Horace’s Minor Madness

Horace, Epistles 2.118-125

“This mistake, this minor madness, still possesses
This many advantages—consider them. The poet is
Not one with a greedy heart. He loves his lines, and desires
This alone. He mocks lost money, the flight of slaves and fires
There’s no thought of fraud against his friend or his ward
He lives as well as thin gruel and dry bread can afford.
Although he’s slow and a bad soldier, he’s still of use,
If you believe this: that grand affairs are helped by small matters too.”

Hic error tamen et levis haec insania quantas
virtutes habeat, sic collige. vatis avarus
non temere est animus; versus amat, hoc studet unum;
detrimenta, fugas servorum, incendia ridet;
non fraudem socio puerove incogitat ullam
pupillo; vivit siliquis et pane secundo;
militiae quamquam piger et malus, utilis urbi,
si das hoc, parvis quoque rebus magna iuvari.

Horace reads before Maecenas, by Fyodor Bronnikov

Performing Prophecies

Schol. bT ad Hom. Il. 2.350 ex

“Odysseus properly, as he speaks to the public, offers the prophecy of Kalkhas to please the people, since he was hateful to the sons of Atreus but sweet to the masses. Nestor, because he is trying to please the king, offers the signs of the king of the gods. For this reason Odysseus is praised by the Greeks but Nestor is praised by the king.”

οἰκείως ὁ μὲν ᾿Οδυσσεὺς δημοχαριστικῶς δημηγορῶν τοῦ Κάλχαντος προβάλλεται τὴν μαντείαν, ὃς ἦν τοῖς ᾿Ατρείδαις ἐχθρός, τῷ δὲ πλήθει γλυκύς· ὁ δὲ Νέστωρ τῷ βασιλεῖ χαριζόμενος τὰ τοῦ βασιλέως τῶν θεῶν προβάλλεται· διὸ ὁ μὲν παρὰ τῶν ῾Ελλήνων, ὁ δὲ Νέστωρ παρὰ τοῦ βασιλέως ἐγκωμιάζεται

Homer, Iliad 2.299–330 (Odysseus)

“Endure, friends, and wait some time so we may learn,
Whether Kalkhas prophesied truly or not.
For we all know this well in our minds: you were all
Witnesses, at least those of you the fates of death have not carried off.
On that day long ago when the ships of the Achaeans gathered
At Aulis preparing troubles for Priam and the Trojans:
We were all around the sacred altars along a spring
Completing sacrifices to the immortal gods
Under a beautiful plane tree from where the sparkling water issued.
A great omen appeared there: a serpent with a deep-red back,
Terrible, which the Olympian himself sent to the light,
Crept up from under the altar and moved toward the plane tree.
There were newborn sparrow-chicks, immature ones
Were peering out under the leaves on the topmost bow.
There eight of them but the mother who bore them made it nine.
Then the serpent gulped them all down as they tweeted pitifully.
Their mother hopped around mourning over her dear offspring.
Well, he coiled up and grabbed her by the wing as she cried over them.
When it had swallowed the sparrow’s children and her too.
Then the god who exposed the serpent made it disappear—
The son of crooked-minded Kronos made it into stone.
We all stood in awe at the thing that happened,
That’s how terrible the portents of the gods were over our sacrifices.
Kalkhas immediately addressed us, offering his interpretation:
“Why are you silent, you long-haired Achaeans?
The great counsellor Zeus has shown us this sign:
Late coming, late completed, and its’ fame will never die.
Just as it ate up the sparrow’s children and her too,
Eight of them and the mother who bore them was the ninth,
So too we will war here for that many years
And in the tenth we will take the wide-wayed city.”
That’s how Kalkhas interpreted. Now all these things are being completed.”

τλῆτε φίλοι, καὶ μείνατ’ ἐπὶ χρόνον ὄφρα δαῶμεν
ἢ ἐτεὸν Κάλχας μαντεύεται ἦε καὶ οὐκί.
εὖ γὰρ δὴ τόδε ἴδμεν ἐνὶ φρεσίν, ἐστὲ δὲ πάντες
μάρτυροι, οὓς μὴ κῆρες ἔβαν θανάτοιο φέρουσαι·
χθιζά τε καὶ πρωΐζ’ ὅτ’ ἐς Αὐλίδα νῆες ᾿Αχαιῶν
ἠγερέθοντο κακὰ Πριάμῳ καὶ Τρωσὶ φέρουσαι,
ἡμεῖς δ’ ἀμφὶ περὶ κρήνην ἱεροὺς κατὰ βωμοὺς
ἕρδομεν ἀθανάτοισι τεληέσσας ἑκατόμβας
καλῇ ὑπὸ πλατανίστῳ ὅθεν ῥέεν ἀγλαὸν ὕδωρ·
ἔνθ’ ἐφάνη μέγα σῆμα· δράκων ἐπὶ νῶτα δαφοινὸς
σμερδαλέος, τόν ῥ’ αὐτὸς ᾿Ολύμπιος ἧκε φόως δέ,
βωμοῦ ὑπαΐξας πρός ῥα πλατάνιστον ὄρουσεν.
ἔνθα δ’ ἔσαν στρουθοῖο νεοσσοί, νήπια τέκνα,
ὄζῳ ἐπ’ ἀκροτάτῳ πετάλοις ὑποπεπτηῶτες
ὀκτώ, ἀτὰρ μήτηρ ἐνάτη ἦν ἣ τέκε τέκνα·
ἔνθ’ ὅ γε τοὺς ἐλεεινὰ κατήσθιε τετριγῶτας·
μήτηρ δ’ ἀμφεποτᾶτο ὀδυρομένη φίλα τέκνα·
τὴν δ’ ἐλελιξάμενος πτέρυγος λάβεν ἀμφιαχυῖαν.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ κατὰ τέκνα φάγε στρουθοῖο καὶ αὐτήν,
τὸν μὲν ἀρίζηλον θῆκεν θεὸς ὅς περ ἔφηνε·
λᾶαν γάρ μιν ἔθηκε Κρόνου πάϊς ἀγκυλομήτεω·
ἡμεῖς δ’ ἑσταότες θαυμάζομεν οἷον ἐτύχθη.
ὡς οὖν δεινὰ πέλωρα θεῶν εἰσῆλθ’ ἑκατόμβας,
Κάλχας δ’ αὐτίκ’ ἔπειτα θεοπροπέων ἀγόρευε·
τίπτ’ ἄνεῳ ἐγένεσθε κάρη κομόωντες ᾿Αχαιοί;
ἡμῖν μὲν τόδ’ ἔφηνε τέρας μέγα μητίετα Ζεὺς
ὄψιμον ὀψιτέλεστον, ὅου κλέος οὔ ποτ’ ὀλεῖται.
ὡς οὗτος κατὰ τέκνα φάγε στρουθοῖο καὶ αὐτὴν
ὀκτώ, ἀτὰρ μήτηρ ἐνάτη ἦν ἣ τέκε τέκνα,
ὣς ἡμεῖς τοσσαῦτ’ ἔτεα πτολεμίξομεν αὖθι,
τῷ δεκάτῳ δὲ πόλιν αἱρήσομεν εὐρυάγυιαν.
κεῖνος τὼς ἀγόρευε· τὰ δὴ νῦν πάντα τελεῖται.

2.350–356 (Nestor)

“I say that the over-powering son of Kronos assented
On that day when the Argives took to the fast-faring ships
Bringing murder and death to the Trojans,
Showing clear and favorable signs by flashing lightning.
So let no one be compelled to return home,
Because each one has taken a Trojan wife to bed
As payback for Helen’s writhing and moans.”

φημὶ γὰρ οὖν κατανεῦσαι ὑπερμενέα Κρονίωνα
ἤματι τῷ ὅτε νηυσὶν ἐν ὠκυπόροισιν ἔβαινον
᾿Αργεῖοι Τρώεσσι φόνον καὶ κῆρα φέροντες
ἀστράπτων ἐπιδέξι’ ἐναίσιμα σήματα φαίνων.
τὼ μή τις πρὶν ἐπειγέσθω οἶκον δὲ νέεσθαι
πρίν τινα πὰρ Τρώων ἀλόχῳ κατακοιμηθῆναι,
τίσασθαι δ’ ῾Ελένης ὁρμήματά τε στοναχάς τε.

Ilias Kodex.jpg
Iliad Codex

Tell Me Ancient Sages: Should I Take a Nap?

Democritus D183 [(B212) Stob. 3.6.27]

“Sleeping in the day is a sign of trouble in the body or else anxiety, laziness or ignorance of the soul”

ἡμερήσιοι ὕπνοι σώματος ὄχλησιν ἢ ψυχῆς ἀδημοσύνην ἢ ἀργίην ἢ ἀπαιδευσίην σημαίνουσι.


But Cicero did it!

Cicero, De Divinatione 2. 142

“With the exception of that dream about Marius, I don’t remember any one clearly. How many of the nights during my long life have been useless! Now too, thanks to a break in my political work, I have stopped studying at night and I have added daytime napping—which I never used to do at all. But I am neither bothered by any dream in so much sleep—and certainly not concerning these great affairs, and nor do I ever think more to myself that must be dreaming when I actually see the magistrates in the forum and the senators in the senate.”

Mihi quidem praeter hoc Marianum nihil sane, quod meminerim. Frustra igitur consumptae tot noctes tam longa in aetate! Nunc quidem propter intermissionem forensis operae et lucubrationes detraxi et meridiationes addidi, quibus uti antea non solebam, nec tam multum dormiens ullo somnio sum admonitus, tantis praesertim de rebus, nec mihi magis umquam videor, quam cum aut in foro magistratus aut in curia senatum video, somniare.

Theocritus, Epigram 19

“Be bold and sit down—if you want, take a nap”

θαρσέων καθίζευ, κἢν θέλῃς ἀπόβριξον

Philostratus, Heroicus 16

“For he happened to be sleeping there at midday…”

ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἔτυχε καθεύδων μεσημβρίας ἐνταῦθα



Apuleius, Metamorphoses 4.27

“To start with, only false dreams accompany naps during the day and, in addition, even nighttime dreams often prophesy the opposite facts. For example, crying, being beaten or even sometimes having your throat slit in dreams actually predicts profitable or prosperous futures. Laughing or scarfing down honey-sweet treats or having sex, on the contrary, will foretell someone being troubled by depression, physical exhaustion and other kinds of curses.”

Nam praeter quod diurnae quietis imagines falsae perhibentur, tunc etiam nocturnae visiones contrarios eventus nonnumquam pronuntiant. Denique flere et vapulare et nonnumquam iugulari lucrosum prosperumque proventum nuntiant; contra ridere et mellitis dulciolis ventrem saginare vel in voluptatem Veneriam convenire tristitie animi, languore corporis, damnisque ceteris vexatum iri praedicabunt.


Martial, Epigram 3.44.16

“Exhausted, I am trying to sleep—you keep waking me when I lie down.”

lassus dormio: suscitas iacentem.

Lucian, A True Story 2. 26

“I was not there for I happened to be taking a nap at the dinner party”

ἐγὼ μὲν οὐ παρῆν· ἐτύγχανον γὰρ ἐν τῷ συμποσίῳ κοιμώμενος


Varro did it too!

Varro, On Agriculture 2.6

“I would not be able to live here, where the night and day return and depart in equal turn, if I did not split the difference with my customary midday nap.”

Ego hic, ubi nox et dies modice redit et abit, tamen aestivo die, si non diffinderem meo insiticio somno meridie, vivere non possum. Illic in semenstri die aut nocte quem ad modum quicquam seri aut alescere aut meti possit?


Give me a verdict, Horace….

Horace, Epistle 2.31-36

“Come now, what disturbs the sound of our shared song?
One who once wore finely made and beautiful hair
One you know was pleasing to thirsty Cinara,
And who would drink bright Falernian in the middle of the day,
Now a small meal pleases him followed by a nap in the soft plants by a river–
It is not shameful to have been a fool, but only not to stop being one.”

Nunc age, quid nostrum concentum dividat audi.
quem tenues decuere togae nitidique capilli,
quem scis immunem Cinarae placuisse rapaci,
quem bibulum liquidi media de luce Falerni,
cena brevis iuvat et prope rivum somnus in herba;
nec lusisse pudet, sed non incidere ludum.

Image result for medieval monk napping
British Library Royal 10 E IV f. 221

Nature’s Judgment

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers Anaxagoras 2.3

“There are different accounts about the trial of Anaxagoras. Sotion claims in his Succession of the Philosophers that he was taken to court for impiety because he claimed that the sun was molten metal. When his student Perikles made his defense, he was penalized five talents and sent into exile.

But Satyros in his Lives says that he was prosecuted by Thucydides who was working against Perikles and that in addition to impiety he was charged with treason with Persia. He was sentenced to death in absentia. When it was announced to him both that his sons were dead and he was sentenced, he said concerning the judgment that, “nature condemned me and my judges to death long ago” and on his sons, “well, I knew they they were born mortal.” But there are those who attribute this story to Solon while others say it was Xenophon.

Demetrius of Phalerum, in his On Old Age, says that Anaxagoras buried his sons with his own hands. Hermippos in his Lives says that he was locked up before he was about to die and that Perikles came forward and asked if they could accuse him of anything in his life. When they said nothing, he said, “Well, I am his student. Do not be overwhelmed by slanders and kill this person, but listen to me and let him go.” And he was freed. But because he could not endure the outrage, he killed himself.”

Περὶ δὲ τῆς δίκης αὐτοῦ διάφορα λέγεται. Σωτίων μὲν γάρ φησιν ἐν τῇ Διαδοχῇ τῶν φιλοσόφων ὑπὸ Κλέωνος αὐτὸν ἀσεβείας κριθῆναι, διότι τὸν ἥλιον μύδρον ἔλεγε διάπυρον· ἀπολογησαμένου δὲ ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ Περικλέους τοῦ μαθητοῦ, πέντε ταλάντοις ζημιωθῆναι καὶ φυγαδευθῆναι. Σάτυρος δ᾿ ἐν τοῖς Βίοις ὑπὸ Θουκυδίδου φησὶν εἰσαχθῆναι τὴν δίκην, ἀντιπολιτευομένου τῷ Περικλεῖ· καὶ οὐ μόνον ἀσεβείας, ἀλλὰ καὶ μηδισμοῦ· καὶ ἀπόντα καταδικασθῆναι θανάτῳ. ὅτε καὶ ἀμφοτέρων αὐτῷ προσαγγελέντων, τῆς τε καταδίκης καὶ τῆς τῶν παίδων τελευτῆς, εἰπεῖν περὶ μὲν τῆς καταδίκης, ὅτι ἄρα “κἀκείνων κἀμοῦ πάλαι ἡ φύσις κατεψηφίσατο,” περὶ δὲ τῶν παίδων, ὅτι “ᾔδειν αὐτοὺς θνητοὺς γεννήσας.” οἱ δ᾿ εἰς Σόλωνα τοῦτ᾿ ἀναφέρουσιν, ἄλλοι εἰς Ξενοφῶντα. τοῦτον δὲ καὶ θάψαι ταῖς ἰδίαις χερσὶν αὐτοὺς Δημήτριός φησιν ὁ Φαληρεὺς ἐν τῷ Περὶ γήρως. Ἕρμιππος δ᾿ ἐν τοῖς Βίοις φησὶν ὅτι καθείρχθη ἐν τῷ δεσμωτηρίῳ τεθνηξόμενος. Περικλῆς δὲ παρελθὼν εἶπεν εἴ τι ἔχουσιν ἐγκαλεῖν αὑτῷ κατὰ τὸν βίον· οὐδὲν δὲ εἰπόντων, “καὶ μὴν ἐγώ,” ἔφη, “τούτου μαθητής εἰμι· μὴ οὖν διαβολαῖς ἐπαρθέντες ἀποκτείνητε τὸν ἄνθρωπον, ἀλλ᾿ ἐμοὶ πεισθέντες ἄφετε.” καὶ ἀφείθη· οὐκ ἐνεγκὼν δὲ τὴν ὕβριν ἑαυτὸν ἐξήγαγεν.

Anaxagoras and Pericles.jpg
Anaxagoras and Perikles by Augustin-Louis Belle

Greek Dramatists Not Up to Homer

Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading (46-47):

“An epic is a poem including history.

Greek Drama depends greatly on the hearer or reader knowing Homer. It is my firm opinion that there are a great many defects in Greek drama. I should never try to stop a man’s reading Aeschylus or Sophocles. There· is nothing in this book that ought in any way to curtail a man’s reading or to prevent his reading anything he enjoys.

Ultimately, I suppose, any man with decent literary curiosity read the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, but if he has seriously considered drama as a means of expression he will see that whereas the medium of poetry is WORDS, the medium of drama is people moving about on a stage and using words. That is, the words are only a part of the medium and the gaps between them, or deficiencies in their meaning, can be made up by ‘action’.

People who have given the matter dispassionate and careful attention are fairly convinced that the maximum charge of verbal meaning cannot be used on the stage, save for very brief instants. ‘It takes time to get it over’, etc.

This is not a text-book of the drama, or of dramatic criticism. It is unfair to a dramatist to consider his WORDS, or even his words and versification, as if that were the plenum of his performance. Taken as READING MATTER, I do NOT believe that the Greek dramatists are up to Homer. Even Aeschylus is rhetorical. Even in the Agamemnon there are quantities of words which do not function as reading matter, i.e., are not necessary to our understanding of the subject.”

Image result for greek tragedy

Love it When They Hate Me

Martial, 6.60

“My Rome praises, loves, and sings my little books—
Every pocket, every hand holds me.
Look: someone turns red, yellow, is dumbstruck, looks again, and hates!
This is what I long for: now my songs have pleased even me.”

Laudat, amat, cantat nostros mea Roma libellos,
meque sinus omnes, me manus omnis habet.
Ecce rubet quidam, pallet, stupet, oscitat, odit.
Hoc uolo: nunc nobis carmina nostra placent.

Perhaps shit-talking is a trope in Roman poetry

Catullus, Carmen 83

“Lesbia talks a lot of shit about me when her husband is around
This brings the greatest pleasure to that fool.
Ass, do you know nothing? She would be sound
If she forgot us in silence—but she rants and she squawks.
She not only remembers me but—a thing sharper to touch,
She’s enraged: it’s like this, she’s burning and talks.”

Lesbia mi praesente viro mala plurima dicit:
haec illi fatuo maxima laetitia est.
mule, nihil sentis? si nostri oblita taceret,
sana esset: nunc quod gannit et obloquitur,
non solum meminit, sed, quae multo acrior est res,
irata est. hoc est, uritur et loquitur.

Book of Hours, MS S.7 fol. 5v - Images from Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts - The Morgan Library & Museum
Book of Hours, MS S.7 fol. 5v

Those Who Know, Avoid Fake Quotes

Image result for Those that know, do. Those that understand, teach

This variation on the put down “those who can, do, those who can’t, teach” does not seem to appear before the last decade or so. It is almost just pointed enough to sound like it might come from Greek, but just clearly superficial enough that it can’t be Aristotle. It does not appear to have multiple attributions, so I had to look. It is fake. Peisistratos Level Fake.

But there may be something to its sense. In the Eudemian Ethics, Aristotle explores how some people are good at things without understanding them and that “those people will succeed even though they are witless and without reason, just as some people sing well enough even though they cannot teach others how to sing” (οὗτοι κατορθώσουσι κἂν τύχωσιν ἄφρονες ὄντες καὶ ἄλογοι, ὥσπερ καὶ εὖ ᾄσονται οὐ διδασκαλικοὶ ὄντες, 1247b). In the Metaphysics, Aristotle elaborates (981b8-12):

“In general, an indication of knowledge or ignorance is whether you can teach a thing. This is why we believe that skill rather than experience is understanding. For, the skilled craftsperson can teach, but others cannot.”

Ὅλως τε σημεῖον τοῦ εἰδότος καὶ μὴ εἰδότος τὸ δύνασθαι διδάσκειν ἐστίν, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο τὴν τέχνην τῆς ἐμπειρίας ἡγούμεθα μᾶλλον ἐπιστήμην εἶναι· 10δύνανται γάρ, οἱ δὲ οὐ δύνανται διδάσκειν.

This is, I think, about the fact that some people are just good at certain things while others actually understand the things they do. Someone who just happens to be good at one kind teaching, for example, because they are charismatic, or persuasive, or just really enthusiastic about one discipline, might not be good at teaching people how to teach.

And some people are just wrong, like the quote above.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 10 (1131a)

“But the sophists who claim that they teach [politics] prove to be quite far off from doing so. They actually don’t know what it is or what it pertains to.”

τῶν δὲ σοφιστῶν οἱ ἐπαγγελλόμενοι λίαν φαίνονται πόρρω εἶναι τοῦ διδάξαι· ὅλως γὰρ οὐδὲ ποῖόν τί ἐστιν ἢ περὶ ποῖα ἴσασιν·