Cicero: A Liar Will Probably Commit Perjury Too

Cicero, Pro Quinctui Roscio 16

“Still,” he said, “Cluvius told Lucius and Manilius he was not on sworn oath.” If he told them while sworn in, would you believe? What is the difference between a perjurer and a liar? A man who is accustomed to lying, can get used to committing perjury.

I can easily get a man to perjure himself once I am able to persuade him to lie. For once someone has departed from the truth, he is not in the habit of being constrained by greater belief from perjury than from lying. For what man who is not moved by the force of his own conscience is moved by invocation of the gods?

The reason for this is that the gods dispense the same penalty for the perjurer and the liar. The gods become enraged and punish a man not for the institution which frames the swearing of the words but because of the evil and the malice that these traps are set for another person.”

XVI. “Dicit enim,” inquit, “iniuratus Luscio et Manilio.” Si diceret iuratus, crederes? At quid interest inter periurum et mendacem? Qui mentiri solet, peierare consuevit. Quem ego, ut mentiatur, inducere possum, ut peieret, exorare facile potero. Nam qui semel a veritate deflexit, hic non maiore religione ad periurium quam ad mendacium perduci consuevit. Quis enim deprecatione deorum, non conscientiae fide commovetur? Propterea, quae poena ab dis immortalibus periuro, haec eadem mendaci constituta est; non enim ex pactione verborum, quibus ius iurandum comprehenditur, sed ex perfidia et malitia, per quam insidiae tenduntur alicui, di immortales hominibus irasci et suscensere consuerunt.

Image result for medieval manuscript perjury
Sinon. Augustine, La Cit de Dieu, Books I-X. Paris, Ma tre Franois (illuminator); c. 1475-1480.

Death, Sleep, and Our Bodies’ Recyclable Clay

Plutarch, Moralia. A Letter of Condolence to Apollonius, 106e-f

“For when is death not present among us? Truly, as Heraclitus says, “living and dying is the same and so is being awake and asleep or youth and old age. For each turns back into the other again.”

Just as someone can make shapes of living things from the same clay and then collapse them and shape something new again repeatedly, so too did nature shape our ancestors from the same material, collapse it, and reshape it to make our parents and us in turn”

πότε γὰρ ἐν ἡμῖν αὐτοῖς οὐκ ἔστιν ὁ θάνατος; καί, ᾗ φησιν Ἡράκλειτος, “ταὐτό γ᾿ ἔνι ζῶν καὶ τεθνηκὸς καὶ τὸ ἐγρηγορὸς καὶ τὸ καθεῦδον καὶ νέον καὶ γηραιόν· τάδε γὰρ μεταπεσόντα ἐκεῖνά ἐστι, κἀκεῖνα πάλιν μεταπεσόντα ταῦτα.” ὡς γὰρ ἐκ τοῦ αὐτοῦ πηλοῦ δύναταί τις πλάττων ζῷα συγχεῖν καὶ πάλιν πλάττειν καὶ συγχεῖν καὶ τοῦθ᾿ ἓν παρ᾿ ἓν ποιεῖν ἀδιαλείπτως, οὕτω καὶ ἡ φύσις ἐκ τῆς αὐτῆς ὕλης πάλαι μὲν τοὺς προγόνους ἡμῶν ἀνέσχεν, εἶτα συνεχεῖς αὐτοῖς3 ἐγέννησε τοὺς πατέρας, εἶθ᾿ ἡμᾶς,

black and white photo of an artist sitting in a studio looking at a sculpture. The woman is sitting on a stool looking at a small figurine on a high table in front of home

The Soul and Its Heroic Return, Two Fragments from Pindar

Pindar, Dirges Fr. 131b [= Plut. consol. ad Apoll. 35.120C]

“Every human’s body is a servant to death–
Yet a shadow of life goes on living still.
This part alone
Comes from the gods. It sleeps while our limbs move
But when we sleep it shows us
in multiple dreams a choice of things to come,
Some of pleasure, some of pain.”

σῶμα μὲν πάντων ἕπεται θανάτῳ περισθενεῖ,
ζωὸν δ᾿ ἔτι λείπεται αἰῶνος εἴδωλον·
τὸ γάρ ἐστι μόνον
ἐκ θεῶν· εὕδει δὲ πρασσόντων μελέων, ἀτὰρ εὑδόντεσσιν
ἐν πολλοῖς ὀνείροις
δείκνυσι τερπνῶν ἐφέρποισαν χαλεπῶν τε κρίσιν.

Pindar, Dirges Fr. 133 [=Plat. Men. 81B]

“When Persephone has taken the payment for that ancient pain,
From people, after nine years she gives their souls back
To the light of the sun above and from them come

Proud kings and men fast in strength and best in mind
And people call them holy heroes
for all that remains of time.”

οἷσι δὲ Φερσεφόνα ποινὰν παλαιοῦ πένθεος
δέξεται, ἐς τὸν ὕπερθεν ἅλιον κείνων ἐνάτῳ ἔτεϊ
ἀνδιδοῖ ψυχὰς πάλιν, ἐκ τᾶν βασιλῆες ἀγαυοί
καὶ σθένει κραιπνοὶ σοφίᾳ τε μέγιστοι
ἄνδρες αὔξοντ᾿· ἐς δὲ τὸν λοιπὸν χρόνον ἥροες ἁ-
γνοὶ πρὸς ἀνθρώπων καλέονται.

A somewhat impressionistic oil painting with outlines of two partial figures. One looks down and left, the other is seen only by an elbow in the upper right. The canvas is split between dark blue on top and tan on the bottom
“The freedom of new thinking”, by Erik Pevernagie, oil on canvas,80 x 100 cm

Nature vs. Nurture, or On Hands and Walls

Philostratus, Discourse II

“To me, custom and nature are not merely not opposed but they are most closely related, similar and overlapping one another. For custom is the way we approach nature and nature is our avenue to custom; we do call one the starting point and one the result: let nature be called the leader and culture the follower. Custom never would have built walls or outfitted men against them if nature hadn’t given man hands.”

ἐμοὶ δὲ νόμος καὶ φύσις οὐ μόνον οὐκ ἐναντίω φαίνεσθον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ξυγγενεστάτω καὶ ὁμοίω καὶ διήκοντε ἀλλήλοιν· νόμος τε γὰρ παριτητέος ἐς φύσιν καὶ φύσις ἐς νόμον καὶ καλοῦμεν αὐτοῖν τὸ μὲν ἀρχήν, τὸ δ’ ἑπόμενον, κεκληρώσθω δὲ ἀρχὴν μὲν φύσις, νόμος δὲ τὸ ἕπεσθαι, οὔτε γὰρ ἂν νόμος ἐτειχοποίησεν ἢ ὑπὲρ τείχους ὥπλισεν, εἰ μὴ φύσις ἔδωκεν ἀνθρώπῳ χεῖρας….


Wine Makes You King of the World

Bacchylides, fr. 20B [=P. Oxy. 1361 frr. 1 al]

To Alexander, son of Amyntas*

“Lyre, don’t hang on your peg any longer,
Keeping your seven-toned voice still–
Here are my hands! I want to send
Alexander something, a golden wing of the Muses,
A centerpiece for the parties to end the month,
When the sweet pressure of fast cups
Warms the sensitive hearts of young men,
And expectation of Aphrodite mixed up
with Dionysian gifts shakes up their thoughts.

Wine makes the thoughts of men blast off!
Suddenly one is tearing down a city’s walls,
And another thinks he is king of the world!”

ὦ βάρβιτε, μηκέτι πάσσαλον φυ[σων
ἑπτάτονον λ[ι]γυρὰν κάππαυε γᾶρυν·
δεῦρ᾿ ἐς ἐμὰς χέρας· ὁρμαίνω τι πέμπ[ειν
χρύεον Μουσᾶν Ἀλεξάνδρωι πτερό
καὶ συμπο[ίαι]σιν ἄγαλμ᾿ [ἐν] εἰκάδε[σιν,
εὖτε νέων ἁ[παλὸν γλυκεῖ᾿ ἀ]νάγκα
σευομενᾶν κ[υλίκων θάλπη]σι θυμ[όν,
Κύπριδος τ᾿ ἐλπ[ὶς <δι>αιθύσσηι φρέ]νας,
ἀμμειγνυμέν[α Διονυσίοισι] δώροις·
ἀνδράσι δ᾿ ὑψο[τάτω πέμπει] μερίμν[ας·
αὐτίκ[α] μὲν π[ολίων κράδε]μνα λ[ύει,
πᾶσ[ι δ᾿ ἀνθρώποις μοναρ]χήσ[ειν δοκεῖ·

*This Alexander was King of Macedon from 498-456

inside of a shallow drinking vessel. Black background. One red figure stands over a nude man who is drunk and confused/sick
Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles, California: Roman, Greek, and Etruscan Antiquities. Kylix, red figure

On Knowledge, Wealth and Fortune

Bacchylides Epinicia, fr. 10.38-53

“Human knowledge has countless forms—
whether learned in some prophetic art
or allotted the Graces’ honor,
the wise man certainly flourishes with golden hope.

Another man aims his dabbled bow at boys.
Others fortify their hearts in the field
Or with herds of cattle.
But the future bears ends that make the path of fortune

This thing is best: to be a noble man
envied by many men.

I know something about wealth’s great power:
It makes even the most useless man useful.

But why do I pilot my great tongue so
and drive off the road?
When the moment of victory is appointed for mortals,
only then the wise man must…[ ]
With flutes [pay back the favor of the gods]
And mingle [among those who may envy]

… Μυρίαι δ’ ἀνδρῶν ἐπιστᾶμαι πέλονται·
ἦ γὰρ σ[ο]φὸς ἢ Χαρίτων τιμὰν λελογχὼς
ἐλπίδι χρυσέᾳ τέθαλεν
ἤ τινα θευπροπίαν ἰ-
δώς· ἕτερος δ’ ἐπὶ παισὶ
ποικίλον τόξον τιταίνει·
οἱ δ’ ἐπ’ ἔργοισίν τε καὶ ἀμφὶ βοῶν ἀ[γ]έλαις
θυμὸν αὔξουσιν. Τὸ μέλλον
δ’ ἀκρίτους τίκτει τελευτάς,
πᾶ τύχα βρίσει. Τὸ μὲν κάλλιστον, ἐσθλὸν
ἄνδρα πολλῶν ὑπ’ ἀνθρώπων πολυζήλωτον εἶμεν·
οἶδα καὶ πλούτου μεγάλαν δύνασιν,
ἃ καὶ τ[ὸ]ν ἀχρεῖον τί[θησ]ι
χρηστόν. Τί μακρὰν γ̣[λ]ῶ[σ]σαν ἰθύσας ἐλαύνω
ἐκτὸς ὁδοῦ; Πέφαται θνατοῖσι νίκας
[ὕστε]ρον εὐφροσύνα,
αὐλῶν []

χρή τιν[]

The last few lines of this poem are completely fragmentary. In italics I put in something just to complete the sentence. I think that the reference to flutes probably indicates some ritual celebration, but I also wanted the end to repeat the note of warning about the mutability of fortune. 

Write This Down: You are the City. You Are the people

Aeschylus, Suppliants 179-180

“I suggest you safeguard my words by writing them on tablet in your minds”
αἰνῶ φυλάξαι τἄμ᾿ ἔπη δελτουμένας

Aeschylus, Suppliants, 200-204

“Don’t be too aggressive or broken in speech:
These people are especially ready to be angry.
Remember to be accommodating: you are a foreign refugee in need.
To speak boldly is not a fitting move for the weak.”

καὶ μὴ πρόλεσχος μηδ᾿ ἐφολκὸς ἐν λόγῳ
γένῃ· τὸ τῇδε κάρτ᾿ ἐπίφθονον γένος.
μέμνησο δ᾿ εἴκειν· χρεῖος εἶ, ξένη, φυγάς·
θρασυστομεῖν γὰρ οὐ πρέπει τοὺς ἥσσονας.

Aeschylus, Suppliants, 370-375

“You are the city, really. You are the people.
An unjudged chief of state rules
The altar, the city’s hearth,
With only your votes and nods,
With only your scepter on the throne
You judge every need. Be on guard against contamination!”

σύ τοι πόλις, σὺ δὲ τὸ δάμιον·
πρύτανις ἄκριτος ὢν
κρατύνεις βωμόν, ἑστίαν χθονός,
μονοψήφοισι νεύμασιν σέθεν,
μονοσκήπτροισι δ᾿ ἐν θρόνοις χρέος
πᾶν ἐπικραίνεις· ἄγος φυλάσσου.

File:Nicolas Bertin - The Danaides in Hell.jpg

The Danaides in hell, by Nicolas Bertin

Aeschylus, Suppliants 991-997

“Write this down with the many other notes
In your mind of the wisdoms from your father:
An unfamiliar mob is evaluated by time,
But everyone has an evil tongue prepared to lash out
over immigrants and speaking foully is somehow easy.
I advise you not to bring me shame
Now that you are in the age which turns mortal gazes.”

καὶ ταῦτα μὲν γράψασθε πρὸς γεγραμμένοις
πολλοῖσιν ἄλλοις σωφρονίσμασιν πατρός,
ἀγνῶθ᾿ ὅμιλον ἐξελέγχεσθαι χρόνῳ·
πᾶς δ᾿ ἐν μετοίκῳ γλῶσσαν εὔτυκον φέρει
κακήν, τό τ᾿ εἰπεῖν εὐπετὲς μύσαγμά πως.
ὑμᾶς δ᾿ ἐπαινῶ μὴ καταισχύνειν ἐμέ,
ὥραν ἐχούσας τήνδ᾿ ἐπίστρεπτον βροτοῖς

No Time For the Weekend: On the Spartan Way of Drinking

Critias, fr. 6 [=Ath. 10.432d–33b]

“Drinking toasts that stretch beyond reason bring
Pleasure for the moment but pain for all time.

The Spartan style is one of moderation:
To eat and drink with limits so people can still
Work and think. They don’t set apart a day
To soak the body with excessive drinking.”

αἱ γὰρ ὑπὲρ τὸ μέτρον κυλίκων προπόσεις παραχρῆμα
τέρψασαι λυποῦσ᾿ εἰς τὸν ἅπαντα χρόνον·
ἡ Λακεδαιμονίων δὲ δίαιθ᾿ ὁμαλῶς διάκειται,
ἔσθειν καὶ πίνειν σύμμετρα πρὸς τὸ φρονεῖν
καὶ τὸ πονεῖν εἶναι δυνάτους· οὐκ ἔστ᾿ ἀπότακτος
ἡμέρα οἰνῶσαι σῶμ᾿ ἀμέτροισι πότοις.

Red figure vase with two figures. Black background.  A servant girl unhappily carries a full wineskin and jug, while an older woman drinks from a large vessel; the reverse of the cup establishes a (rare) interior scene of a storeroom.
Skyphos with a Woman Drinking in a Storeroom (Greek, Athens, 470-460 BC).
Also, image of me sneaking drinks if I lived in Sparta

Lock Up Your Winds! A Song for Safe Passage

Anonymous, To The Rhodian Winds [P. Oxy. xi. 1915, no. 1383, p. 236.]

“I used to give orders to the Rhodian winds
And the neighborhoods of the sea
When I wanted to sail
When I wanted to stay there

I used to sing to the corners of the sea:
Don’t let the waters strike me!
Put the waves at the command of the sailors!
The whole wind is pressing on us!

Night, Lock up your winds and
make safe our way.”

Ῥοδίοις ἐκέλευον ἀνέμοις
καὶ μέρεσι τοῖς πελαγίοις
ὅτε πλέειν ἤθελον ἐγώ,
ὅτε μένειν ἤθελον ἐκεῖ,
ἔλεγον μέρε(σιν) πελαγίο(ις)·
μὴ τύπηι τὰ πελάγη·
ἅλ᾿ ὑποτάξατε ναυσιβά[τ]αις.
ὅλος ἄρ᾿ ἄνεμος ἐπείγεται.
ἀπόκλειε τὰ πνεύματα καί, Ν[ύ]ξ,
δὸς τὰ [. .]ατ᾿ εὔβατα.

Black figure vase. Sailing vessel in the middle of a red vase with dolphins around. A beareded figure sits in the middle
Dionysos in a ship, sailing among dolphins. Attic black-figure kylix, ca. 530 BC. From Vulci.

An Archaic Love Song

Sophocles, Antigone, 781-800.

Love, unbeatable in war,
Love, who ravishes wealth,
Who in the soft cheeks
Of girls keeps vigil,
And who roams the seas
And rustic hideaways:
Gods can’t elude you,
Nor can mortal men.
Who admits you goes mad.

You wrench just men’s minds
Into shameful wrongs.
(This family strife between men,
It’s you who stirred it.)
Desire, clear in the eyes
Of a fetching bride, prevails.
Desire reigns
Beside the great laws.
Irresistible god
Aphrodite frolics.

Ἔρως ἀνίκατε μάχαν,
Ἔρως, ὃς ἐν κτήμασι πίπτεις,
ὃς ἐν μαλακαῖς παρειαῖς
νεάνιδος ἐννυχεύεις,
φοιτᾷς δʼ ὑπερπόντιος ἔν τʼ
ἀγρονόμοις αὐλαῖς·
καί σʼ οὔτʼ ἀθανάτων φύξιμος οὐδεὶς
οὔθʼ ἁμερίων σέ γʼ ἀν-
θρώπων. ὁ δʼ ἔχων μέμηνεν.

σὺ καὶ δικαίων ἀδίκους
φρένας παρασπᾷς ἐπὶ λώβᾳ·
σὺ καὶ τόδε νεῖκος ἀνδρῶν
ξύναιμον ἔχεις ταράξας·
νικᾷ δʼ ἐναργὴς βλεφάρων
ἵμερος εὐλέκτρου
νύμφας, τῶν μεγάλων πάρεδρος ἐν ἀρχαῖς
θεσμῶν. ἄμαχος γὰρ ἐμ-
παίζει θεὸς Ἀφροδίτα.

Tarnished bronze statuette: Nude venus holding hand of winged cupid
Aphrodite Spanking Eros.
c.1st Century BC. Bronze.
J. Paul Getty Museum.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at