“Is the governor positioning himself for a White House run in 2024?”–Politico, June 23, 2022
Excellence and beauty attend few men.
Blessed is the one to whom fate grants both.
Everybody honors him: Gen Y, his peers,
And old boomers all make way for him.
With age he becomes more distinguished
Among his countrymen, and none of them
Wants to disrespect or cost him his due.
CW: Profanity. This revised re-post goes out to all the politicians, plutocrats, and CEOs who continue to do nothing about climate change. Special recognition for the party of stupidity that denies climate change science.
Anonymous, Greek Anthology, 7.704
“When I’m dead, the earth can be fucked by fire.
It means nothing to me since I’ll be totally fine.”
The saying seems to predate the Roman Emperors, however. Cicero riffs on this sentiment.
Cicero, De Finibus 3.64
“In turn, they believe that the universe is ruled by the will of the gods and that it is like a city or state shared by humans and gods and that everyone of us is a member of this universe. This is the reason that it is natural for us to put shared good before the personal. Truly, just as the laws prefer the safety of the collective over that of individuals, so too a good and wise person, obedient to the laws and not ignorant of his civic duty, pursues the advantage of the collective over that of an individual or himself.
A traitor to a state need not be hated more than one who undermines common advantage or safety on account of his own. This is why the person who faces death for the republic must be praised, because it bestows glory upon us to care more for our country than ourselves. And this is why it seems an inhuman and criminal voice when people say that they don’t care if all of everything burns when they are dead—as it is typically construed with that common Greek verse—and it is also certainly true that we must care for those who will live in the future for their own sake.”
Mundum autem censent regi numine deorum eumque esse quasi communem urbem et civitatem hominum et deorum, et unumquemque nostrum eius mundi esse partem; ex quo illud natura consequi ut communem utilitatem nostrae anteponamus. Ut enim leges omnium salutem singulorum saluti anteponunt, sic vir bonus et sapiens et legibus parens et civilis offici non ignarus utilitati omnium plus quam unius alicuius aut suae consulit. Nec magis est vituperandus proditor patriae quam communis utilitatis aut salutis desertor propter suam utilitatem aut salutem. Ex quo fit ut laudandus is sit qui mortem oppetat pro re publica, quod deceat cariorem nobis esse patriam quam nosmet ipsos. Quoniamque illa vox inhumana et scelerata ducitur eorum qui negant se recusare quo minus ipsis mortuis terrarum omnium deflagratio consequatur (quod vulgari quodam versu Graeco pronuntiari solet), certe verum est etiam iis qui aliquando futuri sint esse propter ipsos consulendum.
Homer, Odyssey 1.32–34
“Fools! Mortals are always blaming the gods.
They say that sufferings come from us but they have pain
Beyond their fate thanks to their own stupidity.”
A note about the translation: I use the English profane “fuck” for mikhthênai here for two reasons. First, mignumi is often used in periphrases or euphemism for sex. Second, I think the speaker is effecting a dismissive and aggressively narcissistic stance towards the world which will exist after his death. Such narcissism and self-absorption is so perverse and twisted and yet so utterly common as to demand obscenity and plunge us all into the painfully profane.
We are living in a perverse and obscene time. Effective language, a man once said, is when the sound is an echo of the sense.
Seneca gets the same sense, but makes it a bit more active in his Medea.
Seneca, Medea 426–428
“…The only rest
Is if I see the whole world uprooted along with my ruin.
Let everything depart with me. It is pleasing to destroy while you die.”
…Sola est quies,
mecum ruina cuncta si video obruta;
mecum omnia abeant. trahere, cum pereas, libet.
“For men often claim that disease and a life
of a bad reputation should be feared more than Tartaros.
And they claim they know that the nature of the soul is like blood
Or even air, if that fits their current desire.
And they claim that they do not need our arguments.
But what follows will make you see these things as a matter of boasting
rather than because the matter itself has been proved.
The same men, out of their homeland and in a long exile
From the sight of others, charged with some foul crime,
live as they do, even afflicted with all possible troubles.
But, still, wherever they go the outcasts minister to their ancestors
and slaughter dark cattle and make their offerings
to the departed ghosts and when things get worse
they focus more sharply on religion.
For this reason it is better to examine a man in doubt or danger:
Adverse circumstances make it easier to know who a man is,
for then true words finally rise from his deepest heart; when the mask is removed, the thing itself remains.”
nam quod saepe homines morbos magis esse timendos
infamemque ferunt vitam quam Tartara leti
et se scire animi naturam sanguinis esse,
aut etiam venti, si fert ita forte voluntas,
nec prosum quicquam nostrae rationis egere,
hinc licet advertas animum magis omnia laudis
iactari causa quam quod res ipsa probetur.
extorres idem patria longeque fugati
conspectu ex hominum, foedati crimine turpi,
omnibus aerumnis adfecti denique vivunt,
et quo cumque tamen miseri venere parentant
et nigras mactant pecudes et manibus divis
inferias mittunt multoque in rebus acerbis
acrius advertunt animos ad religionem.
quo magis in dubiis hominem spectare periclis
convenit adversisque in rebus noscere qui sit;
nam verae voces tum demum pectore ab imo
eliciuntur [et] eripitur persona manet res.
“Blood returns only slowly from the heart and mind because the veins there are transverse and the place is really important and is inclined toward madness and anger. Whenever these parts are filled, a wandering shiver moves about with a fever. When the situation is like this, a woman goes into a rage because of the inflammation. She wants to murder because of the rotting. And because of the depression, she is frightened and afraid. The compression around the heart cause them to want to self-harm and because of the evil state of the blood, her mind is sad and sorrowful and longs for evil.
She also names weird and frightening things that push women to leap or to throw themselves in wells or hang themselves. Even when there are no visions, there’s some strange pleasure that makes her long for death as if it is a kind of good thing. When a woman is sensible again, women will dedicate many different things to Artemis, including really expensive women’s cloaks all because they are tricked by prophets.
Relief from this disease comes whenever there is nothing impeding the flow of blood. I tell young women who are suffering this kind of thing to live with a man as soon as possible, since, if they are pregnant, they become healthy. Otherwise, a girl will be overtaken by this disease or another in puberty or a little latter on. Barren married women sometimes suffer these things.”
“Are you listening? He’s incriminating himself for theft!”
audin tu? furti se alligat
Dinarchus, Against Demosthenes 113
“Athenians, you know that these men testify against your concerns and that they are common enemies of the laws and the whole state. Do not accept them, but demand that they defend themselves against the actual charges. And don’t tolerate his madness either, this man who thinks much of his rhetorical abilities and since he has clearly accepted bribes against you, he has been refuted even more as defrauding you.
Punish him as is worthy of yourselves and this state. If you do not, you will permit all those who have been implicated in a single vote and hearing–you will encourage corruption for all those in the future to act against you and the people and even if you try to prosecute those who acquitted them later, it won’t help you at all.”
“Whoever wants to find a perjurer should go to the public assembly”
qui periurum conuenire uolt hominem ito in comitium
Cicero, De legibus II.22
“For perjury the divine punishment is destruction, the human punishment is shame”
Periurii poena divina exitium, humana dedecus.
“Must we beg Caesar to handle us no worse than
His other slaves? Have your generals’ lives been begged?
Our safety will never be the price and bribe for foul treason.
This is not a civil war they fight for us to live.
We are dragged this way under the claims of peace.
People would not search for iron in a deep mine,
They would not strengthen any city with walls,
No fierce steed would rush to war,
No sea would bear towered ships of the fleet,
If it were ever just to trade freedom for peace.”
Utque habeat famulos nullo discrimine Caesar,
Exorandus erit? ducibus quoque vita petita est?
Numquam nostra salus pretium mercesque nefandae
Proditionis erit; non hoc civilia bella,
Ut vivamus, agunt. Trahimur sub nomine pacis.
Non chalybem gentes penitus fugiente metallo
Eruerent, nulli vallarent oppida muri,
Non sonipes in bella ferox, non iret in aequor
Turrigeras classis pelago sparsura carinas
Si bene libertas umquam pro pace daretur
From the Twelve Tables
“The Law of the Twelve Tables commands that anyone who has conspired with an enemy against the state or handed a citizen to a public enemy, should suffer capital punishment.”
Marcianus, ap. Dig., XLVIII, 4, 3: Lex XII Tabularum iubet eum qui hostem concitaverit quive civem hosti tradiderit capite puniri.
Tacitus Histories 3. 57
“How much power the audacity of single individuals can have during civil discord! Claudius Flaventinus, a centurion dismissed by Galba in shame, made the fleet at Misenum revolt with forged letters from Vespasian promising a reward for treason. Claudius Apollinaris, a man neither exceptional for his loyalty nor dedicated in his betrayal, was in charge of the fleet; and Apinius Tiro, an ex-praetor who was by chance at Minturnae then, put himself forth as the leader of the defectors.”
Sed classem Misenensem (tantum civilibus discordiis etiam singulorum audacia valet) Claudius Faventinus centurio per ignominiam a Galba dimissus ad defectionem traxit, fictis Vespasiani epistulis pretium proditionis ostentans. Praeerat classi Claudius Apollinaris, neque fidei constans neque strenuus in perfidia; et Apinius Tiro praetura functus ac tum forte Minturnis agens ducem se defectoribus obtulit.
“Dêmadês: He was king in Thebes after Antipater. A son of Dêmeas the sailor, he was also a sailor, a shipbuilder, and a ferry-operator. He gave up these occupations to enter politics and turned out to be a traitor—he grew very wealthy from this and obtained, as a bribe from Philip, property in Boiotia.”
[Elektra] Did he not speak for you, eager that you not die,
Menelaos the coward, our father’s traitor?
[Orestes] He didn’t show his face, because he yearning
For the scepter—he was careful not to save his relatives
“Don’t you understand that while, in other cases, it is necessary to impose a penalty on those who have committed crimes after examining the matter precisely and uncovering the truth over time, but for instances of clear and agreed-upon treason, we must yield first to anger and what comes from it? Don’t you think that this man would betray any of the things most crucial to the state, once you made him in charge of it?”
“It is right that punishments for other crimes come after them, but punishment for treason should precede the dissolution of the state. If you miss that opportune moment when those men are about to do something treacherous against their state, it is not possible for you to obtain justice from the men who did wrong: for they become stronger than the punishment possible from those who have been wronged.”
“For fictions which are developed entirely from matters outside of the situation betray our license to lie. We must take most special care—which often escapes those who lie—not to contradict ourselves, since some stories are flattering in bits but do not contribute to a coherent whole; that we then say nothing which countermands what is accepted as true; and, in academic exercises, not to seek ornamentation beyond the themes.
Both in training and in the court, the orator ought to remember the what he has claimed falsely during the whole action since false things often escape the mind. That common saying is proved true, that the liar requires a good memory. Let us see, moreover, that if we are questioned about our own deed, we must say one thing only; if it is about somebody else’s we can cast doubt in many directions.”
nam quae tota extra rem petita sunt mentiendi licentiam produnt. Curandum praecipue, quod fingentibus frequenter excidit, ne qua inter se pugnent; quaedam enim partibus blandiuntur, sed in summam non consentiunt: praeterea ne iis quae vera esse constabit adversa sint: in schola etiam ne color extra themata quaeratur. Utrubique autem orator meminisse debebit actione tota quid finxerit, quoniam solent excidere quae falsa sunt: verumque est illud quod vulgo dicitur, mendacem memorem esse oportere. Sciamus autem, si de nostro facto quaeratur, unum nobis aliquid esse dicendum: si de alieno, mittere in plura suspiciones licere.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.47
“So one thing is worth much: to keep on living with truth and justice and in good will even among liars and unjust men”
“Why does truth produce hatred, and why is your person who tells truth made an enemy to others, even though everyone loves the blessed life, which is nothing but rejoicing in truth, unless it be that truth is loved in such a way that those who love something other than truth would wish to believe that what they love is the truth, and because they wish not to be deceived, they do not wish to be convinced that they have been fooled?
And so, they hate the truth on account of that thing which they love in truth’s place. They love it when it shines, they hate it when it refutes them. Because they wish not to be deceived but wish to do the deceiving, they love the truth when it reveals itself, but hate it when it reveals them. “
cur autem veritas parit odium et inimicus eis factus est homo tuus verum praedicans, cum ametur beata vita, quae non est nisi gaudium de veritate, nisi quia sic amatur veritas ut, quicumque aliud amant, hoc quod amant velint esse veritatem, et quia falli nollent, nolunt convinci quod falsi sint? itaque propter eam rem oderunt veritatem, quam pro veritate amant. amant eam lucentem, oderunt eam redarguentem. quia enim falli nolunt et fallere volunt, amant eam cum se ipsa indicat, et oderunt eam cum eos ipsos indicat.
Democritus, Fr. 44
“It is right to be a speaker of truth not of many words.”
“What a pitiful overthrow of the state–so fast and twisted, so rushed! Who will have the ability to entrust these events to words in a way that they seem facts instead of fiction? Who will have the ease of mind to read them as something other than fantastic, even when they have been faithfully recorded in time?”
o miseram et in brevi tam celerem et tam variam rei publicae commutationem! quisnam tali futurus ingenio est, qui possit haec ita mandare litteris ut facta, non ficta videantur [esse]? quis erit tanta animi facilitate qui quae verissime memoria propagata fuerint non fabulae similia sit existimaturus?
“I have not a single but many things to mourn:
My native city, Hektor dead, and the hateful
Fate to which I was tied when I fell
Unworthily into a life of slavery.
Don’t ever say that any mortal is blessed
Before you see how they end life at death
How they finish that last day and go below.”
“No Hektor is in this place.
Nor Priam nor their gold. But this is a Greek city.
Are you so lost in your ignorance, you wretch,
That you dare to sleep with the man who killed
Your husband and to have a child for those who
Killed your family? This is the way of all foreigners:
A father sleeps with his daughter and son with his mother,
A girl sleeps with her brother and the dearest relatives
Fall apart over murder. The law prevents none of these things.
Don’t introduce any of these practices here: it is not good
For one man to hold the reins for two wives.
Anyone who wants to avoid living badly
Prefers looking to one lover in his bed.”