Euripides, Ion (Happy Highlights)

“Many misfortunes befall many people, and they differ only in appearance; it is with great difficulty that one could ever find something happy in human life.”

πολλαί γε πολλοῖς εἰσι συμφοραὶ βροτῶν, μορφαὶ δὲ διαφέρουσιν: ἓν δ᾽ ἂν εὐτυχὲς μόλις ποτ᾽ ἐξεύροι τις ἀνθρώπων βίῳ. Lines 381-383

“How can it be right for you to prescribe laws for mortals while the reproach of lawlessness is always upon you?”

πῶς οὖν δίκαιον τοὺς νόμους ὑμᾶς βροτοῖς γράψαντας, αὐτοὺς ἀνομίαν ὀφλισκάνειν; Lines 442-443

“I have no inclination to teach uncultured and savage strangers.”

οὐ φιλῶ φρενοῦν ἀμούσους καὶ μεμηνότας ξένους. Line 526

“Earth bears no children.”

οὐ πέδον τίκτει τέκνα. Line 542

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Euripides, Ion 621-632 (Reflections on Tyranny)

“Who can be blessed or fortunate when he draws out the length of his days by fearing for his life? I would rather live as a happy citizen than be a tyrant who delights in keeping bad company, and hates excellent men because he fears death. You might say that gold overcomes these things, that being rich is a source of joy? I have no desire to hear the empty jangle of coin in my hand as I horde a fortune, nor do I long for labors: let me possess a modest share without toil.”

τίς γὰρ μακάριος, τίς εὐτυχής,
ὅστις δεδοικὼς καὶ παραβλέπων βίον
αἰῶνα τείνει; δημότης ἂν εὐτυχὴς
ζῆν ἂν θέλοιμι μᾶλλον ἢ τύραννος ὤν,
ᾧ τοὺς πονηροὺς ἡδονὴ φίλους ἔχειν,
ἐσθλοὺς δὲ μισεῖ κατθανεῖν φοβούμενος.
εἴποις ἂν ὡς ὁ χρυσὸς ἐκνικᾷ τάδε,
πλουτεῖν τε τερπνόν; οὐ φιλῶ ψόφους κλύειν
ἐν χερσὶ σῴζων ὄλβον οὐδ᾽ ἔχειν πόνους:
εἴη γ᾽ ἐμοὶ μὲν μέτρια μὴ λυπουμένῳ.


There are multiple parallels for this basic sentiment, but I will list two which readily occur to mind:

“I care not for the wealth of golden Gyges, nor has envy ever seized me, nor am I jealous of the works of the gods, nor do I have any desire to be a great tyrant. Such things lay far outside of my consideration.”

οὔ μοι τὰ Γύγεω τοῦ πολυχρύσου μέλει,
οὐδ᾽ εἷλέ πώ με ζῆλος, οὐδ᾽ ἀγαίομαι
θεῶν ἔργα, μεγάλης δ᾽ οὐκ ἐρέω τυραννίδος:
ἀπόπροθεν γάρ ἐστιν ὀφθαλμῶν ἐμῶν.
Archilocus, 22

“Let someone else heap up mounds of tawny gold and cultivate his many acres; let constant labor wear him down while his enemy lives next door, and let sound of war trumpets chase away his dreams. As for me, let my honorable poverty lead me through a quiet life, as long as my hearth burns with a constant fire.”

Divitias alius fulvo sibi congerat auro
Et teneat culti iugera multa soli,
Quem labor adsiduus vicino terreat hoste,
Martia cui somnos classica pulsa fugent:
Me mea paupertas vita traducat inerti,
Dum meus adsiduo luceat igne focus.
Tibullus, 1.1.1-6


Jumping ahead almost 1,800 years, Edward Gibbon gives an account of the pitfalls of tyranny in his description of Didius Julianus, who purchased the imperial throne from the praetorian guards, who had resolved to sell it after brutally murdering the previous emperor, Pertinax. Gibbon’s account is imbued with the same spirit which runs through the above three passages:

“From the senate Julian was conducted, by the same military procession, to take possession of the palace. The first objects that struck his eyes, were the abandoned trunk of Pertinax, and the frugal entertainment prepared for his supper. The one he viewed with indifference, the other with contempt. A magnificent feast was prepared by his order, and he amused himself, till a very late hour, with dice, and the performances of Pylades, a celebrated dancer. Yet it was observed, that after the crowd of flatterers dispersed, and left him to darkness, solitude, and terrible reflection, he passed a sleepless night; revolving most probably in his mind his own rash folly, the fate of his virtuous predecessor, and the doubtful and dangerous tenure of an empire which had not been acquired by merit, but purchased by money.”
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I, Chapter V

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Archippus fr. 51 (Bachmann’s Lexicon)

 

 

“Ignorant is wise and just is unjust.”

 

ἀμαθὴς σοφός, δίκαιος ἄδικος

 

Yes. And War is Peace. Someone scooped Orwell, it seems.  Archippus? Another Old Comic poet…

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Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.5.1-2

“You, however, as if you were talking to Evander’s mother, wish us to recall words which have been out of use for ages now. You have even incited some excellent men, whose minds have been formed by continuous reading, to embrace this heap of words. But you boast that antiquity pleases you because it is honorable, prudent, and moderate: let us then live in that good old-fashioned way, but use a modern vocabulary. Indeed, I myself always bear in mind and heart the precept of Julius Caesar, a man of approved genius and wisdom, who wrote in his book De Analogia, ‘I would flee a rare and uncustomary word as though it were a rocky cliff.'”

tu autem proinde quasi cum matre Evandri nunc loquare, vis nobis verba multis iam saeculis oblitterata revocare, ad quorum congeriem praestantes quoque viros, quorum memoriam continuus legendi usus instruit, incitasti. Sed antiquitatem vobis placere iactatis, quod honesta et sobria et modesta sit: vivamus ergo moribus praeteritis, praesentibus verbis loquamur. ego enim id quod a C. Caesare, excellentis ingenii ac prudentiae viro, in primo Analogiae libro scriptum est habeo semper in memoria atque in pectore, ut ‘tamquam scopulum, sic fugiam infrequens atque insolens verbum.’

Notes:
Evander was a heroic character of Grecian stock who was particularly celebrated in Roman legendary tradition for importing various forms of civilized customs to Italy. His arrival in Italy predates that of Aeneas, and Vergil depicts him aiding Aeneas against the Rutulians. Some traditions held that Evander’s mother Carmenta invented the Latin alphabet. In any event, the reference is to her extreme antiquity, and therefore, the outdated language which would be required in making yourself intelligible to her.

Caesar wrote a work, De Analogia, which discussed various grammatical topics. Perhaps the tediousness of this work accounts for the delight which Cicero expressed at Caesar’s murder. With the exception of the emperor Claudius, there are few rulers readily present to my mind who took such an interest in grammar and linguistics. Indeed, the attitude of the Emperor Sigismund, when corrected on a grammatical point, expressed the more typically royal attitude in saying “Ego sum rex Romanus et super grammaticam.” (“I am the Roman emperor and therefore above considerations of grammar.”)

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Ameipsias, Fr. 7 (Diogenes Laertius, 2.27-28)

 

“Socrates, the best of men when there are few and the most foolish among the many:

You have come to see us too? You are brave. Where would you get a cloak?

Your appearance is an embarrassment to cobblers everywhere.”

 

Σώκρατες ἀνδρῶν βέλτιστ᾿ ὀλίγων, πολλῶν δὲ ματαιοταθ᾿, ἥκεις

καὶ σὺ πρὸς ἡμᾶς; καρτερικὸς γ᾿ εἶ. πόθεν ἄν σοι χλαῖνα γένοιτο;

τουτὶ τὸ κακὸν τῶν σκυτότομων κατ᾿ ἐπήρειαν γεγένηται

 

Pretty sure that the “you have crappy shoes” insult wouldn’t have bothered ol’ Socrates. But Ameipsias, though not a household name, was no slacker: he bested Aristophanes twice! And mocking Socrates seems like a good habit from Old Comedy. Apart from Aristophanes, Eupolis was in on the action too:

 

“I hate Socrates too,

that prattling panhandler

who figured out everything

except where he can get someting to eat.”

 

μισῶ δὲ καὶ Σωκράτην

τὸν πτωχὸν ἀδολέσχην,

ὃς τἆλλα μὲν πεφρόντικεν,

ὁπόθεν δὲ καταφαγεῖν ἔχοι

τούτου κατημέληκεν

 

Eupolis? I guess he lost the battle with Socrates.

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Euripides, Heracles 637-654 (An Encomium to Youth)

Youth is always precious to me, and old age, a burden heavier than Aetna’s crags, is placed upon my head, shrouding the light of my eyes in shady gloom. Let me not possess the fortune of an eastern tyrant, and let me not choose houses full of gold in preference to youth, which is the most beautiful thing both in fortune and in poverty. I hate old age, such a sad and deadly thing. Let it be swept away among the waves! Would that it never came upon the homes and cities of mortals! Let it be born away on wings through the air!

If the gods had intelligence and wisdom, according to mortal standards, they would have given us a two-fold youth, a clear mark of virtue wherever it were found, and those who have died would cross again the double channel into the rays of the sun. But the base-born would have but one single life, and thus it would be possible to distinguish the bad from the good, just as sailors know the number of the stars among the clouds. But as things stand now, there is no clear boundary between the bad and good, and as time rolls on, it increases nothing but wealth.

ἁ νεότας μοι φίλον αἰ-
εί: τὸ δὲ γῆρας ἄχθος
βαρύτερον Αἴτνας σκοπέλων
ἐπὶ κρατὶ κεῖται, βλεφάρων
σκοτεινὸν φάος ἐπικαλύψαν.
μή μοι μήτ᾽ Ἀσιήτιδος
τυραννίδος ὄλβος εἴη,
μὴ χρυσοῦ δώματα πλήρη
τᾶς ἥβας ἀντιλαβεῖν,
ἃ καλλίστα μὲν ἐν ὄλβῳ,
καλλίστα δ᾽ ἐν πενίᾳ.
τὸ δὲ λυγρὸν φόνιόν τε γῆ-
ρας μισῶ: κατὰ κυμάτων δ᾽
ἔρροι, μηδέ ποτ᾽ ὤφελεν
θνατῶν δώματα καὶ πόλεις
ἐλθεῖν, ἀλλὰ κατ᾽ αἰθέρ᾽ αἰ-
εὶ πτεροῖσι φορείσθω.

εἰ δὲ θεοῖς ἦν ξύνεσις
καὶ σοφία κατ᾽ ἄνδρας,
δίδυμον ἂν ἥβαν ἔφερον
φανερὸν χαρακτῆρ᾽ ἀρετᾶς
ὅσοισιν μέτα, κατθανόντες τ᾽
εἰς αὐγὰς πάλιν ἁλίου
δισσοὺς ἂν ἔβαν διαύλους,
ἁ δυσγένεια δ᾽ ἁπλοῦν ἂν
εἶχεν ζόας βίοτον,
καὶ τῷδ᾽ ἦν τούς τε κακοὺς ἂν
γνῶναι καὶ τοὺς ἀγαθούς,
ἴσον ἅτ᾽ ἐν νεφέλαισιν ἄ-
στρων ναύταις ἀριθμὸς πέλει.
νῦν δ᾽ οὐδεὶς ὅρος ἐκ θεῶν
χρηστοῖς οὐδὲ κακοῖς σαφής,
ἀλλ᾽ εἱλισσόμενός τις αἰ-
ὼν πλοῦτον μόνον αὔξει.

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Apologies to Cicero: Vetera Verba in his Favor

 

Yesterday, we might have been a bit unfair to our friend M. Tully Cicero

 

At least one person objected to the question:

 

To be fair, one respondent had some antipathy for the consul-extraordinaire:

 

To make some amends, here are some of our Cicero quotes:

Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

Epist. ad Fam. 6.6.6

“I would prefer the most unfair peace to the justest war”

iniquissimam pacem iustissimo bello anteferrem

 

Philippics 12.5

 

“All men make mistakes; but it is fools who persist in them”

cuiusvis hominis est errare; nullius nisi insipientis perseverare in errore

 

On Old Age, 24

 

“No one is so old that he thinks he could not live another year”

nemo enim est tam senex qui se annum non putet posse vivere

 

In Verrem, 1.1.4

 

“There is nothing so sacred that it cannot be sullied, nor anything so protected that it cannot be overcome by money”.

nihil esse tam sanctum quod non violari, nihil tam munitum quod non expugnari pecunia possit.

 

Tusculan Disputations, 2.47

 

“Reason is the mistress and queen of all things”

 

domina omnium et regina ratio

 

 

De Oratore, 3.7

 

“O, how misleading is the hope of men”

 

O fallacem hominum spem

 

So, who’d you rather share a drink with, Cicero or Seneca?

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