Truth, Testimony, and Treason

Plautus, The Ghost 181

“I love the truth, I want someone to tell me the truth. I hate a liar.”

ego uerum amo, uerum uolo dici mi: mendacem odi.

Agathon, Fr. 12

If I tell the truth, I won’t make you happy.
But if I am to make you happy, I will say nothing true.

εἰ μὲν φράσω τἀληθές, οὐχί σ’ εὐφρανῶ·
εἰ δ’ εὐφρανῶ τί σ’, οὐχὶ τἀληθὲς φράσω.

Seneca the Elder, Controversiae 10.1

“Look, I have letters here which are obvious proof of treason and have the plans of the enemy.”

teneo ecce epistulas, in quibus manifesta proditionis argumenta sunt, in quibus hostium consilia

Polybius, Histories 5.59.2

“…because of the style of his life and his treason against his country I believe he is worthy of the greatest punishment.”

….κατά γε τὴν τοῦ βίου προαίρεσιν καὶ τὴν εἰς πατρίδα παρανομίαν τῆς μεγίστης ἄξιον κρίνω τιμωρίας

Quintilian Orator’s Education 4.2 90-92

“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”

Ἓν ὧδε πολλοῦ ἄξιον, τὸ μετ᾿ ἀληθείας καὶ δικαιοσύνης εὐμενῆ τοῖς ψεύσταις καὶ ἀδίκοις διαβιοῦν.

Augustine, Confessions 10.23.34:

“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.

Image result for medieval manuscript punishing a liar
The Infernal Torments of the Damned, illuminated French manuscript of Augustine’s City of God by an unknown artist (15th century).

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s