑΛΚ. δῆλον ὅτι ἐν τοῖς γενναίοις.
Related posts:

Wednesday, December 20, 2023


History Set to the Organ

George Gissing, letter to his brother Algernon (September 22, 1885):
I hope you are getting to enjoy Livy. His Latin is glorious—history set to the organ.


A Misericord in Saumur

Michael Camille, Image on the Edge: The Margins of Medieval Art (London: Reaktion Books, 1992), p. 94:
The variety of subject-matter, the freshness and grainy earthiness of the carving and the intimate scale of misericords have attracted countless popular and scholarly treatments (we all have our favourites). But what is often not emphasized enough is the relative position of this art and its meaning, as regards the low subject-matter. A number of French examples have a distinctly 'popular aspect, depicting riddles, pastimes and folk tales in a dynamic and often derogatory style. Here in the very centre of the sacred space, the marginal world erupts. Why this became a fashion, and why it was allowed, has to be related to the way in which these carvings were literally debased and made subservient to those 'above' them. The peasants labouring in the fields, the foolish merchant who carries his horse across a stream, the fox preaching to the geese — all are blotted out by the bottoms of the clergy. Sometimes this is actually reflected in the carver's design, as at Saumur, where a figure is pinned with his nose reaching up to the choir-stall seat — literally the posterior of the sitter (illus. 47).
47 Sniffing the bottom. Misericord, Church of St Pierre, Saumur
Laura Kendrick, "Comedy," in Peter Brown, ed., A New Companion to Chaucer (Hoboken: Wiley Blackwell, 2019), pp. 105-121 (at 112-113):
This sort of gestural and olfactory humor was long lived, if we judge from the churlish fart‐sniffer (see Figure 7.1) who has positioned his nose right beneath the edge, not of a cartwheel, but of a misericord seat, upon which a canon would have rested his buttocks during the singing of liturgical offices in the choir stalls (c. 1475) of the church of Saint Pierre in Saumur, France.
Figure 7.1 Fart‐sniffer misericord carving. Choir stall in the church of Saint Pierre in Saumur, France (c. 1475). [Photo: author.]


Tuesday, December 19, 2023


The Chariot

Augustine, Sermons 66.5 (Patrologia Latina, vol. 38, col. 453 = Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, vol. XLI A, p. 412; tr. Edmund Hill, with his note):
Bear the poor in mind; do what you haven't done yet. Believe me, you are not losing anything; in fact the only money you do lose is what you don't bring to the chariot.19 Now we have to pay back to the poor what you have offered—those of you who have offered anything! And we've got a much smaller sum here than you usually offer; shake off your sluggish reluctance, I have become a beggar for the beggars.

19. "The chariot," I guess, was a name for some sort of collecting box—perhaps an acolyte pulled it round the congregation. The Italian translator takes it literally, for the chariots that were raced in the circus, but he can only make sense of this by ignoring the negative "don't" in the sentence—perditis quod non fertis ad quadrigam. I have a recollection of coming across the word in an exactly similar context in one of his homilies on the psalms, but I cannot remember which one.

In mente habete pauperes: facite qui nondum fecistis: credite, non perditis; imo hoc solum perditis, quod non fertis ad quadrigam. Iam reddendum est pauperibus quod obtulistis, qui obtulistis: et multum minus habemus ad summam quam soletis offerre: excutite pigritiam. Ego factus sum mendicus mendicorum.
Not in Alexander Souter, A Glossary of Later Latin to 600 A.D. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1949). Cf. quadrigatus of a coin stamped with a quadriga.

Update: Thanks to Jim O'Donnell, who informs me that there are four more occurrences of quadriga in Augustine's works, none in the sermons and none with this sense.



Homer, Odyssey 3.236-238 (tr. A.T. Murray):
But of a truth death that is common to all the gods themselves
cannot ward from a man they love, when
the fell fate of grievous death shall strike him down.

ἀλλ᾽ ἦ τοι θάνατον μὲν ὁμοίιον οὐδὲ θεοί περ
καὶ φίλῳ ἀνδρὶ δύνανται ἀλαλκέμεν, ὁππότε κεν δὴ
μοῖρ᾽ ὀλοὴ καθέλῃσι τανηλεγέος θανάτοιο.
More normal word order:
But of a truth the gods themselves cannot ward death that is common to all from a man they love, when the fell fate of grievous death shall strike him down.
Joseph Russo on Homer, Odyssey 19.145:
τανηλεγέος θανάτοιο: 'death with extended grief', a noun-epithet formula found eight times in the Odyssey and twice in the Iliad, τανηλεγής is most likely from ταναός (τείνω) and ἄλγος (the adjectival ἀλεγεινός), as Hesychius saw when he glossed this word with παρατεταμένην ἔχοντος τὴν ἀλγηδόνα. Similar lengthening of α to η in a compound is seen in the Homeric δυσηχής, from δυσ- plus ἄχος, and in δυσηλεγής, which, although apparently similar, may not be built on ἄλγος but on ἀλέγω, with the meaning 'uncaring, pitiless', which would suit its frequent application to πόλεμος (see Leumann, Wörter, 45; Chantraine, Dictionnaire, s.v. ἄλγος, ἀλέγω).


Fresh Encounters with the Originals

Martin Hengel, "Günther Zuntz 1902-1992," Proceedings of the British Academy 87 (1994) 493-522 (at 508):
In 1974 he justified to his friend his refusal to contribute to a collection of essays about Tragedy:
I'm getting more and more sceptical about these ever increasing 'essais de vulgarisation'. Or say: interpretation. Yes, yes, yes, we must all do all we can to prevent the Golden Chain from being broken; ten years ago I still agreed (in public) that the most important thing to be done is good commentaries. By now, however, there is so much interpretation bandied about: nobody can hope any longer to form his own image and impressions—and yet, that is what needs keeping alive: instead of the prattle by the experts, the chance of fresh, direct, unprejudiced encounters with the originals, is it not? This is why I have given these years and all my mind to elementary teaching; and concurrently, my scepticism about the provision of predigested fare has been increasing all the time.46
46 Letter to C.J. Herington of 9 July 1974.

Monday, December 18, 2023


Carpe Diem

Horace, Odes 1.11, tr. T.R. Glover in Queen's Quarterly 5 (April, 1898) 310:
Never seek you to learn, Leuconoe,
What end the gods assign to you or me;
    'Tis sin to be too curious. Meddle you
Nor with Chaldeans nor Astrology.

Whatever comes, bear that, and ask no more
If Jupiter have other years in store,
    Or if we see this our last winter break
The Tuscan billows on the rocky shore.

Be wise and strain the wine, for life is short,
Trim down your hopes. Look you! grim Time makes sport
    To fly while thus we talk. The present snatch,
The future trust not you in any sort.

Tu ne quaesieris, scire nefas, quem mihi, quem tibi
finem di dederint, Leuconoe, nec Babylonios
temptaris numeros. ut melius, quicquid erit, pati,
seu pluris hiemes seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam,
quae nunc oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare
Tyrrhenum: sapias, vina liques, et spatio brevi
spem longam reseces. dum loquimur, fugerit invida
aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.



Homer, Odyssey 1.301-302 (Athena disguised as Mentes to Telemachus) = 3.199-200 (Nestor to Telemachus; tr. Simon Pulleyn):
And you, friend—for I see that you are very handsome and tall—
Be strong, so that someone born in later days may speak well of you.

καὶ σὺ φίλος, μάλα γάρ σ᾽ ὁρόω καλόν τε μέγαν τε,
ἄλκιμος ἔσσ᾽, ἵνα τίς σε καὶ ὀψιγόνων ἐὺ εἴπῃ.

Sunday, December 17, 2023


A Tough People

Vergil, Aeneid 7.744-749 (tr. C. Day Lewis):
The mountainy district of Nursae sent forth to the war Ufens,
Who had a high reputation as a successful fighter:
His clan, the Aequi, living on a thin soil and hardened
By constant hunting over the woodlands, excelled in toughness.
Armed to the teeth they are when they till the ground, and they never
Tire of carrying off new plunder, living on loot.

et te montosae misere in proelia Nersae,
Ufens, insignem fama et felicibus armis;        745
horrida praecipue cui gens adsuetaque multo
venatu nemorum, duris Aequicula glaebis.
armati terram exercent, semperque recentis
convectare iuvat praedas et vivere rapto.
Alexander G. McKay (1924-2007), Vergil's Italy (Greenwich: New York Graphic Society Ltd., 1970), p. 238:
The poet's description of the Aequi and of their durable nature as farmers, hunters, and sturdy aggressors is in keeping with his admiration for the Italic stock. The Aequi were among Rome's most ancient enemies, mountaineers who eked out a living in the thin-soiled valleys of the upper Anio, Tolenus, and Himella in central Italy (Strabo 5, 3, 1; 5, 3, 4-5; 5, 3, 9-10) . They based themselves in the mountains behind Tibur and Praeneste and finally in 431 B.C. had to be expelled by force from the Alban Hills, where they had controlled the pass into Hernican territory. In 304, when they were confined to their original homeland, Rome made determined attacks on their settlements along the Liris, in the Upper Anio region, and in the areas north and west of the Fucine Lake. Their late intervention in the Second Samnite War cost them dearly, for they lost much of their territory and saw the establishment of two Latin colonies to restrain them for the future and to assist their rapid Romanization: one at Alba Fucens (mod. Albe) in 303, and another at Carseoli (mod. Carsoli) in 293. The Aequi had vanished as an independent nation long before Vergil's time.
Nicholas Horsfall on Nersae (line 744):
Not securely the uicum Neruesiae of Plin. Nat. 25.86, but firmly identified by inscriptional evidence with a site between Nesce and Civitella in the rough country between the Montagne della Duchessa and the Lago del Salto (vidi!). V. names an appropriately remote and minor uicus as a centre of these backward bandits (vd. Z.Mari in EV s.v. Nerse). On the uici of Aequi(culi), Marsi, Hernici, Volsci in general, cf. G.Grossi in Insediamenti fortificati ed.R. Papi (Pescara 1995), 59ff..
From Christopher Brown:
Your passage put me in mind of the view expressed by the Greeks that a soft land produces a soft people: cf. Herodotus 9.122.3, on the Persians, and Posidonius on the Etruscans (ap. Diod. 5.40 = fr. 83 Theiler = FGrHist 87 F 119). In light of the Hellenistic historians' preoccupation with the deleterious effects of τρυφή, I expect that these examples could be multiplied.
Related posts:


Time Flies

Augustine, Sermons 65A.13 (Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, vol. XLI A, p. 401; tr. Edmund Hill):
For us now not a single day stands still, not a single day stands still for us, they all fly away. It's gone before it's come. So of this very day on which I'm speaking, how much has already flown. We can't even hold on to this moment we are in now; it too flies away and another one comes, and it's not going to stand still either, but will fly away in turn.

Non ad nos stat nec unus dies. Nec unus dies ad nos stat: fugiunt omnes. Antequam venit, abscedit. De hoc ergo die, ex quo loquimur, quantum iam fugit! Nec horam, in qua sumus, tenemus. Fugit et ipsa, venit et alia, nec ipsa statura sed fugitura.


I Must Go to School Again

George Gissing, letter to his sister Margaret (December 17, 1888):
I thought that I had formed an idea of ancient Rome but I had done nothing of the kind. I had not a notion of such magnificence.


Wherever you go it is the same. Everywhere the wonderful antiquity haunts you. The Roman life and literature becomes real in a way hitherto inconceivable. I must begin to study it all over again; I must go to school again and for the rest of my life. Ah, if I only could have come here years ago!


The Finest Men

The Note-books of Samuel Butler, ed. Henry Festing Jones (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1917), p. 36:
I suppose an Italian peasant or a Breton, Norman or English fisherman, is about the best thing nature does in the way of men—the richer and the poorer being alike mistakes.


Boast of Diomedes

Homer, Iliad 5.253-254 (tr. A.T. Murray):
Not in my blood is it to fight a skulking fight
or to cower down; still is my strength steadfast.

οὐ γάρ μοι γενναῖον ἀλυσκάζοντι μάχεσθαι
οὐδὲ καταπτώσσειν· ἔτι μοι μένος ἔμπεδόν ἐστιν.

Saturday, December 16, 2023



E.O. Wilson (1929-2021), Naturalist (1994; rpt. Washington: Island Press, 2006), p. 151:
In late July, accompanied by Robert Dressler, Quentin Jones, and Methuselah [his pet lizard], I flew from Havana to Mérida, on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. We departed immediately for a week’s collecting in the thorn forest along the Progreso-Campeche Road, with a side trip to the ruins at Uxmal. We found the great temples and courtyards of the Mayan city only partly cleared of vegetation. No tourists or guides were present, and we enjoyed a free run of the grounds. Ants abounded on and among the crumbling edifices, as no doubt they had done 1,400 years previously when the first stones were laid. I climbed the stairs of the Temple of the Magician to a fig tree growing on its apex, and from the branches of the tree collected workers of Cephalotes atratus, a large, shiny black ant with compound spines. Resting briefly by the tree, I reflected on this triumph of the ever-abounding life of insects over the works of man.


In the Land of the Trojans

Homer, Odyssey 3.108-114 (Nestor to Telemachus; tr. A.T. Murray):
Lo, there all our best were slain.
There lies warlike Aias, there Achilles,
there Patroclus, the peer of the gods in counsel;
and there my own dear son, strong alike and peerless,
Antilochus, pre-eminent in speed of foot and as a warrior.
Aye, and many other ills we suffered besides these; who
of mortal men could tell them all?

         ἔνθα δ᾽ ἔπειτα κατέκταθεν ὅσσοι ἄριστοι.
ἔνθα μὲν Αἴας κεῖται ἀρήιος, ἔνθα δ᾽ Ἀχιλλεύς,
ἔνθα δὲ Πάτροκλος, θεόφιν μήστωρ ἀτάλαντος,        110
ἔνθα δ᾽ ἐμὸς φίλος υἱός, ἅμα κρατερὸς καὶ ἀμύμων,
Ἀντίλοχος, πέρι μὲν θείειν ταχὺς ἠδὲ μαχητής·
ἄλλα τε πόλλ᾽ ἐπὶ τοῖς πάθομεν κακά· τίς κεν ἐκεῖνα
πάντα γε μυθήσαιτο καταθνητῶν ἀνθρώπων;


A Profitless Year

George Gissing, Diary (December 31, 1892), in Letters of George Gissing to Members of His Family (London: Constable & Company Ltd., 1927), p. 331:
The year 1892 on the whole profitless....Have read next to nothing; classical studies utterly neglected.


Absolute Virtue

The Note-books of Samuel Butler, ed. Henry Festing Jones (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1917), p. 28:
The extremes of vice and virtue are alike detestable; absolute virtue is as sure to kill a man as absolute vice is, let alone the dullnesses of it and the pomposities of it.
God does not intend people, and does not like people, to be too good. He likes them neither too good nor too bad, but a little too bad is more venial with him than a little too good.

Friday, December 15, 2023



1 lb. lean ground pork
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
1 large raw potato, grated (approx. 1 c.)
1 tsp. allspice
Pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie

Put ground pork and onion in skillet; stir over medium heat until meat turns "gray", is no longer "pink". Stir in salt, pepper, allspice and grated potato; pour into 9 inch pie crust. Adjust top crust; brush top with milk. Bake in 375° oven for 45-50 minutes, until brown.

This is my mother's recipe. She got it from her mother, who was born in Yamachiche, Québec.

Hat tip: My brother and my older sister.


Let's See You Do Better

E.O. Wilson (1929-2021), Naturalist (1994; rpt. Washington: Island Press, 2006), pp. 73-74:
The 1940 Handbook for Boys, which I purchased for half a dollar, became my most cherished possession. Fifty years later, I still read my original annotated copy with remembered pleasure. Richly illustrated, with a cover by Norman Rockwell, it was packed with useful information on the subjects I liked the most. It stressed outdoor life and natural history: camping, hiking, swimming, hygiene, semaphore signaling, first aid, mapmaking, and, above all, zoology and botany, page after page of animals and plants wonderfully well illustrated, explaining where to find them, how to identify them. The public schools and church had offered nothing like this. The Boy Scouts legitimated Nature as the center of my life.

There were rules, uniforms, and a crystal-clear set of practical ethics to live by. If I jog my memory today by raising my right hand with the middle three fingers up, thumb and little finger down and crossed, I can still recite the Scout Oath:
On my honor I will do my best:
To do my duty to God and my country,
    and to obey the Scout law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
    mentally awake and morally straight.
And the Scout Law: A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent. Finally, there was the Scout Motto, Be Prepared.

I drank in and accepted every word. Still do, as ridiculous as that may seem to my colleagues in the intellectual trade, to whom I can only reply, Let's see you do better in fifty-four words or less.


A Truth Teller

Homer, Odyssey 3.20 = 3.328 (said of Nestor and Menelaus; tr. Richmond Lattimore):
He will not tell you any falsehood; he is too thoughtful.

ψεῦδος δ᾽ οὐκ ἐρέει· μάλα γὰρ πεπνυμένος ἐστί.

Thursday, December 14, 2023


Books or Food?

George Gissing (1857-1903), The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft (Westminster: Archibald Constable & Co Ltd, 1903), pp. 36-37:
Dozens of my books were purchased with money which ought to have been spent upon what are called the necessaries of life. Many a time I have stood before a stall, or a bookseller's window, torn by conflict of intellectual desire and bodily need. At the very hour of dinner, when my stomach clamoured for food, I have been stopped by sight of a volume so long coveted, and marked at so advantageous a price, that I could not let it go; yet to buy it meant pangs of famine. My Heyne's Tibullus was grasped at such a moment. It lay on the stall of the old book-shop in Goodge Street—a stall where now and then one found an excellent thing among quantities of rubbish. Sixpence was the price— sixpence! At that time I used to eat my midday meal (of course my dinner) at a coffee-shop in Oxford Street, one of the real old coffee-shops, such as now, I suppose, can hardly be found. Sixpence was all I had—yes, all I had in the world; it would purchase a plate of meat and vegetables. But I did not dare to hope that the Tibullus would wait until the morrow, when a certain small sum fell due to me. I paced the pavement, fingering the coppers in my pocket, eyeing the stall, two appetites at combat within me. The book was bought and I went home with it, and as I made a dinner of bread and butter I gloated over the pages.
Related posts:


The Death of Casaubon

Richard Stoneman, Land of Lost Gods (London: Hutchinson, 1987), p. 53:
The antiquary's cabinet became a microcosm of nature. Some classical scholars in the true sense shared this magpie frenzy, like Isaac Casaubon who thought to know the ancient world whole, devoted his life to the acquisition of knowledge from books, and died of a stoppage because he would not take the time off to visit the lavatory.
Mark Pattison, Isaac Casaubon, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1892), p. 417:
After death was discovered, what no diagnosis could have detected, a monstrous malformation of the vesica. The bladder itself was of natural size and healthy. But an opening in its left side admitted into a second, or supplementary bladder. This sack was at least six times as large as the natural bladder, and was full of mucous calculous matter. The malformation was congenital, but had been aggravated by sedentary habits, and inattention to the calls of nature, while the mind of the student was absorbed in study and meditation.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023


Traditional Institutions

E.O. Wilson (1929-2021), Naturalist (1994; rpt. Washington: Island Press, 2006), p. 25:
I instinctively respect authority and believe emotionally if not intellectually that it should be perturbed only for conspicuous cause. At my core I am a social conservative, a loyalist. I cherish traditional institutions, the more venerable and ritual-laden the better.

All my life I have placed great store in civility and good manners, practices I find scarce among the often hard-edged, badly socialized scientists with whom I associate. Tone of voice means a great deal to me in the course of debate. I try to remember to say "With all due respect" or its equivalent at the start of a rebuttal, and mean it. I despise the arrogance and doting self-regard so frequently found among the very bright.

I have a special regard for altruism and devotion to duty, believing them virtues that exist independent of approval and validation. I am stirred by accounts of soldiers, policemen, and firemen who have died in the line of duty. I can be brought to tears with embarrassing quickness by the solemn ceremonies honoring these heroes. The sight of the Iwo Jima and Vietnam Memorials pierces me for the witness they bear of men who gave so much, and who expected so little in life, and the strength ordinary people possess that held civilization together in dangerous times.


Good Things

Augustine, Sermons 61.2 (Patrologia Latina, vol. 38, col. 410; tr. Edmund Hill):
Fishes, eggs, bread, apples, corn, this light, this air we breathe, they are all good.

Piscis, ovum, panis, pomum, frumentum, lux ista, aer iste quem ducimus, bona sunt haec.



Homer, Odyssey 2.316 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
I will endeavor to visit evil destructions upon you.

πειρήσω, ὥς κ' ὔμμι κακὰς ἐπὶ κῆρας ἰήλω.


Joy and Complacency

John Donne (1572-1631), Essays in Divinity, ed. Augustus Jessopp (London: John Tupling, 1855), p. 143:
The general reasons why GOD admits some such diversities in His book, prevail also for this place which is now under our consideration; which are,

First, To make men sharp and industrious in the inquisition of truth, He withdraws it from present apprehension and obviousness. For naturally great wits affect the reading of obscure books, wrestle and sweat in the explication of prophecies, dig and thresh out the words of unlegible hands, resuscitate and bring to life again the mangled and lame fragmentary images and characters in marbles and medals, because they have a joy and complacency in the victory and achievement thereof.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023


Breakfast Reading

George Gissing (1857-1903), Workers in the Dawn, Vol. I, Chap. II ("The Rectory"):
A newspaper lay on the table, which had apparently not yet been opened, but an exquisite little copy of Horace formed his companion at breakfast instead, which he perused with a languid pleasure through his gold-rimmed eye-glasses.
Charles Spencelayh (1865-1958), Morning Chapter:


Dogs and Pigs

Matthew 7.6 (KJV):
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

μὴ δῶτε τὸ ἅγιον τοῖς κυσίν, μηδὲ βάλητε τοὺς μαργαρίτας ὑμῶν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν χοίρων, μή ποτε καταπατήσουσιν αὐτοὺς ἐν τοῖς ποσὶν αὐτῶν καὶ στραφέντες ῥήξωσιν ὑμᾶς.
Leon Morris ad loc.:
[W]e should understand the construction as chiastic: the pigs do the trampling and the dogs the tearing to pieces (for the combination of dogs and pigs see also 2 Pet. 2:22).
Augustine, Sermons 60A.4 (Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, vol. XLI A, p. 257; tr. Edmund Hill):
Dogs are the cynics and twisters and fault-finders, always barking; pigs are those fouled with the mire of carnal pleasures.

Canes sunt calumniosi latrantes; porci autem sunt contaminati caeno voluptatum carnalium.


A Cure for What Ails Him

Petronius, Satyricon 138.7 (tr. Michael Heseltine, rev. E.H. Warmington):
If only I were allowed a kiss, or could put my arms round the breast that is heaven's own self, maybe my body would come back to its strength, and the parts of me that were drowsed with poison, I believe, might be themselves again.

saltem si permitteretur osculum capere, si illud caeleste ac divinum pectus amplecti forsitan rediret hoc corpus ad vires et resipiscerent partes veneficio, credo, sopitae.

resipiscerent codd.: reviviscerent nescioquis apud Burmannum


At One in Our Views

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), Limbo (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1920), pp. 260-261:
The owner of the shop was standing in the doorway, a little man, grizzle-bearded and with eyes very active round the corners of the spectacles that bridged his long, sharp nose.

"Trade is good?" I inquired.

"Better in my grandfather's day,” he told me, shaking his head sadly.

"We grow progressively more Philistine," I suggested.

"It is our cheap press. The ephemeral overwhelms the permanent, the classical."

"This journalism," I agreed, "or call it rather this piddling quotidianism, is the curse of our age."

"Fit only for—" He gesticulated clutchingly with his hands as though seeking the word.

"For the fire."

The old man was triumphantly emphatic with his, "No: for the sewer." I laughed sympathetically at his passion. "We are delightfully at one in our views," I told him.


A Place of Worship

Henry D. Thoreau (1817-1862), A Yankee in Canada, Chapter I (Concord to Montreal):
With a single companion, I soon found my way to the church of Notre Dame. I saw that it was of great size and signified something. It is said to be the largest ecclesiastical structure in North America, and can seat ten thousand. It is two hundred and fifty-five and a half feet long, and the groined ceiling is eighty feet above your head. The Catholic are the only churches which I have seen worth remembering, which are not almost wholly profane. I do not speak only of the rich and splendid like this, but of the humblest of them as well. Coming from the hurrahing mob and the rattling carriages, we pushed aside the listed door of this church, and found ourselves instantly in an atmosphere which might be sacred to thought and religion, if one had any. There sat one or two women who had stolen a moment from the concerns of the day, as they were passing; but, if there had been fifty people there, it would still have been the most solitary place imaginable. They did not look up at us, nor did one regard another. We walked softly down the broad-aisle with our hats in our hands. Presently came in a troop of Canadians, in their homespun, who had come to the city in the boat with us, and one and all kneeled down in the aisle before the high altar to their devotions, somewhat awkwardly, as cattle prepare to lie down, and there we left them. As if you were to catch some farmer’s sons from Marlboro, come to cattle-show, silently kneeling in Concord meeting-house some Wednesday! Would there not soon be a mob peeping in at the windows? It is true, these Roman Catholics, priests and all, impress me as a people who have fallen far behind the significance of their symbols. It is as if an ox had strayed into a church and were trying to bethink himself. Nevertheless, they are capable of reverence; but we Yankees are a people in whom this sentiment has nearly died out, and in this respect we cannot bethink ourselves even as oxen. I did not mind the pictures nor the candles, whether tallow or tin. Those of the former which I looked at appeared tawdry. It matters little to me whether the pictures are by a neophyte of the Algonquin or the Italian tribe. But I was impressed by the quiet religious atmosphere of the place. It was a great cave in the midst of a city; and what were the altars and the tinsel but the sparkling stalactics, into which you entered in a moment, and where the still atmosphere and the sombre light disposed to serious and profitable thought? Such a cave at hand, which you can enter any day, is worth a thousand of our churches which are open only Sundays,—hardly long enough for an airing,—and then filled with a bustling congregation,—a church where the priest is the least part, where you do your own preaching, where the universe preaches to you and can be heard. I am not sure but this Catholic religion would be an admirable one if the priest were quite omitted.


Presidential Candidate Caganers



Monday, December 11, 2023


Our Debt to Greece

Cicero, Letters to His Brother Quintus (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
[27] Accordingly, let me urge you to put your whole mind and heart into continuing upon the lines you have followed hitherto; love those whom the Senate and People of Rome have committed to your charge and authority, protect them in every way, desire their fullest happiness. If the luck of the draw had sent you to govern savage, barbarous tribes in Africa or Spain or Gaul, you would still as a civilized man be bound to think of their interests and devote yourself to their needs and welfare. But we are governing a civilized race, in fact the race from which civilization is believed to have passed to others, and assuredly we ought to give its benefits above all to those from whom we have received it. [28] Yes, I say it without shame, especially as my life and record leaves no opening for any suspicion of indolence or frivolity: everything that I have attained I owe to those pursuits and disciplines which have been handed down to us in the literature and teachings of Greece. Therefore, we may well be thought to owe a special duty to this people, over and above our common obligation to mankind; schooled by their precepts, we must wish to exhibit what we have learned before the eyes of our instructors.

[27] quapropter incumbe toto animo et studio omni in eam rationem qua adhuc usus es, ut eos quos tuae fidei potestatique senatus populusque Romanus commisit et credidit diligas et omni ratione tueare et esse quam beatissimos velis. quod si te sors Afris aut Hispanis aut Gallis praefecisset, immanibus ac barbaris nationibus, tamen esset humanitatis tuae consulere eorum commodis et utilitati salutique servire; cum vero ei generi hominum praesimus, non modo in quo ipsa sit sed etiam a quo ad alios pervenisse putetur humanitas, certe iis eam potissimum tribuere debemus a quibus accepimus. [28] non enim me hoc iam dicere pudebit, praesertim in ea vita atque iis rebus gestis in quibus non potest residere inertiae aut levitatis ulla suspicio, nos ea quae consecuti sumus iis studiis et artibus esse adeptos quae sint nobis Graeciae monumentis disciplinisque tradita. qua re praeter communem fidem quae omnibus debetur, praeterea nos isti hominum generi praecipue debere videmur ut, quorum praeceptis sumus eruditi, apud eos ipsos quod ab iis didicerimus velimus expromere.


The Same Old Things

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), Limbo (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1920), p. 149:
"I suppose," said Jacobsen, "you still teach the same old things—Cæsar, Latin verses, Greek grammar, and the rest? We Americans can hardly believe that all that still goes on."

Sunday, December 10, 2023


With One Voice

Augustine, Sermons 60.6 (Patrologia Latina, vol. 38, col. 405; tr. Edmund Hill):
You never get up and go out without hearing everybody say, almost with one voice, "Alas, we've had it! The world is going to rack and ruin."

Non surgitur, non proceditur, nisi ut una voce dicatur ab omnibus: Vae nobis, ruit mundus.
Thanks to Eric Thomson for drawing my attention to Pierre Courcelle, "Propos antichrétiens rapportés par saint Augustin," Revue d'Etudes Augustiniennes et Patristiques 50.1 (2004) 21-58 (at 52):
Cette fois, l'entreprise barbare, ayant réussi, eut un retentissement immense; l'opinion publique se déchaîna. L'impression première que tous ressentirent fut celle d'un effondrement: «Malheur à nous, le monde croule162». Puis quantité d'exclamations renchérissant sur les doléances habituelles: «Malheur des temps, temps pénibles, temps fâcheux, temps cruels163. — Ce qui se passe dans le monde est dur, répugnant odieux164». L'on compare l'épreuve présente, que prolonge la famine, au passé qui était si brillant165: «Pendant combien de temps allons-nous subir ces malheurs? Tout va chaque jour de mal en pis: nos parents avaient des jours plus joyeux, des jours meilleurs... Le tyran a eu l'hégémonie; à sa mort, nous pensions être un peu soulagés: cela a été encore pis166».

162. Sermo LX, 6, 7, P.L., t. XXXVIII, 405 = éd. Lambot, dans Revue Bénédictine, t. LVIII, 1948, p. 41: «Non surgitur, non proceditur, nisi ut una uoce dicatur ab omnibus: 'Vae nobis, ruit mundus'».

163. Sermo LXXX, 1, 8, P.L., t. XXXVIII, 498: «'Mala tempora, laboriosa tempora' hoc dicunt homines»; Sermo Caillau et Saint-Yves, II, 19 Misc. Agost., t. I, p. 270, 1: «Fratres mei, murmuratur aliquis aduersus Deum, et dicit: 'Mala tempora, dura tempora, molesta tempora'» ; cf. Sermo CCCXI, 8, 8, P.L., t. XXXVIII, 1416 (dès 401-405): «Et dicitis: 'Molesta tempora, grauia tempora, misera tempora sunt'».

164. Sermo CCCXI, 17, 11, P.L., t. XXXVIII, 1419: «Sed mala, inquis, fiunt in mundo, aspera, immunda, odiosa».

165. In Ps., IV, 8, 13, CC, t. XXXVIII, 17: «Inuoluti meritis suis putant tempora esse peiora quam praeterita fuerunt.»

166. In Ps., XXXIII, sermo II, 17,5, CC, t. XXXVIII, 293 : «Nonne quotidie hoc murmuratis et hoc dicitis: 'Quamdiu ista patimur? Quotidie peiora et peiora: apud parentes nostros fuerunt dies laetiores, fuerunt dies meliores... Fuerunt beati patres nostri, nos miseri sumus, malos dies habemus; dominatus est ille, putabamus quia illo mortuo posset aliquod refrigerium dari. Deteriora uenerunt'»; Sermo Caillau et Saint-Yves, II, 92, Misc. Agost., t. I, p. 273, 1: «Quid ergo putas praeterita tempora fuisse meliora quam tua?»


Before Breakfast

George Gissing, letter to his brother Algernon (June 19, 1881):
Your study-plan is very good, and, if you can stick to it, will bring you through much work. At present, it being quite impossible for me to do any writing, I work something like this. Before breakfast three chapters of the Germania of Tacitus, and some Roman History; in the afternoon, History of the Middle Ages (I contemplate a Life and Times of Gregory VII., some day); at night, political reading, whatever general literature I have on hand, and, last of all, 50 lines of Sophocles—at present the Antigone.
Thomas Babington Macaulay, letter to Thomas Flower Ellis (December 16, 1834):
I have read during the last fortnight, before breakfast, three books of Herodotus, and four plays of Aeschylus.



Homer, Odyssey 2.281-284 (tr. A.T. Murray):
Now then let be the will and counsel of the wooers
—fools, for they are in no wise either prudent or just,
nor do they know aught of death or black fate,
which verily is near at hand for them, that they shall all perish in a day.

τῶ νῦν μνηστήρων μὲν ἔα βουλήν τε νόον τε
ἀφραδέων, ἐπεὶ οὔ τι νοήμονες οὐδὲ δίκαιοι·
οὐδέ τι ἴσασιν θάνατον καὶ κῆρα μέλαιναν,
ὃς δή σφι σχεδόν ἐστιν, ἐπ᾽ ἤματι πάντας ὀλέσθαι.

Saturday, December 09, 2023



Suetonius, Life of Augustus 40.3 (tr. Robert Graves):
Augustus thought it most important not to let the native Roman stock be tainted with foreign or servile blood, and was therefore very unwilling to create new Roman citizens or permit the manumission of more than a limited number of slaves. Once, when Tiberius requested that a Greek dependant of his should be granted the citizenship, Augustus wrote back that he could not assent unless the man put in a personal appearance and convinced him that he was worthy of the honour. When Livia made the same request for a Gaul from a tributary province, Augustus turned it down, saying that he would do no more than exempt the fellow from tribute — 'I would far rather forfeit whatever he may owe the imperial exchequer than cheapen the value of the Roman citizenship.'

magni praeterea existimans sincerum atque ab omni colluvione peregrini ac servilis sanguinis incorruptum servare populum, et civitates Romanas parcissime dedit et manumittendi modum terminavit. Tiberio pro cliente Graeco petenti rescripsit, non aliter se daturum, quam si praesens sibi persuasisset, quam iustas petendi causas haberet; et Liviae pro quodam tributario Gallo roganti civitatem negavit, immunitatem optulit affirmans facilius se passurum fisco detrahi aliquid, quam civitatis Romanae vulgari honorem.
See Clifford Ando, "Race and Citizenship in Roman Law and Administration," in Francisco Marco Simón et al, edd., Xenofobia y Racismo en el Mundo Antiguo (Barcelona: Edicions Universitat de Barcelona, 2019), pp. 175-188, who says at p. ?:
The most notorious racist in Roman history is surely the emperor Augustus.


Those Old Times Have Taken Hold Upon Me

George Gissing (1857-1903), The Unclassed, Chapter IV ("Christmas in Two Homes," Julian Casti speaking):
"You will think it strange, but I don't so much long for the modern Italy, for the beautiful scenery and climate, not even for the Italy of Raphael, or Dante. I think most of classical Italy. I am no scholar, but I love the Latin writers, and can forget myself for hours, working through Livy or Tacitus. I want to see the ruins of Rome; I want to see the Tiber, the Clitumnus, the Aufidius, the Alban Hills, Lake Trasimenus—a thousand places! It is strange how those old times have taken hold upon me. The mere names in Roman history make my blood warm."


The Duty to Help One's Own Kind

Archipoeta, Carmina III.13-14 (tr. Fleur Adcock):
With your accustomed care for duty, cherish us who are poor.
As a Tramontane, you should help me; I'm Tramontane too.

Pauperie plenos solita pietate fove nos
Et Transmontanos, vir Transmontane, iuva nos!
Addressed to Rainald of Dassel, Archbishop-Elect of Cologne and Frederick Barbarossa's Arch-Chancellor of Italy. Transmontane = Transalpine.

See Peter Godman, "Transmontani. Frederick Barbarossa, Rainald of Dassel, and Cultural Identity in the German Empire," Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und Literatur 132.2 (2010) 200-229 (at 227).

Friday, December 08, 2023


A Droll Death

M.L. West, The Making of the Odyssey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 14:
According to a legend used by Aeschylus in his Psychagogoi (fr. 275), Odysseus, after coming safely through all the perils that beset him on sea and land, perished at last in a droll manner. There fell on his bald pate the droppings of a passing heron that had eaten a stingray. The residual poison from the fish seeped into his scalp, and his aged constitution succumbed to it. I have argued elsewhere (2013: 307-15) that this was originally the 'gentle death from the sea' that Teiresias prophesied would visit him in his old age (λ 134-6).
Elsewhere = West's The Epic Cycle: A Commentary on the Lost Troy Epics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).


A Hard Life

Augustine, Sermons 60.2 (Patrologia Latina, vol. 38, cols. 402-403; tr. Edmund Hill):
It's a hard business, the life of mortals. What else does being born here mean, but entry into a wearisome life? Witness to the greater toils that lie ahead is borne by the very wails of the newborn child. Nobody can get out of attending this irksome party; the drinks Adam poured out have to be drunk.

Dura causa est vita mortalis. Quid est aliud hic nasci, nisi ingredi laboriosam vitam? De labore futuro nostrore, testis est ipse fletus infantis. Ab isto molesto convivio nemo est excusatus. Bibendum fuit quod propinavit Adam.
A somewhat different text in Revue bénédictine 58 (1948) 37:
Dura causa este uita mortalium. Quid est aliud hic nasci, nisi ingredi laboriosam uitam? De labore futuro maiore, testis est ipse fletus infantis. Ab isto molesto conuiuio nemo se excusat. Bibendum est quod propinauit Adam.



Homer, Odyssey 1.378-379 = 2.143-144 (Telemachus speaking; tr. Simon Pulleyn):
But I shall cry out to the everlasting gods,
In the hope that Zeus will grant me deeds of requital.

ἐγὼ δὲ θεοὺς ἐπιβώσομαι αἰὲν ἐόντας,
αἴ κέ ποθι Ζεὺς δῷσι παλίντιτα ἔργα γενέσθαι.

Thursday, December 07, 2023


The Pleasantest Way of Spending a Holiday

George Gissing, letter to his sister Margaret (April 16, 1882; Alg. = his brother Algernon):
Alg. and I often compare our notions as to the pleasantest way of spending a holiday. I say how grand it would be to have a month in the Mediterranean; Alg. would not think of that in preference to the Scotch border or the Hebrides. I cannot get him to realize the gloriousness of seeing Italy, Sicily and Greece, Rome, Athens, the Ionian Islands—countries where every spot of ground gives off as it were an absolute perfume of reminiscences and associations. Think of standing in the Forum, and saying to oneself—"Here on this very spot have Scipio and Sulla, Cicero and Caesar, Virgil and Horace stood and talked; these very blocks of stone and marble have echoed to the noises of a Roman crowd, and beheld the grandest scenes of all history!"


What Is Happening Among Mortals?

Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), "The Deceased," Dinner Pieces, tr. David Marsh (Binghamton: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, 1987 = Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 45), pp. 98-125 (at 99):
POL. Good. What news do you bring? What is happening among mortals?

NEO. Ha ha ha! Everyone is mad!

POL. Indeed, mad? But how?

NEO. In countless ways. They burn with love or seethe with hate, or some madness lures them to suffer toils, wounds, and extreme perils in pursuit of wealth and eminence, pleasures, and similar follies. I can hardly describe what impetuous desires and feverish cares seize and inflame the minds of mortals. Man's perennial condition is this: everyone living either hopes or fears, dares or dreads, grieves or exults, is angry or cold and languid; or in turn envies, despises, hates, or is consumed by other such cares. In short, if you ponder everything thoroughly, you'll understand that there is almost nothing mortals do which you would not judge vain and foolish.
The Latin, from Leon Battista Alberti, Autobiografia e altre opere latine. A cura di Loredana Chines e Andrea Severi (Milano: Rizzoli, 2012), p. 358:
POLYTROPUS. Bene est. Et quid portas novi? Quid fit apud mortales?

NEOPHRONUS. Hahahe! Deliratur.

POLYTROPUS. Ne vero deliratur? At qui id?

(16) NEOPHRONUS. Modis quidem infinitis: aut enim ardent amoribus aut flagrant odiis aut quadam insania per labores, per vulnera perque extrema omnia pericula ducuntur ad questum, ad amplitudinem capessendam, ad voluptates exequendas adque huiusmodi ineptias obeundas. (17) Neque facile dixerim quam precipites cupiditates quamve ingens curarum estus rapiant animos mortalium atque exurant. (18) Se quidem sic semper habet, qui inter mortales degit, ut speret aut metuat, audeat aut reformidet aut mereat aut exultet aut irascatur aut frigescat et langueat, rursus invideat aut contemnat aut oderit aut reliquis curis istiusmodi conficiatur: denique cum satis omnia pensitaris, intelliges a mortalibus ferme nihil fieri quod ipsum non frustra et inepte factum iudices.
mereat = maereat or moereat


Seven Conditions

Philip Manville and Josiah Ober, The Civic Bargain: How Democracy Survives (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2023), p. 5:
1. No Boss—except one another: citizens govern themselves, directly or through accountable representatives
2. Security and Welfare: ensure common safety, freedom from harm, and basic means of living as a common good for all
3. Citizenship Defined: formally specify who is a citizen, and what that means, including the extent of citizens’ equality, freedoms, and responsibilities
4. Citizen-Led Institutions: maintain institutions of decision-making and conflict resolution under the charge of members of the democracy
5. Good Faith Compromise: prefer common good compromise in political decisions over unilateral demands for perfection
6. Civic Friendship: act as “civic friends” with one another, not as enemies, smoothing the way to renegotiate bargains with one another and meet future challenges
7. Civic Education: provide civic learning and experiences for citizens, instilling the values and practices they need to keep bossless self-governance

Wednesday, December 06, 2023


Best Wishes

Homer, Odyssey 2.33-34 (A.T. Murray):
A good man he seems in my eyes, a blessed man. May Zeus fulfil unto him himself some good, even whatsoever he desires in his heart.

ἐσθλός μοι δοκεῖ εἶναι, ὀνήμενος. εἴθε οἱ αὐτῷ
Ζεὺς ἀγαθὸν τελέσειεν, ὅτι φρεσὶν ᾗσι μενοινᾷ.


Misquoting Byron

John Last, "The tiny Italian town that drinks like Ancient Rome and Greece," BBC (December 6, 2023):
Arquà Petrarca, as it has since been renamed, is still a small town of barely 2,000 residents — a "soft, quiet hamlet… in the deep umbridge of a green hill's shade", to quote Lord Byron, who visited the town on the Grand Tour.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who remarks: "Byron would take umbrage at 'umbridge'."

Related post: Umbrance.


Tuesday, December 05, 2023


The Case for Inactivity

Euripides, fragment 576 Kannicht, in Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, Vol. 5, p. 595 (from Oenomaus; my translation):
Of mortal men, the one doing the most makes the most mistakes.

ὁ πλεῖστα πράσσων πλεῖστ' ἁμαρτάνει βροτῶν.
Related posts:



George Gissing (1857-1903), The Nether World, Vol. III, Chap. X (Mad Jack speaking):
This life you are now leading is that of the damned; this place to which you are confined is Hell! There is no escape for you. From poor you shall become poorer; the older you grow the lower shall you sink in want and misery; at the end there is waiting for you, one and all, a death in abandonment and despair. This is Hell—Hell—Hell!

Monday, December 04, 2023


Age and Wisdom

Homer, Odyssey 2.16 (tr. S.H. Butcher and A. Lang):
Bowed was he with age, and skilled in things past number.

ὃς δὴ γήραϊ κυφὸς ἔην καὶ μυρία ᾔδη.

Sunday, December 03, 2023


Roast Beef

George Gissing, letter to Henry Hick (December 17, 1900):
Oh, an honest bit of English roast beef! Could you put a slice in a letter?? — with gravy?


The Ancient Dead

George Seferis (1900-1971), Mythistorema 21 (tr. Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard):
We who set out on this pilgrimage
looked at the broken statues
we forgot ourselves and said that life is not so easily lost
that death has unexplored paths
and its own particular justice;

that while we, still upright on our feet, are dying,
become brothers in stone
united in hardness and weakness,
the ancient dead have escaped the circle and risen again
and smile in a strange silence.

Ἐμεῖς ποὺ ξεκινήσαμε γιὰ τὸ προσκύνημα τοῦτο
κοιτάξαμε τὰ σπασμένα ἀγάλματα
ξεχαστήκαμε καὶ εἴπαμε πὼς δὲ χάνεται ἡ ζωὴ τόσο εὔκολα
πὼς ἔχει ὁ θάνατος δρόμους ἀνεξερεύνητους
καὶ μία δική του δικαιοσύνη·

πὼς ὅταν ἐμεῖς ὀρθοὶ στὰ πόδια μας πεθαίνουμε
μέσα στὴν πέτρα ἀδερφωμένοι
ἑνωμένοι μὲ τὴ σκληρότητα καὶ τὴν ἀδυναμία,
οἱ παλαιοὶ νεκροὶ ξεφύγαν ἀπ᾿ τὸν κύκλο καὶ ἀναστήθηκαν
καὶ χαμογελᾶνε μέσα σὲ μία παράξενη ἡσυχία.


Don't Forget This

Augustine, Sermons 51.35 (Patrologia Latina, vol. 38, col. 354; tr. Edmund Hill):
Above all, don't forget this: not to be unduly troubled when you don't yet understand the holy scriptures; when you do understand them, not to get a swollen head.

Illud ante omnia retinete, ut Scripturis sanctis nondum intellectis non perturbemini; intelligentes autem non inflemini.

Saturday, December 02, 2023


It Takes One to Know One

Cicero, Academica 2.3.9 (tr. H. Rackham):
For to decide who is a wise man seems to be a task that specially requires a wise man to undertake it.

statuere enim qui sit sapiens vel maxime videtur esse sapientis.


Science and Myth

Epicurus, Principal Doctrines 12 (tr. Cyril Bailey):
A man cannot dispel his fear about the most important matters if he does not know what is the nature of the universe but suspects the truth of some mythical story. So that without natural science it is not possible to attain our pleasures unalloyed.

οὐκ ἦν τὸ φοβούμενον λύειν ὑπὲρ τῶν κυριωτάτων μὴ κατειδότα τίς ἡ τοῦ σύμπαντος φύσις, ἀλλ᾽ ὑποπτευόμενόν τι τῶν κατὰ τοὺς μύθους· ὥστε οὐκ ἦν ἄνευ φυσιολογίας ἀκεραίους τὰς ἡδονὰς ἀπολαμβάνειν.



H.L. Mencken, "The Rewards of Virtue," Chicago Tribune (October 10, 1926):
I know, like most men of my trade and interests, something about college professors, but, rather unusually, I also know something about bricklayers. My belief is that the latter are far more useful than the former, and that, taking one with another, they are also far more amiable and amusing fellows.

The pedagogue, being excessively literate, has long poisoned the world with highfalutin tosh about his high dignity and consequence, and especially about his altruism. He is commonly regarded, even by those who ought to know better, as a hero who has made vast sacrifices for the good of the rising generation and the honor of learning. He is, in fact, seldom anything of the sort. He is simply a lazybones who has taken to the birch in order to escape implements of a greater laboriousness. The rising generation is not his pet, but simply his oyster. And he has no more respect for learning, in his average incarnation, than a congressman has for statecraft or a Prohibition agent or lawyer for law.

The world’s stock of knowledge is seldom augmented by pedagogues; far more often they oppose its increase in a violent and implacable manner.

Friday, December 01, 2023


Whose Ears?

Catullus 64.169-170 (tr. Charles Stuttaford):
Thus cruel fate mocks me in my sore plight and has even grudged me a listener to my plaints.

sic nimis insultans extremo tempore saeva
Fors etiam nostris invidit questibus auris.
Wilhelm Kroll ad loc.:
169 saeva Fors ist die grausame Tyche der hellenistischen Dichtung (Rohde, Roman 276); sie hat Ariadne nicht bloß in diese verzweifelte Lage gebracht, sondern ihr auch (etiam) das Ohr verweigert, das ihre Klagen hören könnte. Darin liegt ein Übermut der Tyche, die mit dem Menschen spielt (Hor. C. 3, 29, 49 Fortuna saevo laeta negotio et ludum insolentem ludere pertinax), hier noch dazu in höchster Not und scheinbarer Todesgefahr (extremo tempore vgl. 151). Gerade in Fors empfindet man das blinde, sinnlose Walten. Cic. leg. 2, 28 Fortuna sit vel ... vel Fors, in quo incerti casus significantur magis. — 170 etiam steht nicht neben dem gesteigerten Wort; Müller zu Cic. off. 2, 64.
Ariadne is abandoned on a deserted island, where there is no one to hear her complaints. But some think that it is Fors who shuts her ears to Ariadne's laments. See e.g. Daniel H. Garrison ad loc.:
fortune has even been grudging of her ear to my complaints.
Cf. C.J. Fordyce ad loc.:
'even grudges my plaint a hearing'.

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