Knowledge Before the Grave

Ammianus Marcellinus, Histories 28.4:

“Some people, despising learning as though it were poison, read only Juvenal and Marius Maximus with attentive care, poring over no books but these in their limitless leisure. But it is beyond my small power of judgment to explain why this is.

Though they ought to read over many various things in light of the magnificence of their glory and their lineage, hearing that Socrates, when was destined to die and thrown into prison, asked a musician who was doing an excellent job of singing a song of Stesichorus the lyric poet to teach him how to do it while there was still time. When the musician asked what good it would do for him, since he was going to die the day after, Socrates responded, ‘At least I will leave this life knowing a bit more.'”

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Quidam detestantes ut venena doctrinas, Iuvenalem et Marium Maximum curatiore studio legunt, nulla volumina praeter haec in profundo otio contrectantes, quam ob causam non iudicioli est nostri.

cum multa et varia pro amplitudine gloriarum et generum lectitare deberent, audientes destinatum poenae Socratem, coniectumque in carcerem, rogasse quendam scite lyrici carmen Stesichori modulantem, ut doceretur id agere, dum liceret : interroganteque musico quid ei poterit hoc prodesse morituro postridie, respondisse ‘ut aliquid sciens amplius e vita discedam”.

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