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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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.

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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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.)”


F**k Sleep, I’m Going to the Library!

Petrarch, Epistulae Familiares 19.16:

“You know how I eat, and even how I sleep – no fortune could ever persuade me to add anything to these. Rather, I subtract a little every day, and it has reached the point now that only a little bit can be subtracted. Even if some royal fortune befell me, it could not drive frugality from my table or drive me to look for more sleep at night. My bed never holds me if I am healthy and awake, and I never toss in the sheets unless I am sick or sleeping. As soon as sleep departs from me, I depart from the bed, and I will lie enough or even more than enough on a bed of earth or rock.

Thinking about it, I hate my bed and I never return to it but at the urging of necessity, but soon I sense that I am freed from it as from the chains of nature, and without delay I rip myself out of it and flee to the closest library as though it were a citadel. This divorce occurs between me and my bed in the middle of the night: if by chance a shorter night or some late hours drag on, yet certainly dawn never sees us together. Finally, I strive with all my heart to prevent anything from coming between me and my more pleasant concerns, except that which the necessity of nature extracts from me in an imperious way – I mean things like sleep, food, and the short and honorable solace which is just enough for relaxing the body and replenishing the spirit.”

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Victum meum nosti, somnum quoque; his ut addam, nulla michi unquam fortuna suaserit; demo potius aliquid in dies, iamque eo perventum est ut modicum demi possit; denique non si regie opes advenerint, aut e mensa frugalitatem pellere poterunt aut in cubiculum longos somnos arcessere. Nunquam me sanum ac vigilem lectus habet, nunquam nisi eger aut dormiens stratis versor; simul et me somnus et ego lectum desero, et somnum morti et lectulum busto simillimum duco. Cum supremus sopor obrepserit, satis superque satis in cubiculo terreo seu saxeo iacebimus; id meditans lectulum meum odi et ad illum nisi urgente necessitate non redeo, sed ab illo mox ut me nature vinclis explicitum sentio, incuntanter avellor inque bibliothecam illi proximam velut in arcem fugio. Fit hoc inter nos media nocte divortium, quod siquando forte vel nox brevior vel vigilie longiores traxerint, at profecto nunquam simul aurora nos invenit; postremo modis omnibus nitor nequid melioribus curis interveniat, preter id solum quod imperiose necessitas nature exigit, somnum dico et cibum et breve honestumque solatium vegetando corpori refovendoque animo duntaxat ydoneum.  Id enimvero quia pro varietate temporum ac locorum variari oportet, et quale michi nunc sit nisi audias nosse non potes, dicam. Amo solitudinem ut soleo sectorque silentium nisi inter amicos, inter quos nemo me loquacior, hanc reor ob causam quod amicorum presentia solito rarior nunc est; raritas autem desiderium accendit. Sepe igitur annuum silentium diurna loquacitate compenso rursumque amicis abeuntibus mutus fio; importunum negotium cum vulgo loqui aut omnino cum homine quem non amor tibi seu doctrina conciliet.

Aristotle Knew Everything

Petrarch, Epistulae Familiares 4.15:

“It is difficult to say how much re-reading your letter two or three times soothed my ears, which were so worn down by the noise of the rabble. Even if this letter seemed verbose to you (as I learned from its ending), I find nothing to accuse you of but terseness. And so, I looked on the final threat, in which you claimed that you would write more briefly in the future, with unwilling eyes. I would have you be more prolix. As you will – you’re the father. It is right for me to accommodate my ways to you, and not the other way around. But will the whole business not be in your hands? Or do you not know that quite often the actual event differs from the plan? Perhaps you will hear what forces even one who is eager for silence to talk. You want me to fulfill the threats which I seem to be making now?

I stand as a witness, in the first place, that I have the same opinion of you which Macrobius had of Aristotle (whether it be love or the truth which gave rise to it). That is, I hardly think that you could not know something. If something has slipped your lips which seems to be contrary to the truth, I suspect that you either have not thought it out far enough, or just as Macrobius says of Aristotle, I suspect that you are playing around.”

Dictu difficile est quantum aures meas, vulgari fessas strepitu, epystola tua bis terque relecta permulserit; que quanquam tibi verbosa videretur, ut ex fine cognovi, ego tamen in ea nil preter breviloquium accusavi. Itaque comminationem illam ultimam, quod deinceps compendiosior sis futurus, invitus aspexi; mallem prolixior. Ut libet tamen; tu pater; non te michi, sed me tibi morem gerere dignum est. Sed ita ne totum in tua manu positum erit? an ignoras quod sepe consilio dissimilis est eventus? Audies forte quod vel silentii avidum loqui cogat. Vis quod minitari videor, iam nunc rebus impleam?

Testor in primis eandem me de te opinionem gerere, quam de Aristotile Macrobius, seu illam amor, seu veritas genuerit: vix te aliquid “ignorare posse” arbitror; siquid autem vero adversum tibi excidit, aut minus providisse aut, quod de eodem ait idem, lusisse te suspicor.

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Strange Histories of Jupiter Ammon

Servius, Commentary to Vergil’s Aeneid 4.196

Iarbas: the son of Jupiter Ammon. When Bacchus (or, as others say, Hercules) was attempting an attack on the Indians, and was leading his army through Libya (that is, through Xerolybia), he was worn out by thirst and so begged for help from his father Jupiter. Jupiter showed him a ram, following which Bacchus arrived at a certain spot, in which the ram dug out some earth with its foot, and from this place a fountain flowed forth. Whence it happened that a temple holding a statue with a ram’s horns was established for Jupiter Ammon, who derived his name from the ‘sand’. This story has been contrived either because the god’s responses are sufficiently intricate, or because the Libyans call the ram ‘Ammon’. Others say that this Ammon was born in another place, where there had been a lone sheep, and where he was discovered by some nearby people. He was believed to have been born of Jupiter and the sheep, and named Ammon from the sand, because that is the nature of the ground there. Others say that there is a place between Cyrene and Carthage in which pastors found a boy distinguished by ram horns sitting in the sand and delivering prophecies. When they picked him up, he was silent; when they set him back down, he began to speak again. Soon, when he withdrew from the sight of humans, he was believed to be a god. From that time, they began to cultivate Jupiter with the name Ammon because he had been seen in the sand.

IARBAM: filium Iovis Ammonis. Liber, vel ut alii dicunt, Hercules, cum Indos peteret, et per deserta Libyae, hoc est per Xerolibyam, exercitum duceret, fatigatus siti Iovis patris imploravit auxilium: cui ille arietem ostendit, quem secutus ille pervenit ad locum quendam, in quo aries terram pede suo scalpsit, e quo loco fons manavit. unde factum est, ut Iovi Ammoni, ab arenis dicto, templum cum simulacro cum cornibus arietinis constitueretur: quod ideo fingitur, quia satis eius sunt involuta responsa, aut quia Libyes Ammonem arietem appellant. alii hunc Ammonem in loco natum, ubi sola ovis fuerat, a finitimis inventum dicunt, creditumque ex Iove et ove natum appellatumque Ammonem ab arena, quia ibi tale solum est. alii inter Cyrenas atque Carthaginem locum tradunt fuisse, in quo pastores puerum arietinis cornibus insignem, in arena sedentem ac vaticinantem deprehenderunt. hic sublatus tacebat, repositus loquebatur: mox cum e conspectu hominum subito recessisset, creditus est deus: unde Iovem ideo ibi colere coeperunt, nomine Ammonem, quod in arena fuerat visus.

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The Birth of Political History

J.B. Bury, The Ancient Greek Historians:

“But if all these circumstances helped and conditioned the achievements of a profoundly original mind, which always thought for itself, we must seek the stimulus which aroused the historical faculty of Thucydides in — the Athenian empire. If it was the wonder of the Greek repulse of the Persian hosts that inspired the epic spirit of Herodotus, it was the phenomenon of the Empire of Athens, a new thing in the history of Hellas, — an empire governed by a democracy, a new thing in the history of the world — that captured the cooler but intense interest of Thucydides. He did not take up his pen to celebrate; his aim was to understand, — to observe critically how that empire behaved in the struggle which was to test its powers. It has not, I think, been sufficiently realised what an original stroke of genius it was to form the idea of recording the history of the war at the very moment of its outbreak. Contemporary history in the strictest meaning of the term was thus initiated. Thucydides watched the events for the purpose of recording them; he collected the material while it was fresh from the making. Further, he designed a history which should be simply a history of the war and of the relations of the militant states, which should confine itself to its theme, and not deviate into geography or anthropology or other things. Thus he was the founder of “political” history in the special sense in which we are accustomed to use the term.”

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Tacitus’ Lost Book: de Manicula

Readers have previously been treated to recently discovered lost texts of Caesar’s Bellum Incivile. We have also recently unearthed a lost appendix to Tacitus’ Annals, translated here for the first time:

“At first, presidents managed the state; gradually, the power of the people was reduced; the domination of Reagan and Bush were not intolerable, and the power of Bush was quickly transferred to Obama. While the state was prosperous, savagery and cowardice invaded minds, and people we contending among each other in their hatred. When Obama had discharged his office, there was no probity, no leader left, but all things were handed into the tiny hands of Manicula who, simulating the president was acting the dictator, was goading everyone on with hatred, and was appropriating for himself the powers of the senate, the magistrates, and the laws with many opposing him in vain. The more prone one was to stupidity, the more he was raised up with honors. Virtue, intelligence, and industry were considered malice. Many, with their hatred turned on other people, were urging Manicula to built a wall, eliminate justice, elevate drunkards to the highest court, and devastate the earth. His first crime was quickly turned into the second, third, fourth… Manicula himself, as his fortune continued to plummet, was conducting himself all the more savagely and promised that he would leave nothing but the ash of a once great nation if all the power of perpetrating evil were not placed in his hands. And so, liberty was lost as many people assisted Manicula.”

Primo civitatem praesidentes habuere; gradatim potestas populi minuta est; non Regani, non Fruticis intolerabilis dominatio, et potentia Fruticis cito in Obamam versa est. florentibus rebus saevitia ignaviaque in animos invasit, et homines inter se odiis decertabant. cum Obama imperio defunctus esset nulla probitas nullusque dux reliquus sed omnia in parvas manus Maniculae tradita sunt qui se praesidentem ferens dictaturam agebat, cunctos odio incitabat, munia senatus magistratuum legum in se trahebat multis frustra adversantibus. quanto quis stultitia promptior honoribus extolleretur. virtus prudentia industria pro malitia habita. multi iam odio in alios verso Maniculam urgebant ut muros aedificaret iustitiam deleret ebrios ad summum tribunal extolleret orbem terrarum vastaret. primum facinus statim in secundum tertium quartum versum. Manicula ipse fortuna in peius cadente eo ferocius se agebat et saepe promisit se nihil praeter cinerem e quondam magna civitate relicturum esse nisi omnis potestas male agendi in se poneretur. ita libertate amissa plerisque Maniculam adiuvantibus.

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