So Manly – So Cruel

Historia Augusta, Maximini Duo (8-9)

“But among these virtues he was so cruel that some called him Cyclops, others Busiris, others Sciron, some Phalaris, many Typhon or Gyges. The senate feared him so much that both publicly and privately women would pray in the temples with their children that he would never see the city of Rome. They often heard that he had some crucified, others enclosed in the bodies of recently slain animals, others thrown to the beasts, others beaten with clubs, and all of this without any consideration of rank and dignity, since he seemed to wish for military discipline to be the ruling principle, by the example of which he wanted to correct even civil problems. This is hardly fitting for a prince who wishes to be loved.

He was, indeed, persuaded that power was not held but by cruelty. At the same time, he feared that he would be condemned by the nobility for his barbarian heritage. He had recalled, moreover, that he was once condemned at Rome even by the slaves of the nobles to such a degree that he was not even seen by their procurators. And, as foolish opinions always operate, he expected that they would behave the same way now that he was emperor. So strong is the consciousness of a degenerate mind.

For the sake of hiding his lowly parentage, he killed all of the people who knew his origins, and even a few of his friends who had often given him charity because they pitied his poverty. There was indeed no animal more cruel on the earth who trusted so much in his own powers as though he could not be killed. Finally, when he believed himself to be immortal because of the magnitude both of his body and his manliness, a certain mime is said to have recited some Greek verses in the theater in his presence, of which the general purport in Latin is this:

‘And he who cannot be killed by one is killed by many:

the elephant is large, and is killed;

the lion is brave, and is killed;

the tiger is strong, and is killed;

beware of the many, if you are not afraid of individuals.’

And these things were said right in the presence of the emperor! But when he asked his friends what the clown had said, he was told that the mime had recited some ancient verses against unpleasant people. And he, because he was a Thracian and a barbarian, believed it.”

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sed inter has virtutes tam crudelis fuit, ut illum alii Cyclopem, alii Busirem, alii Scirona, nonnulli Phalarem, multi Typhona vel Gygam vocarent. senatus eum tantum timuit, ut vota in templis publice privatimque mulieres etiam cum suis liberis facerent, ne ille umquam urbem Romam videret. audiebant enim alios in crucem sublatos, alios animalibus nuper occisis inclusos, alios feris obiectos, alios fustibus elisos, atque omnia haec sine dilectu dignitatis, cum videretur disciplinam velle regere militarem, cuius exemplo civilia etiam corrigere voluit. quod non convenit principi qui velit diligi. erat enim ei persuasum nisi crudelitate imperium non teneri. simul et verebatur ne propter humilitatem generis barbarici a nobilitate contemneretur. meminerat praeterea se Romae etiam a servis nobilium contemptum esse, ita ut ne a procuratoribus quidem eorum videretur; et, ut se habent stultae opiniones, tales eos contra se sperabat futuros, cum iam imperator esset. tantum valet conscientia degeneris animi. nam ignobilitatis tegendae causa omnes conscios generis sui interemit, nonnullos etiam amicos, qui ei saepe misericordiae paupertatis causa pleraque donaverant. neque enim fuit crudelius animal in terris, omnia sic in viribus suis ponens quasi non posset occidi. denique cum immortalem se prope crederet ob magnitudinem corporis virtutisque, mimus quidam in theatro praesente illo dicitur versus Graecos dixisse, quorum haec erat Latina sententia

Et qui ab uno non potest occidi, a multis occiditur.

elephans grandis est et occiditur,

leo fortis est et occiditur,

tigris fortis est et occiditur;

cave multos, si singulos non times.

et haec imperatore ipso praesente iam dicta sunt. sed cum interrogaret amicos, quid mimicus scurra dixisset, dictum est ei quod antiquos versus cantaret contra homines asperos scriptos; et ille, ut erat Thrax et barbarus, credidit.

Audacious Autocracy

J.B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire (11.3):

“Persecution was an unavoidable consequence of Constantine’s act in adopting Christianity. Two of the chief points in which this faith differed from the Roman State religion were its exclusiveness and the vital importance which it assigned to dogma. The first logically led to intolerance of pagan religions, the second to intolerance of heresies, and these consequences could not be averted when Christianity became the religion of the State. It might be suggested that Constantine would have done better if, when he decided to embrace it and favour its propagation, he had been content to deprive pagan cults of their official status and to allow Christianity to compete in a free field with its rivals, aided by the prestige which it would derive from the Emperor’s personal adhesion and favour. But such a policy would have been an anachronism. A state, at that time, was unthinkable without a State cult, and if an Emperor became a Christian a logical result was that Christianity should be adopted as the official religion of the Empire, and a second that the old Roman policy of toleration should be thrown overboard. In an age of superstition this was demanded not only in the interest of the Church but in the interest of the State itself. The purpose of the official cults in the pagan State was to secure the protection of the deities; these were liberal and tolerant lords who raised no objection to other forms of worship; and toleration was therefore a principle of the State. But the god of the new official religion was a jealous master; he had said, ‘thou shalt have none other gods before me,’ and idolatry was an offence to him; how could his protection and favour be expected in a state in which idolatry was permitted? Intolerance was a duty, and the first business of a patriotic ruler was to take measures to extirpate the errors of paganism.

But these consequences were not drawn immediately. It must never be forgotten that Constantine’s revolution was perhaps the most audacious act ever committed by an autocrat in disregard and defiance of the vast majority of his subjects. For at least four-fifths of the population of the Empire were still outside the Christian Church. The army and all the leading men in the administration were devoted to paganism. It is not, therefore, surprising that Constantine, who was a statesman as well as a convert, made no attempt to force the pace. His policy did little more than indicate and prepare the way for the gradual conversion of the Empire, and was so mild and cautious that it has been maintained by some that his aim was to establish a parity between the two religions.”

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After the Body, The Mind Fades Away

Seneca, Moral Epistle 26.1-3

“I was recently explaining to you that I am in sight of my old age—but now I fear that I have put old age behind me! There is some different word better fit to these years, or at least to this body, since old age seems to be a tired time, not a broken one. Count me among the weary and those just touching the end.

Despite all this, I still am grateful to myself, with you to witness it. For I do not sense harm to my mind from age even though I feel it in my body. Only my weaknesses—and their tools—have become senile. My mind is vigorous and it rejoices that it depends upon the body for little. It has disposed of the greater portion of its burden. It celebrates and argues with me about old age. It says that this is its flowering. Let’s believe it, let it enjoy its own good.

My mind commands that I enter into contemplation and I think about what debt I owe to wisdom for this tranquility and modesty of ways and what portion is due to my age. It asks that I think about what I am incapable of doing in contrast to what I do not wish to do, whether I am happy because I don’t want something or I don’t want something because I lack the ability to pursue it.

For, what complaint is there or what problem is it if something which was supposed to end has ended? “But,” you interject, “it is the worst inconvenience to wear out, to be diminished, or, if I can say it properly, to dissolve. For we are not suddenly struck down and dead, we are picked away at! Each individual day subtracts something from our strength!”

But, look, is there a better way to end than to drift off to your proper exit as nature itself releases you? There is nothing too bad in a sudden strike which takes life away immediately, but this way is easy, to be led off slowly.”

Modo dicebam tibi, in conspectu esse me senectutis; iam vereor, ne senectutem post me reliquerim. Aliud iam his annis, certe huic corpori, vocabulum convenit, quoniam quidem senectus lassae aetatis, non fractae, nomen est; inter decrepitos me numera et extrema tangentis.

Gratias tamen mihi apud te ago; non sentio in animo aetatis iniuriam, cum sentiam in corpore. Tantum vitia et vitiorum ministeria senuerunt; viget animus et gaudet non multum sibi esse cum corpore. Magnam partem oneris sui posuit. Exultat et mihi facit controversiam de senectute. Hunc ait esse florem suum. Credamus illi; bono suo utatur. Ire in cogitationem iubet et dispicere, quid ex hac tranquillitate ac modestia morum sapientiae debeam, quid aetati, et diligenter excutere, quae non possim facere, quae nolim †prodesse habiturus ad qui si nolim quidquid non posse me gaudeo.† Quae enim querella est, quod incommodum, si quidquid debebat desinere, defecit? “Incommodum summum est,” inquis, “minui et deperire et, ut proprie dicam, liquescere. Non enim subito inpulsi ac prostrati sumus; carpimur. Singuli dies aliquid subtrahunt viribus.”

Ecquis exitus est melior quam in finem suum natura solvente dilabi? Non quia aliquid mali est ictus et e vita repentinus excessus, sed quia lenis haec est via, subduci.

seneca strength

Maximin’s Health Plan: Wine, Meat, Sweat!

Historia Augusta, Maximini Duo (4):

“It is well established that Maximin often drank a Capitoline amphora of wine in a day, and ate forty pounds of meat (or, as Cordus says, up to sixty). It is also agreed that he always abstained from vegetables and almost always from cold stuff, unless he was under some necessity to drink. He would often collect his sweat in cups or would put it into a little jar so that he could show off two or three pints of his sweat.”

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Bibisse autem illum saepe in die vini Capitolinam amphoram constat, comedisse et quadraginta libras carnis, ut autem Cordus dicit, etiam sexaginta. quod satis constat, holeribus semper abstinuit, a frigidis prope semper, nisi cum illi potandi necessitas.  sudores saepe suos excipiebat et in calices vel in vasculum mittebat, ita ut duos vel tres sextarios sui sudoris ostenderet.

Cranky about the State of the Country

Cicero, letters to Atticus 375 (11 May 44)

“I have no doubt that our state is looking at war. This affair has been managed with a man’s bravery and a child’s planning. Can’t everyone see that a king was removed but his heir was left on the throne?

What is more ridiculous? To fear this but not to consider that a risk at all! There is still in this moment much which is crooked. That the house of Pontius near Naples is held by the mother of that tyrannicide! Oh!

I should read the “Cato the Elder” I made for you more often. Old age is making me rather cranky. I am annoyed by everything. But, certainly, I have lived. Let the young men see to these things. You will care for my affairs as you do.”

Mihi autem non est dubium quin res spectet ad castra. acta enim illa res est animo virili, consilio puerili. quis enim hoc non vidit, <regem sublatum>,2 regni heredem relictum? quid autem absurdius? ‘hoc metuere, alterum in metu non ponere!’ quin etiam hoc ipso tempore multa ὑποσóλοικα. Ponti Neapolitanum a matre tyrannoctoni possideri! legendus mihi saepius est ‘Cato maior’ ad te missus. amariorem enim me senectus facit. stomachor omnia. sed mihi quidem βεβíωται; viderint iuvenes. tu mea curabis, ut curas.

cranky cicero

If Only Everyone Were Like Me

Menander, Dyskolos 742-746

“I would like to tell you a few things about me and my character.
If everyone were like me, there wouldn’t be any courts at all,
They wouldn’t take each other to prison.
There would be no war and everyone would be happy because they had enough.
Ah, maybe the way things are is more pleasing. Act as you will.
This old cranky grump will be out of your way.”

πὲρ ἐ]μοῦ γὰρ βούλομ᾿ εἰπεῖν ὀλίγα σοι καὶ τοῦ τρόπου.
εἰ τοιοῦτ]οι πάντες ἦσαν, οὔτε τὰ δικαστήρια
ἦν ἄν, ο]ὔθ᾿ αὑτοὺς ἀπῆγον εἰς τὰ δεσμωτήρια,
οὔτε π]όλεμος ἦν, ἔχων δ᾿ ἂν μέτρι᾿ ἕκαστος ἠγάπα.
ἀ[λ]λ᾿ ἴσως ταῦτ᾿ ἔστ᾿ ἀρεστὰ μᾶλλον· οὕτω πράττετε.
ἐκποδὼν ὑμῖν ὁ χαλεπὸς δύσκολός τ᾿ ἔσται γέρων.

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“The Fool and His Double”, José Frappa

Feeling “Hangry” in Ancient Greek

My daughter recently learned a series of neologisms at school, including the clever but cloying “hangry”. What is a classically trained pedant to do but look for ancient precedents for a newly coined term?

 Phrynichus, fr. 75

“In the grumpy rages of old men with rotting lives.”

ἐν χαλεπαῖς ὀργαῖς ἀναπηροβίων †γερόντων

Aristophanes, Knights 706-7

“You’re so cranky! Come on, what can I feed you?
What do you munch on most happily? Is it a wallet?”

ὡς ὀξύθυμος. φέρε τί σοι δῶ καταφαγεῖν;
ἐπὶ τῷ φάγοις ἥδιστ᾿ ἄν; ἐπὶ βαλλαντίῳ;

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 291 c (book 7=Nicomachus, fr. 1)

“Some foods make you gassy or give you indigestion or give
Punishment instead of nourishment. Everyone who eats
Something which is bad for them gets sharp-tempered or crazy.”

…τῶν γὰρ βρωμάτων
πνευματικὰ καὶ δύσπεπτα καὶ τιμωρίαν
ἔχοντ᾿ ἔνι᾿ ἔστιν, οὐ τροφήν, δειπνῶν δὲ πᾶς
τἀλλότρια γίνετ᾿ ὀξύχειρ κοὐκ ἐγκρατής·

Palladas, Greek Anthology 11.371

“Don’t invite me to be a witness for your hunger-bringing plates…”

Μή με κάλει δίσκων ἐπιίστορα λιμοφορήων

Cf. λιμοκτονεῖν,  “to kill by hunger, to starve to death”

 

Suggested compounds (all new, of course):

λιμοχολοῦσθαι, (limokholousthai): “to feel anger because of hunger”

λιμομηνίειν, (limomêniein): “to feel range because of hunger” (with implication that the subject is divine

λιμοθυμεῖσθαι: (limothumeisthai): “to be upset because of hunger”

λιμοδυσφορεῖν: (limodusphorein): “to handle hunger badly”

hunger killing

The Idle Vanity of Knowing Classical Passages

George Eliot, Middlemarch:

“Certainly this affair of his marriage with Miss Brooke touched him more nearly than it did any one of the persons who have hitherto shown their disapproval of it, and in the present stage of things I feel more tenderly towards his experience of success than towards the disappointment of the amiable Sir James. For in truth, as the day fixed for his marriage came nearer, Mr. Casaubon did not find his spirits rising; nor did the contemplation of that matrimonial garden scene, where, as all experience showed, the path was to be bordered with flowers, prove persistently more enchanting to him than the accustomed vaults where he walked taper in hand. He did not confess to himself, still less could he have breathed to another, his surprise that though he had won a lovely and noble-hearted girl he had not won delight,—which he had also regarded as an object to be found by search. It is true that he knew all the classical passages implying the contrary; but knowing classical passages, we find, is a mode of motion, which explains why they leave so little extra force for their personal application.

Poor Mr. Casaubon had imagined that his long studious bachelorhood had stored up for him a compound interest of enjoyment, and that large drafts on his affections would not fail to be honored; for we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them. And now he was in danger of being saddened by the very conviction that his circumstances were unusually happy: there was nothing external by which he could account for a certain blankness of sensibility which came over him just when his expectant gladness should have been most lively, just when he exchanged the accustomed dulness of his Lowick library for his visits to the Grange. Here was a weary experience in which he was as utterly condemned to loneliness as in the despair which sometimes threatened him while toiling in the morass of authorship without seeming nearer to the goal. And his was that worst loneliness which would shrink from sympathy. He could not but wish that Dorothea should think him not less happy than the world would expect her successful suitor to be; and in relation to his authorship he leaned on her young trust and veneration, he liked to draw forth her fresh interest in listening, as a means of encouragement to himself: in talking to her he presented all his performance and intention with the reflected confidence of the pedagogue, and rid himself for the time of that chilling ideal audience which crowded his laborious uncreative hours with the vaporous pressure of Tartarean shades.”

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Logic Bros: Better to Have No Reason Than Use it for Harm?

Cicero, De Natura Deorum, 3.77–78

“These kind of things belong to poets; we, moreover, want to be philosophers, masters of facts not fables. And yet, these gods of poetry, if they know that these things would be ruinous for their children, would be considered to have sinned in conferring a favor.

It is just as if, according to that thing which Aristo of Chios used to say, that philosophers hurt their audiences when the things they say well are interpreted badly (for it was possible still to leave Aristippus’ school as a profligate or Zeno’s school bitter and angry).

If it is this way, and those who have heard them leave with twisted minds because they understand the philosophers’ arguments incorrectly, then it befits philosophers more to be quiet than cause their audiences harm. In this way, if people pervert the capacity for reason which was given by the gods to provide good council and used it instead for fraud and harm, then it would have been better if it had not been given to the human race at all.”

Poetarum ista sunt, nos autem philosophi esse volumus, rerum auctores, non fabularum. Atque hi tamen ipsi di poetici si scissent perniciosa fore illa filiis, peccasse in beneficio putarentur. Ut si verum est quod Aristo Chius dicere solebat, nocere audientibus philosophos iis qui bene dicta male interpretarentur (posse enim asotos ex Aristippi, acerbos e Zenonis schola exire), prorsus, si qui audierunt vitiosi essent discessuri quod perverse philosophorum disputationem interpretarentur, tacere praestaret philosophos quam iis qui se audissent nocere: sic, si homines rationem bono consilio a dis immortalibus datam in fraudem malitiamque convertunt, non dari illam quam dari humano generi melius fuit. Ut, si medicus sciat eum aegrotum qui iussus sit vinum sumere meracius sumpturum statimque periturum, magna sit in culpa, sic vestra ista providentia reprehendenda, quae rationem dederit

Internet pugilists take the following things very, very seriously. Form triumphs over content!

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Greek to Make a Man Puke

Hugh E.P. Platt, A Last Ramble in the Classics:

“The false quantities made by scholars would furnish a curious list. When Joshua Barnes desired his wife to devote her fortune to the publication of his edition of Homer, and at last persuaded her to do so by assuring her that the Iliad was written by Solomon, in the joy of his heart he composed some Greek hexameters. One of these he began with εὐπρᾰγίης which Bentley said was ‘ enough to make a man spew.’ (Ribbeck lately complained that Madvig’s emendations of the Latin dramatists had the like effect on him, nauseam adferunt.)”

 

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