No Day Without a Latin Motto

From The New-England Courant, February 11, 1723:

p.s. Gentle Readers, we design never to let a Paper pass without a Latin Motto if we can possibly pick one up, which carries a Charm in it to the Vulgar, and the learned admire the pleasure of Construing. We should have obliged the World with a Greek scrap or two, but the Printer has no Types, and therefore we intreat the candid Reader not to impute the defect to our Ignorance, for our Doctor can say all the Greek Letters by heart.

Sententiae Antiquae IRL: Erik and Joel Go To A Museum

As some people know, the blog and the twitter feed @sentantiq are run by a two headed beast. Erik teaches Latin at a high school in Texas; Joel teaches Greek at Brandeis University. Until last year, we lived in the same city and had lots of time to engage in literary and linguistic shenanigans. We have kept in touch and in trouble over email and over the phone for the past year. But, this week, Erik came to new England.

So, today, we went to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and took some pictures. We put them on twitter with the creative hastag #sentatiqgoestoamuseum. It was intense. It was fun. Everyone should do it.

Here are some tweets and some pictures we made. We will be adding pictures and some reflections on the art over the following weeks.


Trying to get a good angle

And here are some actual photos of us together.

Erik and Joel 1

Erik and Joel 2

Learning vs. Experience

Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster:

“Learning teacheth more in one yeare than experience in twentie: And learning teacheth safelie. when experience maketh mo miserable then wise. He hasardeth sore, that waxeth wise by experience. An vnhappie Master he is, that is made cunning by manie shippewrakes: A miserable merchant, that is neither riche or wise, but after som bankroutes. It is costlie wisdom, that is bought by experience. We know by experience it selfe, that it is a meruelous paine, to finde oute but a short waie, by long wandering. And surelie, he that wold proue wise by experience, he maie be wittie in deede, but euen like a swift runner, that runneth fast out of his waie, and vpon the night, he knoweth not whither. And verilie they be fewest of number, that be happie or wise by vnlearned experience. And looke well vpon the former life of those fewe, whether your example be old or yonge, who without learning haue gathered, by long experience, a litle wisdom, and som happines: and whan you do consider, what mischiefe they haue committed, what dangers they haue escaped (and yet xx. for one, do perishe in the aduenture) than thinke well with your selfe, whether ye wold, that your owne son, should cum to wisdom and happines, by the waie of soch experience or no.”

This is the way to do it.

Bad Witnesses: Some Apocryphal Sayings of Heraclitus

These sayings come from the Gnomologium Vaticanum


310 “Heraclitus the natural philosopher said that he was wisest of all when he was young because he didn’t think that he knew anything.”

῾Ηράκλειτος ὁ φυσικὸς ἔφησε σοφώτατος γεγονέναι πάντων νέος ὤν, ὅτι ᾔδει ἑαυτὸν μηδὲν εἰδότα.


311 “Heraclitus used to say “The ears and eyes of foolish people are terrible witnesses.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη· „κακοὶ μάρτυρες ὦτα καὶ ὀφθαλμοὶ ἀφρόνων ἀνθρώπων”.


312 “Heraclitus used to say “Honors enslave gods and men”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη· „τιμαὶ θεοὺς καὶ ἀνθρώπους καταδουλοῦνται”.


313 “Heraclitus said “people are terrible judges of the truth”

<῾Ο> αὐτὸς εἶπεν· „ἄνθρωποι κακοὶ ἀληθινῶν ἀντίδικοι”


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Heroine Kills Monster, Gets Kingdom: Cyrene the Lion-Slayer

Akesandros of Cyrene (Jacoby 469) F4

“Akesandros tells the story in his Concerning Cyrene that when Eurypylos was king in Libya, Cyrene was taken by Apollo because there was a lion plaguing the land. Eurypylos put his kingship up as a prize for anyone who could kill a lion—and Cyrene killed the lion and gained the kingdom. Her children were Autoukhos and Aristaios. Phularkhos says that she came to Libya with a group, and when they went on a hunting expedition, she joined them too.”

᾽Ακέσανδρος δὲ ἐν τοῖς Περὶ Κυρήνης ἱστορεῖ, ἐπ᾽ Εὐρυπύλου βασιλεύοντος ἐν Λιβύηι ὡς ὑπὸ ᾽Απόλλωνος διακομισθείη ἡ Κυρήνη, λέοντος δὲ τὴν χώραν λυμαινομένου προθείη τὴν βασιλείαν ὁ Εὐρύπυλος ἆθλον τῶι ἀποκτενοῦντι τὸν λέοντα, τὴν δὲ(?) διαχρήσασθαι αὐτόν καὶ τὴν βασιλείαν λαβεῖν· παῖδας δὲ αὐτῆς γενέσθαι Αὐτοῦχον καὶ ᾽Αρισταῖον. φησὶ δὲ αὐτὴν Φύλαρχος (81 F 16) ἐλθεῖν μετὰ πλειόνων εἰς Λιβύην, τούτων δὲ ἐκπεμφθέντων ἐπὶ τὴν κυνηγίαν, τούτοις καὶ αὐτὴν συνεξελθεῖν.

This story is really exceptional in Greek myth and history for a couple of reasons. First, here we have a female beast-slayer who follows the classic pattern of killing a monster and gaining a kingdom. Second, while her children are mentioned–following a typical pattern of defining women by their offspring–her mate is not. There are some other sources on this figure.

Nonnos, Dionys. 13.300-301

“Cyrene, another deer-pursuing Artemis,
The lion-slaying nymph bore him, after sex with Phoibos.”

τόν ποτε Κυρήνη, κεμαδοσσόος ῎Αρτεμις ἄλλη,
Φοιβείῃ φιλότητι λεοντοφόνος τέκε νύμφη…

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The Laws and the Soul of the State

These sayings come from the Gnomologium Vaticanum


112 “When Antagoras was about to cast a capital vote against someone he cried. Someone asked him “Why do you vote to condemn and cry?” He responded “It is necessary by nature to give our sympathy; the law demands my vote.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς καταδικάζειν τινὸς θανατικὴν ψῆφον μέλλων ἐδάκρυσεν· εἰπόντος δέ τινος· „τί παθὼν αὑτὸς καταδικάζεις καὶ κλαίεις”; εἶπεν· „ὅτι ἀναγκαῖόν ἐστι τῇ μὲν φύσει τὸ συμπαθὲς ἀποδοῦναι, τῷ δὲ νόμῳ τὴν ψῆφον.”


211 “Demosthenes used to say that the laws are the sinews of democracy”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφησε τοὺς νόμους δημοκρατίας νεῦρα.


229 “Demosthenes used to say that the laws are the soul of the state. “just as the body dies when bereft of the soul, so too the city perishes when there are no laws”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη πόλεως εἶναι ψυχὴν τοὺς νόμους· „ὥσπερ δὲ σῷμα στερηθὲν ψυχῆς πίπτει, οὕτω καὶ πόλις μὴ ὄντων νόμων καταλύεται”.


443 “When asked how cities might be best inhabited, Plato said, “If philosophers are kings and kings practice philosophy.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς πῶς ἂν ἄριστα αἱ πόλεις οἰκοῖντο ἔφη· „εἰ φιλόσοφοι βασιλεύοιεν ἢ οἱ βασιλεῖς φιλοσοφοῖεν.”


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Ignorance vs. Intentional Stupidity

Hugo of St. Victor, Didascalion

On the Study of Reading – Preface (Part I)

“There are many whom nature has left so destitute of intellect that they are unable to grasp even those things which are easiest to understand; of these people, there seem to be two types. There are certain people who, granting that they are not ignorant of their own dullness, eagerly strive for knowledge with whatever effort they can, and apply themselves to the task with unremitting zeal; though they achieve little from the realization of the work, they seem to deserve something for their efforts. But there are other people who understand that they will never be able to understand the highest things, so they neglect even the smallest ones, and resting secure in their own indolence, we find that the more they waste the light of truth in the most important things, the more they flee from learning the smallest things, which they are actually able to understand. For this reason, the Psalm has it, ‘They did not wish to understand how they could do well.’ Not knowing is, indeed, a far different thing from not wanting to know. Indeed, ignorance is a kind of weakness, but the detestation of knowledge is the sign of a depraved will.

There is, however, yet another group of people whom nature has so enriched that she has offered them a clear approach to the truth. For these people, even if the strength of their mind is not equal to the task, there is not the same virtue or will for cultivating the senses through exercise and natural instruction. For, there are many people who, wrapped up in the business and concerns of this age more than is really necessary, are entirely given to the vices and pleasures of the body, and they bury the treasure of God in the ground; they neither seek the fruit of wisdom, nor the use of good work – these people are on the whole rather detestable. Again, for some people, family poverty or their slender means diminishes the opportunity of learning. Yet, I think that these people can hardly be excused on this account, since we see so many people laboring under famine, thirst, and even want of clothes, who yet attain the fruit of knowledge. Indeed, it is one thing when you are not able (or, I should say, are not easily able) to learn, and it is an entirely different thing when you are able to learn but unwilling to do so. Just as it is more glorious to attain wisdom by virtue alone, when no other opportunities rush to assist you, so too it is much more shameful to have a vigorous intellect and to overflow with wealth while wasting away in idleness.”





[770C] Multi sunt quos ipsa adeo natura ingenio destitutos reliquit ut ea etiam quae facilia sunt intellectu vix capere possint, et horum duo genera mihi esse videntur. [770D] nam sunt quidam, qui, licet suam hebetudinem non ignorent, eo tamen quo valent conamine ad scientiam anhelant, et indesinenter studio insistentes, quod minus habent effectu operis, obtinere merentur effectu voluntatis. ast alii quoniam summa se comprehendere nequaquam posse sentiunt, minima etiam negligunt, et quasi in suo torpore securi quiescentes eo amplius in maximis lumen veritatis perdunt, quo minima quae intelligere possent discere fugiunt. unde psalmista: Noluerunt, inquit, intelligere ut bene agerent. longe enim aliud est nescire atque aliud nolle scire. nescire siquidem infirmitatis est, scientiam vero detestari, pravae voluntatis. est aliud hominum genus quos admodum natura ingenio ditavit et facilem ad veritatem veniendi aditum praestitit, quibus, [771A] etsi impar sit valitudo ingenii, non eadem tamen omnibus virtus aut voluntas est per exercitia et doctrinam naturalem sensum excolendi. nam sunt plerique qui negotiis huius saeculi et curis super quam necesse sit impliciti aut vitiis et voluptatibus corporis dediti, talentum Dei terra obruunt, et ex eo nec fructum sapientiae, nec usuram boni operis quaerunt, qui profecto valde detestabiles sunt. rursus aliis rei familiaris inopia et tenuis census discendi facultatem minuit. quos tamen plene per hoc excusari minime posse credimus, cum plerosque fame siti nuditate laborantes ad scientiae fructum pertingere videamus. [771B] et tamen aliud est cum non possis, aut ut verius dicam, facile non possis discere, atque aliud posse et nolle scire. sicut enim gloriosius est, cum nullae suppetant facultates, sola virtute sapientiam apprehendere, sic profecto turpius est vigere ingenio, divitiis affluere, et torpere otio.