“Bring Back Some Books!”

Francesco Petrarch, Epistulae Seniles 16.1:

“But already I have rubbed against my wounds and injuries enough – now I return to Cicero. Known by some little reputation for my talent (though false) and by far the greatest favor of such masters, I had contracted various friendships through diverse circumstances, since I was in a place to which people came from every region. When my friends were leaving, they would ask (as is usual) whether I would like them to bring me anything from their homeland. I would respond: ‘nothing but books, and Cicero above all others.’ I used to give them notes to help them, and would press them hard in my letters and conversation. How often do you think that I sent my prayers and money, not just through Italy where I happened to be well-known, but even through France and Germany, even to Spain and Britain? I will tell you something incredible: I even sent to Greece, and where I expected Cicero, I found Homer. Homer came to me in Greek, but through strenuous effort and labor I rendered him into Latin, and now he happily lives with me among my Latin books.”

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Sed iam satis vulnera mea doloresque refricui. Nunc ad Ciceronem redeo. Itaque iam aliquali fama ingenii, falsa licet, sed multo maximo favore cognitus talium dominorum, varias amicitias per diversa contraxeram, quod essem in loco, ad quem fieret ex omni regione concursus. Abeuntibus demum amicis, et ut fit petentibus, numquid e patria sua vellem, respondebam: nichil preter libros. Ciceronis ante alios. dabam memorialia, scriptoque et verbis instabam. Et quotiens putas preces, quotiens pecuniam misi, non per Italiam modo, ubi eram notior, sed per Gallias atque Germaniam, et usque ad Hispanias atque Britanniam? Dicam quod mireris, et in Greciam misi, et unde Ciceronem exspectabam, habui Homerum, quique Grecus ad me venit, mea ope et impensa factus est Latinus, et nunc inter Latinos volens mecum habitat. Et quid tibi vis,

4 thoughts on ““Bring Back Some Books!”

    1. Yeah, but poor old Petrarch couldn’t do any more than fumble around with Greek. O tempora etc. etc.

      My students no longer know what to think about Cicero. At times I talk about him as the very wellspring of Latin eloquence, and at other times I refer to him as the Roman Aeolus on account of his possessing such a great quantity of stored-up wind.

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